I’m constantly wrestling with the temptation to upgrade. Upgrade what? Our cars, our pillows, our home decor, EVERYTHING! Take our knives, for instance. We have one high quality chef’s knife and a bunch of lower quality knives that do the job but aren’t exactly sturdy. They need to be sharpened once a year. I would love to have higher quality knives, including a sturdy chef’s knife that fits my husband’s large hands. But when I step back and look at my desire to spend $200-$400 on higher quality knives, I see a broader issue. I want nice things because they are beautiful to look at, easy to use, and make me feel special. But do they actually improve our lives?
Why can’t I be happy with what I have?
Some days I just want to buy, buy, buy. New framed art for the walls! Plates that aren’t chipped! A super compact stereo system! Trendy outfits for the girls! Summer sandals for me! My cravings to spend skyrockets when I go to a friend’s huge house where they have so many new gadgets and toys and beautiful clothes. Or when I hear another friend say, “it cost a little bit more but we really love it.” Of course you love it! You bought the fanciest toothbrush available. I bet your mouth has never been cleaner. Your gums never more refreshed.
I’m totally and utterly jealous.
Don’t these people feel squashed by huge credit card bills? Panicked by huge mortgages? Overwhelmed by the sheer number of things in their house? Or is it me – and I the one who over reacts to these things, forcing myself to spend like a miser so I can save, save, save. (Last time I checked we save 26% of our take home pay.) And while I don’t envy their massive credit card bills, and I remind myself that my spending habits are right for me, retirement is a long time to wait to get the last laugh. So I take a deep breath, and defer all new purchasing ideas until the envy has blown over. But I’m still stuck with my original dilemma.
When is it right to upgrade?
When I was just out of college (read: broke with a cheap apartment and a couch we found on the sidewalk), I visited a couple’s new apartment and was marveling at how nice everything was – a real home – when the guy summed up their life. “Everything is from IKEA, to be upgraded as soon as possible by Pottery Barn.” We all laughed and moved on. But that conversation has stuck with me. Is life just about upgrading as soon as we can afford to? I look around our house and I see so many things that are cheap but perfectly functional. Our scrubby backdoor mat that I bought at JobLot for $3. Our hollow bedroom doors that block zero sound. Our 18 year old towels that my husband got when he went to college. (Is that frugal or just plain sad? Towels that could drive a car!!!) But the mat is perfectly functional, our doors functional, our towels…frustratingly functional. It’s easy to SAY no, don’t replace it if it works.
But how do I make peace with that?
I want my home to look nice, for things to match and look new(ish). Should I stop going to homes nicer than mine? Should I stop reading glossy magazines? Should I toss all catalogs unread into the recycling? Should I change the conversation when friends start talking about the exciting new thing they bought? Should I avoid the mall?