If you’re looking for happiness, fulfillment, growth, or perhaps more confidence in social situations, having all the latest and greatest toys isn’t the way to get it. While you might think that buying tangible possessions that could potentially last your lifetime is the best use of your hard earned money, and I know I have for most of my life, it just isn’t so. Let me explain my case using the example of my new iphone.
America is a very consumer driven society. We spend a lot of money on Stuff, because advertisements are all around us, telling us we’ll be thinner, stronger, more attractive, healthier, more likeable in the eyes of our neighbors, or have more time (to waste on doing things we don’t really need to do) if we buy their product, whether it’s a dietary supplement, a fast food sandwich, a pair of shoes, a car, a new coffee table, or a cell phone.
We don’t just buy a product, we buy the benefit we see behind the product, and how it’ll make us feel. I decided I wanted a smart phone because besides just taking calls they tend to have decent cameras (no optical zoom though, so don’t expect phone cameras to replace regular cameras anytime soon), can be used as a GPS, and I can access the internet on it. These are all useful features when I think about going full-timing, but there are any number of smart phones on the market that could fulfill these needs just as well. Out of all the possibilities, I went with the iphone because of the image associated with it.
Have you ever been inside an Apple store? It’s sleek, hip, upscale. The advertisements they put out show attractive and successful young people with winning grins using their iphones to take pictures of incredible scenery and messaging each other from fun, trendy locations. It’s the image Apple has built, and people (including me) who want that image for ourselves buy the product to get that feeling.
Coming around to the point, I bought that particular phone to feel happier about myself, and I think a lot of times people purchase things to feel better about themselves, but this isn’t the answer.
Once I bought the phone, low and behold, I was still me. There wasn’t some magical switch that got flipped that made me cooler, funnier, or more attractive to the opposite sex. The initial rush of excitement as I played with my brand new phone didn’t even last a full 24 hours. I realized that while having it may make full-timing easier by giving me quicker directions than if I had to find a WiFi signal and stop to power on my computer and check, it certainly wasn’t necessary. All of you out there who wrote in on the connectivity article saying you travel extensively and use cheap pay-as-you-go phone plans are a testament to that.
This realization, that a big purchase doesn’t make as big of a positive impact on our daily lives as we might hope is a significant component of buyer’s remorse I think. And yet, so many folks just plunge ahead to the next big expense, in the hope that this will be the thing that changes their life, proves that they’re just as good as the Jones’.
I have nothing against Apple. The fact that some companies can have a horrible product and still make good money is a testament to how powerful an image can be, but when you look beyond the clever advertising that Apple has done, they back it up with high quality craftsmanship and good customer service. I have enjoyed my iphone so far and do not regret my purchase, I’ve just come to accept that it falls under the category of wants instead of needs and having paid more money for it I’ll have less to spend elsewhere. It’s all about opportunity costs.
So if belongings and possessions aren’t the key to more happiness, fulfillment, growth, or confidence, what is? As current and future RVers, you guys probably already have a good idea what the answer is even if you haven’t put it into words before – it’s experiences. Stay tuned next week (I’ve always wanted to say that, hehe) when I’ll get the second half of this article up and go into detail.
Until then, have you ever made a big purchase that you later regretted? If so, did you end up doing anything about it? I’ll go first.
When I was in college I bought a X-box system just to be able to play one particular video game that several of my friends were into. All in all I spent a good $350 which is a lot when you’re a broke college student. I ended up not even liking the game that much and regretted the purchase, but hung onto it all anyway. Over time I collected a couple more games for it that I enjoyed better and it wasn’t a total waste. Last December when I was on a big downsizing kick in preparation for small RV living I put it all up on Craigslist priced to move (in fact I’m pretty sure I mentioned it briefly in a post) and it turns out the lady who bought it all from me was giving it to her daughter for Christmas. She was on a limited income and was so excited and grateful, it made me feel really good. I may not have gotten as much enjoyment out of it as I could have, but her daughter had been wanting one for a long time and definitely would.
Image courtesy of PT Money
For part 2, click here.