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“Use it up, wear it out . . .”

“. . . make it do, or do without.” Such was the mantra of yesteryear during times of scarcity. But is the philosophy really outdated?

I’ll often pick up an item that I’ve had in my possession for a number of years and ask myself, “Why am I still using this old ______? They make better versions now, and I can justify buying a new one because it is something I use all the time.” The practical voice inside me responds, “But it still does everything you need it to do.”

The practical voice usually ends up winning the debate. Both our TVs came into our house second hand, one from a thrift store and the other from the side of the road. Our iron is another item I bought from a thrift store and has served us well since I bought it more than seven years ago.

If something you own can be repaired for a reasonable cost, why not stave off the purchase of a new one? Think of why that makes sense:

  • Selfishly, it means that you can use that money for some other purpose. If nothing else, leave it in a bank account and let it earn 4+% (www.ingdirect.com) interest until you really have to replace the item.
  • You save landfill space that would have been occupied by both the old item itself as well as the packaging from the new one.
  • The materials that would have gone into making the new item can be used for some other purpose.

Are there cases where it doesn’t make sense to keep stringing along worn out belongings? Sure. In addition to those things that would cost too much to repair, here are a few that I could think of:

  • Products where your – or your family’s – personal safety is a factor (e.g., an older car that truly isn’t as safe as a newer one)
  • Products that have a real effect on your ability to provide for yourself or your family (e.g., dress clothes that you wear to work, a computer that prevents you from working faster, etc.)
  • Products that truly have an impact on your – or your family’s – happiness (e.g., a house that’s way too small for your needs)

Being frugal and careful with possessions isn’t the same thing as being unable to let things go. If you have extra “stuff” that you’re not using (and which doesn’t have sentimental value), hold a yard sale, give it to someone who can use it, or donate it to a thrift store.

Take pride in functional, well-worn items that you’ve used for a long time. Let each use remind you that you’re being careful with the resources you’ve been fortunate enough to possess.

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