Whenever we make purchases, it’s hard to eliminate emotion.
Pay attention to advertising – well, the good advertising anyway. The job of a sales letter, TV commercial, print ad, or radio jingle is to make you feel something. They latch onto your emotions so that you override your logic when making a decision with your money.
I know this because I’ve done it way too many times. In fact, just a little over a month or so ago, my wife and I went to a cooking demonstration and walked out with hundreds of dollars’ worth of overpriced kitchen gadgets – one of which I’m already selling on Craigslist at an incredible discount just to get it out of our house.
But when you can pay attention to what you are doing and can really analyze a buying decision, you can reap real benefits and get what you want – at a price you can feel comfortable spending.
Case in point: last week, I bought a Mac Mini as my new desktop computer.
Those who know me – and those who may have followed my posts here or elsewhere – know that I generally loathe Apple products. I like to tinker, and I want control over what I buy. Most Apple products are designed to be pretty and easy to use, but also to keep you from doing X, Y, or Z to them.
So why did I buy a Mac?
The backstory: I was desperate for a new computer
As a home-based worker, my life revolves around my computer and its ability to help me do the things I want to do. For the past year and a half to two years, I’ve been working off of a $250 off-brand computer from Walmart running a version of Linux on it.
Linux has been my operating system of choice for over 5 years now. I love it (and I continue to love it). I maintain that Linux – and Ubuntu in particular – should be the operating system of choice for the average computer user. It’s light, it’s free, it works, and it can do the main things that you want a computer for, like word processing and putzing around on Facebook.
This computer has served me well, but as this year has wore on, I’ve been pushing it to do more and more things: run a wireless speaker system, let me video call on a high-end webcam, and run all of my business calls through Google Hangouts’ free calling.
As the workload on this computer has increased, it’s become slower. More bogged down. And unfortunately, more buggy.
Last Friday, my computer started screeching to a halt in the middle of the morning. I’ve been mulling over getting a new computer for about 6 months now, and I finally decided I’d had enough – it was time to buy one.
So after my work was done, I decided that I would be investing a significant amount of money into getting a proper work computer.
Here’s what I needed it to do:
- Run Google Hangouts for my business line
- Support a dual monitor setup
- Support my webcam
- Be able to keep up with a heavy workload
Like any computer user, I had 4 different options that I had to price out and weigh…
Option #1: The Chromebox
I love my Chromebook, so why not go that next level and get a Chromebox? A Chromebox is just a desktop version of a Chromebook. I find Chrome OS to be a really sharp, well-performing operating system, and I could put Linux on the same machine and switch to it when I really needed it.
But searching around, the only Chromebox “available” was made by Samsung. That’s good. But Samsung stopped making them. That’s bad. That means that it just wasn’t available anywhere at retail (the retail price was only $300). And the ones being sold by resellers were costing between $500 and $600.
With a Chromebox, you’re making a few concessions, like only being able to use the web version of Evernote, and a tiny hard drive. These are doable annoyances because you save a lot of money buying one, so I’d be okay.
But if I’m going to spend $600 on a computer, I don’t want to make concessions. So that option was out.
Option #2: A “Pure” Linux Computer
I’ve always bought computers and put Linux on them, and it’s worked out great. But once in a while, you run into hardware problems, and I’d need to make sure that the machine would be running at optimal performance if I buy one.
So I wanted a computer that already had Linux pre-installed, so I would know it was made for Linux. Again, I’d make concessions (like the aforementioned Evernote client), but the prices for these computers were upwards of $600-$700.
Like the Chromebox, the benefit of making concessions is a cheaper computer. Since that wouldn’t be the case, it makes no sense to invest in a Linux machine.
Option #3: A Windows Computer
Straight up: I didn’t even entertain this option. I don’t like where Microsoft has taken Windows. I don’t like their attitude towards their customers. I don’t like the user experience they’ve created. And I don’t like the direction of the company.
Windows wasn’t even an option for me here. I don’t want to support that company.
Which leaves me with…
Option #4: A Mac Computer
I was so apprehensive about this, you have no idea.
I’ve spent years loudly preaching that Apple didn’t care about its customers and that they lock people into a strict, limited ecosystem. And for the most part, those things are still true.
But what really bothered me about Apple products wasn’t Apple as much as it was their fans – the people who racked up major credit card debt so that they could get the latest version of whatever Apple puts out.
Or those that worship at the altar of Steve Jobs and buy every product associated with Apple just because it’s a status symbol.
Or the idiots who wait in line for hours just to be the “first” ones to get a new version of a phone that everybody’s going to have in a couple weeks anyway.
None of those would be a problem for me, since I was buying in cash, this is something that’s going to be tucked away in my office, not flaunted around, and it’s not a new iPad, so I don’t need to wait in line.
And I looked at my list of requirements, and a basic Mac Mini fit the bill across the board. Plus, I’d get a native Google Drive client. And a native Evernote app.
Sure, I’d give up a little tinkering. But after much thought, I realized I don’t want to tinker on my work computer. I need it to work! And I can do all of my tinkering on my Android phone, which was fine by me.
So I walked into the Apple Store – a location I never thought I’d find myself in – and asked to see the Mac Mini. I played with it for 5 minutes and realized that I would be going home with one, albeit reluctantly.
I can justify a computer for $600, because that seemed to be the requirement across the board, regardless of my options, for a quality machine. I still can’t justify spending $1500 on a Mac, especially for the average user.
But for me, who needs to run his business phone through it and needs to have a backup of Evernote locally stored on a computer, a Mac Mini was the obvious choice.
I’ve been working on this computer all weekend, and I am pleasantly surprised – it’s polished, professional, and it does get the job done. I’m happy with my purchase.
So does this mean I’m in the Apple ecosystem?
Nope. I still love my Android phone and I do not plan on going to the iPhone anytime soon.
And as I was asked today, “What about my Chromebook?”
Well, the beauty of having the Mac now is that I can use Chrome Remote Desktop, which is something I also couldn’t use with my Linux computer.
So if I need to open something in a different program, or do anything my Chromebook can’t do, I can just log into my Mac Mini from my Chromebook and control it remotely in a browser tab. I’ve already tested this and it works wonders. Screw buying a $1200 Macbook Pro, at least right now.
Once I pulled emotion out of my buying decision, and I gave the thoughts in my head time to breathe, and I took the most pragmatic approach, I settled on a Mac. And I’m happy with the decision.
I wish I could say the same about some of the kitchen gadgets purchased over the years, but hey, you live and learn.
It’s a good lesson to learn at any point in your life: take a practical approach and be patient, and your important buying decisions will work themselves out.
I’m not a Mac guy. I’m not a fanboy. But I am certainly a fan of the Mac Mini.
Have you ever found yourself being too attached to emotion when making a purchasing decision? How
did you work it out?