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Never before in human history have so many different consumer goods been so widely available as they are now.
In the Middle Ages, a well-to-do minor aristocrat would maybe have some attractive metal plates in their home, and a tapestry of a hunting scene, or something. Today, the average person in developed countries will own a computer, a TV, a smartphone, and more.
(In most houses, it’s way worse than this. We literally have an “abandoned apple products” shelf in our home. It really is getting ridiculous.)
In fact, the sheer abundance of appliances, tools, and goods has meant that a lot of us are actually at risk of falling into cycles of compulsive spending and over-cluttering of the home. Certainly, popular minimalist movements are at least partially a reaction to this fact.
So, how do you prevent the build-up of things you don’t really need, without missing out on the “next big thing”?
Try asking yourself these three questions before you buy a new appliance.
The writer Cal Newport has a pretty useful rule of thumb:
"Does the benefit of using this thing substantially outweigh all of the potential drawbacks, and significantly improve my life?"
Although he initially put forth this rule for the basic process you should employ before you sign up to a digital service, the same principle works pretty well when it comes to appliances, too.
The key thing is that you really need to consider the question pretty deeply and broadly.
Some things, like submersible sump pumps, are likely to have a purely positive, and potentially dramatic effect on your life, without much drawback.
But maybe buying that ultra high-def widescreen TV is going to cost you a lot, in terms of money, but also in terms of time spent procrastinating.
Make sure you really honestly reflect on whether the new acquisition is going to have a positive or negative effect on you and your family.
One unfortunate commercial phenomenon that has attracted a good deal of attention over the last few years, is "planned obsolescence," or, in other words, the fact that many consumer goods are now specifically designed to break down or go obsolete after a certain length of time.
The reason for this practice is pretty straightforward – it means you need to come back and spend more money on either the latest, most up-to-date version of a thing, or else to replace a previous purchase of yours that broke.
If you're going to buy a particular appliance, try and figure out whether it will last you for a good long while, or is likely to break down within a year or two.
Reading reviews online is a total must and can help to give you some insight here, and lifetime guarantees are always a winner.
Let's be honest – the advertising industry is pretty good at what it does, and often, when we want to buy particular things, it will be because we were excited by a slick ad we saw.
It's important to remember that the initial "high" you feel after buying anything, only lasts for a short while.
(And it’s often replaced by buyer’s guilt...which is way longer lasting and more pervasive…)
You should buy appliances that you think will genuinely have a long-term benefit for you, and should avoid making spending decisions based on how "exciting" something seems.
Overall, it’s very tempting to get the latest and greatest whatever it is.
I’m right there with you.
Here are my best safeguards to act as checks against the impulse to buy things that may not be quite “necessary”:
Wait a week before making a purchase.
Have an “ask your spouse” rule for purchases over a certain dollar amount.
Translate the price of the appliance into the number of billable hours it would take you to earn that much money.
Look obsessively and extensively at reviews, consumer reports, and potential sales or coupon codes.
Review your budget prior to making a purchase so you know exactly where the money is coming from (and that you can actually afford it).
Hopefully, this will help you get only the appliances you really need and will actually enjoy!
Founder | Contributor
Liz is a wife, mom, blogger, coder (and unabashed digital nerd), PhD student (and huge psychology geek), workout masochist, and occasional human being. She founded The Stay Sane Mom after marrying into the role of stepmom to a preteen girl (and Instagram addict) and shortly thereafter having her first bio kid (now a toddlernado supreme). Her goal is to provide tools and support to help other capable, sleep-deprived, soul-hungry moms master their domains so they have the time and energy to be more than just 'mom'.
Stay Sane Mom gives support to the over-worked, under-slept, marker-stained, soul-hungry moms of the world, so they can be more than just "mom".
You just want to keep the house clean, have a happy marriage, raise functional kids, and still have a little left in the tank to be a real person as well.
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