When do you let it go?

When do you replace something?  My wife and I have discussed this quite a bit lately, with our decision over the last couple of months to get a new car, we’ve set a repair maximum of approximately $1,000, over which we’ll probably just replace the car.  With a car, there’s a market for even semi-broken vehicles – they can be sold “as-is”, generally at a steep discount, but there are buyers out there for them, with published book values available to buyers and sellers.  With my car only being worth $2,000-$3,000 in its current condition, it really doesn’t make sense to spend half of the vehicle’s worth to maybe make the money back, if the car is at least salable.  In the past couple of weeks though, similar situations have come up with smaller items which have required repairs.

Earlier this week, it cost me $15 to buy a new watch band for my Timex digital watch.  I had to call directly to Timex to order it, because a replacement band was not available at retail stores.  The $15 I paid for a new band would have been about half the amount I would spend on a new watch to replace the five-year old watch.  It doesn’t really make sense to replace the band, given the cost of a replacement, but if I didn’t replace it, there’s really nothing to do with the watch at all, other than to throw it out (or alternatively let it sit somewhere until the battery dies in a couple of years not getting any use).

In the same vein, the set of hair clippers that I’ve owned for several years has a missing guard, something that happened during my move last year.  A new set of hair clippers is reasonably cheap (less than $30), but much like my watch, there would be a perfectly good product that would most likely go to a landfill because I’m not sure anyone would want a used set of hair clippers.  Ideally, I wouldn’t have lost the part, but a replacement part can be purchased for $10.

There are a myriad of products out there that are essentially disposable due to replacement parts being just as expensive to buy as the product itself (think printer cartridges).  What these products create is a lot of waste, as most people, including myself would rather pay a few extra dollars to get something new than keep the old product, which has a higher probability of breaking.  Over the last couple of years I have tried to reduce my waste as much as possible. I realize that a set of hair clippers and a watch really wouldn’t have that much of an impact on our landfills, but if applied across everything I owned, there would be a lot less waste created.

I’m just not sure where to draw the line – right now, the items that I’m “saving” are things that I use regularly and are easily (and cheaply) fixed;  the car decision comes due to my recent decision to replace our car in the spring of next year, as well as the fact it can be sold.

How do you decide what to throw out and what to keep?  Have you been burned by fixing something that broke again shortly after?

7 thoughts on “When do you let it go?”

  1. Watchbands irritate my wrist. I found a watch with a broken wristband so removed the wristband and use it as a pocket watch.

  2. My fridge quit working last summer. I’d bought it as a scratch and dent so it only cost me $800 9 years ago. To have a repairman come and look at it cost me $100. He confirmed my suspicions that I needed a new fan, and promptly recommended I simply buy a new fridge. The fan ended up costing $200, I installed it myself, saving an additional $100, but it took 6 weeks to get the part. So in the end I spent $300 (could have spent $400) to fix a fridge that was out of warranty and could have been replaced for $600, and on top of that I had to live from a portable cooler for 6 weeks. The problem these days is that manufacturing new products is cheap as it’s done in developing countries, but fixing them is expensive as local repairmen will not work for pennies (nor should they). If we paid the real price of these items (ie factory workers getting sufficient wages) it would balance things out and more people would opt to fix their damaged goods.

  3. “With my car only being worth $2,000-$3,000 in its current condition, it really doesn’t make sense to spend half of the vehicle’s worth to maybe make the money back, if the car is at least salable.”

    So spending $5,000-35,000 on a replacement vehicle instead of $1,000-2,000 for repairs makes financial sense?

    I respectfully disagree (up until the point where the replacement vehicle is going to cost less than the repair or you anticipate a string of repair bills because of a known defect or accumulated damage).

  4. Re: Dabcan – The difference to a new fridge would have probably been even less considering any improvements in energy usage.

    In terms of the car repairs I figure at a $250 a month cost, if I can make the vehicle last an extra 4 months by putting $1000 into it, then it’s worth it. If it lasts 5 months I’ve saved $250. In reality a car payment is going to be more than $250 a month.

  5. Do you buy your cars with cash or do you buy/lease a car using a credit plan? Our family has only ever had debt related to mortgages but otherwise we pay off our credit card balances each month and pay cash for everything else. As soon as I buy a new car, I begin putting aside money each year for the next car.
    I would have thought with your frugal savings plan that you would avoid car loans/leases which cost more with interest charges over the long run.
    P.S. My mother was so frugal that she “squirreled” away money from the household budget for food etc…and in her senior years bought herself a condo with $130,000 cash (25 years ago). We ate a lot of Jello and beans and weiners when I was a child growing up 🙂

  6. Someone as frugal as you,(and I don’t mean that in a negative way of course), should really learn how to do most repairs and maintenance yourself. It is a lot of fun, and if you are physically fit, you actually Save time along with money by performing the tasks yourself. For example you can get the materials required to do an oil change for 15$ from Canadian tire on sale, that is an Oil and Filter. Stock pile them when there is a sale, and you can do an oil change in 30-40 minutes on your driveway/ in your garage. Less time than it would take to go to the quick lube. Also driving a Toyota Echo, there is only 2 things to really go wrong that a DIYer couldn’t tackle: Engine Failure, or Transmission failure. Nothing else costs 1000$ or more to replace on such a simple car. well nothing that would go on a 9-10 year old basic Toyota.

  7. Also I would like to add that even spending $1500 on a $1500 vehicle is fine so long as you know the car well and know how everything else is holding up before the cash outlay. Without this knowledge it is a huge crap-shoot. You can crawl underneath your car to look at things like brake/fuel lines for excessive corrosion. If your engine isn’t consuming oil then it is likely still healthy and if your transmission shifts smooth then well its probably fine for a while too.

    In terms of replacing other things when they are borderline economic write offs I say go for it if you have faith in the product, and can repair it yourself. Bottom line is your still saving money by keeping the item going for a while longer. Doesn’t apply to a 15$ watch but definitely does to cars and appliances. As you become more knowledgeable about the inner workings of items then you will realize that only select parts fail frequently, and you fear the possible future breakdowns much less. I have learned a lot from youtube user “davidsfarm” He is a cheap guy who repairs items he finds in the garbage. Some of his videos are fooling around on his farm, blowing things up and crashing cars, but the other half are very good repair tutorials. He has taught me how to keep things running for longer and cheaper and to fear tackling a repair job myself much less.

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