The Art of Wearing Things Out

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One of my favorite debates with my wife has to do with socks. I tend to wear my socks into oblivion – until they’re literally falling apart. Holes around the toes, deep wear on the heel – and I’ll still wear them. Since I only tend to wear them inside of shoes or around the privacy of my own home, I figure “Why not?” but my wife’s not necessarily so approving.

So I sat down with her to figure up the numbers on this one. My wife basically thinks that once a sock starts showing much wear at all, it should go. I, on the other hand, will wear socks into oblivion and even still have a few socks from my college years (2002) in rotation. So, we estimated that she thinks socks should go every year on average and I think they should go every three. If I have 12 pairs in rotation and I can get 12 pairs for $9.99, that means wearing my socks into oblivion saves $19.98 over that three year period.

Is that being cheap? Maybe. But it’s something that doesn’t bother me at all and, frankly, I enjoy the feel of well-worn socks on my feet.

What’s the real point here? There is a substantial amount of money to be made by using an item until it’s truly worn out. Let’s walk through just a few examples of this.

Automobiles I am still driving a 1997 Ford F-150 pickup with about 130,000 miles on it. I bought it as a late model used six years ago and I intend to drive it into oblivion, even though a big part of me wanted to replace it in about 2005 when I had problems with the brakes.

If I had replaced it then with a 2002 or 2003 model, as was my temptation, I would have had about $4,000 in trade value to get a $12,000 vehicle, costing me $8,000 in extra payments. That vehicle now would have a value of about $5,000 in trade. In other words, I would have spent about $8,000 to get a vehicle worth about $5,000 in trade right now.

Instead, I held onto it and I have a vehicle worth about $2,500 in trade right now. Basically, I saved $8,000 and only lost $2,500 in trade value – and that’s assuming I was able to pay cash for it, no debts. That’s $5,500 in my pocket for just driving my current truck for three years longer.

And, yes, I intend to keep driving it for quite a while. The only significant repair I’ve had on it since I got it were new brakes and a new alternator, but I might need a new back bumper soon as it’s showing a few spots of rust.

Clothing This goes beyond just socks. I tend to wear tee shirts much of the time, especially now that I’m working from home. I often wear these until they have large holes along the seams and such – and often I’ll even repair those holes with some thread and a needle. Even when they’re done, I’ll still keep them in a barrel in the garage to use as rags – they’re great for window cleaning and washing your car.

This is something, actually, that I learned from my parents – they do the same thing. But the cost savings really add up. Aside from work clothes, my clothes budget is miniscule. Most of the new tee shirts that are rotated into my wardrobe are given as gifts for birthdays or Christmas or else I just buy whatever might fit me at a yard sale or a consignment shop or some other place on the cheap. I do the same with jeans – I wear them until there are lots of holes in them (which apparently makes me look “trendy” and “real” with today’s teenagers, which I find somewhat amusing).

This doesn’t mean I don’t have nice clothes in my closet – I do. But most of the time, I feel quite content to wear jeans and a tee shirt – and wear them into oblivion. As a result, my clothes budget is very tiny – and that ends up being a huge savings.

Equipment My wife and I currently use a push lawnmower that we bought at a yard sale for $5. I read some documentation about how they work, asked some questions, and managed to get the thing running – and it’s entering its second year of use. A friend gave us a broken snowblower and I actually managed to get it functioning for a short while – and I intend to tackle it again.

A little bit of know-how can extend the life of your equipment quite a lot. Taking the time to read the manual and understand how something works ends up putting cash in your pocket.

Games My wife and I enjoy playing video games, but we focus on ones with a ton of replay value, like Guitar Hero, for example. This basically means that we get our money’s worth out of titles and keep enjoying them over a long period of time.

For me personally, I enjoy thinking games with a lot of replay value, like the amazing Desktop Tower Defense or any of the Advance Wars games on my Nintendo DS. I can keep playing them over and over again because they offer a lot of thinking and nearly infinite choices, forcing me to stretch my mind and keeping me coming back for more.

Because of this, we don’t need to invest much in games. We’re perfectly happy to buy used, older games with high replay value and play those – pretty much my entire Nintendo DS library is used games bought for very little, for instance. Plus, since we focus on games with near-infinite replay value, they don’t really wear out – we can continue playing them for many years to come.

We also enjoy card games, particularly with our extended family. Those provide tons of replay value and it takes a lot of play to wear out a deck of cards.

In a nutshell, when you buy an item, ask yourself if you’ll be using it until it truly wears out. If you are, then it’s likely going to be a frugal purchase. If you’re not sure or are pretty sure you won’t … do you really need that item?

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72 thoughts on “The Art of Wearing Things Out

  1. I agree with you to a point.

    I, too, tend to use things until they’re decidedly showing signs of their age, and sometimes beyond that. But I think the following conditions require replacement, even if the object isn’t completely at the end of it’s life:

    1. It’s unsafe. I just replaced my car (a used 1995 Buick, bought used in 2003) because I do the occasional road trip in the summer and I wasn’t sure I could drive it from Montreal to Toronto without it breaking down on me. I’d already replaced several major parts over the last year, and things were starting to break at a rate that worried me.

    2. It impacts your work. I used to teach English to businesspeople, going in to their companies and giving my lessons in boardrooms. A lot of these companies had formal office dress (or at least business casual), and I had to dress to match. I couldn’t come in with my ratty clothes, because it would have reflected poorly on my company (and we wouldn’t have gotten the contract renewed).

    3. It impacts your health. My running shoes are currently completely worn through, but to be honest, I should have replaced them about a year ago. I do so much walking that bad shoes are likely to give me foot, knee, and hip problems in the long run, and that’s not something I’m willing to accept.

    I’m sure there are a few other conditions I’m forgetting, but those are the big three (at least to me). I’m generally a pretty frugal person, but when it comes to my safety, health, and work image, I’m willing to put down a few extra dollars where needed.

  2. I agree with you about the vehicle and even lawnmower, but the socks and t-shirts – wearing them with holes, etc., sounds really gross to me. Anyone with any amount of self-respect just would not do that.

  3. I have some clothing that’s older than I am and I still drive a 1995 Jeep that I plan on keeping until it can’t be repaired.

    One of the biggest pitfalls in this category is technology. People spend way too much on keeping up with the newest computers and handhelds. I would recommend that anyone who uses a PC take some time to learn how to replace basic parts in their computer. Over the long run this can offer tremendous savings because you don’t need to take it to a shop when it breaks down and you don’t need to purchase a new one when a critical part fails.

  4. I can’t do that with socks. They go when they get a real hole in them. At the same time, I always wear socks and holes really bother me, so it’s more of a comfort thing than not wanting to wear ratty clothes.

    I like the suggestions though for the other topics. I still wear a t-shirt from 6th grade (I’m 22 now), and it reminds me of the Golden Boy clip from Seinfeld that Get Rich Slowly posted a few weeks ago.

  5. I do agree on wearing things out, but not to the point of looking like a homeless person.
    I used to have a coworker that had holes in his shoes and shirts, he was not frugal he was just cheap ,he would rather buy football tickets that new clothes. He lost a lot of credibility just for dressing like that, some people even thought he was kind of mentally ill because a “normal” person will not show up to work looking like that.

  6. All I can think of when you talk about wearing things into Oblivion is that you’d be much better off with a nice suit of steel armor, or even Orcish if you can find a suit.

    … I hope I’m not the only one who gets it..

  7. Sandy, if you don’t want to wear socks with holes in them, that’s nobody’s business but yours. But questioning other people’s self respect is a pretty serious accusation.

    I could not imagine replacing all my socks every year. That seems excessive to me. But I also have more than 12 pairs of socks, so each pair lasts a bit longer.

  8. I get grief from my wife as well when I won’t throw away clothes that have seen better days. I’ve always wondered if that tends to be a male thing. I have an alarm clock that someone gave to me and the material on the front, covering the speakers, was torn and had holes in it. I just took the front off and glued on some new material, but she thinks I need a new one. We also have an office chair that had the back rest break off, while she thought we should just replace it, I glued it back together and added a metal strap to prevent it from breaking again. I think using things until they’re truly in need of replacement is a great way to save money. I would like to mention that I agree with Julie on the safety aspect for replacing items.

  9. With regard to socks: Clipping your toenails very regularly must be the biggest life-prolonger for socks there is. I also mend my socks, then tend to throw them away when the mend is wearing out. The average lifespan of a sock that way is about 3 years – 5-6 years on high-end Bridgedale outdoor socks.

    I don’t “do holes” in the clothes I wear. I reuse old cotton t-shirts and underwear for:

    dish rags
    general cleaning rags
    finishing furniture
    polishing my car after waxing
    ditto for my bicycle

    I use cut-up cotton dress shirts for cleaning glass – best material there is!

    Other than that, I have found that in the consumer society we are surrounded by, there is something of a psychological turning point between the first and the second half of an item’s life – when the item starts to look noticeably used, but is still working fine, and really only needs a good maintenance session – cleaning, oiling, polishing, adjusting, whatever. The point where Mr/Ms Normal Consumer say: “I really need a new one” – sometimes because they do not have the maintenance skills, however easy these might be, or because they want an excuse for shopping.

    I have to say I am not always successful with NOT replacing an item at that point, but with those items I do not replace, I end up being much more attached to psychologically, and then really heartbroken when I have to throw them away.

    Not sure I am making much sense here. But basically, I buy all my stuff with the intention of wearing it out. I succeed about half the time in doing so.

  10. I just have a little quibble with your choice of words here: “Because of this, we don’t need to invest much in games.”

    Is buying a videogame, a depreciating asset that loses a larger percentage of its value than driving a new car off the lot, really an investment? I think maybe part of the problem this country is in right now is because people think that everyday purchases are investments when they aren’t at all. I even suspect this perversion of the word came from marketing people trying to get us further into debt to buy things.

  11. There’s beauty in the lived-in, as the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic reminds us. Teenagers instinctively understand that the wear and tear in “hip” jeans make them personal, as if they were worn by a human being rather than a model.

    Freshly minted objects often look slick and sterile. I try to buy used whenever possible, so that I’m not tempted to look for reasons to replace my possessions before they’ve genuinely outlived their usefulness.

    In California, but maybe in other places, there’s a chain of clothing stores called Shabby Chic — the name says it all.

  12. An investment in a darning egg and some thread will make the socks more comfortable post-blowout.

    But the replacement rate is soley based on the quantity and quality of the socks you have. Spend a little more on good quality socks that will hold up, and have enough pairs that you aren’t wearing the same pair 3 times a week, and they’ll last a good long time.

  13. I don’t get it. Why would you put a new bumper on a truck that is more than 10 years old? The old bumper is perfectly functional.

    To understand your wife’s attitude about socks think about the pantyhose she wears.

  14. Ha. You remind me of my husband. :)

    I think there’s a human need to surround ourselves with shiny new stuff. I am very guilty of often succumbing to that need, but I am slowly getting better.

  15. What if you had traded the F150 for a much more fuel-efficient vehicle, though? Over the years you might have saved more than the difference in fuel costs, depending how much you drive.

  16. I have a question about your push mower – do you know how to sharpen the blades on it? We have one that’s a few years old, but haven’t been using it much because the blades are dull and I am not sure what to do with it. :0) Thanks!

  17. I agree with you on the socks thing, 100%. Until the socks get holes in them, I wear them. I just threw out a pair of socks that probably dates back to the late 1990′s – it was the last surviving oddball pair that didn’t match any of the other socks in the drawer.

    I also typically hold on to undershirts even if they get a little rip in them – there are two that have a dime sized tear in them, but they are undershirts and the point of them is that no one ever sees them. Plus, they are a nice brand and very soft. Until those holes gets big enough that I can put a fist through them, they are not going anywhere.

    I would be a little nervous about the car though – I hate the idea of possibly breaking down on the highway or something like that, so the trade in to the 2003 model might have been something I jumped on personally. I guess my experience driving a 1979 Volkswagon Rabbit and doing my part to bankrupt AAA may have slanted my opinions though. In seriousness, that car broke down a few times and I ended up missing a concert that I had paid $100 a ticket for (and three friends in the car missed it too). I guess we all have to find our comfort zones.

  18. Interesting comments!
    We had a Toyota truck which went through two blown engines before it was scrapped. We didn’t have a choice about keeping it, though. When it was finally taken to the junk yard my husband tried to get $200 for it. The guy opened the hood, pointed to the oil squirting all over the engine and offered $50. Hubbie grabbed it and took off! The next car [slowly] leaked transmission fluid from the get go, but, again, it was all we could afford. Now, having been able to squirrel away significant funds, we were able to get a late model Prius through Craigslist REALLY cheap by paying cash. Love it.
    I totally agree with Julie regarding assessing the impact on safety, health, work.
    Obviously, with mechanical items another issue is maintainance costs. Old cars are becoming dicier because of the rising cost of fuel, oil, parts. You do have to think it through, save your money, and keep your eye out for a bargain.

  19. I agree with you on some of this. I work at home and have few face-to-face dealings with clients. How I dress doesn’t affect my work, so I buy used clothes and wear them out. My husband has to go into an office every day and doesn’t have that “luxury.”

    However, some of what you’re saying involves time.

    My parents are born frugal. They buy almost everything used or get it off freecycle or off someone’s lawn and keep fixing it until it wears out. My father enjoys tinkering and recently retired, so he has the time to spend to get his lawnmower or his chainsaw running when he needs them. He also has time to barter working on things he understands (computers) with others who can better work on his tools.

    My husband and I don’t have that time. We have kids and jobs and other commitments, and we don’t enjoy tinkering, so we have to pay to get things repaired. Once it starts costing more to get things repaired than it would to get a new (or good-quality used) item, we chuck it.

    This drives my father crazy — but of course he usually gets our castoffs.

  20. It’s not just a guy thing. I bought a new SAAB right out of college. Drove the thing for 210,000 miles. In fact, loaded the kid, dog and DH in the car for the trip around the block to watch it roll to 200,000. Traded it in on a 1997 Buick that we paid cash for. It now has 205,000 on it and I am thinking of getting a new one. I’m in no rush now but I doubt it will handle another winter in Minnesota. DH is pretty handy so reliability isn’t a real issue.

  21. Trent,

    Some ideas are good. I agree with almost you say except for the clothing. I think when you go outside of the house, you should not be wearing socks with holes in them or t-shirts looking like rags. I have to side with your wife on this one. Socks should not be kept for three years. Once a year replacement sounds about right. I agree with Julie, that although you didn’t mention shoes, I would imagine, you probably keep them until they have holes on the bottom. Unfortunately shoes with no support often lead to more expensive problems like knee, ankles and foot problems. I totally agree with you regarding the car as long as you don’t do long distant driving (one way driving more than 200 to 400 miles.) I agree that you keep your car until it has at least 200,000 miles on it. I have a 2000 Ford Expedition with 187,000 miles on it. Its nice not to have a car payment . . . for now. This post passes on some very important lessons to our children on how to value money and the importance of frugality.

  22. I was just visiting my grandmother, and I said something about needing to get out the sunscreen soon. She brought me a bag with 5 or 6 bottles of used sunscreen to see if I would use them up. The expiry dates were all between 1984 and 1988. I’m proud of her — she didn’t even argue when I said they were too old and should be thrown out. She sure has loosened up about that now that she is 94!

    I think the point is not whether you wear your socks until they nearly have holes or actually have holes. The point is to not replace things just for the sake of having something newer. Get all the life out of the object that you reasonably can. I would add that these items should be things you are using — if you are not using them, even if they have some life left in them, they are just clutter to you and it is better to send them off to someone who can use them. I read a really great comment somewhere (maybe here) about clutter — the person said she uses Goodwill for storage.

  23. @Charity
    Take a file and sharpen the part where it bends (towards the ends, not the middle) much like you would a knife. I just did ours last weekend. You might find it easier to take the blade off the mower the first time, if you do just remember not to try to stop the blade from spinning by grabbing the “sharp” part.

  24. I don’t understand the aversion to holey socks. If they are clean and the holes are hidden inside my shoes, why should anybody care but me?

    I wear socks to keep from getting blisters and/or keep my feet warm (at the right time of year). As long as they are still comfortable and are serving their purpose, I will wear them with holes. They look perfectly respectable unless you’ve got x-ray vision.

  25. Somethings I’ll wear out and others I won’t. I wore out my 16 year old Nissan before buying another used car. I wear out older clothes around the house whether I’m doing work or just lounging so my nicer clothes stay nice. I’ve got a toaster oven I used in college.

    But I don’t wear out running shoes cause I’ve learned my knees need support and I can only get that from new shoes every 4-6 months. I’m also picky about the socks I wear. I play a lot of tennis – I need thick socks or I get blisters – so I’m getting new Thor-los every year.

    I guess some things will cost more in the long run if you wear them out. For instance a knee replacement is a lot more costly that a new pair of $90 sneakers every 4 months. Not everyone needs new, expensive shoes 3 times a year, but I’ve learned I do and I’m not skimping. You can have my 4 month old sneakers if you want :)

  26. On the lawnmower…just take the blade to your hardware store and they’ll sharpen it – it isn’t much – less than $20 I think – call ahead and see how much and how long it’ll take (cause you might need to cut your grass first).

    What you have to do is put on a pair of work gloves (so you don’t bust your knuckles). Turn your mower over and write with a Sharpie which side of the blade is facing out. This way when you put it back on you won’t put it on upside down. Then take a wrench and take the blade off. Wrap it in newspaper and take it to the hardware store – they’ll sharpen it in a few days (or maybe while you wait) and then you put it back on. Voila!!

  27. Since I walk everywhere in New York, my shoes go quickly. I’ve learned to walk on heels that are worn down to the nub. As long as no one else can tell, I’ll still wear them. I also buy a few decent, quality pair of shoes from a name-brand retailer, then get what I call my ‘staples’ from Payless. Same with bags and clothes. I also take clothes out of rotation for a season, then get them out again the following the year to keep them fresher and more interesting to me to wear.

  28. My socks are a mess too, I rarely throw them out until they’ve all but fallen off my feet. Plus I prefer to go barefoot around the house, even in winter, so my husband is rarely subjected to their horrors.

    I take old clothes and cut them up for dust rags or to mend other clothes. I had a dress I loved, but was just too low cut. I sewed in a little bit of lace from an old tank and get so many compliments on how cute it is, everyone thinks it came that way.

    I also rarely buy food unless I can make at least 2 recipes from it. We’re having hamburgers and mushrooms to night, I’ll use the leftover ingredients to make stuffed pepper cups. If I’m low on meat, I’ll just stuff it with more mushrooms and rice with some cheese. My husband never notices as long as it takes good.

    Trent, how is your cooking blog coming along?

  29. I now just buy my socks, other than white sport socks, at Clarks-Bostonian outlets. They have a lifetime guarantee! If you get a hole in them, take both socks back out of the pair, and they will give you a free new pair. Essentially, the Craftsman guarantee of socks. Now, to continue saving money, just resist buy a new pair of shoes every time you go in.

  30. I agree with everything except for the clothing. I like the adage “use it up wear it out make do or do without”. I do buy much of my wardrobe second hand, but I look for nice things that fit well. Clothes don’t fit well when they lose their stretchiness, or their yarn memory. Ever since I’ve paid attention to the way that I look, which includes getting rid of clothes with yellow underarms, holes, and stains, I have gained more respect in the workplace. Also, I feel that my husband deserves to look at me looking nice. I shouldn’t just dress nice for others and look like a slob for him. After all, I want to impress him more than anyone else. I use our nice things, like silverware and china, for him too. My grandmother impressed that upon me when she was in her seventies and said “what am I saving all this for? Someone special? HE is special!”.
    Other than that, I agree, we should keep things as long as they work.

  31. My grandfather (my frugal mentor) taught me at a young age to really squeeze all the value of something that you can. It was a great lesson. I remember his garage being full of things most people would have tossed, such as an oversized coffee can to catch oil, baby food jars to store various sizes of screws and washers, and scraps of wood he saved to brace doors, use as kindling when we camped, etc. He NEVER threw anything away that had some useful life in it, and finding that useful life was the source of a lot of his creativity.

  32. Reading everyone’s posts reminds me of what seems to be a common philosophy amongst those who are frugal these days. We are all really conducting our lives much as our parents/grandparents did during those hard years of the 1930′s and 40′s. That old saying is so true: “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Do without”.

  33. forget socks, wear sandals. broken sandal strap? contact cement can put ‘em back together.

    how to sharpen lawnmower blades: http://www.ehow.com/how_118240_sharpen-power-mower.html

    it’s even easier if you have or can find someone with a power-grinder. but it may be more cost-effective to pay someone who knows what they’re doing, unless you’ve sharpened big objects before.

  34. Yeah, the sock thing–to each his own. :) But Trent, I laughingly take offense to the statement about ‘today’s teenagers.’ I think you are younger than (or close to the same age as) i am, there’s no need to sound so old already. If i recall correctly, I had hole-y jeans when I was a teenager too (less than ten years ago). Do people just automatically start talking like that when they get married/have kids??

  35. You don’t have to choose between wearing socks with holes and throwing them out – you can darn them. I do this routinely – keeping your toenails short also limits the holes. I wear hand-knit wool socks in winter – they wear fantasticly well, and if they get holes (which mostly they don’t) I darn them – they are still comfortable and look fine (the darned bits are in the foot under the shoe, so you can’t tell) after up to 10 years. I can’t see the point of replacing anything that can be mended.

    I have a hierarchy of t-shirts – those with immovable stains are relegated to wearing under jumpers (sweaters). Holes in the seams are mended, and when they get holes in the body of the t-shirt, I’ll either applique something over it if it’s a really good t-shirt, or chop them up for handkerchiefs. Old t-shirts make the best hankies for when you have a cold – much softer than normal hankies or tissues (kleenex).

  36. I think that the best car window cleaner is still the ol’ newspaper and vinegar water trick.

    And I agree with Sense…I am 26 and TOTALLY still a fan of the holey and ragged jeans.

  37. There is no way that a new car can be worth the price without driving it for at least ten years. Certain clothing and shoes can last a lifetime, if cared for properly. Shoemaker do wonders, and so do tailors. There is another motivation to buy everything used, now that it is seen as an energy savings. Plus you are not making wasteful corporations rich.

  38. Eek! I really don’t want to be negative, because I’m very much a fan of wearing things out, but… with the holey clothing, I can’t help but think that your wife deserves to see you looking nice, too, not just the outside world. I know I appreciate it when my hub makes an effort to look decent (not dressed up, just not in gardening clothes) even though I’m the only one to see him. Your old tees can still make great cleaning rags, or you can sew baby clothes from them.

  39. Some of your posts make me feel that you take frugality a step to far. I also wear the same t-shirts for quite sometime, but if the seams are ripping… Wait for the Old Navy year end sale and get some new $2 shirts! You have made several posts about how much you value personal appearance and I think extending frugality to such and extreme definitely compromises the way that people see you.

    That aside, I’m definately a used car driver and a fan of fixing things up (partly because I enjoy tinkering)

  40. I definitely have clothes that I remember wearing in 9th grade (I’m a few years out of college now), mostly because I haven’t grown much since (except maybe I got a bit wider…oops!) So that I’m kind of doing, but when I do buy clothes, I don’t buy too much, just stuff that looks good and can be worn in different situations.
    As for the car, I’m putting off buying a car as long as possible. I take public transportation, which does mean I have to deal with crummy weather and longer commutes, but I like to think that in the long run this helps because I’m able to put away more money now.
    And desktop tower defense? Yeah, that game is dangerously addictive!

  41. @Cyde Weys

    I think games are an investment as well, but not necessarily in a financial sense. My wife and play Wii quite a bit and it’s a fun activity for us. Other than the purchase price of the unit, and the occasional game (every 6 months or so) it’s a free, fun activity. We’re interacting, enjoying ourselves, etc.

    So, investment in my marriage vs investment in the market.

  42. I do this with pantyhose. I usually wear dress pants to work, so I don’t care if there are runners or holes as long as they can’t be seen when I’m sitting. Most of the time, clothes are made so they won’t last. So get as much out of them as possible so long as you don’t look unkempt in public!

  43. Socks with holes go immediately – I hate it when my toe gets strangled in a hole!

    My clothes graduate through stages:
    1) nice, new t-shirt I’d wear to a family gathering or out in public
    2) decent enough to wear running or camping or playing softball
    3) to be worn using the chainsaw, cleaning the barn, changing the oil, mowing the lawn, etc.
    4) a rag

    I try to get as much life out of my jeans, sweats, t-shirts shorts and shoes as I can. What drives me CRAZY is replaing running shoes. General thinking is running shoes need to be replaced every 300-400 miles. Failing to do so can lead to stress injuries – it’s the one piece of running “equipment” you really can’t skimp on. I’m a low mileage runner, but even at just 30-40 miles a week, a pair of $75-$100 shoes only lasts 10-12 weeks. Of course I recycle my running shoes into various stages just like my t-shirts, but it still hurts to spend that much for a pair of shoes that probably cost no more than $10 to manufacture.

  44. You’ve got to be careful with holey socks. I don’t know about where you live, but a lot of people here expect you to take your shoes off when you visit their house. Or maybe I just know a lot of asians and people with expensive carpet?

  45. I hang on to my clothes forever, too, as does my husband. We tend to buy classics that are always in style (chinos, polos, khakis and jeans). We may not be trendy, but we always look respectable.
    I had the same pair of Nikes for 5 years, and I wore them almost daily! It broke my heart to get rid of them, but the soles were detaching from the actual shoes. I still miss that pair…
    I am currently making a rug for my kitchen out of old t-shirts that had stains and holes. It’s looking pretty awesome thus far-and it’s cheap entertainment.
    I just bought your Better Blogging book-it’s been helpful thus far! It’s very easy to read and to keep interested in.

  46. Funny you should pick socks – socks are one of very few “luxury items” I allow myself. I’ve noticed that when my feet are in nice, fluffy, comfy socks, my day just seems to go better. I pay around the same 9.99 a dozen you do, so to my way of thinking, that $10 a year is a bargain price on turning those “on the edge” days we all have into “good day” instead of “bad day”.

    I suspect we all have one or two of these little expenses we find worthwhile. You’re bang-on center with the rest of it. Just traded my “driven into the ground” Volvo (1990 240DL) on a 2000 Toyota Corolla with 49,000 miles. I expect I should be able to get at least a decade out of it.

  47. Since I walk everywhere in New York, my shoes go quickly. I’ve learned to walk on heels that are worn down to the nub. As long as no one else can tell, I’ll still wear them. I also buy a few decent, quality pair of shoes from a name-brand retailer, then get what I call my ’staples’ from Payless.
    ———————————-
    Innovative Traveler,(comment #29), when I lived in NYC I would take my brand new shoes to the shoe repair shop, or then later I would get my own heel caps and put them on. I liked metal caps in NYC since they wear well, but in the rest of the world I switched to rubber. Really extends the life of the shoe heels. People actually do notice worn heels on shoes, and it will eventually throw off your gait. Also, it isn’t expensive to get new heels put on good shoes.

    I found it cheaper in the long run to spend good money on high-quality, leather shoes and maintain them then buy a bunch of cheap shoes for everyday use.

  48. I agree with you up to a point.

    Low-tech things, like your socks are fine to wear out. I don’t particularly like my furniture, but until my bum falls through the sofa, I’m not buying a new one.

    But technology marches on.

    I love my 1999 Saturn, but I’m on the verge of buying a Prius. The price of gas is rising, and I spend half of my 7 mile commute stopped at traffic lights fuming about the gas I’m wasting whilst idling. The gas savings may not ever pay off a new car, but I also consider it insurance of a sorts: So far, I’ve only had to replace the tires and brakes, but in a 10 year old car that can’t last forever.

    I switched to Vonage for Voice over IP phone service to save money, which was good, but then found out that my Wi Fi was interfering with my 2.4 Ghz wireless phone, which was bad. In doing a little research, I found that some phone makers (very few) have started making Energy Star compliant cordless phones. I purchased one of these, a Dect 6.0 made by Vtech, and now I’m saving a little on electricity and a lot on phone service. The phone is excellent, and Vonage is the best quality phone service I have ever had.

  49. I darn my socks and keep older t-shirts to wear around the house or to bed in cold weather. Then when they have stains that won’t come out and are beginning to get too many holes, they become cleaning cloths. I work from home so can be fairly laid back in my clothing, but anything worn outside the house must be clean, well fitted, suit me and be in good condition. One way of stopping clothing from fading is to wash in cold water and dry items inside out so the sun can’t fade them.

    Luckily many clothing items last a very long time if looked after properly. I have high heeled shoes that are 15 years old, however they only get worn about twice a month and only indoors. I have two Oroton handbags that I bought second hand 8 years ago that are still look brand new due to regular application of a leather nourishing cream and a couple of trips to the shoemaker for minor repairs. I treat my shoes the same way. Not only do you get more wear, they look better for longer. Fabric jackets and blazers will last for years if you work mainly indoors and look after them properly (hung on wooden or padded hangers, repaired immediately there is a problem and dry cleaned), and I have a leather jacket that was given to me 15 years ago second hand that still looks immaculate because I have looked after it. I do agree with regularly replacing walking or running shoes. It’s cheaper in the long run than having joint problems.

    All in all, I am a firm believer in using things until they wear out or become unsafe. The toaster given to me second hand 15 years ago and the dining table I bought second hand in 1987 are testament to that.

  50. Randy says he still wears a tee shirt from the sixth grade if i did that it would only cover my chest.:) The car idea I’m working on driving a 1997 Dodge Intrepid into the ground. I paid cash for it in 2003 and have kept up on all the major & minor repairs. It has about 130,000 miles on it on it’s way to a million. Wish me luck!

  51. One point you didn’t mention with respect to keeping the car was if you would experience better gas milage. In some cases, depending on what you’re going to replace, you will see better gas milage with a newer vehicle. Given today’s prices, that could become a significant advantage.

    I also agree with the reliability and safety.
    My breaking point is when I’m putting almost as much into the car as it’s book value just to keep it running.

  52. The secret life of bath towels: 1. Buy nice fluffy slightly used ones at yard sales for $2.00 or much less. Use them over and over. I line dry laundry most of the year instead of using the dryer which is cheaper, uses no electricity and extends the life of towels. That lint in your dryer trap is part of the surface of your towels wearing away. 2. When the towels become thin and worn, they’re demoted to dish drying towels (we don’t have a mechanical dish washer, wash the dishes over a dish pan, dry with towel and immediately put in cupboard, and then throw the dish pan full of water outside on plants) 3. When dish towels become very worn they’re cut in smaller pieces and become rags which we use instead of buying dish washing cloths or paper towels. 4. Since the towels purchased in the beginning are 100% cotton, when the the rags become shreds, they’re tossed into the compost pile and become humus for the garden. THAT’S THE SECRET LIFE OF BATH TOWELS AROUND HERE. My current favorite bath towel, a huge, fluffy amethyst colored one, was FREE. At a yard sale, I spotted it soaking wet, on top of the barrel of trash on the curb. Someone had used to to wipe up a small spill of white wall paint and tossed it into the trash. Towel came home, was washed in hot soapy water and line dryed. I’ve used it for six months and this towel always makes me fee happy, both the pretty color and the price! I’m off to Europe next week for a vacation, mostly insulated against the meteoric rise of the Euro by a life of thrift. Saving money is an amusing challenge for me, a game: how to look elegant, stylish and rich on a financial shoestring!

  53. I agree.I darn socks because finding a sock that will fit my DH’s foot and calf at the same time is a a miracle in and of itself.It end up modifying the ones that do not fit .Jeans are worn to tatters.Autos kept at least ten years. Wear it out,wash it up and give it to Goodwill.They will sell the rags by the pound which keeps them out of the landfill.We have a bin store where you can buy items at 75 cents which is where a lot of our clothes come from in the first place.

  54. The good thing about running the numbers is you can come to a different conclusion based on your values. You might see that $20 over 3 years as money in the bank, but your wife might see it as only $20 for much more comfort for her feet. Different strokes for different folks.

  55. @Jillian: Hah, less. I remember when Wolfowitz was caught with holey socks when he had to take his shoes off in a mosque.

  56. I pay off my discover card each month and they give me 1-5% cashback on all my purchases. I’ll trade my cashback in for a gift card to some clothing company like Gap or American Eagle (which usually increases the value, i.e. I trade in $20 of Cashback for a $25 card- or 25% added). So, I basically haven’t “paid” more than a few dollars for any new clothes in a few years.

  57. Further on the topic of socks, I used to know how to knit socks when I was a child, then forgot the technique (especially how to do the heel flap). Anyway, I went researching on the web today, and realised that:

    There are many very easy instructions around (with photos), which make it easy to knit your own socks if you know how to knit at all (google “knit socks heel”);

    It’s possible to re-inforce home-knit socks by adding a thin extra yarn to heel and top, or simply doubling up whatever yarn you use (also phantastically comfy on the feet, as I then remembered from my childhood);

    Apart from darning, it is also possible to fix home-knitted socks by simply re-knitting damaged parts.

    I think I will re-start knitting as soon as I can track the yarn and a proper set of needles – sadly, haberdashery stores and properly stocked haberdashery departments in larger stores are fast disappearing…

  58. I have two pairs of socks in “rotation” that I purchased in 1999. Neither of them has a hole yet! In the past few years, I’ve been trying to replace my college wardrobe trends with just a few high-quality pieces.

  59. I’m sure you never wore holey t-shirts when you were dating your wife. Now, with two kids, and you working from home, don’t take your wife for granted. Look presentable for your wife’s sake and wear clothing that doesn’t make you look like a ragamuffin. (don’t think that’s a real word but you get my point.)
    Yvie

  60. I have this rule: Holes in any clothes, GARBAGE. Im a woman and belive me im not a fashion one!. I dont spend huge amounts of money in clothes, but wearing something with holes in it, makes me fell cheap, poor, an miserable! :)
    No holes, please.

  61. Computer equipment is one place where I constantly see people replacing things before their end of life. I consider myself a hardcore power user. I push my PC and hard. Yet, the only thing I can’t do on my 6 year old computer is play some of the latest video games.

    I regularly see computers thrown out that are only a year or two old. Often the only problem with the computer is viruses or Windows cruft (build up of junk on Windows over time.) Using the manufacturer’s system restore CD would have made them work like new.

  62. I think the obvious solution here is just to sew up any holes with plain needle and thread. It takes about 2 minutes and you can maximize the life of all your clothes without looking bad. Even if you don’t do a great job, you can still wear them around the house and not worry about the holes getting bigger.

    While I do think it’s important to get the most out of clothes, I refuse to keep any clothing that doesn’t flatter me or make me feel great when I wear them (excluding tshirts and such that I can downgrade to house clothes or rags). I’m in the process of clearing out these kinds of clothes from my wardrobe and carefully replacing them with quality, classic pieces. It’s an expensive and seemingly wasteful process, but worthwhile in the long run. There’s no point in cluttering your closet with ugly, useless clothing just to get your money’s worth out of them.

  63. Amazing how most of us are zeroing in on your socks.

    With regards to wearing socks with holes in disregard of your wife’s feelings – I have to agree with yvie comment #62; how would you feel to see your wife with ratty undergarments all the time when you would prefer she wear nice lingerie? How would you feel taking your children somewhere with holes in their shirts? I note the comment that you like the feel of well-worn socks — perhaps you can find a brand you enjoy right out of the package? I don’t wear socks except in the coldest of weather (which isn’t around here!) but my son does. Whenever he gets below 11 white socks, I buy another packet of the same brand, give them a wash with the 11 other socks and toss them all in the sock drawer. Therefore – he doesn’t have PAIRS of socks, he merely has socks – of which he choses two to wear. When they get holey, I take them out of the wash-drawer cycle and find an alternate use for them — they make great duster mitts and pretty good pet hair removal from upholstry (hint – turn inside out). The appearance of a hole moves the socks from well-worn to ratty and unacceptable. If I could knit or darn . . . well, I probably wouldn’t.

    Cars — keep it as long as possible. I have 9 year-old, bought-used Passat with 85,000 miles which I have no plans to replace anytime within the next decade. I think the main keys are regular maintenance and use your bike/car pool/ public transport when more appropriate.

    Equipment — umm. I don’t have much of those. I have a DVD player I use for TV and stereo, 2 Plug & Play games for the boy, a portable DVD player with a broken screen that I use to play CDs . . . nope, not much equipment (I don’t have a yard, don’t like toast, and prefer not to use a microwave — although I have considered a countertop toaster oven).

    Games — besides the 2 Plug & Play games gifted to my boy, our games are board games like Snakes & Ladders, Checkers, Sorry, Yatzhee, Kill Dr. Lucky, Pick Up Sticks, dominos, dice and card games. I also count our book – The Big Book of Games as useful here. While I’m against video games for my boy for personal reasons, I have even considered purchasing a Wii in a few years based on the information provided by Trent’s comment within TheSimpleDollar.

  64. Another idea for worn out clothing is quilts.
    I have made quilts from old jeans and t-shirts. If your t-shirts have sentimental value this is a fun way to go.

    I also can’t wear holey socks very long or I will get blisters.

  65. okay, okay…. I don’t even know how to repair holes in socks. (mainly because I just throw them out – aren’t they a bit uncomforatble?) My daughter has been wearing a teeny tiny big toe hole in each of her tights and I just hand over my sewing needs to my mother-in-law. She is from Germany and uses a ‘special’ (?) thread for sock holes. Anybody know anything about this thread?

    My partner has learned from his frugal parents and I am learning from him, but I have to sometimes stop him in the sake of all that is classy, safe and sane and ask him to not wear the cheesy undergraduate-looking holey clothes (we are graduate student/working parents). I happen to think that somehow somewhere people should be able to distinguish a PhD candidate from a freshman! (Or?). I am talking about *my* undergraduate Tshirts from the 90s that I tried to throw out.

  66. Automobiles…
    My husband and I buy used cars and drive them until the wheels are about to fall off. My last car was a 1998 Toyota Camry I bought in 2003 for $5000 (77K miles). My previous car had been totaled (1994 Corolla, 178K miles). The Camry was in excellent condition and got 28 miles per gallon, and I just now had to replace it. It had 202,500 miles on it (yes, I have to drive ALOT). The transmission went out and was going to cost $1400. We sold it for $500.
    Our cars might not be as fancy as some in my family, but they are good, reliable, and do what cars are meant to do: get you from point A to point B.
    Our philosophy is paying for maintenance and repairs such as timing belts, brakes, etc.. is DARN SURE better than a car payment!! Other people’s cars may be newer or nicer, but one thing to remember is: Is their car paid for????

  67. I try to do this as much as possible. I have been sick of my car for about two years now. I finally gave in and replaced it after much effort maintaining it.

    I bought it new in January of 2000 (never buying a new car again) with 4 miles on it. I traded it in back in February with over 187,000.

    The door handles were breaking, the engine was making noise, power windows were sketchy at best, the window and door controls on the door on the driver side were falling apart. Those things alone didn’t cause me to replace it.

    I put a new fuel filter, O2 sensor, catalytic converter, serpentine belt, and made a handful of other repairs on it in the last two years.

    I live 150 miles from the closest city. I live in South Texas. The air conditioner was out. As I was driving 3 hours home one weekend in January, and realized the summer was quickly approaching, and realized it would cost me $2,000 to replace the A/C, in addition to the other needed repairs.

    The peace of mind that I would get in replacing it felt like it would be worth it. I hate that I went into debt to replace it, but I found a used 2006 GMC Canyon with just under 12,000 miles on it for $12,000 and got $1,000 trade-in for my car.

    My cell phone is ancient. I buy $10 shoes at Wal Mart and wear them out. :)

  68. My favorite sock tip is to always buy two sets of the same pair. When you lose one, you still have two others to mate up.

    I just started wearing diabetic socks purchased at six pairs for #12 on eBay. They’re comfortable.

    Oh yeah, I usually wear socks long past their expiration dates.

  69. what is the lifespan of a bath towel? i have a ranger with over 200,000 original engine miles. 1996 to be precise still runs decent

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