Zen and the Art of Item Replacement

My family has only one television in the house, and it is primarily used for playing Wii games. It’s an enormous, extremely heavy old 32″ television, bought when I was in college and now approaching ten years old. In all four corners, the screen has begun to turn faintly blue, and it shows up particularly well on a white screen, as the cloudiness covers a good portion of the screen.

Not too long ago, I would have insisted on replacing this immediately, but in all honesty, it doesn’t interfere with any of our usage of the television. Thus, we’ll keep it until the issue becomes serious enough that it disallows our use of the television for any purpose.

Quite frankly, some of our friends and family think this is weird. “Why don’t you just replace it?” they ask. “You can afford it, you know,” they’ll say, as though they need to remind us that we can, in fact, spend money.

The real truth of the matter is that my wife and I have started to follow a set of unwritten rules about when and how to upgrade or replace the items that we have now. I thought it might be fun to actually write some of these down and share them.

Rule #1: If it isn’t broke, don’t replace it.
This means that if we have an item that is functional, we don’t replace it with something newer (there are a few little caveats to this that I’ll explain later). This rule is why we haven’t replaced our television yet and we probably won’t until the tube blows – it’s functional, so why replace it?

Rule #2: When we do replace something, we replace it with long term quality and reliability.
For example, our house came with a washer and dryer set that we plan on using until they’re on death’s door. At that point, we will pony up and buy quality replacements for them – ones that are energy efficient and designed to last for the long haul. This might cost us a lot out of pocket right then, but the efficiency and reliability of the items will pay dividends for many years afterwards.

Rule #3: Upgrading before the end of the lifespan is fine if there is a clear and compelling functional reason for the change.
Our kitchen knives are a great example of this. We have a functional set of kitchen knives that work well for most of our uses, but they’re not excellent and they are frustrating for some tasks (vegetable chopping, etc.). The knives simply aren’t designed well enough to execute repetitive chopping and so on. Thus, the knives are on our list of items to replace in the future. When we do replace them, we will replace them with stellar knives, ones intended to last a lifetime.

Rule #4: No item is upgraded unless we both agree on the need for the upgrade.
If this rule weren’t in place, I might have already replaced the knives. However, my wife is still riding the fence on them – we’ve slated a replacement for them in the long term, but not immediately. Why? Her argument is that they still do most tasks well, so we should buy single knife upgrades for specific tasks. My argument is that some single knives will just encourage us to upgrade all of them, so we might as well save the money and get the whole set. We will do a knife upgrade when we are in full agreement on what to do, but until then, we’ll wait until we agree on what to do.

Rule #5: Try to avoid things that have a steady “upgrade” cycle.
Video game consoles come to mind. We own a Wii, and we know from the past that video game consoles are “upgraded” every five years or so, with the console manufacturer reducing and then eliminating support for the old console as the new one begins to sell well. Does this mean we upgrade when the new console comes out? I don’t really plan to as long as I’m still enjoying games for my Wii – I actually have far more games right now than I have time to play, so why upgrade until I’ve gotten the enjoyment out of everything that I have?

The same logic goes for HD-DVD and BluRay. I see no reason to ever upgrade to them until it literally becomes impossible to get movies on regular DVD – and even then, I won’t upgrade for a while. Why? I have all of the movies I enjoy watching repeatedly on DVD already, so why upgrade to a new format? I’m very glad to see that some family members of mine feel the same way – one of them actually has a VCR in a box (just in case they completely go off the market) so that they can continue to watch their video tape collection and aren’t forced into an upgrade that doesn’t really add value.

In short, we don’t upgrade that often, but when we do, we do it with items of quality, not just a cheap replacement item.

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  1. John says:

    I was watching America’s Test Kitchen on PBS and they are huge proponents of your wife’s idea to replace one knife at a time. They reviewed dozens of knife sets and none of them were judged acceptable let alone recommended!

    It is your choice but we in Boston have a great place that sells refurbished knives. Not sure if these kind of stores are common but you can get a 140$ knife for 40$ or less.

  2. Rick says:

    Aw man, you ruined it! The unwritten rules are no longer.

  3. Joe says:

    The only problem with your don’t-replace-it-until-its-broke philosphy is that it basically ensures that the item’s resale value will be 0. Many, if not most items, can be sold for a tidy sum while they are still working (Craigslist, Ebay etc). If you wait until the item is broken, you are essentially depriving yourself of the money you could have earned by selling the item one or two steps before it broke…

  4. Joe says:

    The only problem with your don’t-replace-it-until-its-broke philosophy is that it basically ensures that the item’s resale value will be 0. Many, if not most items, can be sold for a tidy sum while they are still working (Craigslist, Ebay etc). If you wait until the item is broken, you are essentially depriving yourself of the money you could have earned by selling the item one or two steps before it broke…

  5. H-Bomb says:

    I think that Trent would not want to sell something to someone knowing that it is going to break. Besides that, there are places that will buy broken items for parts.

    This is a great post by the way.

  6. Brian says:

    Great list! Pertaining to Rule 4…

    This is a testament to the stability of a relationship. We do not have a rule, but we do try to live a similar standard. No purchases other than necessities should be made without the other person involved.

    It works well to prevent purchases creating a one-up environment – “Well you got that new chair you wanted, so I bought myself a new computer monitor.” Great – now there are TWO purchases that weren’t agreed to, and there are hurt feelings.

    At the same time, it can’t be used as a trump card vindictively. If an item is really NEEDED, one person shouldn’t hold out agreement over anything other than valid logic (money not there, other priorities more important, etc.). If one has hurt feelings over something else, or secretly desires to spend the money in another way, that person can’t be working an argument with ulterior motives.

    If I truly believe something else is more important, that should be my argument. If it’s valid, it will not be a problem.

    So, if you are good at talking with your spouse about money matters, this will work out great – if not, you may want to start the conversation with – “Honey, I have an idea, but we need to work together well to make it work.”

  7. I agree with Brian on this, Rule #4 is a great rule because it keeps you within the parameters of a relationship and two heads are almost always better than one.

  8. yipyip says:

    What about repairs? Replacing isn’t the only option. When I had a TV, I had the same one for nearly 20 years. It needed repairing twice when the colours went wonky (one of the circuit boards was prone to cracking with age), but other than that, apparently it works fine to this day.

  9. Avonelle Lovhaug says:

    We replaced our TV in 2007, and took a similar approach. In our case, the problem with the TV was that if you turned it off, it had trouble turning back on again (it would show static for 5 minutes or so before it would finally come back). We decided to wait to buy a new TV until it would never come back on again. In the meantime, we often left the TV on all the time, and just muted the sound.

    For our situation, I’m not sure it was the right decision. Leaving the TV on all the time meant we were using a lot more electrical power. I notice a big drop in our electrical bill when the TV finally died and we replaced it with a nice flat panel TV. (The old model was not a flat panel, and was 32″, so that may have made it an electricity hog.) I’m not 100% sure that was the entire bill reduction; one of our sons moved out at the same time, but I’m guessing that was at least part of it.

    Anyway, just another factor to consider. Is the item that isn’t working that well actually costing you more money?

  10. claymeadow says:

    if you replace it how bout buying a used item?

  11. Aryn says:

    One more reason not to buy an HD yet: the standard hasn’t been determined. There’s Blu-Ray and there’s HD-DVD. Most stores only have room to carry one, and so far most players don’t work with both. Eventually one will probably go the way of Betamax, so I’m waiting at least until either affordable players play both or one format dies.

  12. Ann M says:

    I agree with these! I’m typing this comment on a laptop keyboard that is missing the “v” key and the windows taskbar key, and the touchpad mouse button does not work so I bought a $15 usb mouse for it.

  13. Tom says:

    Remember, that economy is build around keeping stuff in cycle, so manufacturers will do all they could, to make your stuff break minute after their warranty expires. It’s special timing technology probably :)

    It’s done allready in “licensed content”, which expires on time, but it’s becoming more and more common in “stuff you can touch”.

    Actually, I find it very difficult to find manufacturer willing to provide my lifetime (usualy, lifetime means lifetime of product, not human) warranty – and if so, high prize means only that he will store more copies on stock for replacing them, not manufacturing better equipement.

    Do anybody knows manufacturer (virtually) “willing to commit suicide, should his product even break during his – manufacturers – life”?

  14. Ryan says:

    The HD-DVD and Blu-Ray situation is a disaster. It’s bad for consumers because they don’t know which one to pick and I can’t imagine it benefiting the companies too much, consumers will only have about half of the movies they want on each format. You shouldn’t even really worry about it anyway, I doubt that the 32 inch TV that Trent has is high definition and if it were, HD material wouldn’t look “awesome” like it does on bigger screens.

    Not to mention if you pick the format that doesn’t win, all your movies and player for that format are obsolete.

  15. Tom says:

    Ryan @ 4:11 pm December 28th, 2007

    It’s actually same thing like with dvd+r and dvd-r – everybody is making everything to dominate market, and there’s nobody who can shoot them for ignoring standards :(

    It’s epoch of crap-ware and we will perish as mankind, if we don’t do something to eliminate it. Even space-planes are made from crapware, NASA is not able to launch any of them :\

  16. Awesome list. Besides knives, I think good cookware is a smart investment. When I was in college, I bought a cheap nonstick skillet from the grocery story. Within a month the teflon coating was coming off and who knows how many carcinogens made their way to my food. You don’t need to go on a Williams-Sonoma shopping spree, but buying quality pots and pans, some of which can be a little expensive, is definitely worthwhile.

    As for knives, it may make sense to buy a good sharpening tool along with the knives. That way you won’t have to replace them when they get dull.

    Lastly, I love the Wii because it’s backwards compatible with the GameCube AND it allows downloads of classic games. Even if upgrades come out, I doubt I’ll need the new platform since I’ll have plenty to play on the current one.

  17. Looby says:

    For the knives, I’m not sure when you mention replacing the set if you intend to buy a prepackaged set of knives. I would recommend buying individual ones. A set usually has general 8″ chef knife, 8″ carving etc, if you pick them individually you might find you prefer the feel and balance of the 7″ of 9″ chef. I worked for a long time in a kitchen store and usually you save very little extra money buying a set. If individual knives are not on sale ask if you can get a discount if you buy several at a time. Most important is to make sure both you and your wife try them out in the store. For longevity I prefer German brands.

  18. Grant says:

    I also wanted to mention that there is zero benefit to buying either an HD-DVD or BluRay player now since you don’t have a high definition television. Even if you did, I’d recommend sticking with DVDs unless you have a compelling reason to start spending more on another movie format (for which, as others have pointed out, there is not yet a “standard”).

  19. Michael says:

    If you have three knives in your kitchen for preparing food and are not a specialty chef of some sort, you have 1 knife too many.

    From a decorative standpoint, knife sets give your kitchen that well-stocked, domestic look. But they are pointless from a cooking perspective.

  20. Marcia says:

    I agree with the idea of buying just one knife at a time – and also one pot at a time if you can. Often you don’t really need all the knives or pots in the set and they just take up room that could be put to better use.

  21. kitty says:

    About rule #1. When I just came to the US and was a “poor refugee”, I was amazed at how much good stuff Americans just throw away. We could just find good stuff like working TV sets, chairs, etc.. You wouldn’t see this anywhere in Europe. Sure, in some cases when something is broke, it is more expensive to repair it than to buy something new, but there was nothing wrong with these thigns. At least give the working TVs to charity, why just throw it away?

    I make pretty good money now (and don’t pick up stuff people throw away anymore), but I am still reluctant to replace working appliances. I just replaced my 10-year old 32″ TV with a wide screen one, but the old one actually broke – all it was showing was a thin line in the center of the screen. But I am also waiting with HD-DVD/Blu Ray players. These different standards remind me a bit the whole VHS vs Beta history. I’d wait a few years to see which format wins (and until my current DVD player/recorder breaks); hopefully the prices will come down too.

    I am seriously considering replacing my furnace, A/C and coil. They are about three times older than their lifetime and every time the technician comes to service them, he gives us ever higher estimate for replacing them. I think it might be cheaper in the long run to replace them during off season (e.g. in Spring) than have one of these things break.

  22. ericabiz says:

    I agree on some items, but I don’t necessarily agree with “wait until it’s broken.” I find that waiting until it’s broken makes me feel under pressure to buy a new [whatever], and then I don’t get the best deal.

    I picked up a 50″ Panasonic plasma TV last January for $1300. I bought it on craigslist from someone who was moving and couldn’t fit it in his new house (crazy people.) The exact same TV was selling in stores for $2000. But because I had a perfectly functional 27″ CRT TV, I could take my time and wait for the right TV to come along. I love the plasma, and it was a worthy upgrade–I hooked a computer up to it and we watch all kinds of stuff on it. I sold the 27″ to a friend for $50. Had it broken, I probably would have gone to Costco and paid $2000 for a new one, and I wouldn’t have been able to sell the old one…and might have even been forced to pay for someone to haul it away.

    I did the same thing with my washer and dryer…bought used Maytag Neptune front-loader 2001 models. I purchased in 2004 — $600 for the SET. New they were going for $1750.

    In both these cases, I purchased high-quality items that will last for years, without the time pressure of “must buy now!” … and I feel like I got really good deals. Moral to the story: buy used whenever possible.

  23. I am becoming less convinced about scrimping on *stuff*. Most stuff is very cheap nowadays, particularly anything made from synthetic materials, electronics, and anything which can be made in China. I’m currently working on a project to refresh a lot of my stuff – most of which is 7-10 years old and, while totally functional, is just old and gross. Getting something new and fresh is worth it in most cases and is not very expensive.

    I fear some of this advice is not scalable for the long-term. The whole mantra of technology is faster, cheaper, better. What if we decided 10 years ago we had all we needed, today we would be looking at the web on 300 MHz computers running Windows ’98 with a 14″ CRT monitor and dialup connection and watching movies on VHS tapes .. I’m sure some people are reading this on such a system, but look at far how we have come. Yes, not EVERY new thing is worth going out and spending money on (I don’t have HD-DVD/Bluray yet) but plenty of stuff eventually gets adopted BECAUSE it is more economical .. and better. You can buy a DVD player for peanut shells today, in a few years you will be able to buy the next generation whatever for even less.

    Wait a few more years when your stuff starts to age a bit more and you get tired of it, and you will be amazed the cost to replace it is less than you paid for it in the first place .. not even adjusting for inflation. And it will be better and you will wonder why you didn’t replace it sooner. Even my parents who are the most annoying cheapest people in the world replace their stuff pretty frequently. Stuff is cheap!

    The days of saving money on physical things are obsolete .. we are a service based economy where our time is the most precious commodity, and have massive networks of factories overseas staffed by cheap unskilled workers churning out ever cheaper things. Bring them on!

  24. Dan says:

    I personally struggle with #1 because I always need to have the biggest and best of everything..I think I have some sort of complex. I guess that could be part of my New Years Resolution.

  25. caryn verell says:

    Cool Rules! they are just like mine.

  26. Peggy says:

    I don’t agree with Michael above about three knives being one too many.

    I have a butcher knife, a paring knife, a serrated knife, and use them all for their appropriate purposes. Three is, for me, the ideal number — and I’m nowhere near a gourmet cook.

    As for HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray, I kind of hope they stay in competition with each other and neither one “wins” because that should help to keep the prices of the disks lower than they might be otherwise with a monopoly format.

  27. Cheryl says:

    I agree completely! My entire family has upgraded to large ,flat screen, HDTV’s – all but me! I refuse to buy a new TV when the one I have works just fine!

  28. Chris says:

    I’m not trying to be mean Frugal Bachelor, but what exactly is frugal about your post? And I’m failing to see how technology would cease to progress because we made our possessions last longer. And, while I’m no environmentalist, way to go Bizarro Gore with the lets get some more cheap plastic junk from China and continue to fill our land-fills because it’s cheaper than keeping our old stuff.

    I thought your post may have been an attempt at sarcasm/humor, but your blog confirms that it was not. You may want to change your name. I’m just saying.

  29. Chris says:

    Trent,

    I still have a Nintendo 64!! I’m not much of a gamer, but I really like puzzle type games. I only use it to play Tetris and Dr. Mario. My wife and I still have a great time trying to beat each other. Everyone laughs when they see it, but what do I care. I’m married and have two beautiful children, so I don’t feel the need to impress anyone anymore. It’s an immature attitude trying to keep up with the Jones’.

    We also kept a 27″ TV for about 8 years while everyone I knew bought bigger and better ones. We just replaced it though because it moved from Nevada to California to Hawaii and I think it got damaged (military movers) on the last move. We had a green corner and it got unbearable.

  30. Kim says:

    We have a TV set that is approaching 15 years of age that my husband won in a raffle. (Talk about a return on your investment – lol!).

    Sometimes we lust after the new big screens but we generally don’t replace things till they break. Our friends and family sometimes comment on our old RCA relic and I guess we are just perverse because the more comments we get, the stronger we feel about keeping it around.

    Great topic, Trent!

  31. The key lies in thinking long-term. Every household should probably have that mantra hanging above their heads. Not only does it save you money, it also prevents you from making unnecessary purchases you would only regret later on. It’s always important to discuss such matters and ask questions like, “do we really need this or that?”

  32. Christopher says:

    I’ll second the previous comments against buying a knife set. You may well have several types of knives you use (I really like having a slicer intentionally left coursly sharpened another sharpened extremely fine for push cutting and though I only occasionally use it I couldn’t live without my paring knife when I need it) but chances are you want different knives for each of them rather than a set. For instance most every set I’ve seen has the same handle on every knife and the paring knife always feels clunky to me. You can get a dedicated parer with a much smaller handle that to me is better suited to the task. That said maybe you’ve found a set that’s perfect for you in every knife…

  33. Keter says:

    I try not to wait until an item has broken before I replace it…if it is something I use regularly or may need on short notice. If it doesn’t fit into either of those categories, I probably am not going to replace it. When I note an item is approaching obsolescence or giving “I’m getting worn out” signals, I move the item onto my “shop for a replacement” list. This strategy gives me plenty of time to find the right thing at the right price. When I’m out shopping, I cruise around, looking for deals…and I almost always find one before the replacement becomes a necessity! If something is too worn to be ethically sold, I donate it or put it on Freecycle.

  34. Daisy says:

    Great post, Trent!

    My family has the same list of unwritten (or written, now, isn’t it?) rules. Like my computer. I refurbished only one or two broken parts through the 14 years I had it before it finally conked out. Then I got something top-of-the-line since I actually used all the functions. And it turned out all right.

    It’s just comforting to know your stuff are being milked out for all they’re worth. Not to mention how tiring it is to keep chasing the trend just because it’s new.

  35. limeade says:

    I’ve still got a hand-me-down 27 inch TV from my parents, and it works fine for the five channels that we get. I’m sure at some point I’ll upgrade it, but I don’t really see a reason for it.

  36. Briggs says:

    Tube-TVs use approximately twice as much energy as similar sized LCD TVs. So replacing the 10 year old 32-inch TV with a smaller (23 or 26 inch)LCD TV may actually end up saving you money over a period of time, depending, of course, on how many hours per day you use the TV set…

  37. tightwadfan says:

    great post! I applaud your willingness to keep the funky tv, I know it’s very difficult for many men not to have the latest and greatest in electronics.

    I have to agree with your wife about replacing one knife at a time. Go ahead and replace your 8 or 10 inch chef’s knife with the best one available. You will use that for most of your tasks including the problematic vegetables. The rest of your current knives will do for your other tasks. That’s my knife setup at present, I have one great chef’s knife and a couple other cheap knives, and seriously, as others have pointed out, spending extra on the other knives is a waste.

  38. riley says:

    Rigidly Apply these same rules to replacement of vehicles, and you will retire a wealthy man. Vehicles are the true money pits, with payments, taxes, insurance, maintenance, fuel, etc.

  39. Kate says:

    These rules are great!
    I grew up with a black and white TV that either had working sound or a working picture and sometimes neither one. It was a real treat when the sound and picture both worked well at the same time! Although I have had some issues in my adult life which have necessitated therapy, bad tv’s in my childhood has never been an item for discussion. I watch TV but could easily live without one. My husband was a huge TV watcher as a child–his family even had a color TV. Life without TV isn’t as acceptable for him. We have a 20″ Sony and he’s okay with that because we both live by rule #1 (if it isn’t broke, don’t replace it).
    But we just broke rule #1 when we replaced a 24 year old refrigerator that was still working but showing obvious signs of a fast approaching demise. A working refrigerator is difficult to live without (unless you live in the cold North and can store food outside in a cooler while shopping for a new one) so I looked for a good sale–which just goes to show that no rule should be set in stone! And because I like dependable transportation I don’t usually drive a car until it won’t run anymore (although that might change when I retire).
    I especially like rule #5 and it is a great rule for kids to grow up with.
    Good luck with the whole knife upgrade situation, Trent. After reading everyone’s comments and realizing how bad my knives are–I’m looking to purchase a good chef’s knife. :o) Does anyone have any brand recommendations?

  40. Deborah says:

    My husband and I seem to (mostly) follow these rules without realizing it – and now that I’ve read this, I think we need to print this up, edit it for us and have an actual agreement about how to replace things when it’s needed. We’ve only been married for 3 years, so most of our “major” purchases won’t be replaced for some time – but I like the idea of having the “how-to” and decision making process hammered out a little more fully before it’s needed.

  41. Eileen says:

    I too have become convinced that it is better to look to replace items when you see that they are on the way out and not necessarily wait till they are pronounced dead. Being on the alert for a good deal might turn out to be far more frugal than squeezing another month or two out of the old one and then having to pay regular price because you need the item quickly. And as Kate mentioned you have to figure in the potential risk if the item dies, spoiled food, potential water leaks, etc. Also I find it is important for me to figure in if professional installation (ie plumber, electrician, etc) is going to be necessary so I can plan ahead and not have to miss a day of work.

  42. feefifoto says:

    When you’re ready to upgrade your knives, take a look at Cutco. They’re well balanced and you have a lifetime of free sharpening. My mother has had the same set of Cutco steak knives for about thirty years and they’re still as good as when she bought them.

    Another advantage to not being an early adopter of new technology just for the sake of being first is that you’ll pass by a lot of intermediate steps. Our family makes do with a thirteen year old TV that works fine, and by the time we’re ready to replace it we’ll get whatever is the current technology without having shelled out for all the previous current technologies.

  43. Deila says:

    Use it up, wear it out.
    Make it do or do without.

    A mantra my Grandmere instilled into me… which I am trying to pass on to my DH. We are slowly replacing old/worn out items in our household by listing what needs replacing NOW/needs replacing SOON/needs replacing within 5 YEARS, etc… and replacing said items with very good quality items.

    By planning out our purchases, AND having the foresight to SAVE for them, we feel we can get the most use out of the things we already have and will get the most bang for our buck when we buy something.

  44. Sarah says:

    I live by a very similar set of rules. My husband begrugedly goes along with me most of the time. :) He desperately wants a new flat panel monitor for his computer but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the one he has and I see no point in spending money to replace it! Same goes for cars. We both drive older cars. Heck, my husband’s is practically an antique (1990 Honda Accord)! Both cars still run perfectly well and they meet our family’s current needs so there is no reason to spend the extra money. When we do buy cars again, they will very likely be used. Why buy new just to have the value depreciate the instant you drive it off the lot?

    On the topic of knives, I completely agree that this is something you and your wife should do together if you will both be using them. I am a trained chef, so my knife needs are probably higher than most. I wouod recommend buying the knives individually and trying them before you buy. You may find that you love one company’s Chef’s knife and another’s utility knife or something along those lines. I also agree with the previous post about German knife companies. Henkle or Wustof are wonderful knives that will last you a lifetime. I unfortunately can’t use them because of the grips and a problem I have with my wrists. I bought a set (I know, I know, contradicting what I just said) of Calphalon knives about a year ago and so far they are holding up very well. Do not buy a tri-stone unless you know how to sharpen the knives. You are likely to do more harm than good. Just pay to have them professionally sharpened if there is any doubt in your mind of your skills.

  45. Todd says:

    I had an RCA 27 inch television that I bought back in 1991. That television moved all over the country with me several times, it never lost its picture quality, it never gave me any trouble at all. The only issue with it was that it was simple too old to keep up with current technology. In other words our DVD players were getting too advanced, and the TV did not have the correct inputs we needed. So I sold it – $75.00. This was just this past March. I was already anticipating getting rid of the TV and had already saved enough money to get a much better one.

    I had spent several months looking around for the best offers on the best TVs I could find, and finally I ran into a 50″ HD Vizio Plasma TV at our local Sam’s. They were upgrading these Vizio editions for newer ones, and offering $1499.00. I had enough cash to buy it, so I jumped on the offer. I have never seen a better offer on a 50 inch HD plasma TV since – they are usually $1000.00 more than what I paid for the Vizio. One of the best purchases I have ever made.

  46. constantlearning says:

    More than anything else, I believe this points to the importance of enjoying what you have and finding satisfaction in something other than the joy of buying!

    I constantly fight the dissatisfaction that leads to buying more stuff! I need to enjoy what I already have!

  47. Lillith says:

    I agree with your philosophy on replacement and have followed it for a long time… particularly about cars.

    However I would like to offer a suggestion for another consideration to evaluate.

    If your old T.V. (or other household appliance) is consuming significantly more electrical power than a new one would, it may well serve you to replace it. Electricity also costs money not to mention that higher power consumption is a negative on environmental issues.

    It is pretty amazing how much more power efficient newer appliances and technology can be than old…

  48. Rob in Madrid says:

    My kitchen knives cost me 99 cents each at the dollar store years ago and I’m still happy with them:) Perhaps as I learn to cook more I may change my mind but so far I’m happy. (wife prefers the slightly more expensive paring knife we bought) As well I had expensive knives and could never figure out how to sharpen them, hence the reason I went for the never dull 99 cent cheapies.

  49. Rob in Madrid says:

    Holding out on buying a flat screen is getting harder and harder. Every time I go shopping they have a huge display of gorgeous flat screens, as well every hotel the Wife stays at also has a very nice flat screen as standard, coming home to our still very nice and functioning Tube TV is getting harder. But we’ve set our selves a goal of a new flat scree when were debtfree

  50. Tall Bill says:

    A large 32″ CRT TV about 10 years old? Perhaps it does not have automatic degaussing. Try that Trent to eliminate blue corners (it’s covered in the manual) and a well stocked Radio Shoack or other may have the DeGausser available. Other than energy requirements, as long as it’s working ok, set aside some fun technology funds per month (ie: one or two latte’s per month brewed at home)The attitude with many of the Latte stands around Seattle is exactly the opposite that of customer service – ie: we OWE them a tip, cost as much as a full somewhat balanced meal at a fast food location, slam it together & sometimes wrong & signage to have your order and funds available before even getting up to the order/ menu location. I’ve cut way back and now have enough for 1/2 of a new LCD (much less energy cost over Plasma) at this time. Another gripe is that most of the local Latte stands in my area are still charging additional for accepting Visa/Mastercard; a direct violation of their agreement as covered by the Today show on NBC. Watch your reciepts folks & try and be fair. Have a prosperious 2008!!!

  51. Macinac says:

    I am very annoyed about the cyclical upgrades. Most of this is computer stuff: antivirus software, tax packages. Yes, I can understand that viruses evolve rapidly, and I can understand that the tax code changes somewhat every year. I doubt that any virus specifically evolves on the anniversary of when you bought the package, though. I think that the new tax software you buy in November is just the old package with window dressing. When you install it, and pay the fee, it downloads many megabytes of updates to really make it a new package. So: still annoyed about that.

    I switched to H&R Block a couple of years ago because they had something for $9.99. It did everything I needed. I can’t seem to find any H&R at that price now.

  52. KarenFLA says:

    We have replaced knives from time to time as they break, can’t be sharpened anymore, or just looked nice but were never good. My friend got a set of Cutco knives (still made in the USA) 40 years ago when she got married and never had to sharpen them or replace them. They are guaranteed forever. They will replace them free. They cost as much as the Henckel knives, which means expensive, but they are really cheaper because they last forever. We got them in June and are very pleased with how well they cut. We cook a lot so we really use knives and we save a lot of time on meal preparation with these. I sound like a commercial, but I liked them so much we gave a few of these knives for the two weddings we attended this year and the brides and grooms were thrilled with how well they cut.

  53. Sense says:

    Things in #3 can easily go on Christmas and birthday lists–things you WANT but don’t necessarily NEED. That’s what I do–for example, the watch my mom and dad gave me for my high school graduation (’96) is still working, but the front glass had a crack and dent in it made recently. I could have waited longer to replace it, but the style is somewhat outdated and I was growing tired of it. I put ‘new watch’ on my Christmas list, picked a few ones I liked off of Amazon, and got a beautiful watch from my boyfriend. Now I both have a new watch AND I have a nice momento from the boyfriend. win-win. I did this for my electric toothbrush (again, not necessary, but better for my health) and awesome noise cancelling headphones, as well. I’m so glad to have them AND I’m glad I didn’t have to buy them, AND my friends/family are happy to give me something I actually want and make my life easier/better.

    and OMG at the lady who kept her TV on all the time instead of replacing it. that…kind of defeats the purpose, eh? Try craigslist or a thrift shop for old tv’s!. I found great TV-VCR for $20 three years ago and while the VCR broke a while ago, the TV still works fine! I see TV’s on craigslist for $50 or less ALL the time. Why buy new? is my motto for virtually everything–nightstands, desk, bedframe, couch, TV, computer–I’ve bought it all on craigslist or from Goodwill.

  54. Jen says:

    Your friend with the boxed VCR has the right idea. My TV/VCR combo had trouble with the DVD inputs (when watching DVDs the color would get supersaturated, then fade to very weak, then back to supersaturation and so forth), so my parents decided to get me a new TV for Christmas last year. I really hadn’t cared that much, but I couldn’t exactly refuse the gift, so now I have a lovely TV but no VCR. I looked around a little and you can hardly find one under $50.00 anymore, if you can find one at all.

  55. Judith says:

    Personally, I would consider the cloudiness a functional issue that would justify a replacement. At the same time, the set of knives I use might not come close to your standards.

    My point is one that you’ve repeated many times, but probably can’t be repeated often enough. When it comes to personal finance, we each have to find what works for us. Sometimes it means ignoring peer pressure from friends who like the latest and greatest electronics. Sometimes it means ignoring objections from those same friends who don’t appreciate the value of a quality set of knives.

    By the way, a ten-year-old television is new compared to what is still nicely functioning in our living room. :) We sure did buy quality all those years ago. With the upcoming move to digital signals, I’ve been tempted to buy a replacement. Your post is a good reminder that it just might not be necessary.

  56. Nancy says:

    Great topic Trent and very well written. I do agree with your philosophy. When I purchased my home near Sacramento, CA 4+ years ago I knew that the heating and A/C weren’t going to last too long. I finally had to replace them in April and I talked with 15 contractors to find what I wanted at the price I wanted to pay. Yes, I had the money saved. I also had to replace my Saturn. It had been a money pit for about 18 months and when the transmission went I said enough. I bought a Honda and I had been researching my next vehicle purchase for 3 years. I also had to replace a laptop this year when the screen on my other one stopped working. My washer and dryer are 22 years old as is the majority of my furniture. I would love to get new ones but not until they must be replaced. I have not replaced my television and have no intention of doing so in the near future. My coffee pot stopped working yesterday( it was 6 years old ) and I had to go out and replace it. My philosophy is not to replace until I have to.

  57. Marcy says:

    I agree with Feefifoto…buy CUTCO! I have several friends who are amateur chefs, and they all swear by them. I got $100 last year for my birthday from the same friends and bought a butcher knife and a paring knife on EBAY and saved about 50% off the retail price. I didn’t know what a difference it would make, but my gosh, they are so sharp, onions don’t even sting your eyes! I never thought chopping vegetables would be enjoyable, but it is now!

  58. Mel says:

    Sorry Trent, I’ve got to go with your wife on the subject of knives, if you pick the type you like and replace them as you need them, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and, since most people don’t use the parer, boning knife, etc. all that often, buying the set is sometimes a waste of money. We just picked up 3 of the 15 knives that are available in the set my husband wants at a discount and we’ll replace the others we want as we find them on sale. The only piece we “need” to buy now is a block since our current one doesn’t fit the new knives and the honing blade. So, for $90 for the knives (serious discount since they retail for $270+) and the $80 for the block and $60 for the honing blade, we’ll have a good start on some great knives. the whole set would cost $500 on sale. Which is a lot less than buying each individually but who uses all of them anyway? Since we got them 2 weeks ago, I am so happy with them I don’t use the old knives anymore, except my favorite one from William Sonoma which is small enough to use for delicate work. On the subject of TVs I will refrain since we went with the big wall mounted TV that we watch A LOT! Make that a lot more than we should… but at least we are getting our money’s worth :)

  59. Mel says:

    Just read the post before mine so I have to add that we have a Cutco carving set that we love and got as a gift but we got the Calphalon Katana knives and they are just as good as our Cutco knife.

  60. K12Linux says:

    I gotta say, Frugal Bachelor, your comments are pretty much the opposite of frugal. In general buying quality (pricier but NOT the most expensive) for the long haul is a better investment than buying cheap crap often.

    BUT you do have to be careful. Some products just don’t have long lifetimes even if you buy the pricey models. For example, I will never again buy an expensive DVD player. I’ve found that the $35 players I’ve bought tend to last about 80% of the time the $250 models did.

    So, am I an enemy to the environment since I’m buying 5 cheap players in what would be the lifetime of 4 expensive ones? I like to think I’m not. When our VCR died a few months ago we bought two to replace it. They were $10 each at Goodwill. Not only was it frugal ($20 bucks vs replacing all our tapes with DVDs) but they were used. We kept them, a bunch of VHS tapes, and packaging, etc. for new DVDs out of the landfill.

  61. Laura says:

    I loved this post. Glad to see there are so many people out there on the same wavelength. I live in NYC, where the only chore people have on the weekends is shopping. Being on a budget and choosing not to buy something I want is often difficult, and totally confounds my friends. I work in the arts and don’t make a lot of money, and I’m saving for a big vacation to Japan, so I’m putting off making big purchases until I absolutely have to.

    My television’s tube is slowly dieing, but I’m hoping it will last at least another 6-12 months so prices will come down a bit more on the LCD’s and plasmas.

    I need a new cell phone. The current one is 4 years old, but it still works, so why should I rush out to replace it just because my friends think it’s laughably old and large, and I can’t connect to the internet from it?

    My VCR just died a few weeks ago, and replacing it was not easy, as it seems they’ve stopped making anything by DVD/VCR combos. So I had to buy a refurbished one. But I can’t get TIVO, because I don’t have cable, or an internet connection or a telephone land line.

    And all my knives are Henckel and Wusthof from Goodwill, via my mom. It’s amazing what she finds at these places that other people happily dispose of.

  62. J. says:

    regarding knives, i’m with Mark Bittman, whose cookbook you’ve recommended, trent. he suggests you get the white plastic-handled knives available at restaurant supply stores. i found the equivalent chef’s knives at costco. they won’t win any awards for appearance, but the handles are comfortable, the blades sharp and made out of high carbon stainless steel, and cost a ridiculously small fraction of any good henckel blade. it’s the frugal thing to do!

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