Excessive Upgrade Syndrome

September 28, 2010 at 12:44pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

It sounds like a great deal: Buy today and save a half million dollars later! Who wouldn’t want to save a half million dollars?

In this case, the answer may be the City of Lincoln. The City needs some space and Experian wants to provide it. The only problem is that Experian’s offer of 355,000 square feet is just a tad higher than the City’s need for 23,000. The building is cheap, relatively speaking. It’s also overkill.

The Beutler administration wants to go ahead and buy the building. Jon Camp and others prefer to pass.

To me this looks like a case of Excessive Upgrade Syndrome. We’re all guilty of it from time to time. It’s the force that causes us to buy ridiculous quantities of food even though we’ll never eat it all, simply because the per-unit price is too good to pass up; or that causes us to buy the latest and greatest computer even though we only need the horsepower of the $400 model. Mayor Beutler sees a sale he just can’t pass up even though he has no need for the item he’s buying; Camp is playing the role of pragmatic spouse focused on today’s needs (and finances), and we neither need nor can really afford such a huge purchase.

Here at 625 Elm Street The Missus and I alternate roles. Sometimes she’s the impulsive “What a deal!” shopper, and sometimes it’s me. I understand both Beutler’s and Camp’s positions on this. In this situation, however, I side with Jon Camp. The City has a lot on its plate right now. Taking on a huge new building that will sit mostly empty for years, and taking that building off the tax rolls, seems unwise given all of the City’s needs and wishes. Could we save some money in the long term? Perhaps, though without seeing how calculations are made it’s difficult to say for certain. (The City claims we can save $500,000 over 15 years and “more” after that.) But there are oodles of ways we could save money over time. The trouble is, if you wrap yourself too tightly in the goal of saving money “some day”, you’ll bankrupt yourself today. The expenses we face today are real; the savings we could realize down the road are ultimately mere hopes and promises with no accountability attached.

Some big purchases are worth making for their investment value over time. This is a situation where, even if there is a payback “some day”, we can’t afford the cost today. Let’s pass.

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LK September 29, 2010 at 2:29am

Well said.

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