Why we can have Nice Things

09/08/2010 03:24 a.m. | Self-Improvement

A review of all the things I have ever purchased fall roughly into three categories

  • Things that work very well
  • Things that are cheap
  • Things that are "best in class" but still don't work well
I started in the cheap category. Most of that was based on the notion that I needed lots of things and couldn't accomplish that by buying expensive stuff. From clothing to electronics, my disposable income was spent on crap. And for a while, I was OK with that. I had the time and energy to fix things, figure them out, shop for more, and all of the other energy-draining activities associated with using crap products.

I would also mix in "best in class" but still crap products. These were usually tech products that were bleeding-edge technology. They had lots of power and potential. They also had lots of usability issues. Usability is a recent term in my vocabulary, and I understand it may not be in yours. It's the notion of how easy something is to use. You can also think of it as how much the technology gets out of your way. Assuming the batteries work, the remote to your TV is probably easy to use. VOL UP will make it louder. You don't need to know about infra-red lights and programming code.

I was more interested in programmable, universal Harmony remotes. They have come a long way, but in the past they had great power while being very difficult to setup and use. This was my experience with most of the high-tech things that I bought. From early MP3 players to bluetooth keyboards, much of the technology was too much for what I needed to do.

Enter Apple

I have not been a Mac fan for long, but gosh, their stuff has changed my overall purchasing mindset. I now proudly buy from the category of things that work well (and are often expensive). For me, it started with the iPod. I had an I-Jam, a Rio, a Nomad, and then, my freshman year at college, I got my first iPod. And it just worked. It worked well. I no longer had the urge to scour gadget blogs for mp3 players, because I had solved that need.

That was, until the iPhone came out. I wanted mobile video and device consolidation and email. I had an iPod, a couple of Archos video devices, and a phone. The iPhone did it all. I had been buying new phones about every 8 months, until the iPhone. Now I don't read phone tech blog posts, and I don't shop for new phones. The same is true for my Mac Mini, which is my digital hub. It's also true of my Macbook and now my iPad.

I will agree that not everything about the Mac platform works perfectly. Sometimes things need trouble shooting and support calls and trips to the Apple store. But, all of those experiences are pretty decent and they are few and far between.

While the Apple corporation has earned my trust (and much of my money), they have played an important role in my purchasing behavior. I find that a cheap solution works well less and less in my life. Technology is the first place where I want a quality solution. This is mostly so I don't have to spend time dealing with it. It's easy to look at and change because many of the expenditures are for non-necessary goods. Spending habits for necessary goods are harder to change.

Food, Clothing, and Shelter

In the past year, I have changed my diet, my living arrangement, and what I wear. The food change was spurred on by Food, Inc. Food may all seem the same, but it isn't. The long term affects of eating poorly are a shorter lifetime and more health problems and expenses. So I eat better now, and pay more for better food. Am I a sucker? Probably in some instances. But overall I think the change of diet is a much better benefit than the extra cost I am paying. I believe the good food works better than the junk.

I moved into a quite large apartment with severalamenities. It has 1400 square feet, gated covered parking, a porch, wood floors, washer/dryer, 2 bed 2 bath. It's more than I need. But, not having to deal with too little space has been awesome. Our weekend guests are easily accommodated. We have plenty of space if Meg and I want to do separate things. The biggest problem we've had is that it is hard to keep clean! Compared to many of the other living situation problems, I'd say we have a great setup. Our apartment works better than many others.

After attending "How to dress like a Gentleman" at MaxFunCon, I've also changed my shopping habits. I don't buy clothes often, but when I do, I buy stuff that will last. This still means trips to Marshall's to save cash, but it does mean valuing quality over quantity. This goes for dress shirts, pants, shoes, and even accessories. Better clothes last longer, look better, and in a sense, work better. My only exception is solid color $6 T-shirts from H&M (size medium). I own about two dozen.

Best Seats in the House

Meg's grandmother shared with my that when she was a child and her Godmother took her to a show, they would always get the best seats in the house. In New York, I went to see a few shows. I saw a David Mamet play, and I sat in the way back. For Will Ferrell as George Bush, I sat much closer. Closer was much better.

I've heard my dad say often "if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right." This may mean I see fewer shows or go to fewer events or by fewer shirts, but doing it up big seems to be more memorable and more fun than worrying about saving a few bucks.

The bottom line to all of this is: Quality over Quantity. I have believed in this motto for about 10 years now, but I have only really started living it in the last year. I aim to do more of it.

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