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There’s a lot of wisdom in the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I would append the statement to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t replace it.” But many times we find ourselves upgrading or replacing items around our homes for the latest and greatest gadgets.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a throw-away culture. Companies build subpar items that are designed to break easily, be thrown away, and then replaced with the newest model.
This is problematic for a few reasons.
1. It’s expensive
This never-ending cycle of purchasing crap products really adds up.
For example, I bought a shirt for $5 at Ross. Within two weeks this shirt was shredded and I threw it away. If I were to replace this $5 shirt every two weeks for a year, it would cost $130.
But if I bought a $30 shirt at REI that was designed to last, my annual cost would be just $30. Booyah!
Throw-away culture cheats people out of their hard-earned cash, which sucks.
2. It creates junk
Since we throw away so much, we’re creating mounds and mounds of unnecessary garbage. This means more landfill waste and all of the environmental concerns that come with it.
3. It encourages overconsumption
It’s tough not to be influenced by marketing, especially in the Internet age. We’re inundated with offers to get the new iPhone, Kardashian Lip Kits (ugh), and Yeti tumblers.
Since you can have the latest and greatest thing with the touch of a button, it’s easy to get carried away with shopping. I was addicted to Amazon’s Click-To-Ship while I was in college—I spent something to the tune of $1,000!
Throw-away culture feeds consumerism to a point where it’s not sustainable. It’s important to consider alternatives so we can live frugally and be free of debt.
How I Avoid Throw-Away Culture
I’m not gonna lie. It’s been a challenge to avoid upgrading to the newest, shiniest things. Hell, I still fall for the temptation at times (Hey there, new KitchenAid).
But it’s all about fighting the urge to buy bad products in the first place. This approach saves money while limiting waste. It’s also great because it’s an exercise in self-control and appreciating what you have.
Here’s how I fight against throw-away culture.
My laptop, iPad, and phone
Electronics are one of those things that people are zany about. I’ve never owned an iPhone, but I’m shocked every time one comes out and people upgrade for the sake of having the newest phone. What’s the draw? I don’t get it! I guess I’m an Android person at heart. 😉
Pretty much all of my electronics are out of date. My laptop is a hand-me-down Dell that my dad graciously gave me after my MacBook died. My iPad is about four years old, but I use it daily with zero problems. I got my phone when I switched to Google Fi, so I’ve had it for a year with no plans to upgrade.
Sure, some people think I’m kooky for using outdated electronics, but I’ve learned to be okay with what I have. Electronics are super pricey and it’s difficult to keep up with our upgrade obsession.
Unless an electronic is broken, I don’t see much use in replacing it.
When my dad announced plans to throw away his perfectly good couches, my frugal spidey sense was tingling. We took the comfy couches off his hands, which freed up space in his living room while giving us more seating options—fo’ free! Instead of trashing our old couch, we relocated it to our bonus room, where Mr. Picky Pincher can have comfy guy’s nights.
Even though we did upgrade, we had a perfectly good way to use our “outdated” couch. If we do want to get rid of it one day, we’ll either donate it to Goodwill, sell it on Craigslist, or give it away on Freecycle. That way it at least won’t go to the landfill!
I had a long struggle with fast fashion. I wanted to look freakin’ cute at work like my trendy coworkers, but it was expensive and, frankly, exhausting.
I shelled out $100 a month on clothing I wore for a few weeks before donating it to Goodwill or trashing it entirely. My habit added up fast. I had to call it quits with my fashionista tendencies.
Nowadays I purchase higher quality clothes from the start. I do most of my shopping at Clothes Mentor, which is a secondhand store for women that focuses on quality designer brands. Even though the clothes are used, they still last years since they were built well in the first place. And I can’t argue with their badass prices, either!
Mr. Picky Pincher and I are learning what clothing brands are best for long-term use. While it usually requires a bigger upfront cost, we save money in the long run by buying our clothes once.
Mr. Picky Pincher used to (and still sort of does) have a penchant for fast, shiny cars. After a heartbreaking ordeal with a Subaru WRX, he joined me over in the Sensible Cars Only club.
Nowadays, we definitely don’t drive the latest models, and we’re okay with that. But a lot of people like to upgrade vehicles every few years.
For example, Mr. Picky Pincher drives a used Ford pickup. It’s not the smoothest piece of machinery, but it gets him from Point A to Point B.
However, he works in a dude-centric field where guys love driving the newest, biggest trucks. He even has a coworker who tricked out his single cab truck with rims and a killer stereo system!
We aren’t here to judge what other people drive, but Mr. Picky Pincher has gotten a few comments from people asking when he’ll upgrade his truck.
Don’t feel pressured to upgrade if what you have is right for you. Be the weird one in your group with a paid off car and rock that frugality!
The Bottom Line
Throw-away culture was a brilliant invention, really. It gives companies a regular paycheck and an incentive to build shoddy products. Most of us think nothing of it on a day-to-day basis, but our culture wasn’t always this way.
There was a time when quality, long-lasting products mattered and were sought after. I’m fighting the urge to buy the newest gadgetry, but I know I’m good without it. I’m hanging onto products that work just fine as a way to save money and fight waste. It’s not always easy, but it feels pretty good!
We want to know: How are you fighting against throw-away culture?