Column: Balancing Act PDF Print E-mail

Buying new technology is a difficult balancing act. On the one hand there's what you absolutely, positively, and really want. Which, if you're a technology fan, is the latest and greatest in speed, memory and low mass.

On the other hand, there is the reality of what you actually need, or can afford.
The problem is, as pointed out to me by a high powered executive type (who works for one of the worlds biggest consumer electronic manufacturers) is that marketing departments spend millions telling us why we should want all the latest gadgets.
This brings me to the purpose of this column, which is to tell you, that most of us don’t actually need quite as much as we think we do. 
Sure it would be nice to buy a huge, fancy 3D TV, but while most of us want such a TV, the reality is that no one really needs to watch a movie in 3D, and particularly if you heed the warnings that come with most of these big TV's.
These warnings, by the way, typically tell you to take a break every fifteen minutes to half an hour.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather watch an entire movie on a properly set up screen, and with a good sound system, than have to stop all the time because there may or may not (the jury is still out) be health risks if I watch an entire 3D movie without interruptions.
And I won't even get into the discussion of wanting the biggest TV you can afford.
Trust me, a smaller, but better TV will give you more enjoyment than that huge monster that you wanted to have.
The same applies to smaller tech.
A few months ago the battery on my MP3 player started to die, so obviously I wanted a new player.
As it turn out all I really needed was a little bit of ingenuity to figure out how to fit a new battery.  R130 later (the cost of a generic cell phone battery) and my existing player has been give a new lease of life. What's more, it now plays for longer than it did when new, and I didn't even have to spend any time re-ripping music and transferring this to a new player. 
I will admit though, that my player is possibly the only one of its kind in the world with an external battery (and has been described as a Free State player), but it still fits into my pocket and it works. 
Having succeeded in getting the player to work with another battery, I've learned that I don’t need a newer player and my next goal is to replace its 30GB hard drive with a bigger one.
When looking for a new laptop, I once again wanted the one that had the fastest processor and biggest memory. The reality though, was that as I'm not a power laptop user, or an avid gamer, all I needed was one that was powerful enough to run the set up and calibration software I use, and one that could play the odd DVD for my little one.
By buying a laptop that suited my needs, I managed to save a lot of money.
Learning to balance your wants and needs is one of the toughest things to do, particularly when we're constantly being bombarded by advertising and even peer pressure that tells us that we all deserve to have the latest gadgets that money, and money is the operative word, can buy.
When deciding to buy something new, no matter what it is, do yourself a favour and stop for a minute.
Once you've taken a breath, ask yourself exactly why you want to make the purchase? 
If your answer is because you need it, then go ahead. If you don’t need to make the purchase, perhaps you need to figure out what is driving you to want something you don’t need.
Of course sometime because I want it is justification enough.
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