“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
― Henry David Thoreau
This is one of my favorite quotes. If you think about, it’s really a philosophy for everything in life. We all have a finite amount of time in this world, and everything we buy costs us something, either now or later–or both.
If we really stop and think about how long we have to work to pay for that cell phone, we might consider hanging onto as long as possible instead of upgrading. I think we all might need to stop and think about our time and how much of it goes into buying things. I’m working on this, and it’s helping.
Let’s face it. We live in a throw-away culture, and there are some big problems associated with it.
- Cheap labor comes with great human costs.
- We generate way too much garbage from throwing away so much. I mean, think of the Grinch movie your kids probably watch every holiday season. Mountain of trash, people. Mountain of trash.
- We find ourselves in debt because we are constantly buying and replacing, buying and replacing. Of course, we are taught this is the way life is, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’ve been thinking about Thoreau a lot as of late. If you follow my blog, you’ll know I left my full-time job last year in order to work part time and live my life full time. But, recently, my main part time job, the one with benefits and the most stability ended. I guess it wasn’t that stable after all. And, with this newly-found lower-income bracket, I have had to dig deep and get back to Thoreau in order to remind myself about what’s important and to think carefully about how I want to spend our money. My husband as the constant voice of reason is a help.
What I have decided is that I want to spend my money on things that last. Now, I’m the first to admit that things that last are not always easy to find within our throw-away culture, but they are there if you dig deeply. They will cost more on the front end, but let’s take out our life and logic calculators.
I’m going to use my little boy’s shoes as an example.
My little boy is really hard on shoes, so cheap shoes are not as cheap as they might seem. First of all, cheap isn’t even what it used to be. I swear, even cheap shoes aren’t that cheap anymore. So let’s say I spend $30 on a cheap pair, but he wears them out in a month. They are stinky and gross because they contain a lot of plastic and cheap materials, and they just start to fall apart.
But let’s say I get a pair of shoes from LL Bean for $70. If I buy them a little big, he can sometimes wear them for at least half a year before he outgrows them, and they aren’t falling apart and stinky. Plus, if you’re really good, you can head to E-Bay (I’m working on a E-Bay lesson post for later), and see if you can find some LL Bean shoes slightly used for even an even cheaper price than you might pay for the cheap shoes.
This is just a small example, but you get the point. I think we need to think carefully about the way we spend our money. I know this is what I’m thinking for myself. The money I spend is money that reflects my time. My time working. My time away from my boys and husband and our farm animals I love. I don’t know about you, but that time feels pretty valuable to me.
So I, despite or maybe because of our recent financial cutbacks, am determined to really change the way I shop. I have been gradually working on this for about two years, but I get weak and busy and forget—but then always regret.
I want to be a part of the “buy it once” philosophy and movement.
I’m willing to search out quality items I need or want and pay more for them, knowing they will last and not end up in a landfill sometime in the very near future. When you’re on a tight budget, the trick, of course, is to also remember to buy less.
If you’re like me a grew up in a shopping culture, this can be tough, but I’m making great progress and feel it’s worth it. My family and I really are able to get by on less money; I work less and get to spend more time with my family; I even have a little time to do some reading and writing. Sometimes, we have to wait around until we can afford things we need or want, but that’s probably a good thing in most cases.
For example, I needed some winter boots for several years, but I was always a teacher, so it wasn’t like I had to work outside all day or anything. So I decided to just suffer through my treks between classes with my regular shoes until I could save up and afford some Bean Boots from LL Bean. They would be sturdy, warm, and would last forever. Plus, they are made in Maine. Last winter, I finally got those Bean Boots, and they are nicely made. I am thankful for them, and I will likely not have to buy another pair of winter boots for at least a decade.
Now, I’m not saying I’m there. I still spend money on stuff that is just probably a waste, but I’m trying to be more careful and do that far less. I want to buy the stuff that will last. I want to be a more ethical shopper and save money in the long run.
Right now, we need a new can opener and an ice cream scoop, but I’m so tired of buying cheap ones that last only a few months that we are just going to have to do without until I can find one that lasts. I’m on the hunt for sure!
I’m hoping others will join me. I think we can do better for ourselves and our planet by not being a throw-away culture.
There’s even a website that can help with this. This Buy Me Once site offers reviews and lists of products that are sturdy, long-lasting, and ethically made. You can also check out local shops that specialize in sturdy, well-made products.
Now, of course, there’s a caveat to my whole plan. I realize that, sometimes, you or your kiddos just need stuff, and you can’t wait and save up to get the good version. I realize there are people who struggle who get caught in the loop of having no choice but to buy the cheaper products. I’m just saying this is a worth a try, and if you have the time, it would certainly be worth it to research purchasing used versions of the sturdy stuff from thrift shops and online garage sales like E-Bay.
Let’s shop less and more wisely as much as we can. That’s my plan. I’m going to wear my Bean Boots all winter (Because Bean Boots go with everything, right?) and know that those boots are a step in the right direction for me.
And, as I keep working on my shopping habits, I’ll keep Thoreau’s quote in mind.