Apple distracts us with apps while it dips in our pockets

On the Money: Despite rising retail prices, I'm on a non-essential buying spree.

Gary Clement for The National
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The end of summer usually marks the beginning of some serious belt-tightening in our household, mainly because we splurged a little too much on our holiday. And I'm not talking about overeating, despite my daughter's aim of visiting at least two Swedish korvkiosks (hot dog stands) a day on our recent trip to Stockholm.

Thankfully, her diet is back on track and she's been embracing (well, kind of) the "five-a-day" motto since our return - unlike our spending. Sorry, that's my spending because I'm the one who controls the family's purse strings and, ultimately, is responsible for our outgoings, be they of the essential or non-essential kind.

Which also means that I was the one responsible for allowing my daughter to eat two hot dogs a day in Stockholm. Oops.

After this week's announcement by the Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi that consumer prices rose again in August by 1.6 per cent, I know our spending is an issue I have to address sooner rather than later.

Only problem is, I'm on a non-essential buying spree, having fallen onto the Apple Inc bandwagon. It started about six years ago, but I usually manage to cool my heels and stave off the temptation to upgrade every gadget in our house every year.

This year, however, is different. And I can't explain why, so I'm just going to blame Apple itself.

If the truth be known, Apple should be thanking me for helping to boost its war chest to the point that the world's coolest tech company had more cash on hand - to the tune of US$76.4 billion (Dh280.6bn) - than the US government before it raised its debt ceiling, with the BBC reporting on July 30 that it had an "operating cash balance of $73.7bn".

That's thanks to me and the millions of other people around the world who try to look cooler than they really are just by associating themselves with an Apple product.

Recently, I joined the multitude of others who have splurged on an iPad 2. It's been a couple of weeks, but I'm still trying to figure out how it is going to make a difference to my life. It's not like I can use it gainfully for work, unlike the MacBook Pro I splashed out on earlier this year. Employees in Japan have already figured this out, saying they'd rather stick to a laptop than use an iPad for work.

"In the US, it's clear what the iPad offers with its size and weight, but in Japan, iPads fail to distinguish themselves as a business tool from lightweight laptops," Ichiro Michikoshi, an analyst with BCN in Tokyo, told Reuters in a report on July 27.

My thoughts exactly.

What I have done, though, is waste countless hours delving into Apple's App Store, doing my best not to download anything that costs money. Well, at least not too much money.

But my resolve on that in-house rule is growing weaker by the day, despite failing to find an app that is of true interest.

I guess I'm searching for that ultimate app on how not to spend on non-essentials. But that wouldn't be good for Apple's coffers, would it? Which probably explains why I haven't been able to locate it yet.

On the flip side, my daughter has quickly reached the stage where she just can't live without the iPad. She walks around the house with it, like a favourite toy (and essentially, it is), only stopping to ask me to sign in to the App Store on her behalf. I've yet to share the password with her, fearing that she'll accidentally download a useless $200 app that promises to guide her around the Australian Outback, one trek that I'm not planning to undertake anytime soon, if ever.

She's taken ownership of it, like all tech-savvy tweens do when it comes to the latest gadgets bought by their hapless parents. And like most parents of those families, I'm not putting up a fight because I've got too many other things to do, like reining in our budget for the rest of the year and stop spending on the non-essentials that I (rather quickly) lose control of.

Yes, the iPad 2 is thin and light. Yes, it looks cool. And yes, I'm sure it will be of great use while we are travelling, rather than lugging about a laptop everywhere we go. I just wish we'd, sorry, I'd, bought it before we went on holiday. Then I'd know for sure.

Perhaps there's an app for that?