Some Thoughts on Wearing Things Out

The end of a shoe

What you see above is one of my sandals that’s beginning to (finally) fall apart.

I’ve been wearing this same pair of sandals during the summer since 2003. They’ve went on vacations with me. I’ve worn them on walks through parks, strolls around the block, and countless other activities. They’re older than any of my children.

These shoes are actually falling apart due to wear. I’ve worn these shoes until they were falling apart.

I couldn’t be happier about it, either.

An item that is falling apart from wear is the best sign of a great purchase where the buyer got a lot of value for his or her dollar. This pair of sandals, bought for $20 eight years ago, has provided footwear for nine long summers. That’s an incredible bargain. The cost per hour of usage of those sandals is incredibly low.

I tend to use the cost per hour of usage metric on as many things as I can. For example, a book is worth buying (to me) if I’m going to read it multiple times and reference it in addition to that, which creates a very low cost per hour for that book. If I’m just going to read it once, I’d rather check it out from the library, which still has a cost per hour, but a very low one (the cost of going there, essentially).

The problem is that we purchase so many items we purchase that we never use enough to wear out or use enough to make the cost per hour of use sufficiently low. I’ve certainly done plenty of this in my own life: purchasing items, using them a few times, tossing them in storage, and selling them at a big loss (or giving them away) later on.

What sets these types of purchases apart? How do I know that I’ll get enough value out of this item before I buy it?

For me, the biggest part of the equation is that the purchase is well-considered. Impulsive buys tend to be the ones that I don’t use enough to wear out or reduce the cost per hour to a very low point. That’s not to say that spontaneity isn’t occasionally fun, but I find it’s almost always better to be spontaneous with experiences rather than purchases.

Simply put, if the purchase is significant at all, I research it first. I get a strong sense as to whether or not I’ll actually use the item a significant amount and I make an effort to choose items that will have a long lifetime. These two factors together tend to drive the cost per hour of use down quite low.

When done collectively with all of your significant purchases, buying things with the intent of wearing them out ends up saving you a tremendous amount of money.

These old shoes will be laid to rest soon, but I’ll have no guilt when I throw them away. I used them well and got every penny of value out of them.

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