Buy Whatever You Want On Black Friday…

…but whatever you buy has to last your entire lifetime.


Today we’re re-running last year’s Black Friday post by Mr PoP since we have so many new readers since then.  Enjoy! 


A Thought Experiment For Black Friday

Mrs. PoP and I have never had a TV in our house, we usually listen to NPR or CD’s in our cars, and seldom read the newspaper. All of this means we’re pretty insulated from consumer advertising.  But even we couldn’t help but notice that this Friday a ton of people will be blowing some serious dough on “things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like.”

I am Jack’s complete lack of credit debt.

At the same time, I can’t pretend I’m Tyler Durden or a modern day Ralph Borsodi. The fact is Mrs. Pop and I really do enjoy buying things! Over the last couple of Black Friday’s I’ve gotten a tool chest, and a few years before that was when I got an espresso maker and grinder, and another couple years before that it was a guitar. So what gives? How can I defend spending money on things that make my life easier and more enjoyable, all the while looking down my nose at the consumer massess on Friday?

Easy. Before I spend more than $50 on an item, I ask myself “Is this the last XXX that I’ll ever purchase?” If the answer is yes, then I’ll pull the trigger, if its no, then I’ll likely re-consider why I’m spending money on something that is disposable and will cost to get replaced a few years down the road.

How Does This Change Your Spending Habits?

This sort of thinking seems to break our spending habits into two polarized sections-items we spend lots of money on, and stuff that we spend next to nothing on. It makes sense-if you know you’ll only ever have one guitar, you’ll save your money until you can get the one that you’ll be happy with forever. You tend to end up with a very small number of “things,” but those things tend to be classics of very high quality.  On the other hand, I can’t remember the last time I purchased any non-work clothes because I know that because they are disposable. Instead, I am mostly naked when not in the office (Just kidding! I just wear the work shirts, pants and jeans that have holes or stains and are therefore ineligible for the M-F rota).

One thing that I realized after reading Jacob’s Early Retirement Extreme blog is that if you purchase the best possible item you can afford, the difference between new and used is relatively small and the item depreciates very slowly, if at all. This even goes for consumer goods like furniture! Check out the e-bay prices between a new and used Eames recliner-they’re the same price after shipping, despite the used one is about 20 years older! The same goes for many consumer goods, from mechanics tools, to kitchen utensils, to jewelry, to musical instruments and audiophile equipment.  [Mrs. PoP here – the Eames chair is a really expensive example – for a more “every day” example, check out our old post on the ChefMate vs KitchenAid where our $6 mixer depreciated its entire value in a matter of seconds.]


Repair vs. Replace, Low Wages, and the Environment

Every time you ask yourself “Is this the last XXX that I’ll buy?” you are forced to think where you will be 10, 20, 30 years down the road.  This sort of long-term thinking is a gut check and helps you keep your mind on long-term goals. In the next couple of years I plan on buying a wrist watch; when I am through using the watch the year will be at least 2050. I’ll be done with my career, my parents will have passed away, and I will be an old man! If i know in my heart that someday I will become old and die while the next generation inherits what I leave, it makes me plan for the future at the same time that I lead every day more fully.

Of course, many of the items I buy need to be serviced or repaired. The watch needs to be lubricated every 5 years, that Eames chair may need to be re-stuffed every 30 or so, you get the idea. But what happens when we repair instead of buy a new one? Creating a new low-quality consumer product generally involves harvesting some sort of natural resource (wood, petroleum, iron ore, etc), hiring somebody for low-wages in the 3rd world to assemble the widget and then schlepping the finished item back to the 1st world. The environment surely doesn’t win here, the jobs are low-wage and in another country, and eventually the item will end up in a land fill in your back yard anyhow. Its lose-lose.

When I choose to have something repaired, it is generally better for the environment because the resource stays in the ground, and the item out of the landfill. Also, either I acquire the skill necessary to repair it (Always a good thing), or I hire a local tradesman to do the same.


Yeah, But…

The idea of asking yourself if you are “Buy it for Life” is far from perfect (if somebody can find me socks that will last me 50 years, let me know!), but is far better than the hedonic treadmill of buying the latest gizmo, using it for a year, and then discarding it because it no longer gives us that consumer high. So this shopping season, ask yourself if what you’re buying is meant to be discarded in a year, or if you’ll use it for many. If you’re just going to discard it in a year, do you really need it anyway?

This post dedicated to Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme-his site and book are an inspiration to me! Additional info on the BIFL concept can be found here, and here are some links about consumerism’s effect on happiness.

If I’m the only one out there asking “Will this be the the last one of XXX that I’ll buy?” they’ll call me crazy. But if there are two of us, they’ll think its an organization. And if there are hundreds of us…well they’ll think its a movement! Does anybody else out there ask themselves if they’ll be buying their last XXX this Black Friday?



42 comments to Buy Whatever You Want On Black Friday…

  • I would love to buy my last car, or my last computer, although I doubt that is feasable. Even though I barely use 10% of the incredible technology inside my computer, they don’t make them that sturdy. I like a few brands that have lifetime guarantees, like le creuset kitchenware, which is pretty cool.
    Pauline recently posted..THANK YOU!!! And you too, Mr President…My Profile

    • I think there’s a spectrum. I had my previous computer for 7 years. I spent probably $1200 for it at a time when I was still a grad student, so that was big bucks. But I kept it forever. Upgraded it with a new hard drive once and got a couple of new batteries and other repairs done under extended warranty. In the time that I had that computer, another friend bought 3 $500-$700 computers. She never repaired them, and when they died if the standard short warranty was up she would just throw it out and get a new one.
      I’m not sure ANY computer right now is really meant to last a lifetime, but there are ones that do seem to be built to last much longer than others. And those are the kinds of purchases we’re trying to make.

  • I appreciate the “buy it for life philosophy” but that has backfired on me a couple of time.

    Once when I bought an expensive set of tools that were subsequently stolen, and the second time when I have lost my wedding ring (I won’t say how many times).
    Terry recently posted..5 Reasons to be a Substitute TeacherMy Profile

    • That sucks Terry! Maybe we need to research a buy it for life lock or alarm system? Kidding…

      Did you have insurance policies to cover those losses? If enough was stolen, we would just file a claim under our homeowner’s policy for any theft.

      In general for the type of stuff we like to buy, it tends to look rather unassuming even if it’s going to last forever. Mr. PoP’s Grado headphones look ridiculous, and you probably need to be somewhat of an audiophile to know how good they are… so if someone was in his office stealing his stuff, that’s probably not what they would take. But they are probably going to last him most of his life. He sent them back to Brooklyn for a tune-up earlier this year and got them back a week or so later, looking and sounding just about brand new. All for $35. So he has spent $35 to repair them, even though he bought them in 2002. $35 is a hell of a deal for 10-years of his music listening experience in my book.

  • I think you really have to search to find things that last. We have become such a disposable society that most items area meant to wear out and it’s usually cheaper to throw them out than fix them. When AT &T bought out the cell carrier in our area, everyone had to get a new phone, even if yours worked fine. Don’t tell me there isn’t some way to make them compatable. My mom still has and uses the toaster she got for her wedding shower 40 years ago. I don’t imaging there are that many toasters for sale now that will last that long even if we wanted to keep them. I like your approach. I’m not sure how we can incorporate it especially with a growing child and all the things she will outgrow and outuse, but something to think about.
    Kim@Eyesonthdollar recently posted..Charitable Giving: Your Time Is As Valuable As MoneyMy Profile

    • Agreed – it definitely takes time to figure out which products last much longer than their peers.

      That’s crazy that AT&T buying out another company would mean everyone would need new phones! Obviously the infrastructure for the ones you guys already had was there! Nuts!

      The toaster example is spot on. When we were searching for a new microwave, we ended up figuring out that both of our parents had the same panasonic microwave since the 80’s. With a little more research, we ended up finding what we *hope* will be a microwave to last us 25+ years…

      We don’t have kids, but I think I’d be looking at toys that don’t tend to break and can be cleaned up well. Buying used wooden puzzles, lincoln logs or legos (soak the legos in bleach and dry them and they’re as good -and probably cleaner- than new). Theoretically when you go to sell them again after your kids are done with them they’d be worth something similar in value to what you paid for them. Same thing might apply for a lot of the more durable baby/kid goods that can be cleaned really well – boppies (those are the little pillow seats, right?), high chairs, some strollers and car seats seem like they’d be easier to clean than others. My baby experience here is mostly from showers – so let me know if I’m being too naive on the subject… I just hope that babies don’t *have* to come with a lot of crap.

    • trudy

      I have some old things that have lasted for years. New items, not so much. One mistake I made when moving cross country was getting rid of things that I thought would be cheaper to replace than ship. The old quality was unavailable. For example, a small vacuum cleaner, now with plastic parts instead of metal.

  • I totally agree with buying more expensive, higher quality stuff. I never used to think this way until the past few years. Now I hardly buy anything that’s cheap because I feel like it’s bad in the environment to be constantly replacing everything.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Toys ‘R Us Corporate Policy: Stealing?!?My Profile

    • I’m with you – this is something that Mr. PoP grew up with. His parents are VERY into buying things that last, where mine are always “buy the cheapest possible!”. So it’s been a change in mindset for me, but one that seems to make life feel so much nicer. When stuff isn’t constantly breaking because it was constructed so shoddily, it’s pretty awesome!

  • I’m learning to do the quality over price thing. I like that you point out certain things like socks are not going to fit the model, but my couch is so beat up right now that an Eames chair sounds like a great investment. We skipped black friday this year. Too much stress and not enough sales on things we actually wanted.
    femmefrugality recently posted..Suburbanites: Buy Your Tree in the CityMy Profile

  • This is a good philosophy. So many times we buy things on impulse without really considering if we need it or not. I bought an expensive leather belt 15 years ago when I was a sophomore in high school. I still wear it and it’s in really good shape. I hope to use it for another 15 years or so.
    In that same time my father-in-law has went through 5 faux leather belts that cost about 1/2 as much, my mother-in-law buys a new one every two years for Christmas. So in the long run he’s already paid 2x as much for his belts.
    Justin@TheFrugalPath recently posted..Friday’s Fork in the Path: Black Friday EditionMy Profile

    • Perfect example! With clothes and accessories like that the ticket is to get them quality made and in classic styles that you won’t feel silly or out of date wearing for the next 30 years. Maybe your FIL needs a nice new belt that you pick out for Christmas some year instead of the ones his wife picks out. =)

  • My parents bought an Eames chair decades ago (not on black friday, obviously). They gave it to my sister with the leather wearing through and some screws off kilter. She had it reupholstered and the joints fixed and it is super classy. Definitely worth the initial purchase.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..A somewhat late link loveMy Profile

    • That’s awesome! I hope your sister keeps it for decades and passes it down to someone else to get re-upholstered and repaired for another new life someday. =)

  • I always try to buy the best quality that we can afford (with the exception of the few things that will wear out either way). We recently bought a set of German knives. They were expensive, but we’ll hopefully have that set for the rest of our lives, and hopefully with a good sharpening they will “work” like new 20 years from now.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Why I Was Afraid of Being RichMy Profile

  • […] Planting Our Pennies- Buy Whatever You Want on Black Friday […]

  • I’ve never heard someone mention that question, but it’s a great one. On the issue of repair/replace, right now we’re trying to limit the number of things we replace to see if we actually need them. My family is actually finding we can do more with less!
    Elizabeth @ Simple Finance recently posted..The 4 Most Popular Ways To Save For Your Child’s College EducationMy Profile

    • That is definitely something else to consider. Just because something breaks – does it definitely need to be replaced? Sometimes it’s just better to let things go and be content and “use up” what we have already.

  • When it comes to shoes, clothes and certain technology items, I don’t mind spending more. You get what you pay I suppose. I remember last years when they had BlackBerry Playbook sell offs, almost everyone purchased one $199 on sale and $499 regularly – today rarely anyone uses any of them. Glad I never purchased one!
    Eddie recently posted..Finance Fox Weekend Recap – $500 Blog For Financial Literacy Winner!My Profile

    • The irony of your comment is that Mr. PoP has a BB Playbook and loves it – but he researched the heck out of it before he bought it and made sure that it was exactly what he wanted before pulling the trigger. He even waited until it was pretty clear that the OS on it would continue to be supported and a major upgrade to the OS did happen shortly after he bought it.
      Like the original Kindle that he still has and uses all these years later, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be using the Playbook for a while, no matter how much more I like my original iPad. =)

    • Ha! The playbook does exactly what i need it to in my corporate IT environment; I was pretty stoked when I got it for cheap. Its an example of how consumer IT is a fashion statement for folks now-people feel out of fashion if they don’t have the same gizmo as everybody else…
      Mr. Pop recently posted..That’s Not Frugal, It’s Theft!My Profile

  • […] Buy Whatever You Want On Black Friday… at Planting Our Pennies […]

  • I love this way of thinking about shopping! I’d rather buy something of good quality that lasts a long time than to keep replacing a cheap version over and over.
    Maggie@SquarePennies recently posted..Cyber Monday Deals, Steals, and TipsMy Profile

  • Good tools and furniture last the test of time. Not for nothing our house is furnished with mostly vintage and antiques… and bought largely on the cheap.
    101 Centavos recently posted..Minimalists Make for Lousy NeighborsMy Profile

    • Yup, a good chunk of our home’s furniture was vintage/antique hand me downs from Mr. PoP’s family. THey have even more they’d give us if we had the space for it, too! Well, except for tools. Mr. PoP’s going to have to duel it out with other siblings over his dad’s tools someday – that is, if any of them can pry them from their dad in the coffin. jk =)

  • This post is extremely awesome! Right on, man! I love this — “things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like.” THat’s exactly what it feels like sometimes! It’s ridiculous. I also like the Fight Club REference, nice man, nice.
    TB at recently posted..Blue Collar Roundup — Alternative Modes of Transportation EditionMy Profile

  • I like this philosophy — so buy cars, TVs, boats? on black Friday but no clothes.
    Kathleen, Frugal Portland recently posted..Awesome Portland thing: Willamette Week’s Give Guide!My Profile

  • […] at Fix Em Up Rent Em Out included our post Buy Whatever You Want on Black Friday espousing Mr. PoP’s buy it for life (BIFL) philosophy in Don’t Let Them Silence The […]

  • […] Planting Our Pennies there’s a little rant on Black Friday — but it goes further than that to cover any spending you may do. Worth a read if […]

  • […] printing a new copy would be relatively cheap and easy. So this is definitely now a “buy it for life” […]

  • I don’t think quite like that, but I do really think a lot more heavily about purchases now and if I’m willing to give up my hard earned money for that purchase. More along the lines of what I read in Your Money or Your LIfe.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Happy Thanksgiving!My Profile

  • I’m going to say I ask myself the same question for the most part before I make a purchase. I not only research heavy on the dollar purchases but I ask myself whether I should spend the extra to get a better quality to have it potentially last longer and whether it’s something I’m going to be buying again. We bought a SMART TV a couple of years ago now for an amazing price but it will probably be a tv we will use until it’s death. We don’t keep buying technology just because, same with computers. Great post.
    canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..PF Friday Grab a Brew #48: How to ask for help when it comes to money successMy Profile

  • Great post. I love the question “is this the last one I’ll ever buy?” That’s a really good way to put it in perspective and simultaneously make sure you’re not buying cheap crap that will wear out in a year.
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..Saturday Morning Fever #1My Profile

  • Liz

    I am a big believer on buying quality.. We received a kitchenaid mixer for our wedding a few years ago and I think that will last us until the end of times. In general though we tend to look for quality. For example I have a winter jacket that I have had for several years. Really nice quality and I suspect I will use it for several more years.

  • […] Planting our Pennies channels the Wall Street Journal and republishes an editorial from last year’s Black Friday – a good one! […]

  • Built in obsolescence is the great nightmare to people who are trying to keep electronics for as long as possible. I have a regular television ( you know one of the fat ones before the thin screens) it’s 13″ or 15″ (I think) I had to purchase a digital convertor so that I could use it. I could have purchased a new t.v. but why would I do that? I love my t.v. On Black Friday it’s tricky because I find myself picking up sweaters or random things like 3 wick candles. They make me happy now, won’t last forever and that’s ok.
    Michelle recently posted..Black Friday Pay Off Challenge-Did I Succeed??My Profile

  • I bought a few things (two things I needed, shoes and iphone chargers), a couple shirts I wanted and will return if they don’t fit perfectly). I didn’t overspend and I fully anticipate returning some. But the prices were so cheap, how could I pass up the opportunity to snag a good deal now?

    I overspent filling up my cart to get free shipping, knowing that I will absolutely be returning certain items.
    Daniel recently posted..Save $25 on a $75 Amazon Purchase With American ExpressMy Profile

  • I think many people who participate in the Black Friday shopping frenzy buy as if it’s the last Black Friday ever. EACH TIME. It’s almost as if they’re stocking up for another Y2K scenario, but stocking up on electronics and other things that most likely wouldn’t help them survive. 😛

    The only shopping I did over the weekend was grocery shopping.
    MakintheBacon recently posted..GUEST POST: How to Weather a Windfall- Death, Taxes and YouMy Profile

  • I hate shopping in general, and I hate being rushed to replace something that I need NOW, so I tend to buy the best I can afford so I don’t have to replace them as often. When you spend more on something you enjoy using, you tend to take better care of it, with regular maintenance and watching for needed repairs before they get huge. I’m a tech professional, but I’m picky about what gadgets I buy. And if you can’t afford to maintain something properly, whether it’s a pet, a tool, or a toy, you should wait until you CAN before you buy it.