A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reading Holly Johnson’s insightful post on why you should not just tolerate, but downright love your older, paid-off car. As someone who always bought cars used, for cash, it resonated with me. I got to thinking about where else in my life I could apply that kind of thinking. What are some other unheralded possessions that I don’t appreciate as much as I should?
My gaze immediately settled on my old Macbook Pro, which I’ve had since the summer of 2010. Well, I guess my gaze was already there since I was reading an article online, but you get the point.
I decided to really look at my computer. I saw scuffs, dents, and fading stick-on Hebrew letters (from a time when I was convinced I was going to learn the language once and for all). I saw a CD drive that no longer works, a trackpad that’s not as responsive as it used to be, and a screen that gets this weird red line of pixels on it from time to time. I didn’t see an ESC or F1 key, both of which were casualties of past falls.
And yet, I couldn’t help but summon some admiration for this machine and what it represents. It’s been my trusted companion for almost six years. I’ve spent countless hours with it. Some would say it’s my longest adult relationship. It’s definitely been my most fruitful financially, seeing as I am completely reliant on it to earn money. It would be great if I could make a living by staring at my girlfriend all day, but unfortunately, society will not pay me for that.
Lately, I’ve been seeing my old, paid-off computer as a wonderful thing. Here are seven reasons why.
It Saves You Money
This is the big one. The longer you hang on to your computer, the more the savings start adding up. If I had upgraded to a comparable new MacBook at any point in the past six years, it would have cost me at least $1,000. That thousand dollars can instead go toward savings or paying down debt. (Or, if you prefer, toward Hebrew language resources that you’ll use for three months before giving up.)
Let’s say I’m going to be in need of a computer for the next 20 years. If I want to upgrade every three years to a new model, that will cost me six grand over the 20-year timeframe.
If you can space out your purchases, however, the savings are considerable. (For simplicity’s sake, we won’t consider resale value at this time.)
Sticking with that same scenario, buying a computer every four years instead of every three would cost me $5,000. Pushing that to every five years reduces my 20-year outlay to $4,000. Upgrading every six years costs just over $3,000. So, if my computer finally peters out in June and I get a new one, I’ll be on pace to save $3,000 just by not “needing” the newest model three years ago.
Another part of this equation is the latest trend of financing the purchase of a computer. This is becoming more and more popular as effective advertising coupled with peer pressure makes us crave the absolute newest and best at all times. I’m sure there are some cases when this makes sense, but on the whole (as with anything else) it’s better to pay in full upfront and avoid interest charges.
A computer is a depreciating asset, so the argument that you’re financing for a future payoff, as with a home loan, doesn’t make sense. Plus, if you don’t have a thousand dollars saved up, then it’s more likely you’ll fall behind on your payments and get hit with exorbitant interest rates and late fees – significantly raising the actual price paid for your laptop.
It Will Hold Up Better Than You Think
I make my living in online media and writing. That means I spend my days camped in front of my browser with more open tabs than an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day. On top of that, I usually have five to seven applications running at once. My machine is almost constantly powered on, and on a daily basis I’ll use it to work, read, find recipes, listen to music, watch movies, and video chat with my family. Plus, I take it with me when I travel. It’s essentially a shiny, electronic four-pound appendage.
I do a lot with my computer, but one thing I never do is think, “Dang, I’d be so much more productive/happier/smarter/more efficient if I had a fancier computer.”
It’s tempting to fall into that trap. It almost happened to me a couple of times. But then I think about what I would actually need a new computer to do, and the case falls apart.
I don’t need to look like the coolest person in the coffee shop. I just need a reliable machine with a functioning keyboard that connects to the Internet. I think that most people would say the same.
It Can Help You Earn Money
It’s not breaking new ground to say that a personal computer can be an amazing resource. There are almost infinite side hustles you can start just by popping open your laptop and getting online. Everything from freelance writing to researching questions online to filling out surveys to locating a medical study you can participate in. All you need is an Internet connection and a computer.
If your computer is paid off, all that side hustle money doesn’t have to go straight toward paying for the very device you’re using to earn the income.
You Can Upgrade Without Fear
Older computers, especially Macs, tend to be more customizable. And even if they weren’t, you’d feel less bad tinkering because you know if you mess up you didn’t just break a brand new machine and void the warranty. From what I understand.
My computer started slowing down a bit a couple years ago. Before tossing it into the recycling bin and giving up, I did some research as to what it would cost me to upgrade my RAM and my hard drive.
Turns out it’s not that expensive, and not that hard. I purchased 8 GB of RAM and a 500 GB solid state hard drive for $300 total. The tools to unscrew the bottom set me back another 10 bucks, but then I was good to go.
There’s also something inherently satisfying about tinkering with something and figuring out a solution. It scratches an ancient itch and puts one less piece of metal and plastic into a landfill.
There is an environmentally friendly component to using and maintaining your electronics for as long as possible. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, you might be able to find someone in your community to help you out.
Enjoy Unparalleled Comfort
Whenever I’m stuck in a mall, I’ll wander into the Apple store just to gawk at the glimmering toys. There’s still something amazing to me about the fact that the store with the highest retail value per square foot was started by a couple of guys in a garage.
Since I’m there, I’m obviously going to play with the fancy things. And while some of the screen resolutions make me drool, when I start typing I’m usually disappointed. The keys feel rigid and unresponsive. Or maybe they’re too flat and the tactile-ness isn’t quite to my liking. No matter how much R&D is poured into these things, they never feel nearly as good as my own keyboard.
This could all be in my head, but I think the millions of words I’ve typed on my computer have worn special, minute grooves specifically for my fingers. I wouldn’t trade my keyboard for anything.
When it was brand new, I treated my computer like a piece of fine art. I would literally wash my hands before using it. Now? My computer is scratched up and has more dings than a casino slot machine. And it’s so much better that way. Having something brand new, especially when you’re not done paying for it yet, can be stressful. Your natural inclination is to keep it pristine, so as to not feel like you’ve “ruined” your precious investment.
I’m, of course, in favor of protecting your screen and treating your possessions with respect. But when you start to worry about every nick and smudge is when you stop owning your things and your things start owning you.
Older computers tend to run hot. Most say this is a disadvantage. I say, embrace it! Next time you’re tempted to crank up the heat on a cold winter’s day, you can experiment with snuggling up with your old laptop and a blanket. Once that hard drive fires up and you hear the fans kick into gear, you know that radiating heat is just seconds away. Maybe it can even save you some money on your heating bill!
The Bottom Line
We live in a society that bombards us with advertisements that imply that we’re failing if we can’t afford the newest gadgets. We’re told they aren’t just better versions, but absolute necessities if we want to be the most productive people we can be.
What the ads don’t say is that productivity is not about shaving milliseconds off a web page load, nor is it about having a screen with more pixels than our eyes can even detect. It’s about having the mindset to focus and work hard.
No computer is going to make you smarter and more efficient on its own. If the computer you have is relatively reliable and protected from viruses, you’re set. If you already own a computer that is paid for in full, I hope this can help you look at it with a new reverence.