You Don’t Have to Upgrade

I have friends who upgrade to the latest smart phones every year. They rationalize their purchase by citing the newer features — newer camera, bigger screen, better battery life, etc. The fact is, in most cases their newer phones aren’t that much better (for their use cases) than the ones they have been using, which still work great. It’s actually difficult to justify the purchase.

I am the exact opposite from them. I don’t rush out to buy a new phone every year. The only times I upgrade is when the things I have are no longer serving my needs. For instance, I am using a 2015 model of a notebook that I started using in early 2018. I use a phone that was introduced a couple of years ago, which I bought last year (and I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t continue working for the next few years). The only reason I upgraded those devices at the time was because I could no longer make do with the smaller screen (Believe me, I tried!). Maybe I am justifying my purchases, but I think with age, it’s getting harder (for me) to see things on smaller devices to an extent; that extra real-estate on my devices helps me in more ways than one.

Some might argue that not buying new devices regularly is heresy in tech circles, but truth be told, there is no reason to upgrade the tools if what you have works great. That doesn’t make you a Luddite — anything but! Just because companies roll out newer phones every year doesn’t mean you have to buy them if what you have still fits your needs.

Let’s also not forget there is an environmental cost to buying new devices. It makes use of the limited resources we have, despite the fact that we may be using recyclable materials. Here’s what I wrote in an earlier draft:

Then, there are the less-obvious environmental costs — buying more stuff in the short term is unhealthy and unsustainable for our planet in the long run. Do we need companies to release a new phone or car (or whatever shiny object) every year? Maybe not.

The more products we buy, the more it affects our planet. Sure, these devices may be recyclable, but you can’t refute that the fewer things we make (and consume), the better off we are in every way.

I wrote in my draft on living with enough:

Having less physical stuff also means less waste. Having a lower footprint on the planet means long-term sustainability for future generations to live and thrive.

It’s easy to get sucked into the “reality distortion field” that comes with the announcement and release of new devices, but do your best to stay away from it.

I’ll make a couple of suggestions before making a new purchase.

Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you truly need the newer device or if the one you have will suffice. Better yet, delay the purchase for a month or two. That will give you enough time to determine if it’s truly a need or a want.

When you’ve decided to make a purchase, buy the device with the best specs you can afford (and need) to future-proof yourself for as long as possible. This way, you can forget about upgrading it for the next few years and focus on using it well.

The truth remains, we don’t buy things based on price, quality, features, or service, even though we may use those factors to justify our purchase. Buying stuff like phones, tablets, or pick-your-favorite-device is never about those things, but what it allows you to feel and to escape your everyday life in some way. Buying more things won’t make you happy even though you may think you are happy because of those things. The truth is, more often than not, we buy stuff to fill a void in our lives, but it rarely fills that gap.

Here is what I wrote in the aforementioned draft:

When the person who I loved so much walked out on me saying they would never come back, I became depressed for some time. Even though I knew buying things wouldn’t help much to salvage the relationship (well, duh!), I still bought a few things to feel good about myself. While those things were useful to me (and didn’t seem excessive by any means; besides, I was going to get those things at some point anyway), it didn’t make any difference in terms of how I felt about my relationship (!).

Be happy and grateful for what you have rather than what you don’t. Just because companies are rolling out new devices every year doesn’t warrant a purchase. There is nothing wrong with buying new tools as long as it’s coming from a place of intent rather than impulse. It should be a necessity for how you use your device, and not a “nice to have”.

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