It’s always struck me as rather odd that immediately after a day of giving thanks for the richness we have in our lives (a holiday that even a Brit like I can appreciate), why do we need to go out and buy more?
Unlike most holidays, Black Friday doesn’t have a rich history – it was invented by retailers to take advantage of consumers – to clear out old stock, feed off the excitement of shopper frenzy, and generally shift as much stuff as possible, in as little time as possible. This year rather than buying yet another useless plastic gadget destined for the trash heap, I’d really like it if we could consider some alternatives Black Friday.
Purchase Better Quality Next Time
Without wishing to make too broad of a generalisation, many of the gadgets being sold at rock bottom prices on Black Friday are being sold off for a reason. Good products sell throughout the year and don’t need to be discounted heavily during the sales. If you find something that is obviously far too cheap, then perhaps ask yourself about the quality of the item and how long it’s likely to last you.
I find it helps to think about how you would feel if you had to dump all your old gadgets and appliances in your own backyard when the time came to replace them. Would you still want a new one every year, just because it’s so cheap and you could afford to? Of course, we live in a society where we don’t have to actually deal with our own trash, but I can promise you that someone in the world certainly does, and it’s absolutely disgusting. This is Guiyu in China:
This is one of the reasons I choose Apple computers (cue screams of fanboy… whatever). I’m not going to pretend they’re manufactured in a particularly environmentally friendly way – but they certainly last longer, as well as having a strong second-hand market demand even for 3-4 year old models. Consequently less of them actually end up in the dump. The same simply cannot be said for most PCs, especially laptops. Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap seems to be the motto there.
Re-Purpose Your Old Hardware
This is something we’re passionate about at MakeUseOf, and the simple truth is that unless you’re gaming even for gaming, the need to constantly upgrade hardware is all in your mind.
Instead of buying new, just breathe a new lease of life into your existing PC. If Windows is running a bit slow, think about installing Linux. Chances are you don’t really need much more than a decent browser if you’re a keen users of Gmail, Google Docs and various other cloud apps. If you have an ageing laptop, there’s lots of lightweight Linux distros that can turn it into a more-than-capable netbook, otherwise a vanilla Ubuntu install should be good.
Our free eBook guide – Old Computer, New Life with Ubuntu Linux is the best place to start. Download it, avoid the crowds on Black Friday and stay home instead!
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about getting a new TV or PVR – but that old PC and the free XBox Media Center installed (or some of these alternatives) would be far more functional, and you can even run an emulator of your old Nintendo favourites.
Still not convinced? Check out our top 10 uses for old computers article then – I’m sure you’ll find something!
Cloud Computing – Even For Gaming
If you’re interested in the latest games and have a decent Internet connection, consider trying the OnLive cloud gaming service, where the game is run on a remote server and the video streamed to your PC. They have a subscription model for unlimited access to a vast array of older games, as well as a lot of recent games at retail price, not to mention multiplayer games and a ridiculously generous 30 minute demo time. It’s free to play the demos and you needn’t supply a credit card, so why not try it out today on your older hardware, before trying to justify that new computer on gaming needs alone?
Raid The Local Recycling Centre
I don’t know if this is true in the USA, but here in Great Britain, a lot of perfectly good computing equipment gets dumped at the local trash/recycling centre, so if you have a really ancient PC then it might be worth trying to salvage one from there instead. Check your local FreeCycle too. If you can grab a few, it’s a great way to learn about putting together a PC from bits and pieces.
University IT departments can also be a good source – I still have a few fantastic LCD monitors I rescued from Kyoto University.
Go Offline & Find Something More Fulfilling
There are other things in life than computer games and tech, and some of them are a lot more fulfilling. If you don’t want to feel buyer’s remorse this year when you realise that gadget is actually worthless, yet still feel the need to buy something – might I suggest a good board game?
Unlike computer games, board games are great for getting people around a table, communicating, and encouraging logical thinking. The Wii might shut your kid up for hours, but I doubt it’s doing their communication skills any good.
How about getting into real-life pen and paper style role-play gaming instead of SkyRim? The latest Dungeons and Dragons (4th edition) is even easier than ever to get into (and even feels a lot like a computer game, funnily enough).
Anyway, I’m not trying to tell you how you should spend your money this holiday season. I’m just saying that there are alternatives to black Friday, and that grabbing a tech bargain on the latest gadget is not the ultimate goal of life. Technology should be a means to an end, not the end itself.
Comments, rants, praise – all welcome. You know where to put them.
Image Credit: NatalieDee