Frugality,  Simplicity

It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

In this disposable age most of us don’t think about the value in using items until they are completely worn out. Rather than keep the old, they buy new even when the item they already own still works.

It makes financial sense to keep things, however. The longer you use something the less it actually costs to own it. Here are a few examples from my personal life.

I purchased a small window air conditioner in 2010. I paid $105.99 for it ($99.99 plus tax). I’ve now used that little air conditioner to cool my home for eight seasons. When I averaged the cost over the eight summers I’ve used it I realized that I’ve only spent $13.25 a year to own an air conditioner. If I had upgraded to a newer, larger, fancier one, my costs would have went up exponentially but this one still works (it’s a bit noisy these days) so I plan to continue using it for as long as possible to reduce my cost of ownership even further.

I purchased a van in 2007 for $500. It needed a new transmission but I was able to get it on the road for $2,000 (that includes the purchase price). I sold that van to a young man in 2014 so that I could write my book The Car Free Experiment. Not including annual taxes and insurance, that means it cost me $200 a year ($16.67 a month) to own that van. To calculate the cost I subtracted the amount I sold it for from the initial purchase expense and then divided by the years owned.

I purchased an iPad mini in January 2013. It cost $344.50 after tax. I’ve had it 60 months, or 5 years. So far it has cost me $68.88 a year, or $5.74 a month to own. It is still going strong so the longer I keep it the less it will cost me.

This is the reason why businesses try to keep their equipment working for many years before they replace it. They know that the longer they keep an item, the lower the costs of ownership.

I want you to think about that. Every time you replace an item that still works you increase your cost of ownership. For folks like myself, who used to replace items like computers every year or so, that money can add up but the longer that you keep an item, the inverse is true.

You can save a lot of money just by keeping your stuff.

Have you ever calculated the cost of owing the items in your life? Please share your stories in the comments below

6 Comments

  • Karen Richardson

    Great post. My coworkers are always getting new clothes but I am determined to make mine last as long as possible. Every year we hope our air conditioner will last another season. It’s over 25 years old so we will see if it lasts another summer. My last car had 290,000 miles on it before it finally cost too much to repair. Never thought about the cost of these items like you do in this post. Thank you for keeping me on track. Looking forward to your next post and your next book. I re-read your books often.

    • Annie

      Congratulations on your frugality! I am impressed! I sincerely hope that I’m able to keep my things in service for as long as you have yours. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • sheila

    I also think about this a lot too. Sometimes I feel stuck in the middle of wanting to be a minimalist, with no clutter, VS being a broke, single mom-struggling student who needs to plan for all contingencies… For this reason, when good things come along, I save them. My parents offered me their microwave, I grabbed it as a spare. At my work, they were getting rid of a perfectly good coffee pot, again, grabbed it as a spare… Yesterday at work they were throwing away Christmas wrapping paper, there were 2 kinds, I took the pretty one and left the ugly one… I try not to grab things that I won’t enjoy using (unless it’s an urgent need). My humidifier recently conked out on me (necessary here in New England where it gets so cold and we run the furnace for months on end, the air gets so dry) I was so glad to have a spare. Granted, it was not as large as the one that stopped working and we have to fill it a lot more often, but at least it will work until we get to the point where I can find another large one, that I can afford to buy… I have boxes of school supplies for DD and myself… I also like to be able to share with friends. When a friends toaster oven recently went, I was gad to have a spare one to give her.

    The problem for me, with all this is I have a garage packed with stuff that I might need. I even have a spare clothes dryer… I make sure to hang onto only things that work, but still it takes up one wall of the one car garage, but it’s clear enough that I do park my car in there…

    • Annie

      I’ve learned some valuable lessons concerning minimalism and frugality over the years. One of the major things I learned is that, in some cases, the two are not mutually compatible. It can become a burden when you only have one of an item you need when that item dies, because you are then forced to take money you may not be able to afford to spare to replace it or do without until you can save the money to replace the item in question. This is not only an inconvenience, but it can cost us more money in the long run.

      I’ve realized as a result of my hard-won experience that it simply pays to keep at least one spare of certain items. That spare can be the old item you’ve upgraded from, an extra that you’ve been given from a friend, or even a spare that you’ve caught on sale when money was available.

      That said, those spares can actually become a detriment when you allow yourself to collect so much that storage becomes a burden. I have to walk a fine line these days between keeping backups, buying in bulk when it pays, and maintaining a reasonable level of possessions in my small home as a result. When my possessions get to the point where they become clutter I force myself to thin down. It isn’t a savings if you have to pay to store it.

      BTW, it is nice to know that I’m not the only one with a stockpile of school and office supplies! I’ve got three totes filled with notebooks, pencils, ink pens, and other supplies that I’ve acquired from friends or purchased during sales. One of the totes is filled with sticky notes, rejects from a local factory I’ve had several friends work at over the years. Since I’m notorious for papering my walls with notes as I work on my book projects, my friends think of me when they discover a stack of the notepads being discarded at work. I’ve not had to purchase any in years as a result of their thoughtfulness.

      • john marmer

        Don’t forget to figure in your time – as an expense – when you have to go looking for a replacement (or rearranging your stockpile of stuff at home). I have a couple of boxes of old screws and such, partially organized, and I always wonder if I am saving time, and therefore money, digging through my little hoard rather than running up to the store and getting just exactly what I need.

        • Annie

          You have a very good point. It can be a challenge when your stockpile becomes unwieldy, so I try to place my supplies close together to make it easier to see what I have. Thank you for sharing!