Have you ever made a purchase only to then be told a few months later that there’s a new model or style of that same item that you should be upgrading to? This can happen with clothes, phones, other electronics, and even cars. This phenomenon is called perceived obsolescence; while you may not have heard of this term before, you’ve most likely experienced this in one way or another. This is the belief that you need to upgrade an item simply because there’s a newer model available, even if your item works just fine.
What is Perceived Obsolescence?
Example: I recently bought the iPhone 12, and my phone company is already trying to convince me to upgrade to the iPhone 13. In fact, they’re offering it to me completely for free. I think that’s just STUPID and ridiculous. My iPhone 12 is still brand new and working perfectly. The last thing I want to do is mess around with switching all my stuff over to a new phone. But I see people lining up every time something new and shiny comes out. That’s perceived obsolescence in a nutshell. It’s a costly and wasteful habit and so bad for the environment.
The main cause of this “need to buy new” comes from advertising suggesting that your existing product is outdated and that in order to stay on-trend or relevant, you must have the new version. Ever wonder why hemlines are long this year and short the next year? Tie-dye is in, tie-dye is out. Ripped jeans are in. No, Mom jeans are in now. It’s all part of the marketing plan and so are YOU.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to go Amish and revert to an old brick phone or drive a complete piece of crap car. But sticking with just a slightly older model will give you nearly all of the same features without losing your sunk costs that you’ve already invested in what you have = smart. I see this with RV’s all the time. People insist on the brand new flashy one when there are tons of great slightly used ones that are going for HALF the price. Could be a divorce, an illness, a lost job, and they are ready to make a deal!
I think part of the smart money strategy is to recognize when a marketer is trying to suck you in with a classic perceived obsolescence technique and to really think it through. I’m not about to play into silly marketing schemes like that. I drive my cars until the wheels fall off and I keep my phones until they break or I genuinely need more memory or features. And clothes… Well, I do really LIKE clothes, but no one is going to accuse me of being on the cutting edge of fashion!
Here’s Some Ways to Avoid Perceived Obsolescence
Here are some instances where you might feel that it’s necessary to upgrade your existing products and some ways that you can avoid spending unnecessary money:
- Fast fashion can be a big reason that you feel you need to buy new versions of clothes, even if you have something similar in your closet already. Instead of opting for these new, trendy samples, opt instead to have a staple wardrobe, especially if you are now working remotely either fully or in a hybrid situation.
- Instead of rushing to purchase the newest model in technology, consider repurposing your old electronics or repairing them for further use. This can be especially useful if providing your children with a smartphone or other device to cut down the extra purchasing expenses.
- Consider buying a used car instead of the newest model. In reality, there’s little reason that a model a year or two old isn’t just as great as the newest one, and it will save you in the long run. More importantly, doing your research ahead of time will only help you to get the best deal on a car. With something so expensive, you want to ensure that you’re making the right money decisions and not just rushing to spend extra dollars.
- Before you buy, stop and think. Resist the urge to impulse buy; this is one of the biggest ways to overspend your budget. Consider if you truly need the item, and if you do, take a day or two to ask yourself if it’s a necessity or if you want to buy it just for the fun of buying it. Also consider if you need the most expensive item or if a cheaper alternative will do (most times it will work just as well, if not better!). Check out my most popular post on 10 Secrets of Women Who Always Have Money.
- Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’. Remember that the newest and greatest products also come with a price tag, and that can ultimately impact your wallet in the long run. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have some nice juicy CASH in my pocket than have the latest outfit or shiny new toy!
The biggest advice I can give you is that, if an item still works well and serves its purpose, it’s best to save your money and not fall for the concept that you need a new one just because it’s new. Of course, this is not to say to never buy new products again, but hopefully, it is for the right reasons and not just to have the newest fad!
To help you defeat perceived obsolescence, Capital One Shopping created this infographic on what it is and how to breathe life into existing products. Read through to learn some additional tips and tricks to fight this phenomenon.
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