Why Do We Always Need the “Bigger/Better” Version?

February 3, 2013

I write this while sitting in my living room watching the Superbowl. My brother, being the genius that he is, is able to find a way for me to watch the game with American commercials. Besides the horrible HORRIBLE GoDaddy commercials, everything else tried to sell me a different life. Or at least a “better” version of what I have.  This got me thinking, and while I don’t claim to be the poster child for being content with with I have, I never understood ridiculous extravagance either.

Disclaimer: these feelings might be left over from watching over priced homes on HGTV. 

I keep watching people want bigger houses, and better cars (well the cars thing I can see), but the house thing throws me off. I get that we want the world to know that we’re successful. I also get that people want space to run around, but only in North America have I seen a family of 3 need a house with 2800 sq. ft. That amount of space is enough for 3-4 families in other countries.

I say this, not because I’m judging, but more curious to know why North Americans feel the need to have the bigger version of everything. Major city housing market is slightly different, but that’s partially due to a highly dense population, and low availability of properties/space. What I don’t get is why families in the suburbs need huge properties. Perhaps I notice this because  I watch a lot of House Hunters, or perhaps its because I travelled in lived in countries like Brazil, and Sri Lanka.  Houses there have 1 sitting room and 1-2 bedrooms if you’re lucky. And you know what? Thats the norm.

There is something to be said about contentment, you know? Like being happy living in a hut in Bali, or a 3 storey walkup in Queens. I’m scared that at some point, I lost my priorities, or at least got them mixed up and started focusing on the wrong things.

Sorry for the sappiness. My best friend’s sister just came back from Nepal, and lived in room the size of a hut for 3 months. The way she describes how happy people were with how little they had makes me want to look at what my goals are. I’m sure the feeling will pass tomorrow, so carry on, folks.

PS. Did anyone else notice that almost all of the superbowl commercials were either about cars, phones, or beer?


Orea Superbowl Tweet




PPS. Further proof that the best marketing is free, well, (free-ish). The team behind Oreo put up an ad within minutes of the blackout tonight. It was retweeted more than 12000 times. That is amazing since it created more buzz for free than most commercials did by paying millions of dollars.

PPS. Audi, and Walgreens did something similar.


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  • Call Me What You Want Even Cheap February 4, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I wish I could have borrowed your brother yesterday. I would have led to see the American commercials. I always like to know who spends millions on commercials during the SuperBowl.

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      You can watch them on Mashable. They weren’t very good.

  • Canadian Budget Binder February 4, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I read somewhere last night that 50 million cases of beer were sold worldwide for the Super Bowl, imagine that. Funny I was thinking the same thing when I was watching the Vizio with built in wi-fi commercial last night. I thought, this is never going to end. There is always going to be a bigger or better version of something we buy that is a big ticket item to us at least. Our SMART TV in no time will be a thing of the past, smart phones are smarter ever year and computers well that’s like driving a car off the lot to me. Technology costs money, it always will, so either we accept what we have or we keep on moving with the times, to get bigger and better the cost to your finances is ultimately up to the buyer. Is it worth it? How much will you value it? Great post.

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      I’ve been caught up in technology cycle for a while. Phones (esp in my industry) is a status symbol.

  • Budget & the Beach February 4, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Genius Oreo ad! I didn’t know that. The power of social media. OMG the godaddy commercial disgusted me! Blech! I digress. I don’t know why we feel we need the latest and greatest toy, home, car, etc. Yes, I don’t even understand the car thing. But it’s so true..I don’t know if we feel like we are entitled because we “work so hard,” but we wouldn’t have to work so hard if we stopped buying crap we didn’t need. I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve been much more satisfied with what I have, save for a dishwasher, and a w/d in my unit, those are the only things on my “dream list’ of stuff I want. I want to buy more experiences and travel. I still get crap about my old boxy TV that I bought used 100 years ago, but I don’t care…it works.

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      I think freelancers understand the value of things a bit better.

  • Leslie February 4, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Since I’ve stopped watching commercials and don’t pay attention to much advertising (no radio or magazines), I hardly know what “bigger better” products are out there so I never have a chance to think about it.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules February 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    That Oreo ad is pure genius! I had not seen it last night, but it’s simple and a great way to play off of what happened. The commercials really were not that good at all last night. Only two or three stand out in my mind and in the end, one like the Oreo one is much better.

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets February 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Luckily, I was on the coast in a cbin with no TV or cell phone reception. Bigger and Better is definitely the (North) American way, unfortunately. Contentment is something that our grandparents talk about, but our generation does not understand. I’ve been blessed to have some contentment in my life, but I still feel the tug of temptation when I see a nice car, well-decorated home, etc. It’s something I expect to fight against my whole life.

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      Cars are my vice. Wait, so you didn’t watch the game? Good for you.

      • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets February 5, 2013 at 1:11 am

        Nope. I was in a cabin on the coast, playing with our family dogs, watching movies, playing board games, and NOT being connected to anything electronic. It was glorious. And cars are my vice as well. Luckily, I don’t have enough money to get one 🙂

  • Petite Adventures February 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I live in a one bedroom apartment, which is more than big enough for me, in a central location, and a very good price, but I am constantly being asked why I don’t upgrade. People can’t seem to understand that I don’t need more (and really, have no desire to clean more). There’s nothing wrong with being content with what you have, it’s actually a great feeling when you realize that you are.

    Kate xo petite-adventures.blogspot.ca

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      My friend lives in a 350ft condo and is beyond happy with it.

  • Jacko February 4, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Interesting idea Marissa,

    I think that it’s like that song “I love the way you lie.”

    We like being conned in the end. We get more bells and whistles and still we are not satisfied.

    It’s because we are not gaining knowledge we are just being over whelmed with useless information.

    Kids today know how to set up a twitter account but couldn’t find their way home without a gps from across the street.

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      Maps are confusing 😉

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup February 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I thought the ads were quite pitiful last night. Everything revolves around sex, alcohol, and buying bigger and better things. It’s the american way! 😉

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      Always 😉

  • KB February 4, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I would have loved to see the American commercials too! I watched them later on youtube. Having more and bigger stuff is overrated. I could care less. The problem is my kids – they all want to keep up with Jones and saving their newspaper route money for one year just to buy the new ipad that’s soon going to be dated. The kids all seem to compete for the best technology more than anything else. Sure, we have discussions about this stuff with our kids but wow it is certainly a challenge!!!

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      Everything is on Mashable now.

  • Kathleen, Frugal Portland February 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Wait wait wait a minute — what commercials do you watch? Do Canadian companies pay a boatload?

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      No, the Canadians suck by comparisons but the companies pay less.

  • Jon @ MoneySmartGuides February 4, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    I didn’t even notice this. I guess it’s because I am in America and have become accustomed to it. Now I want to re-watch the commercials to see what you are talking about.

    I think that those people are just trying to buy happiness. They think that more things will make them happy. But when that new think doesn’t make them happy, they go buy something else because that will make them happy, when that doesn’t make them happy, the cycle continues.

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      Its a very long cycle.

  • Michelle February 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Umm, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. Am still bitter about the Broncos not being in it. I saw a snippet of the GoDaddy Commercial-good grief! Love the Oreo brilliant. Hope the team that came up with that gets a raise. I live in a 495 square foot condo. I LOVE it! I could work at Starbucks and afford the mortgage. But, when I was looking at it a friend asked me why was looking at a bomb shelter and that we don’t live in NYC but Colorado and have the space. It hurt my feelings but am so glad that I followed my instincts. I bought in 2007 right before the crash. But, because my place was 1/2 the price and in a great area it has appreciated the whole time. I am content, safe, live in a fantastic area, have my own washer and dryer, and it doesn’t take me too long to clean.

    • Marissa February 4, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      I’m really happy to hear that. And yeah, some people don’t get it.

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor February 5, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Bigger isn’t always better. We live in an 800sq ft condo and feel so fortunate to have been able to purchase it (well with a mortgage of course). Here in the NYC area real estate is not affordable for many people, so even having a little piece is amazing to us. Good things come in small packages!

    • Marissa February 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      800 is huge in NYC. Also, how do you feel about house guests 😉

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life February 6, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I completely hear where you’re coming from. I live in a 400 sq. ft. house, and whenever I get frustrated with the lack of space or start day dreaming about a full time house, I remind myself that there are a ton of people in the world who would be more than happy to live where I’m living.

    In the same vein, a lot of the houses around here are 3 bedroom, 2000+ sq. ft. homes, which makes me think that when it does come time to buy a house, it’s going to be tough, because I have utterly no desire to own such a large home.

    Great post! I’m glad this was your take away from the super bowl, and not “oh my gosh I need that!”

    • Marissa February 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      Thank you. Have you thought of buying a condo?

  • molly February 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I’ll admit that I was one of the foolish people who thought we needed the 2,500 sq ft home in the suburbs. Now I fully regret taking the plunge. My husband and I wracked up more debt when buying that home than it was worth. I can actually say that I miss our little 1,000 sq ft bungalow in the city.

    But it is what it is. We’re paying our way through it and we will never move again. Hoping to pay our mortgage off early with a 15-year loan.

    • Marissa February 8, 2013 at 1:49 am

      Thats really interesting that you say that. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone admit that before.