We live in a disposable culture. We are constantly being introduced to objects with low price tags and seemingly even lower shelf-lives. We often find ourselves with more stuff due to the excess junk that surrounds us. Each week we are introduced to cheaply imported, lower quality, disposable versions of what we already have. And we buy it in order to save a few ticks on the altar of convenience. I’ve contributed. Over the years I’ve purchased plenty of low quality, disposable items that I’ve used and discarded. I’ve also purchased inexpensive things only to have them break a few weeks later after a couple of uses. It doesn’t take an economist very long to put together the notion that high quality items uniquely provide a better experience and often cost less in the long run.
Buying for life is a philosophy we have adopted when purchasing non-consumable items for our family. The notion of buying for life is simply about acquiring high quality, timeless items that will last a very long time. It often requires a bit more capital up front, but the returns come about for years since the well crafted items rarely break or need to be replaced. High quality items can often be repaired instead of being tossed thus contributing to a slightly smaller pile of junk in our municipal wastelands. Buying for life is the antithesis of our disposable culture.
A lot of financial writers, especially in the early retirement camp, get lumped in with the frugualistas and coupon cutters that make headlines or have their own tv shows. The forest is often missed through the trees. Getting a great deal on really unhealthy, crappy food doesn’t really do my wallet or health any favors in the long run. A dollar store pair of sunglasses may work for a day but don’t really hold much value when they fall apart. My goal is to simply be efficient with my purchases. I want to make sure all of my little green soldiers are working as hard as possible to acquire the things I own.
Why the Math Works
It starts with margin. That funny little term that measures the difference between what you earn and what you spend. It takes a little bit more money up front to buy for life. It is worth it. Most families in the United States are running on debt fueled, paycheck to paycheck lifestyles. To ask them to spend money now to save money later doesn’t always compute. However, that is one of the ways efficient individuals can have nice things without breaking the bank. Even someone with a low-income and margin can invest in quality that will provide lasting value. The math works because you spend money now to save later. You buy high quality, but you spend less on a lifetime of maintenance and repairs. In addition to the financial side, having high quality items can actually be more convenient as well because we don’t spend as much time dealing with breakage and repurchasing.
“You Get What You Pay For”
I don’t really like this phrase either. More often than not, I see this as an excuse for inefficient planning and spending. The ideal is to get more than you pay for. Or at least to get extreme value from items when you actually purchase them. For example, some one would suggest purchasing a $400 bike shop bike over the $175 bike at Target. The $400 bike will probably provide a better experience than the cheaper bike, thus eliciting the ‘get what you pay for’ rule. However, the alternative might be to buy a very nice used bike for $150 (originally $700) that would be a superior ride to both bikes. Thus, paying less but getting a better product and effectively getting more than what you pay for.
Anything that falls into the category of conspicuous consumption is ripe for this mentality. Be especially careful and weary of its use in the marketing of vehicles, luxury clothing and high-end jewelry.
Buying Expensive things without breaking the bank
The great part about buying for life is that the products you are interested in buying are designed to last a really long time. That means the used market for them should be quite robust. Buying a high quality, used item trumps a brand new piece of junk anyway. Americans will pay a surprisingly large amount for a little bit of cellophane wrapping. Spend time researching or seek out an expert you know when making large purchases. Read up on how to get a deal on anything.
In addition, take a few minutes to learn how to sell something. Selling high quality used goods is easier than selling cheap garbage. High quality items contribute to less waste and still have useful life even after you decide to get rid of them. Pass them along to someone else to extend their life.
Enjoying High Quality
The best part about buying for life is getting to enjoy high quality items. A nice, sharp knife is a lot more fun in the kitchen than a brand new $1 knife from wally world. Playing a nice guitar provides a better experience than the plastic one on clearance of mr. big box. Nice items are often more enjoyable and less expensive over time.
What are the items that I have ‘bought for life’? Here are some of the items where we have purchased high quality versions that will rarely, if ever need replacing. The list turned out to be pretty eclectic but the idea is to get the process started for you. What are the high quality items in your life?
- Basic Tools – Hammer, Socket Set..
- Saddleback Wallet – Best Minimalist Wallet Under $20 I’ve ever seen and 100+ 5 Star Reviews)
- Straightener – Ms. SE
- Pearls – Ms. SE
- Kitchen Items
- Kitchen Knives
- Guns – Rem 870, 700, Rug 10/22
- Ski Jacket
- Watch? – Still in the Timexish camp
Items we plan on Buying for Life or have interest in:
- Razor – Looking for a suggestions
- Blender – Blentec or Vitamix?
- Nail Clippers – Have you tried these (1,000 Reviews at 4.5 Star)?
- Pots and Pans – Le Creuset?
Do You Buy For Life?
The basic principle is simply that buying quality items is actually less wasteful, less expensive, and produces far less clutter. Some items may be designed to wear out over time but buying higher quality items may still be the wise choice. What are some of the items that you choose to buy for their quality. Anything you have used for years on end? Do you buy for life?