Humans are expedient by nature. We're lured to convenient solutions.
Here's an example. I have a friend from another state who doesn't trust her municipal water supply. Something about fluoridation being a communist plot, and... she lost me at that point. Whatever her reason, she wants the very best for her family via a reasonably convenient solution. So, she buys bottled water from Costco.
Expedience is also why it's unlikely her solution would involve unlearning a lifelong tendency to make up conspiracy theories. After all, that would likely be a process involving a lot of learning, personal growth and development of critical thinking skills... and gosh, that could get awfully time-consuming. Instead, there’s an expedient solution just waiting for her--at a modest cost.
That's fine, it's a free country. But if you really want the very best for your family, why stop at just regular bottled water from Costco? Why not a "nicer" brand, like Evian? Or pay even more for bottled water from a specific source--say from some pristine mountain stream in northern Quebec? If you want your family to have the very best, why not seek out the finest water in the world?
Once again, it boils down to expedience. Instead of paying most of your money to get the very! best! water!, the expedient solution is not-quite-so-expensive Costco water. For my friend, her choice simply needed to be just a little bit better than the default choice of standard tap water.
Another example: you decide you want to buy a "nice" car. You select a BMW, which you intend to lease, because with a lease you can get more car for a lower payment. (Yes, I know: long-time CK readers should be groaning at the idiocy of leasing a car. Just indulge me for a minute while I make my point.)
But wait: if you really wanted a nice car, why not buy a Bugatti?
Uh, dude? That's a two million dollar car. That's, uh, just a tad outside my price range.
Fair enough. In other words, you settled for the emotionally and financially expedient solution: the "nicest" car you could afford.
Do you see where this is all going? It means this: as consumers, our tendency towards expediency leads us toward solutions that, collectively, tend to eat up all our financial resources. Expediency has us always reaching just beyond our financial comfort zone to buy things that are just a little bit more expensive than the default choice of those around us.
Most importantly, this is a relativistic phenomenon that happens at every socioeconomic level. Every class has a set of various default choices that everyone at that level wants to beat, if only by just a little. And of course that slightly raises the bar for everyone else, who then go ahead and raise the bar still more. This is the hedonic treadmill of consumption, and it never ends, no matter how high up the economic ladder you climb.
This is the modern sickness of consumerism in a nutshell.
One last thought to tie everything together. Astute readers will notice that the "solution" of purchasing bottled water addresses a symptom, not the central problem. The central problem here is worrying about all the wrong things, not safe drinking water. Likewise, buying the most expensive car you can afford may potentially address your psychological compensatory symptoms, but it only indirectly--and at very high cost--solves the central problem of transport.
Note also that the bottled water industry and the luxury auto industry would prefer you didn't think about this too much.
Interestingly, this suggests that digging down to the level of your emotional needs and carefully considering exactly how those emotional needs are met (or more likely unmet) by a purchase is an extremely robust money-saving strategy. In fact, you can usually satisfy the underlying emotional need in an entirely different way that doesn't involve spending money at all. This is a central pillar of consumer empowerment.
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