Sometimes I wonder

Growing up finances were often tight. Whenever I hear the Juston Moore song “We Didn’t Have Much” and it’s lyric that “We had it all when we didn’t have much”, the break in the stanza often makes me think back. My family didn’t have much and certainly didn’t have that song’s kind of “All” during my formative years, but we had all the things. I always found it amazing as a kid that despite how tight things were, we had 3 TVs and 3 VCRs, which as a little boy seemed an order of magnitude more wealthy than we were by a long shot. Of course the way that worked out is a lot of our things were often rent to own or the bank of grandma, and mine were often hand me down. I didn’t care that my VCR was probably the first one pa bought back in the ’80s, it was just awesome sauce being able to watch VHS off in my own corner. When I was older, I found it more amazing that we had so much given what my mother had to work with. That’s the kind of way it was.

When I got to be older, I noticed the affects of this when observing others. As a teenager, I had come to the conclusion that my willingness to spend $1 was probably closer to how willing most folks I knew were willing to spend $20. Since we had little to work with it was often imperative to spend it wisely, especially for big stuff. Because if we screwed up there might not be the option to take it back or buy another. A lot of times the only options were the cheaper ones and the worse deals, but we still had little cause to complain. Like my first laptop: I had the third cheapest laptop at Best Buy because the cheapest was sold out and the second cheapest couldn’t run FreeBSD. Despite that, I loved that laptop and used it for about six years and a lot of my early programming.

Sometimes I wonder about how this has affected my mentality as an adult. Actually, I think my current laptop best reflects how child hood affected my purchasing decisions. Shion is actually the most expensive laptop that I’ve ever bought. It was very carefully planned and budgeted for. It was very carefully decided how much the cost was worth it to me versus the value for those dollars. Kind of like my dad, I don’t have a problem spending an inordinate amount of money on something to solve a problem, but like my widowed mother, I learned to spend it well when I do.

I also developed a metric for factoring into these sort of problems: value over time. It’s kind of like amortization but the formula is simpler, since there’s no loan interest. When shopping for my laptop, I tallied the cost of the various configurations and its value to me. Then I broke it down based on how many years I might use the system: 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, or 12 years. From experience over the years, I know that the average time I will use a computer for is approximately 6 years. It may be a few years less or a few years more but about 6 years is the average. So, to make it a good deal the value had to be a good deal for the 5 years mark and an acceptable deal for the 3 year mark, and at least balance out by the end of the decade.

Likewise over the years, I developed a concept for obsoleteness of computers. If you buy the cheapest laptop you can get from the current hardware and will use it heavily: it will probably be worth buying a faster cheapest computer in another year or two. By then, you’ll often pass the point where doing a task very frequently becomes enough bottleneck that being able to do that task faster is worth the upgrade costs. Accordingly the opposite is true but with different numbers: buy the fastest machine you can get, and in about 10 years it will be about as good as that ‘cheapest’ option will be, if you replace it with the cheapest machine a decade later. That balances out with the average time I use computers, which is in 5 years in enough things will have changed that if the system isn’t enough of a bottleneck to be worth replacing yet, it will be soon therefore start planning; and if it’s already a bottleneck, start planning.

Moral of this planned obsoleteness is don’t be first and don’t be last to upgrade; rather upgrade when the improvements are worth it. And if everything goes sideways in about ten years, whatever you can afford won’t be any worse than a ten year old computer, lol.

Shion has now been in service for approximately 1 year. So far, it’s proving to be quite effective with no sign of retirement on the horizon. Based one earlier calculations a year ago, in another year it will have proven to be an ok deal; next year it will have proven to be a good deal; by the third year it will be a great deal; by 5 years, I’ll definitely have gotten my money’s worth. Here’s hoping that I don’t drop it out a window or sit on it by mistake 😂.