Updated: September 22, 2014
This is the last part of this article, to read the first part, click here: The Relationship Of Obsolescence And Frugality Part 1.
Aside from planned obsolescence, there is another type of obsolescence that’s being utilized by product engineers to maximize business profits. This is called perceived obsolescence. This type of obsolescence is where the big spending occurs for us, consumers. Since it’s quite hard to actually design products that will break and become useless after a desired period, companies have come up with another way to convince us to discard and replace our perfectly working possessions.
Perceived obsolescence appeals to our psyche and tries to lead us into thinking that the products we have are already obsolete, useless and must be upgraded to better models. The major contributors to the success of perceived obsolescence is media advertising and social pressure. Furthermore, companies complement this strategy by stopping production and support for old versions and doing an aggressive marketing campaign on the advantages of the new model.
To help you understand this concept more and show you how you can save money, I will share to you a personal story:
My current mobile phone is the Sony Ericsson k700i. This model was released during the second quarter of 2004. I got it fresh from the shelves courtesy of Globe Telecoms as part of their subscriber loyalty reward program. Last year, I was again offered a brand new mobile phone by the company. This time, I refused and instead chose to convert the reward into monthly rebates on my bill for the next two years.
Why did I do that? Because my trusty SE k700i is still in perfect working condition and I’d rather save money than to have a new phone that would just depreciate in market value within the next six months (thanks to perceived obsolescence).
The choice though, was not easy for me as you might think. I see new cellphone models being released every few months and I have constantly wished that mine would also have 3G capabilities so that I could do video calling; a higher resolution camera so that I’ll have better phone pictures; and a memory card slot so that I can store more photos and more music in my phone. Additionally, I’m also worried that I might give off the impression of being a tightwad or kuripot to others, specially to my staff, if they see how low-tech my mobile phone is.
But every time I get so close to swiping my credit card to buy a new mobile phone, I’d ask myself if that purchase was really necessary. I usually just use my mobile phone for calling and texting and my current one can do both tasks quite well still. Furthermore and more importantly, I realized that a person’s worth is not determined by how expensive his things are or how up-to-date he is with the current trends, but rather by the value he offers others through his actions.
Some final tips on how frugality can fight perceived obsolescence:
- Know the subtle differences between what you really need versus what you simply want
- If it’s still useful, efficient and effective, don’t replace it.
- Buy and invest in things, specially clothes, which are durable and whose design rarely goes out of style
- Get rid of the mindset that you need to keep up with the Joneses
- If upgrading and replacing is really essential, sell the old one or find a way to reuse or recycle the item
Lastly, if you have 20 minutes to spare, I suggest that you watch The Story of Stuff and learn more about the market economy and sustainability. This educational video has been my inspiration in writing this article. Below is a teaser that talked about planned obsolescence.
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Leonard, Annie. “Story Of Stuff”. December 2007
Photo courtesy of 2cauldrons