We all want stuff. Shiny stuff, stuff that lights up, stuff that makes noise, and stuff that, regardless of what it does, makes us look cool. While the very subtle tactics of the advertising industry stoke these desires, our fiercest cravings occur when we see someone else with the stuff we want. We at SparkNotes are not immune—we once saw a man on TV using a Bowflex, and now we no longer have room in the SparkCave for a kitchen table. We just eat and work on our lats simultaneously.
Depending on where you live, where you go to school, and who your friends are, your hunger for stuff can be relatively modest (gold lamé tights from American Apparel) or rather extravagant (a flat-screen TV hung over the fireplace in your bedroom). And although we don’t dare predict the weirdly specific stuff that some kids just gotta have, we are really good at generalizing. So indulge us while we sound off on the material goods we think most students want; we'll even give you advice on how to keep your appetite for stuff under control.
You want a car. In high school, mobility = freedom, which makes having your own set of wheels the next best thing to having wings growing out of your back. For most students, anything that runs will suffice, but things get complicated in affluent areas. Notice how people get bent out of shape when someone’s parents give them a BMW because they made the honor roll (or even if they didn’t)? It’s not because they don’t want that person to have a BMW, it’s because they want a BMW for themselves.
Our advice: Get a bike. It’s cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment. When your friends get cars, you can race them to the mall, and win when they get stuck in traffic.
You want a fancy cell phone. It’s no longer unusual to see students with BlackBerries or iPhones, which might make those slinging hand-me-down Nokias feel like they’re stuck in the Cretaceous. But now that many phones have full-size keyboards, “It makes texting easier” is not a valid reason to want a $250 smartphone. Does any student actually need the functionality these phones provide?
Our advice: If you already have a celly and it isn’t held together with duct tape, keep it until your contract expires, then see what kind of a deal you can get on whatever is the hot phone at that point. In a few months there will surely be some next-gen devices that make current models seem like ancient relics.
You want a cutting-edge laptop. Computers are designed to become obsolete approximately three seconds after you buy them, so it’s only natural to want a better one at every moment of your life. And those Apple ads are so dang clever, you can’t help but long to be friends with the guy on the right. His hair is, like, perfect.
Our advice: Unless you need a major upgrade to run image or video-editing software, stick with what you’ve got. Despite your protestations, it is possible to write a really solid history paper on a machine with a screen smaller than 17” and less than 500GB of storage space. Trust us, those snarky emails and instant messages are just as funny when viewed on a $400 desktop.
You want premium labels. Uggs. Jordans. Coach bags. North Face backpacks. True Religion jeans. Even if you don't actually like these luxury items, one of the easiest ways to fit in during high school is to wear what everyone else is wearing.
Our advice: Blaze your own trail of style. If everyone else is wearing something, it’s already played out.
You want an iPod. Recently it seems that we haven’t seen a single student who wasn’t listening to an iPod, so we’re not sure how many still want them. If they do, maybe it's to replace the one they just got a month ago. The new one has a screen that’s wider by two-tenths of an inch!
Our advice: Go old school with a Sony Discman. You’ll learn to appreciate entire albums more than individual songs, and if you turn on the “Skip Protection,” you can even use it on the bus.
What other stuff do you want? If you can't get it, how do you deal?