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Don’t Replace It — Repair It

by Boris Dzhingarov on Nov 16, 2018

A lot of people are struggling financially. Many of us have too little saved for retirement. Many of us could not afford a sudden expense of a few hundred dollars without having to take out a loan. Money issues cause us stress in our personal lives, including in our personal relationships. We lose sleep over money, fight over money, and fear money.

And then we spend it — a lot of it. It’s sometimes easy to see why. Many of the things that we Americans love to buy (or need to buy) have gotten cheaper over the years. While our overall financial situations look rough, each individual purchase we make can look pretty affordable.

There’s a problem, though. While we Americans may be able to buy things cheaply, we tend not to hold onto those things for as long as our parents and grandparents did. The idea of “buying for life” is fading away. We’ve replaced it with a “throwaway society,” experts lament. And it’s costing us.

The hidden costs of cheap goods

When we buy cheap things for low up-front costs, it’s easy to feel like we’re saving money. But, experts explain, the reality isn’t always that simple.

The problem comes when the goods that we buy fail to last as long as they should. They break down or go out of style. They are replaced with newer and better items, or perhaps we just grow tired of them. Whatever the case, the next couple of steps tend to be the same: We throw out our old item, and we buy a new one.

There’s an old saying that goes “buy it nice, or buy it twice.” That saying applies to a lot of the things Americans consume these days, and “twice” might be too conservative: Americans replace things like clothes regularly (the typical American spends $1,700 a year on clothes).

Buy quality items and fix them

Many people are trapped in a cycle of buying cheap items and, when those items break, replacing them with more cheap items. How can we break this cycle?

The answer is simple, of course: we should buy nicer items and, when possible, repair them when they break instead of simply replacing them.

That can be easier said than done in some cases. Your budget may be limited, and not all items are worth buying in super-high quality. But by changing your mindset, you can make better decisions overall. One key is to avoid the so-called “poverty mindset,” which makes us hold tighter to our dollars and cents in the short-term — and can result in losses in the long term.

One typical example: Appliances

Breaking free of the poverty mindset and our throwaway society is more important in some cases than in others. Here’s one clear example of an area in which you should spend wisely: appliances.

Appliances are big investments, of course. Dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, and other essential appliances can cost thousands. Spending more than the minimum can be painful, but look out: your costs could be higher in the long run if you cheap out. Consider the cost of running the appliance, for instance. If you pay more per year in energy bills, that could erode your savings over time.

Energy efficiency is a good reason to invest in a nice new appliance, but don’t be too quick to get rid of your old one. Repairs and maintenance are key to efficiency with appliances, explains an appliance repair pro. A new part or a quick tune-up could make it much more viable for you to hold onto your old appliance.

How can you decide what to do in your case? That’s easy — just ask an appliance repair expert. They’ll give you advice on whether or not to fix your current appliance.

Don’t just throw things away

Appliances are just one example, of course, but the lesson is clear. If we Americans want to stop draining our own finances with constant purchasing, we need to be more conscious of quality and less willing to toss things. Repair — not replacement — is often the answer, and the key to making that option feasible is to buy quality goods in the first place.

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