I am a gearhead. And the last vehicle that I really built up was a Jeep Wrangler. A friend of mine and I coined a term (at least WE think we coined it).
For us, we were talking about building Jeeps. And the steps… and the changes along the way. On MY Jeep journey, I went from 29″ tires and a stock suspension to a 2″ lift and a 31″ mud tires. Then there was a 3″ lift. Then we tweaked it to 4″ and put on some 33″ tires. Then we got wild and built a new suspension that was 6″ over stock… slapped on some 34″ tires… then 35″ tires (there was room, why not?).
There were other things aside from the height… in fact, every part of that Jeep went through multiple incarnations before it finally went away (the only time there are done is when they are gone).
The point about incrementalism is that the steps just follow each other… whether we mean them to or not. When I started, I didn’t intend to end up with a big Jeep on 35s. Furthermore… had that been my intention, I should have just done that the first time. I spent a LOT of money on the intermediate steps.
But it just kept creeping along… out of control.
I see it with home buyers, too…
Of course, it is a little different. But what happens is that they go from having a $175k budget to liking a house priced at $200k… they might be able to negotiate it down and it isn’t that much more, right? Then we are looking at homes that are $210k… then $225k… $250k. Now we are looking at a house that is very unlikely to get negotiated back to their range, and the payments would be significantly higher.
Some buyers might be able to swing it… others, not so much. But the point is that the change is gradual. Kind of like the boiling frog story.
Be careful with incrementalism. It can bite. Here is my original post about incrementalism, from June 7th, 2008.