I’m considering ordering a new laptop, because the one I currently work from is a broken old POS (I’ve had it for two years) which has had the keyboard replaced, the screen casing is broken, and it moves about as fast after a complete system reinstall as my previous laptop did having been used for a year. I can’t afford the new laptop, though, so I’m considering ordering it on credit, and dealing with the added financial weight.
It hurts. But being unable to work properly outside of my office hurts more.
I wonder if anyone really cares about just how much debt they’re in any more. Generation X was all about the money, and Gen Y is all about meaning – but the savvy Gen X demonstrated is being passed to their kids. The kids just don’t seem to care.
I’m in debt. Aren’t you? I looked at the statistics, though, and for someone of my age and demographic background, I’m in far less debt than many of my peers. I’ve been struggling with money for years, and couldn’t figure out why I was having such a hard time when others around my age and income had cars, houses, kids, pets, and still had cash left over for discretionary spending.
Then it hit me. Debt isn’t important. What’s important is how much strain it places on you.
Look at it this way; I have two options.
On one hand, I can get a computer which will serve my needs for the interim, by waiting and dealing with my current situation for the time it’ll take me to save up the – what, let’s say $800 – that the computer costs. Because I’m doing it this way, it’s cash in hand, which always hurts to spend. However, once it’s paid for, it’s mine, with no strings attached. It’ll be a painful month when I do bite the bullet and buy the computer, but the following months will be pain free, and let me move on with my life.
This method means I’m likely to get a limited life time out of it, replace it in two years, and spend another $800 to $1000 on yet another piece of stop-gap hardware. I could save up longer, spend up to $1500 on a very good laptop with top of the line everything, but I fail to trust the hardware to have a lifespan of more than three years. Especially in my screwdriver-punctured hands.
The other option means finding financing – a credit card limit increase, independent financing, or what have you – and get a very good, $1000 to $1400 computer, which based on my usage I can expect a much longer lifespan from for a number of reasons; storage space, processing power, memory and graphics all go far ahead of the curve as soon as you pay more than 50% higher than industry average price on laptops. At that price, it’s an investment, not a cost.
However, it does mean I’ve increased my immediate debt level and dug into my monthly budget for some time to come. I’m only shelling out between $50 and $75 per month, but if I ever need that exact amount of squeezing room, I don’t have it. However, it does mean I don’t have to save up, which means getting what I need sooner, and while I’m taking the constant nickel-and-dime hits to my budget, I don’t need to drop two-thirds of the month’s pay in one go.
What does this have to do with agility?
The options simplify really easily – either a) delay and take action all at once, risking what feels like the short term, but if anything drastic happens in that short term, anything beyond doesn’t matter at all. Or b) take action now, over the course of a long period, with no immediate risk or stress, but leave myself open to all the risk and stress that comes with neglecting what is in truth a very measurable expense.
Financing is such a dangerous situation – all debt is – because it encourages neglect of responsibility and abdication of resolve.
Large purchases, even when sufficiently planned, can put your entire budget and living situation in jeopardy, because emergencies are, by nature, impossible to plan for.
Neither of these scenarios changes the fact that I need a new computer and lack the hard cash to buy one at a whim. Still, isn’t it interesting to think that no matter which way I end up going, there’s still risk, and different rewards and, at the end of the day, the actual amount of debt I’m in doesn’t mean as much as how well I can handle whatever gets thrown at me outside of my plans?
Image by Dave Hamster.