Lifestyle,  Person Finance

Resist the Upgrade

Mini Life Update: I’ve been exhausted. And the worst part is I’m not entirely sure why. Because of my ever-present exhaustion (urgh) I haven’t been doing a good job of keeping up with much of anything including these blog posts. Sorry! Without further ado – this week’s post.

I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Thames from Frugalwoods.com. This isn’t to say that I don’t have my criticisms of her; I definitely do, but she makes many good points about personal finance. And I just like her sense of humor!

I was inspired by one of her posts and some recent content by The Minimalists. I’m calling it “upgrade resistance”. The opposite of this can be lifestyle inflation in which people spend more money to keep pace with increases in income. 

In particular, I’m talking less about lifestyle inflation and more about the upgrading objects in your life. For example, this week, I bought these pencil grips from Amazon. I actually already owned some less good pencil grips, yet I still bought new ones. Why? Because I’ve been getting these *awful* hand cramps when taking notes, so I wanted to try a more supportive pencil grip to see if that would help my pain. In my eyes, that’s a valid purchase because although I am upgrading an item I already own, I’m doing it to (I hope) avoid future pain. On the other hand, if I had bought new pencil grips simply because I thought these news ones were prettier, better, etc. then that would have been a waste. This is because I didn’t really need new pencil grips. I just wanted new pencil grips.

I want to make one clear distinction here. There are definitely times when upgrading makes perfect sense. For example, my dad upgraded from the iPhone X to the iPhone 11 Pro Max to have a better battery life. Pre pandemic, he travelled often for work and needed his phone to last 16 hours on a charge. Another example comes from the Frugalwoods, they bought a truck to replace their Subaru because it suited their needs better as homesteaders in rural Vermont. When your upgrade is purchased to suit your evolving needs, then it is valid. If your upgrade is purchase due to a lack of self control, then perhaps less so. Also, treating yourself is also totally OK! I tend to do this by treating myself to Chipotle once a week. It’s $8 well spent, AND it doesn’t add clutter to my living space. Just be intentional with your spending to have your wallet and your psyche from future buyer’s remorse. 

For this post, I used a photo of my Kindle. I have had this exact same Kindle since I was in 6th grade, so nearly 7 years. Before it was mine, it belonged to my dad. I have the Kindle PaperWhite 2 from 2013. It’s so old; you can’t even buy it anymore! Lol. My iPad Pro is from 2016. My phone is an iPhone X. My car is a 2003 Toyota Camry. His name is George Wilbur, and I love him dearly. Anyways, what I’m getting at here is don’t replace things that work perfectly fine. 

I’m super guilty of unnecessary upgrading all the time. Literally, everytime I buy a new pen, I’m succumbing to upgrade-itis. I also really really really want a new iPad, and I only use my iPad like twice a week! I have no business getting a new iPad. I frequently want a new Kindle with crisper graphics and a faster response time, but the reality is my current Kindle suits my needs incredibly well! It’s practically indestructible. We stan my hella old Kindle. 

I need to wrap this up, but the moral of the story is to cure yourself of upgrade-itis by resisting the urge to upgrade. Here are some suggestions to help

  1. Think critically about whether you really need this item. Are there other things that you already own that could work instead? For example, you can use a whisk as a makeshift shifter. If you’re not a frequent baker, then using a whisk instead of a proper shifter might make more sense than buying a shifter you’ll rarely use. Also, if you’re anything like me, double check that you don’t already have the item. 
  2. Ask your mom, dad, grandma, best friend – whomever if they think this is a useful purchase. Oftentimes, we get blinded by our own folly. Having to explain your purchase to someone else is a good way to make sure you’re buying an item for the right reasons. 
  3. Think of the environment. Everything has a carbon footprint. When you think of the adverse environmental impacts of your purchase, is it still worth it?
  4. Implement a 24-72 hour waiting period. You’ve decided you actually need this item. Great, write it down on a notes app or on a piece of paper someplace where it’s not going to be constantly in your face. Then wait 24-72 hours. When that time is up, if you still want, then buy it. When I do this, I tend to find that I forgot what the item was in the first place!

Curing yourself of upgrade-itis is hard. I haven’t done it completely myself. But here’s the deal- when you’re doing anything tough, you need positive reinforcement. Applaud yourself when you resist the urge to buy stuff you don’t need. For example, I unsuccessfully try to keep a log of good things that happen to me every day. If I successfully avoided making an unnecessary purchase, then I’ll write it down in my daily log. I’ll tell my family. Sometimes, I’ll post it on social media. Essentially, you want to tie resisting the urge to upgrade (the habit) with praise from yourself or others which makes you feel good (the reward). 

I’m coining upgrade-itis. It’s happening. You’re welcome. 

Sincerely, 

Aspiring Personal Finance Guru, Marie 

My lovely old Kindle ☺️

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