My Opinions on expenses


Cheap items

I read this article about buying the cheapest tool first, and if I use it until it breaks, then I can buy the most expensive one. I've tried to apply this to my purchases, and I've realized that I am sometimes okay with the cheap things I've bought

For example, I wanted a laptop, and saved up Ksh 150K for it, but chose to try out an older thinkpad model first. I bought a refurbished thinkpad t440 for Ksh 30K and I love it. It has most of the things I need and great linux support. The only gotcha is playing AAA games, but this led me to trying out niche games and I've found some hidden gems. If this laptop ever breaks, I'll get a similar one. I don't see the point of spending 5 times the amount on something that is marginally better (for my needs that is).

Sometimes the most expensive item is difficult to maintain, especially when parts need to be replaced. When we moved into our home, we bought the most expensive shower head our electrician recommended, and it worked for a year before the heating element broke. The electrician tried to find a replacement, but couldn't, so we bought a new shower head. But this time we got the lower priced ones that are more common. This also happened with my brother's laptop (an ultrabook), where he'd accidentally poured water on the keyboard, and it needed to be replaced. It took weeks to find a replacement, and it was costly.

I now purchase cheap items mostly because:

  • It provides a chance to see if I need it or not.
  • The cheap item are sometimes capable of what I need.
  • The cheap items are sometimes easier to repair.

I avoid cheap items that have too many features for the price though e.g. a convertible laptop, with a touch screen, support for a digital pen, light weight and more. At that price point, these features don't make sense and there are some shortcuts made e.g. poor build quality.

Impulse purchases

I sometimes get an urge to buy something I've seen, because seeing causes my brain to find uses for it. For example, I'll see a camera and start imagining all the cool photos I can take, while ignoring that I rarely take pictures on my smart phone. Being aware of this helps a bit, especially when it comes to places I avoid (ref: atomic habits).

Supermarkets and malls may be designed with this in mind. In malls, I easily get lost when looking for a particular shop, meaning that I see a lot more things that triggers the impulse. I try to avoid malls and look for alternatives. When shopping, I make a list and stick to it, avoiding cues from the supermarket.

I use leetblock and adblockers on my computers to block websites that provide these cues. This makes it really hard to visit them.

Experiences vs Things

I also liked this article on buying things not experiences, and learnt that there's a blurry boundary between items and experiences, in that there are experience like things e.g. owning a workshop, and there are thing-like experiences e.g. an instagrammable vacation. Experiences are preferred because of limits in our lives e.g. we don't have enough space for them, or it could be a way to show that we're better in a world of material abundance, hence the 'buy experiences not things' mantra.

This ignores that we can get things that can provide multiple life changing experiences over the course of their ownership, so long as they're carefully chosen. A naive example would be to purchase a gaming rig rather than making payments at a gaming shop. This provides multiple chances to explore games you enjoy, playing with friends and even meeting random people online. Another similar example provided is owning a large living room, which provides a change to host friends and expand your network.

So where possible, consider the experiences of making a purchase, rather than just brushing it off as materialism. This though means I should also be aware of the biases mentioned in the previous section, and I try to balance both of these.