We live in a consumption based society. We buy a lot of things based on a whim. Something catches our fancy when we are out shopping for diapers and out comes the plastic! Or sometimes we buy what we need but will jump at the first opportunity to “upgrade”. We may shop for the best price or good set of features but very rarely now do we buy with an expectation of getting a long use out of the products.
The manufacturers know this and have been optimizing their product strategies based around upgrade cycles. Planned obsolescence is now part of the regular business vernacular
Now, of course, I am talking about discretionary expenses here and not living expenses like food or investments in assets like your primary residence (I am all for upgrades to your residence that adds to the market value as well as pays back quickly by improving your lifestyle).
Here are a few examples that illustrate the points above:
- replacing your vehicle every 3 or 5 years
- upgrading to a flat screen 60″ Plasma HDTV using the upcoming forced digital conversion as an excuse when your 10 year old 35″ TV is perfectly capable of handling digital pictures (hey, you do receive digital cable or satellite pictures on it today)
- upgrading to a new cell phone every year or every two years for some fancy new features which we will likely not use much at all
True that sometimes we need to upgrade. A Blackberry may become a necessity at a certain stage of our careers and I find it a very useful tool for running my businesses but tempted as I have been with iphone and its multimedia prowess, it is unlikely that I will be able to find time or reason to fully utilize it. So that stays in my wishlist …
So how do we resist the temptation?
Sometimes hard cold logic works. Sometimes it doesn’t. One way to not feel tempted is to build a reationship with what you already own. Personalize it. Relate it to a life event. Build a story around it. I used to own a Toyota Paseo for more than 10 years. It is a small car, very functional, always reliable. It was my first car and I loved it and kept it even when I could afford a bigger more expensive vehicle. I knew the quirks of the car and could make it handle the way I wanted it to and for me it hugged the road as good as the more expensive German engineered car that eventually replaced it. I drove it for two years without a functioning A/C and only let the car go when the resale value started approaching a level where even minor repairs were no longer economically justified.
Morinosuke Kawaguchi on Consumerism
Many of us are silently revolting against the unfettered consumerism rampant today. Morinosuke Kawaguchi, Japanese author of “Otaku de Onanoko na Kunino Monozukuri”, which in English is translated as “the Neon Genesis of Geeky-Girly Japanese Engineering” writes about how and why we should build a relationship with what we own. Unfortunately the book is only available in Japanese today. I would love to read it when an english version becomes available. More information can be found at Judit Kawaguchi’s blog
If we spend less, the global economy will not come to its knees. In fact, with more savings, we may just be able to increase investments in business ventures that create meaningful products and services