Old is New Again: Buy It For Life

There is a forum over at Reddit called Buy It For Life, which focuses on products that are durable, high quality and practical.  In summary they tend to think planned obsolesce sucks and should be avoided where possible.  Ironically while looking into some of the items discussed you can’t help but notice that some very old technology is suddenly ‘new’ to people again.

For example, I bought a fountain pen a few months back and while I’m still getting used to it, I can understand why people like the 16th century idea.  You actually get used to using a specific pen and it flows way nicer than most disposal pens on a page.  Yes, you do have to fill it up periodically, but overall I think the hassle is worth it.  Or another classic idea is using a cast iron fry pan, while I personally love them for some cooking, while wife finds them too heavy for everyday use.  Yet in that case we were given a couple by a friend who was moving so it didn’t cost me a cent.

The general idea of buy it for life items is to consider your costs over the long haul.  Paying a higher price upfront can be more affordable in the the long run.  For example, do you buy really good quality sandals that will last you a decade or buy a cheap pair every year or two?  People may flinch from paying$100 for sandals, but if your average cost per year is only $10, it might be cheaper than paying $15 a year for cheap ones that fall apart.  Not to mention the more ‘expensive’ ones are likely much more comfortable.

Yet there is a downside I can see on the whole idea of buying it for life, it is becomes a bit of a floodgate of spending if you aren’t careful.  After all when you start justifying spending several hundred dollars on high quality goods, you might end up buying more stuff than you really need.  Just because something lasts doesn’t mean you should buy it.  After all you need to use an item frequently in order to justify the higher initial cost.  So while I’m enjoying researching products and buying some I’m also asking myself: how often will I use this?

So far to date I don’t think I’ve gone that overboard with my shopping.  I’ve bought the following so far:

  • Saddleback leather wallet and notebook cover
  • Fountain pen
  • Birkenstock sandals (my second pair, both were gifts)
  • Cast Iron frypan (gift)
  • French Press for coffee

My latest research project is looking at getting a manual coffee mill grinder. Which is another downside to buy it for life, you tend to do a lot more research on what to buy.  Yet the upside of this is you tend to be very sure on what you want before spending the money.

So do you ever invest in high quality items or do you tend to buy the cheap stuff?  What would you consider buying for life?

9 thoughts on “Old is New Again: Buy It For Life”

  1. We purchased the Dyson vacuum. It was expensive upfront but they offer a full five year warranty and the customer service is great. We could have dropped $100 – $150 on another vacuum that didn’t work as well, didn’t offer the same warranty and would need repair or replacement in a few years. It was a tough number to shell out but the end it is worth it.

  2. We are pretty hardcore LBYM’ers… we are proud that we are not big consumers.

    BUT…. and here’s the but… when we do buy something, we usually buy “best in class” products. Did so when I bought a kayak, flatscreen TV, sofa, kitchen appliances, IPad, my truck 14 years ago.

    Speaking of the truck – still looks mint and runs amazing when most of it’s cheaper competitors are probably rust buckets by now.

  3. Yeah, you always need to look at your usage, and make sure it’s enough to justify the cost. Most of the lights in our house, for example, have been flipped over to LED, but there’s a few (under the stairs, etc.) where they just don’t get used enough to ever justify the cost. Those still have the original bulb from when we built the house ~16 years ago.

    Buy the best, definitely. But first, make sure you really need it.

  4. We do a lot of research before making a purchase to ensure we are buying the best. I spent a lot more money buying pampered chef bowls, but I know I will never need to replace them and they are used weekly. I’ve had them for over 15 years now. If I purchased these items at say Walmart I would have replaced them several times by now. It’s about quality to us.

  5. I hear the same “quality” argument from people to justify buying iPods. Yeah, an iPod and a $20 MP3 player have the same life expectancy when accidentally sat upon or dropped in a swimming pool. If I total *all* the MP3 players I’ve bought over the years, it still wouldn’t equal one iPod. And I know of absolutely no-one who is still using their very first iPod from 2004. The quality argument doesn’t stand up in court if there is the same chance of that item being broken, lost, or stolen (a odd which increases exponentially is an item is better quality.) The example of people saying “quality” (meaning expensive) over cost is no better seen than with cars. However, does the BMW owner drive his/hers years longer than the Kia owner does? Is that value really there when they both just serve as transportation?

  6. @Edward,

    I agree, that is why I would consider most electronics not a buy it for life purchase. Technology changes too fast and most of them are not durable designs (I see to recall on generation of the iPod Touch snapping in half because they designed it too thin). Just because it is expensive doesn’t mean it is a durable design. That is why research is important.

    Thanks for bringing that up.

  7. my husband LOVES his lightly used BMW. It’s ten years old but he only paid 10,000….very low km’s and it’s a beauty….We needed a second car and he researched his butt off to get what he got and we both could not be happier. Would never buy one new.

    Just last week, after killing two nutribullets making smoothies with frozen fruit, I ordered a heavy duty blender online from Costco. Researched it, read reviews of all competing brands and then sucked it up, $300 with taxes. Yikes, makes me dizzy thinking that I spent that much on a darn blender, but we will use it daily and I am sick of tossing cheap ones out. If I am not happy with it, it will go right back from whence it came thanks to the very good return policy from Costco. 1400 watts, that should do the trick! A seven year warranty is pretty sweet too….

  8. I try to do the same. First I try not to be a consumer to save money and the landfill. If I do buy something I research the heck out of it and buy the best quality for my money – not everything expensive is quality. Then I try to buy used as much as possible and if I can’t find it on kijiji or anywhere else I try to wait for sales.

    I have bought things I hope to last forever including a wood burning cookstove, cast iron pots, quality (often antique) kitchen gadgets, most furniture is quality antiques and while I can’t argue about the electronics comment above I can say buying a quality stereo/speakers can last forever (my harmon/kardon stereo and B&W speaker system is 20 years old and sounds as incredible as the day I bought it).

    The antiques is a big one. I love antiques and to me they will always be in style, the quality and life expectancy is superior to most things built today, they have already paid their debt to the earth after the first owner bought them. I can resell usually at the same price (or more) than I paid if I need to change anything and many will be inherited by my kids or at least cherished by someone else for generations hopefully.

    I also buy quality for things I use a lot to justify the expense, get the performance I need and hope they last long. I still ride my 15 year old Specialized road bike every week, paddle my 16 year old custom canoe and use quality tools that are hopefully the last ones I’ll ever need.

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