Breezy I usually start with budget and how much you think you will stick with it. If you think you will be doing more, then bump up the budget.
Gadgets has always been this crazy ride. You can throw cars in there too. They don't necessarily change each year. But I guess when you say you bought a new camera, it has to have been produced within that year.
idk about the soccer mom analogy. I hear a lot of pro photographers grabbing up a smaller DSLR to use for family functions. i.e. vacations. Because its smaller and easy to lug around.