Shiny Object Syndrome
If you would prefer to listen to me read this blog post, please click on the play button.
This syndrome is hard to identify if you don’t know what you are looking for and I’ve been caught out far too many times. If, like my husband, you not only noticed that Apple released a new phone, but actively followed its release then you are in the cross hairs. Look Out, a large expensive purchase is the next likely outcome.
He is an early adopter and is very drawn to things that are new, shiny and elusive... such as brand new cars, drones and being a designer, anything with a half eaten Apple on it…
He is also an obsessive researcher and will spend hours online looking at the pro’s and con’s of any of the above, so I don’t have to (it’s a boy thing he tells me). And then he will sell the concept to me; who has little understanding of these things. But he makes a very good argument and after robust debate we fortunately always jointly agree.
He had been following the launch of the iPhone 7 and we had already decided he should get one, apparently the camera is EXTRA good. His phone (and mine) are both at least four years old and a bit stuffed. Charging my phone three times a day has become a bit tiresome.
I was at school and was having a conversation with an awesome kid who is on the spectrum. I can always rely on him for an in depth, detailed and precise conversation about ANY topic. I whipped out my phone to show him a photo which related to the conversation we were having about fish and as his eyes followed the arc of my phone coming out of my pocket he had a sharp (and horrified) intake of breath and said “oh, you only have a 4S, thats a shame”! I was not shamed, until he mentioned it. The fact it took ages for the photo I was trying to show him come up only heightened my new sense of shame. My ego which I claim not to be ruled by, took a hit.
So, back at home I relayed this interaction to Mr Happy Saver and his parents, who were visiting. We were all instantly given an update on the iPhone 7 release and as had been clearly pointed out to me at school, the fact that he needed one. Before I knew what was happening things snowballed. Unbeknown to me, his parents had been on the brink of telling him they were giving him an early birthday present of cash. While I was still surprised and was spluttering my thank you’s about their generosity, Mr Happy Saver had done the mental arithmetic that he could now more easily afford a phone and within minutes he had ordered one. Jaysus that was quick. What just happened here?
$1,400 just spent on a new phone. Click click click. Done. $1,400 fecking dollars on a phone! One phone. But it was done and he was basking in the “post shopping” glow we all get when something we have long wished for comes true. When all the marketing Gods have collided and made you happily part with your cash. No regrets. Yet. That feeling of achievement you get for having done something, but all you have really done is enter your credit card details. Hey, I was excited too, I was going to be the recipient of his old phone with a battery that actually charged. Excited!
And then we waited for it to arrive. After a few days the case arrived (that was an additional $59). Then it was one week, two weeks. No phone. Apple are apparently teasing the world with lack of supply - a carefully engineered situation to make the gap between the Haves and Have Nots even greater. But THANK GOD that gave us breathing space to reflect on our purchase. We head away overseas shortly and the point of this new phone was its amazing camera and new features bla bla bla (sorry, I zoned out) but it was looking like it would not arrive anytime soon.
My wonderful calm husband had a panicked look about him. He had that sinking feeling that it was just not going to arrive in time. We simply HAD to look elsewhere and find it in New Zealand, instead of direct with Apple. He cancelled the order. And the phone calls began...
He cast around NZ and found he could get one in Queenstown, just one hour away. Hallelujah we are saved! It had more gigs... so would cost $200 more... you could not buy it outright... so had to pay it off over 12 months, interest free… Excellent news!
Wait wait wait, back the truck up here. We both see debt as a disaster and a personal insult to our ability to save. We could afford this phone but the reason we had the money to afford it is because every day we do our utmost to save money and not waste it. This $1,400 phone has just morphed into a $1,600 phone that we were seriously considering to be a solution to our first world problem of WE NEED A PHONE BY FRIDAY! AND we were considering putting it on tick.
JUST STOP A MINUTE!!
SHINY SYNDROME ALERT!
What the heck are we thinking here? Just breath before that itchy finger presses the buy now button. This situation is getting out of hand and calls for a wine and a bit of korero (talk). We could easily afford this phone but we have never bought on Hire Purchase so why on earth would we start now? We have a Land Rover sitting in the driveway which is worth about the same amount as this phone. A return ticket to America is worth the same as this one phone.
So, how did we resolve this dilemma? At no time during all of this was I expecting a new phone but I too got swept up in the hype of something shiny and new and succumbed. We assessed the situation of needing to update one phone, but the other was just as old but it still worked fine. We bought two phones instead of one. We traded our old phones for $155. We bought two iPhone SE for $1,543 total!
I, like you, can justify anything. We still spent the same small fortune, but two for the price of one has to be better surely? And for the couple of friends I have mentioned my new phone purchase to they have affirmed that “the SE is a good phone”. It’s their fault! They have enabled me and validated my spending! What an idiot am I to be excited about the fact that they gave a trade in price of $155 for our old phones, which cost $2,000 new. I didn’t even know you could trade in a phone until my sister told me. I am almost no better than a teenager, at least I settled for a cheaper and older phone. Yeah, that makes me feel better.
What is the take home here?
They got me. The enormous marketing machine of societal pressure got to this desperate consumer. I of all people should know better not to be attracted to Shiny Objects, even though I can afford them. We should have bought one phone for Mr Happy Saver and been done. He could have taken millions of photo’s on our holiday and we would have been fine.
I manage to resist a two for one deal at the supermarket so it irks me that I got carried away here. All of these gadgets buy short term satisfaction. If I buy a $2, $20, $200, $2,000 or a $20,000 item what is the long term impact to my savings goal? It is another minute, hour, day, month or year that my husband and I have to work for “the man”. Its handing over more of the most precious thing we have - time. Every time a bright shiny object takes my fancy the money I use to buy it is money that is not going into the pot to buy me freedom to retire early.
Wants vs Needs. It happens to all of us, whether it be shoes, a Fit Bit that you think will get your butt out running, or a new dinner set, I know I will be thinking more clearly next time the urge to splurge overcomes me.
P.S. I have a iPhone 7 case if anyone is looking for one?
P.S.S. My new phone is actually quite awesome in comparison with my old one!
Mr Money Mustache is awesome and says it way better than I could. Check out these two links: