Well, here’s a news flash: Apparently, people in reduced circumstances tend to buy less useless crap. According to this statistically thin story in the New York Times, Americans are more likely to hold on to their cars, computers, cell phones and certain toiletries than they were a couple of years ago.
Don’t know about you, but that sounds about right. Toothpaste, for example. Every day I examine the flattened tube of Colgate Triple Action and ultimately decide that I can get one more brushing out of it. It’s been going on like that for about a month now. I’ve found that if you manipulate the tube just so, there’s always more toothpaste in there. Persistence pays. This is not a discovery I’d have made during the days of full-time employment.
I may have mentioned my car. I’ve never been one to upgrade every year, but I rarely let a full decade expire before getting a new ride. The Subaru is going on 12 now now, and has become sullen in the way 12-year-olds sometimes do. But I haven’t been tempted by the new line of Ford Fiestas. For all its manifest faults, the Subaru is paid for and starts most of the time. That goes a long way toward curbing my occasional desire to set it on fire.
I don’t want to hear about the new iPhones, Verizon or otherwise. My current iPhone, the quaint 3GS model, is disappointing enough. All I ask of a smart phone is that it drop tiresome phone calls and allow occasional Google searches to settle barroom arguments about who starred in that one movie. So this one will suffice for awhile longer yet.
A new TV? I don’t think so. One thing I learned from my last upgrade is that greater screen size and resolution does not improve the quality of programming. Reruns of Dog the Bounty Hunter provide about the same level of entertainment on a flickering 19-inch Zenith as they do on a 50-inch 3D Panasonic. Being able to discern the individual hairs in an actor’s nose adds less to the immersion factor than you’d think.
Same with computers. Apple’s new line of MacBook Pros boast a 13 percent speed increase over the old line, but that’s pretty subtle when all you’re doing is dinking around on Facebook. Having a couple of cameras on the iPad 2 isn’t going to improve your life much, even if you’re still feeling foolish about impulse-buying the iPad 1.
I don’t know. Economic travails aside, I think one reason I’ve slowed down the upgrade cycle is that technological creativity has outpaced creative creativity. All these great toys, and all they do is just what the old toys did — just a little brighter and a little faster.
Of course, it’s easy to be a Luddite cheapskate when you can’t afford to be otherwise. But that’s my story. And until those fat paychecks resume on a regular schedule, I’m sticking to it.