The Art of Wearing Things Out

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?