One of the biggest problems lots of people have with getting new stuff is that it’s impulse purchasing. I try to avoid that whenever possible.
Most of the people I know have at least one story every six months or so about how they went out and got something they really didn’t need, or didn’t suit their actual purpose. There are tonnes of toys out there that, at first glance, appear to be really cool and really useful at the same time. Unfortunately, as things become more and more multipurpose, it’s easier for us to get sucked into believing an omnitasking toy will make our lives easier by collecting everything we need to do into one thing.
But what if we carry more than one thing? For the last year I’ve been carrying a BlackBerry Bold and an iPod Touch. I got the Touch first, and had a dumbphone. I needed a tasks list, and a calendar, and the Touch does both of these things. At the time, it also had enough room for my music collection.
But then I got the BlackBerry. Which was even better, because the calendar and tasks functions are much more robust. However, it left me with a multifunction iPod that has limited space and non-universal internet access (no way to use my BlackBerry as an adhoc WiFi source, either), and a very useful smartphone that does everything I want it to except have a physically large screenwith touch capability and the insanely large resource that is the app store.
So now I’m shopping for new hardware, and I’d like to share what this experience has taught me, because making myself actively involved in the shopping process has been a learning experience.
First, make lists of things you want and need.
I don’t mean shopping lists. Lists of items you want, wish lists, are of no use when shopping with a practical frame of mind. Make a list of the tasks you complete in a day. Then use that list to inform the list of features you need out of whatever it is you’re looking to buy.
Do you need a music player? How much music do you have? If you’ve already got 5 gigabytes, look for a player that’s 8gb or more. Never undersell your needs, your collection is less likely to shrink than it is to grow.
Looking for a camera? What do you do with your pictures? Print them? How big? Are you likely to be taking action shots, or stills? Do you need macro features? Telephoto? Is it worth spending the money on professional accessories?
I’ll get more into this later, but it sums up easily as: there’s no way to tell what toys you need without knowing first what you need them to do for you.
Next, do some research.
What are your options? Once you know what kinds of things you need to do, it’s easier to find the products that suit those needs. Those “I’m a PC” commercials where people go shopping with needs and a budget in mind have a point – if you know what you’re looking for, products really do jump off the shelf at you. But you need to know what’s on the market first, before you can even go into a store.
Once you know what you want…
Shop! DO all the things you usually do. Go to a shop, talk to the salespeople. Compare prices (so much simpler now that you’ve got a list of products that may meet your needs). So go out, figure out exactly what you want, and where you’re going to get it.
Then wait two weeks.
Dude. Wait, what? Hang off on a purchase, after all that work? Why in the name of mind-rending awesomeness would you want to do that?
Simple. Remember all that impulse shopping you used to do before you became an imformed shopper? Well, while all that work, all that research can make you certain that you get what you want out of what you buy, you still need to be sure that it’s worth buying. I don’t mean is the product good, I mean can you afford to spend the money on this? Will it eat into plans for other purchases?
Adding two weeks pre-purchase to any large buy gives you that much more time to avoid buyer’s remorse. Most stores have limited time periods, and in some cases limited usage rights, before products can be refunded without a penalty. Giving yourself time to make sure that the purchase is worth it for you, your budget and your lifestyle is a great way to extend that time period by getting over the shock of the purchase before it happens. It means you can get the most out of what you just got right from the moment you walk out of the store, rather than spending the first two weeks of ownership thinking it’s awesome and shiny. You’re now settled not just on the buying of your new toy, but your ownership of it.
And actually owning what you buy is worth the time and effort you’ll spend buying it.