Looking Rich vs Being Rich

So I haven’t had a smartphone for several months now. And last week it was time to get myself a new one….. I had agonized for weeks over which smartphone to buy — high range, middle range or so low range that I send out a strong message that I am not competing with anyone after all, as long as the phone does the core functions that I want it to do. I justified the high range phone to myself — I told myself I need to treat myself to something good after waiting for so long….

Eventually I settled for a low range smartphone and I am very pleased with my purchase, far more pleased than I would had I got a high range one. Although I could afford a high range device, it would have set me back in my savings by hundreds of dollars which would need a lot of work to replace. I am even more pleased with the fact that even a low range smartphone does all the core functions I want my phone to do. Fine it doesn’t have the fancy stuff, has a slower processor maybe, camera not the best, etc but it’s doing everything else that I want. Reminds me just how much the tech companies have the whole world in their palm, we will do anything to get our hands on the latest gadget at a hefty price even if it’s only a few miniscule changes compared to the previous generation gadget.

That was quite sobering for me. Had I got the expensive version not only would I have paid many times more, but a few weeks down the line now, I would have been feeling empty once more as the excitement starts to wear off. I would have realized that just like everything I have bought before thinking it would make me perfectly happy, this too is just like the rest of them — after a while I am back to my old life and still empty.

Also reminded me of a choice we must make many times with each purchase — do you want to look rich or do you want to be rich? Many people spend their time looking rich than being rich. So yes, an expensive gadget might have impressed a few people — people whose faces I can’t even point at and I’ m not even guaranteed that impressing them would have brought lasting joy or happiness or fulfillment. But could I really comfortably afford that? No. Rather keep those dollars and use them to build a better future.

And I realized for most of these things we agonize over, it’s not the poor that struggle — they know where they stand already; or the truly wealthy — they are quite clear about where they stand too ; it’s us who call ourselves middle class that struggle — it’s those of us that live like we own things that we don’t really own that struggle the most.