Green Spot: Use it Till it Breaks

Is it me or do you find it hard to recall the last time you kept something until it broke?  I mean now a days we end up ‘upgrading’ the item before it wears out.  You could try to sell your old item to allow someone else to reuse it but likely it will end up in the trash.

So here’s a challenge for everyone.  Try to use your stuff until it breaks for a change of pace.  Now beyond the obvious saying raw materials from the environment to make a new one for you.  You also extend the time you keep the item and reduce it’s cost of use.

Here’s a couple of examples for you.  First off I got married back in 2000 when we got two new fry pans.  Now one of those pans was slightly smaller and just about the perfect size for most of our cooking.  So I would estimate I used that pan every second day for the last eight years until recently where the coating on the pan was breaking apart and everything was sticking it it.  Now we got it as a gift, but let’s assume I paid about $30 for that pan.  Our cost per use was about $30/ ((365/2)*8) = $0.02.  Had we upgraded it four years ago we would have double of cost per use.

A second example is two round tables we bought at Walmart for our second apartment back in 2002.  We also bought some cloth covers for them.  They were the cheap $14 ones made of MDF and some wooden legs.  I just bought their replacements last night.  I would estimate I’ve fixed both tables at these once to keep them going over the last 6 years.  Both of them are used daily as they are in the perfect spot to put my coffee when I’m either in the living room or family room. So our cost per use for each table is $14/(365*6) = $0.006.  So I told my wife I hope she loves them because to keep our cost per use the same we have to keep these ones for the next 30 years (but they are well build wood ones with a nice finish that could match anything, so it is possible).

So the longer you keep things the cheaper their use becomes to you.  Afterall, stuff doesn’t typically give lots of happiness, but experience does.  So keep using the same stuff and save the money to go on a cool trip instead.

So what have you used until it broke?

7 thoughts on “Green Spot: Use it Till it Breaks”

  1. I just brought my things to work in an 18 year-old knapsack that I bought in Grade 9. I paid over $65 for it (a lot back in 1990) but it is top quality and has held up beautifully despite years and years of daily textbook and grocery lugging. When the zipper started to split a few years ago I had the first couple of inches on one side sewn shut which solved the problem. A lady I take the bus with tells me I should “treat myself” to a new knapsack but I truly love my old green one, and think I can get another 15 years out of it – at least 😉 I try to buy quality classic items (not trendy) once… (and If I’m lucky, at a discount).. I think buying quality is mostly less expensive over the long run..

  2. It is nice to save on small things like frying pans and knapsacks, but what about big-ticket items? For example, we try to keep the cost of car ownership to $1000/year or less. This of course excludes insurance, gas and maintenance. So the cost would include the actual price, taxes and any interest you would have paid to finance (we don’t buy new cars or finance used cars). Our previous car, we bought for $6700 and used for just over 6.5 years before ditching it. The next car cost us $16000 and I am fully prepared to use it for the next 16 years or more. So do you think $1000/year for car ownership a reasonable expectation?

  3. Cost of ownership can’t be the overriding factor necessarily, but it does often go hand-in-hand with quality.

    When buying something you will use frequently, I say ALWAYS buy quality over price. You sleep on your bed every night, so don’t buy the mattress that’s always on sale. Spend more on a better quality bed and not only will the benefits be more, but there’s a very good chance your average cost will drop as well (better quality = longer life).

    Your table example shows this. 6 years with cheap tables is comendable. But now that you have real wood ones that are much nicer, I imagine it will be a long time before you need to repair anything with them.

  4. I bought my first (and only) car in 1988 when my son was one years old. I drove my cute little car that a paid $7,200 for the next 18 years. We used to joke that the car was old enough to drive itself. I gave it away 2 years ago to a handy person and he fixed it for his daughter and I see her driving it around still. Good recycling!

  5. I think we (north american society) typically overestimate the amounts we need to consume – how much food or clothing do we really need? Next are depreciable goods- how much car we need (lease mileage, leasing vs owning) and finally how long we can continue to burden this planet with our unsustainable lifestyles. There seems to be an expectation that our governments will bail us out. (Bailout has GOT to be the term most used in 2008).

  6. I’ve even gone one further than keeping things till they break. We’ve been fixing things which were well and truly broken and giving them another chance. This included a pair of sunglasses on which the arm snapped off completely. It helps to have a very handy husband I must say. He’s a fixing genius.

  7. My family and Princess tease about how long I keep my stuff. I am still using my 25-year old watch every day. I still have a Pilot 0.5 mm pencil I purchased when I was in grade 7. The list goes on and on.

    I wear my clothes until they are full of holes. When they are no longer wearable outside of the hose, I use them when doing chores and work around the home.

    Once things are broken, I’ll take them apart to keep the pieces that can be of use.

    When we have something we no longer use, we ask family and friend if it would be useful to them.

    And of course, we reuse and recycle.

    All of these are good for the environment, and good for our wallet.

    I agree with Astin about quality. If by paying 50% more I get something that will likely last twice as long, which one do you think I buy? :o)

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