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Why I am SO Not Buying an iPad 3

This is Mr. Money Mustache’s computer. Look carefully, because this is how advanced the iPad 3 will look to you in just a few years.

Mustachians are a tech-savvy bunch. From what I’ve heard, engineers and other professionals are way over-represented in the audience compared to the general population. We may think we’re pretty smart, but we are actually some of the biggest suckers out there when it comes to the unfortunate condition known as gadget addiction.

I’m right there with you. I am a recovering gadget addict, which is similar to a recovering alcoholic in the sense that you never really cure the addiction, you just learn not to indulge it. I have gone over a year since my last electronics purchase of any type, but if you put a Newegg catalog in front of me, my heart will speed up, a column of drool will start to hang from the corner of my mouth, and I will read and memorize every word of every product description in there, and fantasize about buying it. Thankfully, I will then proceed to buy nothing.

I wasn’t always so successful in non-buying of electronics. As a six-year-old I used to string miles of colorful wires between a grid of bent-over nails stuck into a board and pretend they were an advanced computer. In 1984 I saved up $25 of cold hard cash and blew it all at the local Men’s Accessories store on a big nerdy “calculator watch”. Later I bought an AM radio watch at that same store and briefly entered Heaven when listening to a scratchy rendition of Toto’s Africa on it late one night.

By age fifteen I had over a thousand dollars of stereo equipment piled up in my bedroom, and a couple of computers as well. I bought one of the world’s first, and crappiest, digital cameras in 1997, and I’ve owned six more since then. Even after cutting my inventory, I still own at least eight pairs of speakers and four amplifiers. Parents and former roommates have commented to me that the most lasting memory of having me around is the cardboard boxes filled with wires and connectors that I seem to generate and then leave behind when I move. And we haven’t even talked about computer upgrades yet.

So yeah, Lady Gadget and I have had our time together. But in the last few years, I have really gotten control of the situation. And it feels great. Even better than continuing to indulge the addiction.

This week, one of the most significant gadgets in history is being released for sale. The Apple iPad 3. It’s a tablet computer that incorporates every electronic feature and technology that has ever been invented by the human race, all in a glossy and paper-thin case that is beautiful and sexy enough to wear as a bikini bottom.

I’m not going to pretend to you that I don’t have an irrational desire to own one. I have had detailed fantasies which involve me kicking back on the couch and luxuriously fingering my way through fascinating novels with the feather-light device effortlessly palmed in my hand. Later I’d be hunched over the iPad at a bar table, surrounded by beers and friends, as we put the finishing touches on the world’s best hip-hop track. At other times, it would be cradled in a home-made wooden stand on my kitchen table as I use a wireless bluetooth keyboard to write MMM blog postings like this one. Later that night, the Mrs. and I might fire up Netflix on it to watch a documentary in bed.

Would I enjoy it? Sure. Is it convenient? It seems so. Can I afford it? Definitely. Am I going to buy one? HELL NO!!!

Why? Because the iPad 3 is just another one of Lady Gadget’s classic siren songs. It is the most advanced example yet of Hedonic Adaptation at work. While it may sound confusing to the more Junior Mustachians among us, I am not spending my days searching for immediate enjoyment, thrills or convenience. Instead, I am gunning for the much more elusive goal of lifelong happiness.

So when deciding whether I want an iPad 3, I don’t ask myself if it would be fun or convenient. That’s the wrong question. I ask myself, “will this thing really increase the level of my lifelong happiness?”.

This is a very interesting question for me, because I am already super, duper, ridiculously goddamned happy these days. I’ve worked and studied hard to attain this happiness, so I have learned that for me it comes from freedom, my family and friends, hard work which features both mental and physical challenges, a chance to help others, and constant learning. I’ve also learned that my less happy days are the ones where I become addicted to playing with gadgets and computers, and I end up missing out on the things that make me really happy.

From what I can see, the iPad offers a compelling distraction, but it’s not going to get me out on any more camping trips, and it also won’t help me meet any more great people than I would otherwise meet. It would make my computer life better, and my real life worse.

I’ve also developed another trick to help ease the desire for new electronic toys: I take out some of my obsolete electronic toys and look carefully at them. Just a few years ago, these things were brand new and amazing. I wanted them just as much as I want the iPad. But now they are clunky and junky. Many of them broke after a very short service life, or didn’t work as well as I had hoped.

My 2007 Asus EEE pc netbook lost the ability to type the letter “l” and the headphone jack cracked. My 2010 Nikon P100 digital camera has always taken awful outdoor pictures. My Black and Decker home energy consumption display was never accurate and it constantly drops its connection to the outdoor unit. After a lifetime of getting annoyed at obsolete and broken electronic things, I finally learned that the problem is not with the gadgets, it’s with the guy buying them. So I stopped buying them.

For most of us, there’s yet another reason to avoid buying the new iPad: we already have stuff that does everything it does. I have a desktop computer. I have a laptop computer too*. I even have a pocket computer (an Apple iPhone 4) that fills in the remaining small gap in functionality that the other two left unfilled.

Even with this antiquated set of devices, I am a goddamed computing machine. I can read, write, communicate, and take and edit pictures, movies, and sound from almost anywhere on Earth. If pressed, I could jack into a sound system as I whip out a virtual turntable on the telephone, and mix an impromptu rave for the entire population of Europe, who would dance below my podium on the main balcony of the Vatican. With only a few minutes’ notice. How much more gadgetry could I possibly need?

And if I have this many options open to me with my 7-year-old computers and dusty previous-generation telephone, who the hell are these people who bought the iPad 1, the iPad 2, each of the iPhone versions, a couple of Kindles, and are now Jonesing to get their hands on the Three when it comes out on the 16th? (I actually know a person like this).

They are people who are deeply in need of a Punch in the Face from Mr. Money Mustache, if you ask me.

Sure, there are still a few groups of people for whom an iPad 3 purchase might be reasonable. If you don’t own any other Apple stuff, and have only a big beige desktop computer with a squeaky fan: investing in a tablet might actually help you get more work done. If you’re a wedding photographer and you need the full 2048×1536 resolution of the new iPad to tantalize high-end clients during your pitches to get celebrity wedding gigs, it might be reasonable as well.

But for the rest of us, I think a much better goal is to live with the smallest number of gadgets possible.

If you haven’t even reached Financial Independence yet, the decision is really easy: you can’t yet afford frivolous gadgets – get back to work, and save that money instead. It’s Maximum Mustache March, for goodness sake!

But even if you are infinitely wealthy, dig deep into your soul, and make a list of what you want to do more of between now and the day you die. If one of those activities really is surfing the web even more than you do now, then go ahead and buy the iPad.

But if not, let go of your desire and let’s go out for a bike ride instead. I can see it’s a beautiful 72-degree day and I am closing up this very old computer right now.

 

 

* Thanks to a generous MMM reader, I now have a functioning laptop computer again! My old one died last month, and I made a point of not buying a new one, figuring there were surely plenty of old, free ones that would do the job. The one she sent me is missing the letter “B**” (I have to press the rubber nub where the key used to be to get that letter), and it came with a few scratches, cracks, and even bread crumbs. Because of these flaws, it is an absolutely perfect way to get my work done with less risk of gadget addiction. Thanks again friend!

** I will probably be gluing on a new letter “B” eventually, although I do like the idea of the word “Badassity” requiring some actual badassity from my index finger every time I type it.

  • scone March 15, 2012, 1:23 pm

    A couple of decades ago, when the “microcomputer revolution” was getting started, you actually did get a lot more functionality with each upgrade, because the industry was changing so fast. These days, each product cycle is a tiny incremental advantage, hyped up with a massive amount of marketing. In a market where these gadgets are really commodities, marketing helps seduce the customer into buying. In another twenty years, these gadgets will be as common and boring as cereal or laundry detergent. In commodity industries like that, there isn’t much real innovation, because it doesn’t pay. Money goes into marketing and the battle for market share. Intel knows this, which is why it’s trying so hard to reinvent itself in the phone business, especially in Asian markets which are still seeing real growth.

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  • Per J. March 15, 2012, 3:37 pm

    Good and thoughtfull post!

    I am also a (former) tech gadget nerd, but I have it under controll. But I must confess that I bought the Ipad 2 when visiting US in November. It is really great and since my five year old computer (which is btw large as a smaller car) requires the energy from half a nuclear plant to start up and the fan makes sligthly lower sound than a starting 747, I think I can defend the buy. The Ipad will be around for a long time. Hopefully it will last as long as my cellphone, which is an Ericsson R380 from year 2000 (ok, I have another one as well but the R380 still works just fine).

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  • lurker March 15, 2012, 4:00 pm

    got nine years out of my Dell but can’t say I loved it. just a tool. that I use 10 hours a day working for the man….

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  • Joe @ Retire By 40 March 15, 2012, 5:01 pm

    I rarely buy gadgets anymore and I don’t own any Apple product. :(
    The last thing I purchased was a laptop and I use that everyday to blog and other stuff so I think that’s $400 well spent.
    My other weakness is the dslr, but I think I’m set there for a while too. I got a new lens earlier this year. I guess the laptop wasn’t the last gadget I spent money on. :)

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  • Steve March 16, 2012, 2:47 am

    hmmm, to B or not to B, this is the key question

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  • riley March 16, 2012, 5:06 am

    Last night at my child’s Spring Concert, an individual next to me could NOT keep her gadget hidden from her sight (checking on email, texting, Words with Friends). This was a mother of one of the children. Whatever happened to being present in the moment? Very sad.

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  • Ron March 16, 2012, 2:21 pm

    I’m completely down with most of your rationale. I’m a late adapting minimalist who knows there’s little correlation between gadgetry and happiness. I just ordered a new one because my iPad1 on AT&T 3G is painfully slow. The time I’ll save on 4G I’ll use to ride my bicycle more. Promise.

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  • dot_com_vet March 17, 2012, 8:06 am

    Definitely agree with your philosophy. I buy off-lease laptops from IBM for a few hundred bucks and use them for years. Downloadable service manuals are available along with cheap parts. Never purchased any “I” device.

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  • Dave March 17, 2012, 9:20 am

    Sorry, but real badasses drive Linux. The freedom Linux gives you to break free of Apple AND Microsoft and their marketing driven upgrade cycles is staggering. Older hardware can be made every bit as functional as brand new hardware with a lightweight distrobution. Put Puppy Linux on a eight year old laptop and you have a secure, modern, virus and malware free up to date computer. I’d love to say Linux is as easy to use as a Mac (I’ve used macs since 1987 btw) but that’s not true, yet. Linux Mint comes pretty close though.

    Using Linux is a bit like driving a stick shift. There’s a learning curve, but once you master it you never ever look back.

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  • Matt G March 21, 2012, 7:02 am

    One of my client’s purchased an iPad 3 and wanted me to help them set it up. I took it out of the box, ran through the setup by creating a new itunes account for them. As soon as I got to the home screen, I clicked on the app store, searched for gmail, clicked install, and it says “Unknown Error”. I checked to see if there were any updates to the iPad software, there wasn’t. I tried rebooting it…. Don’t be fooled by Apple’s brilliant marketing. I can’t figure out why people love Apple so much.

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  • Shane April 1, 2012, 1:16 am

    Great post. Reminds me of this great video, “The Story of Stuff” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GorqroigqM

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  • Brittany June 12, 2012, 7:14 pm

    If I read MMM on my iPad, does it cancel out…? ;)

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  • Uncephalized June 13, 2012, 12:20 pm

    I got my iPad 3 for free!

    Well, I guess I had to pay for a wedding, actually, in order to get the “free” wedding gifts, but still. We were paying for the wedding anyway.

    I love it, by the way. I use it to read Mr. Money Mustache every day (still catching up from Post 1, about a week in and only a couple months of posts left to go), and a couple of other blogs I follow. I got the Kindle edition of ERE and read that on the iPad as well. Then I realized my library does e-book loans, so I will (almost) never need to buy a book in paper or electronic format again! (I might still need an engineering reference or something)

    So far ERE is the only non-free content I have downloaded for the device (I also jailbroke it as soon as the new jailbreak came out, so I have Cydia too). I figure I’m doing pretty well on not letting it suck me into a never-ending cycle of micro-transactions. I got plenty of practice by not buying apps for my last two smartphones too.

    I don’t really know why you’d need to spend money on apps; there’s an essentially infinite amount of useful and fun content accessible for $0.00 through the App Store, Cydia and on the web.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache June 13, 2012, 2:58 pm

      A free ipad? Excellent!

      Uncephalized, did I read in another of your comments that you have some credit card debt? If so, I hear those iPads have EXCELLENT resale value!

      If you don’t yet see the irony of reading Mr. Money Mustache on an easy-to-sell iPad3, while wondering how you could pay your credit card debt off more quickly, then keep thinking about it.

      Keeping something that you have instead of selling it, is the SAME as rushing out to buy that item for its resale value. Thus, if I was given an iPad3, I’d actually sell it immediately. If this condition ever changed for me, I’d probably buy one.

      I am fully sympathetic with your love for the device. It is probably something you WOULD buy with good reason in the future. I’d just argue that you can’t yet afford it, according to the rules of this blog!

      Reply
  • bob June 17, 2012, 11:06 am

    I have a Motorola Xoom tablet. It was a gift, so I didn’t buy it. Also less expensive than the I pads. I gotta say that it is way more useful and satisfying than the netbook I purchased which was a disappointment since nearly the day I bought it.

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  • Segmond January 20, 2013, 7:49 pm

    I’m a software engineer, and my personal laptop is a 2003 IBM thinkpad, works great! I have a $170 10″ Android tablet and I’m thinking of selling it, I don’t even use it that much.

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  • Chief Needs a Punch in the Face March 4, 2013, 9:18 am

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  • regor99 March 6, 2013, 3:15 am

    I agree with everything you said. I have still bought an ipad. You will too. You all will.

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  • totoro April 1, 2013, 2:59 pm

    We have two new ipads. We get this stuff for free because of my husband’s work. He just got the newest iphone free last week.

    This is totally wasted on me. I like my laptop, but I can do without the rest. I hate spending time figuring out tech stuff.

    I miss the rotary dial phone that was always charged and never lost. Now we search for cords and call each other to find our phones.

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  • Graeme August 16, 2013, 3:38 pm

    I have an iPad 3. I use it purely for business. I do online tutoring, and I use the iPad + a stylus to make drawings in real time for my students.

    It’s been a very profitable investment. But I use it for practically nothing else. While it’s FUN to sit on the couch and browse the internet, it’s not productive, and there are other things I’d rather do.

    I’m a little uncertain about the new iphone however. I use the iphone to talk for business, and for scheduling, to do lists and a few other productivity purposes. I think its worthwhile to buy the new one in September, as it’s a one off purchase that should last 2-3 years.

    The added work efficiency should make it pay for itself. I have a cheap cellphone plan (that includes unlimited long distance for my calls), but otherwise prefer to do internet browsing on my computer, so no data.

    Any other mustachians use the latest smartphone for productivity reasons?

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  • David Contarini December 30, 2013, 11:13 pm

    Thanks MMM – great post….I love the TOTO reference – my absolute favourite band!

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  • Elaine October 2, 2014, 7:43 pm

    It’s ironic that the person who never wanted and couldn’t think what to do with one now owns one, but that’s exactly what happened to me a year ago. A prize awarded by a business magazine I subscribe to, and for which I would comment on future cover stories. I have no idea which iPad version it is – whatever retailed at $495 last fall. It sat in its box for a while until I had time to figure it out. I’d never had any iThings before and it’s been one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever worked with.

    However, the thing I have used it for the most is a little game to help my young piano students learn their notes! The game works like magic for them and has saved me hours of frustration. Probably the best $4.95 I ever spent!

    Will I replace it if and when it dies? I really can’t see spending that kind of money for one.

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  • Ruth November 19, 2014, 1:17 am

    I bought an iPad Mini and a wireless Bluetooth keyboard a year and a half ago. (I got the one with Wifi capability only, to avoid cellular costs.)

    Before that, I shared my husband’s laptop. However, the welcome wore thin and, after careful research, I concluded that the iPad Mini would be perfect for my needs – and it has been! I intend to keep using it for many years.

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  • Mark LeGear December 7, 2015, 8:05 am

    I have in the past listened to the sirens song of the gadget queen. I have always had a deep respect for gadgets as well as a unhealthy lust. There is always some justification for getting a new one whether is be a computer, speaker, headphone…on and on. I havent even considered a gadget since starting my minimalist journey several months ago. I even consider one less now that I have come to this blog a few short weeks ago.

    Some of my gadgets I do get a lot of use out of such as my PC. But 95% are just fun for a bit and slowly become obselete

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  • Hilda Corners July 18, 2017, 4:16 pm

    (my first comment, as I work my way through the whole blog)

    I’m an odd combination of techno-geek and Luddite. I usually pass on new tech gear, use the stuff I have until if falls apart — but occasionally I’ll see a gadget that’s so useful I’ll buy it immediately.

    I never understood the utility of an iPad until I started a 1:15 hour commute on public transit. My Android phone is 7 years old, nice and tiny, but too tiny to read anything on. If it died I’d buy something larger, but it goes on forever. I ended up buying an iPad Mini, refurbished, just before the model change. No data, just wi-fi.

    For me, it’s an incredibly useful purchase. I read on my commute (and other times), currently the ERE book. It serves as my reverse Polish notation calculator. I like logic puzzles, I have a few few ones. I can do light work on it. At night, when I take out my contacts, it’s the perfect size for watching a video before bed. [I’m very nearsighted.]

    Before you take my mustache away … I’m not FI, but well on my way. I have no debt. I’m saving a large part of my income. I rarely make large purchases, and research them to save money first.

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  • JonDud October 29, 2017, 8:37 pm

    Ha! I love this article. Caught myself browsing for a new (very reasonable $550 range) laptop and then hit this article that same evening. Felt ashamed because my 2012 Dell still has the all of it’s keys and I’m being a wussypants for even considering getting something new.

    Reply

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