The Upgrade Trap

Every year Apple comes out with a new iPod, iPhone, or other electronic device. Every year car companies come out with a new model of their automobiles, sometimes with significant changes, sometimes not. Fashions change all the time too, prompting the trendy socialites to discard their otherwise perfectly good wardrobes in favor of new, tissue paper thin clothing.

I like to call this phenomenon the upgrade trap. From a business standpoint its not a trap at all, but the lifeblood of many companies. It makes sense to come out with new products at regular intervals to keep sales up and consumer interest high. But from the perspective of a minimalist, it is a huge waste of money. Here are the elements of the trap.

  1. Marketing, consumer excitement, and word of mouth makes you think that whatever product you have (computer, car, clothing, etc.) is inferior to the new thing that just came out.
  2. The company that produces the product touts all the new or improved features and shows you how cool you would look if you had the product.
  3. You buy the product, and either discard your old version, sell it, etc. You are happy. Until the next big thing comes out.

You’ve just fallen into the upgrade trap. You’ve bought something that you probably didn’t need, wont get true satisfaction out of, and probably will be wanting to get rid of in another 6 months. Doesn’t it seem like such a waste?

You can break this cycle.

First, recognize that happiness does not come from possessions. Simply “keeping up with the Jones’s” will not give you satisfaction in life.

Secondly, try and take care of the possessions that you do have and appreciate them. My laptop computer is 4 years old and I have often thought about getting a new one. I have restrained myself, however, because I don’t really need a new laptop. The one I have still functions just fine and does everything I need it to do. If you appreciate your possessions and really assess whether or not you need to upgrade, you will find that you don’t need to constantly be buying the latest and greatest toys.

Finally, when you do decide to buy something new, carefully evaluate your options. Make a conscious decision when you make purchases. Take in all factors and pick the best option for you. This will not only ensure that you are getting the best bang for your buck but also that you will be satisfied with your purchase. And when you are satisfied with your purchases it becomes much easier to escape the upgrade trap.


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