The Rent vs. Own Argument

As much as you might talk or read about the “pride of ownership” as a mark of professional success, the fact of the matter is that much of our economy is moving toward one of merely renting what you need while you still need it. You might know this better as the subscription or even the microtransaction model, even if we use the term “buy” when we refer to it.

You might say that you are “buying” a domain, but the truth is that you are simply renting it, a year or two at a time. If you’re not paying attention to those renewal notices, your domain registration can lapse and someone else can snatch up your home on the web. You might say that you are “buying” a web hosting plan, but you’re really just renting that too. The same is true with some online tools you might use or with your Netflix subscription. You’re renting, not buying.

So, what does all of this mean in relation to the “pride of ownership” for a dot com professional? Should we forget about ownership altogether and move completely over to a renter’s mentality? Maybe. It depends.

The Digital Nomad

Perhaps the biggest and most obvious area where we come to discuss the “pride of ownership” is with the home. There are all sorts of articles out there by people smarter and more qualified than I am that dissect the economics of buying versus renting your home, so I won’t dive into the finer details here. What I will say is that for the overwhelming majority of us, the home — whether it’s an apartment, a house, a cottage or a villa — is going to be one of the biggest expenditures we will ever have in our lives. That much is obvious.

But here’s a really good consideration when it comes specifically to the circumstances of running your own online business and living the dot com lifestyle. You can work from just about anywhere in the world, so why tie yourself down to one physical location? A number of dot com pros become what are known as “digital nomads.” They hop around from place to place, country to country, immersing themselves in the local culture and exploring everything that this pale blue dot has to offer.

The expenses involved with buying a home, then selling it, then buying another, then selling another one just don’t make a lot of sense if you’re going to be a digital nomad. In that regard, renting may be more appropriate.

Mode of Transportation

Next to the home, the car is probably the second biggest expense (or at least the second largest purchase) for a lot of people. This again comes with a certain “pride of ownership,” especially if you’re rolling around in something like a Tesla Model X. Then again, people don’t really know whether you actually own the car. They just see that you drive it.

As a small business owner, it can sometimes make better financial sense to lease a car rather than purchase it outright (or finance it), because there are certain tax ramifications that come into play. Conversely, it might not necessarily make sense for you to own or even lease a car at all if you’re going to be working from home all the time. Why pay for something to just in the garage?

Indeed, a recent analysis revealed that it’s actually cheaper to use Uber than to own a car in the biggest cities in the United States. I’m sure a similar argument can be made about car-sharing services.

Tools of the Trade

Everything is moving toward a subscription, because sometimes that just makes more sense. Instead of a large, upfront purchase price for a product or service that could get outdated in a matter of months, you pay a monthly subscription to ensure you always have the latest and greatest product or service.

For photo and video editing software, you might turn to Adobe Creative Cloud instead of looking for an alternative that you buy outright. For storage and backup, you might turn to OneDrive or Dropbox rather than deal with the complexities of buying your own NAS and then finding somewhere to stash it off-site. Instead of paying for each individual book you read, you might invest in a Kindle Unlimited subscription, and instead of buying the newest iPhone every year outright, you might opt for the iPhone Upgrade Program.

With all of these, you are effectively “renting” the tools of the trade you need to run your business. Again, this has tax ramifications, because the whole expense can be written off rather than just the depreciation.

Own Your Future

I write this article somewhat as a hypocrite. I own my home. I also own my car and my smartphone, and I do have a local network storage device that I effectively use like cloud storage. But I also invest in a number of subscriptions and I can definitely appreciate the value proposition for “renting” in the case of car sharing or if I decide to become a digital nomad.

Whatever you decide to do, as a dot com mogul in the making, the objective is still the same. Own your future, but you can rent how to get there.

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