Device minimalism -Save money and planet

Modern-day marketing gets most of us and creates the void in our minds to purchase new devices every year or the other. Would being minimalist on purchasing new gadgets save us money and also do good to the planet? Let’s have a look at what is device minimalism and if we could sustainably source our devices.

How we fall for new purchases

It has happened to most of us. We have the perfect laptops and phones which has the latest features and the best cameras. Up comes a keynote or an advertisement launching a new one, and suddenly the current ones we possess feel inferior.

However, if you look at it from a different perspective, your life was probably perfect and you went around doing your tasks as it is with your old devices. Just because someone told you of an existence of a new feature on a new device, you now crave it.

Is that new feature that important? If so, let me remind you of something. You probably never thought about this feature, when you decided to spend the money on your current possessions. Even if you did know of a non-existential in device feature, you were perfectly fine to shell out your hard-earned money for the features you have now with your existing purchase and okay to not have the newly introduced ones.

Does that intrigue the working process of a human mind? The human mind easily falls for new wants and features that you presume would make your life easy. The marketing world is well versed with this and the latest ads portray what you could do if you had that new feature. Of course, there are instances where ‘wanting‘, needing the new device is necessary, but often there are instances we purchase it just for the sake of having the latest one.

neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, Mr. Sundeep Teki suggests that our brain cells are wired to seek needs such as social status and security. The action of seeking and then actually rewarding these devices triggers the reward network of our brain.

Now, since we know why we do what we do when we seek the latest gadgets, could it be sensible to train our brains beforehand and make sure we don’t go on spending spree with the newly announced gadgets. 

Learning to be minimalist about our device purchases could help us control our brains on unnecessary desires.

Let’s look at various ways how we can train our minds to be device minimalistic by answering the common questions we ask ourselves when buying new devices.

Should you upgrade from your old device

Should I upgrade from product version x to product version y is a common question on tech forums? Find one of the latest YouTube channels on tech and scroll through some of the comments. You’ll find consumers discussing the age-old question. E.g., I have an iPhone XS should I upgrade to iPhone XS-Pro? But this one shoots better photos!

Few common answers you shall find to the question- should you upgrade are :

  • Yes
  • Yes, totally worth it.
  • Yes, if you have spare cash
  • If you want it, just buy it
  • Pass the current one to your significant other/ kids/ parents and get the latest one
  • Wait for the next version
  • No

Well, these answers are thoughts of other consumers. Some are sensible while some do not (rather not possible to) think through your financial plans before suggesting you plunge on the new device. Very few of them talk about device minimalism and the impacts of upgrading to new devices every year have on our planet.

Let’s go back to the time you purchased your current device. Well, say you purchased your device for an ‘x’ amount. You paid that money cause you believed the features it offered are worth that money. 

Come time to upgrade, you have to think through if your current device is really obsolete?

There are two types of device or gadgets obsolescence.

Technical Obsolescence

Technical obsolescence is when your devices or gadgets have become obsolete on its tech features. This occurs when various companies launch newer versions or new devices with better tech. For example, An iPhone with a better camera will make your current iPhone technically obsolete.

Functional Obsolescence

However, when your device stops performing the way ‘it was intended to’ when you first bought it, makes it functionally obsolete. Functionally obsolete devices might create problems in your day to day activities.

Given the two types of device obsolescence, what do you think about upgrading your current device? In most cases, purchasing new devices only when they are ‘functionally obsolete’, would make sense and save you money.

Does the upgrade solve any pain?

There is another school of thought that may help you decide if you should upgrade your current device. Have a look at your current devices and ponder upon it to find the pain points of using it as it is. Is the pain point bearable or do you need the upgrade?

E.g., My iPhone touch screen is not functioning the way it should in certain areas. For some, this is a pain, as they can’t input some commands on the phone from a certain area on the screen. While for others this might NOT be a pain. They might only use a few functions of the phone and just rearranging the content on the screen to the areas where it can be touched suffices for them.

Look at the new device you are intending to purchase. Will this device help you solve the current pain you face from the existing device? Or, would it add more pain? Maybe is the extra money going away from your bank account creating a new set of pain? 

Once you have thought through all of these and still see a point to upgrade, then yes you deserve it. Else, you can still manage with what you have for the (probably large) amount you paid for it.

Sourcing devices in a sustainable way

Most of our used phones and electronic gadgets are attempted to be recycled. However, some parts of them can’t be recycled and are usually piled up in dump yards. In worst cases, they are burnt which produce poisonous and carcinogenic gasses.

When you return your old devices, what do you think- where do they end up? Waste electronics end up in poorer countries as an e-waste dump. One of the examples is Accra, Ghana which has become one of the top homes to the world’s e-waste. The waste here is processed to remove reusable parts, but the unusable ones- ends up harming your and my planet.

Preparing and training your brains to not splurge on new devices if it’s not necessary, might help us reduce thee-wastes.

Buying refurbished or used products is also another way you could consider if that does the job for you.

Refurbished products- As good as brand new!

This one is for users who wish to buy expensive Apple products. Many amongst us are unaware of refurbished Apple products sold on the Apple website.

If you scroll down on the apple site and find a link for Refurbished and Clearance Products links, you’ll find devices listed by Apple for sale. They are usually returned or repaired products but carry the same stringent quality check as well as the same warranty as a new device.

These devices are usually 300 to 400$ cheaper than brand new ones.

Other retailers and online sellers also sell refurbished products.

Device minimalism is not against Technology

Minimising the purchase of new devices is often seen as an act against technology improvement. However, that is not the case. 

Minimalism is using and buying only what you need and not over hoarding it. When you buy tech or devices that suffice your need or try to extend the lifespan of your current one- it is not against technology.

Technology has to improve and it is what has made our life easier. However, when new devices have very small incremental improvements, would it make sense to produce e-waste just for the sake of it. Remember, you will spend heaps of money on the new device too.

One can of course stay connected with the latest keynote and launches. However, not splurging to buy the very next moment is the key to save your money and the planet. Hanging on to purchase the smaller incremental improvements for a while can do wonders to your finances as well!

If you are into money management, do learn more about various tips to save money in Singapore.

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