I’ve never been very good at spending money. I’m lucky enough to have always had money to spend, but it often ends up sitting in the bank, unused. It’s not that I don’t know what I want or need to spend it on – for a geek, I have remarkably few shiny gadgets – but simply that I don’t like shopping.
When I was little, I used to like choosing things like digital watches, or my parents’ new fridge or washing machine. I would go round all the shops, making notes on the candidates to be bought – I found some of them when I was clearing out a cupboard recently. I think it was my attempt to introduce a kind of scientific order into the chaos that is modern shopping – I guess you could call it the “Money Supermarket” method.
My least favourite kind of shopping is shoe shopping, closely followed by clothes shopping, both of which utterly defy this “scientific” analysis – other than price, there aren’t any variables you can line up in a comparison grid. A pair of shoes either fits or not, as does a pair of trousers (judging by the stock in the shops, I must be the skinniest man in Eastbourne…); the rest is down to personal opinion – the problem being that my opinion when looking at a t-shirt in a shop is generally “oh, look, it’s a t-shirt”, which doesn’t get me very far.
I have managed by a series of flukes never to buy a mobile phone, and consequently baffle my friends by always having out-dated and under-powered phones; and what kind of a geek uses his netbook as his only PC for 7 months simply because he hasn’t got round to buying or building a replacement desktop? For one thing, there are simply too many variables to analyse, and I don’t have the enthusiasm I had when I was 13 to sit there tabulating them all. But on top of that, the sheer quantity of hype and advertising around mobile phones makes me want to run away – the very idea of walking into Phones4U gives me the shudders, such is the unintended effect of their relentless marketing.
I have a general theory that everything in life is ultimately about compromise (well, probably not quite everything; I’m willing to compromise on that point…), and modern shopping is no exception. Generally, unless you are the richest person in the world, you will not be able to order something tailor-made to your exact requirements; but (in the Western / Developed World at least) you’ll probably have a fair few options to choose from. But that means there’s going to be pros and cons to weigh up, and ultimately you have to decide which compromise you like best or hate least.
Trying to turn all that hype, and all those compromises into a quantifiable, logical system – which is, most of the time, how my mind works – is tiring, and ultimately futile: eventually, you just have to plump for something, and live with it. Which is why I still haven’t bought a smartphone.