Thursday, October 13, 2011
The Pros and Cons of Expensive Stuff
I decided to write a more practical post for a change. It's the Buy nothing month, and I want to write about buying stuff :)
When you want to live a minimalist lifestyle or live simply and frugally, you will become more aware of every purchase you make, and be more aware of the whys and why nots - to buy or not to buy? Do I really need this? Should I go for the cheaper version or the expensive one? Which one is more simple, frugal, minimalist, ethical and ecological?
I'll say this first: Buying cheap is not a virtue.
Not if it's done at the cost of other people, animals, and nature.
But expensive doesn't automatically mean much better.
Many fancy or trendy high-end brands have no mention of their ethical stance whatsoever.
In my experience, paying extra just for the brand name, for the fact that it's a designer something-something, is never wise. Not that I've never done it myself.
These days I avoid clothing that has very visible branding because the companies should then be paying ME for advertising for them, and I stay away from most anything that is "iconic" (read "ubiquitous")because it feels so unimaginative. It makes me uncomfortable to have a designer "thing" that is super recognizable.
The cons of expensive stuff also include having to worry about ruining or losing or growing -physically or mentally- out of expensive stuff.
Some expensive stuff devalues the second you walk (or drive) out of the shop. The feeling of newness is gone almost as soon. (And thus we return for more new stuff.) You can buy a fur coat that cost well over a thousand euros new, for 40 euros at a thrift shop.
But paying a higher price for ethically made, ecological, fair trade, and just plain lasting quality is always worth it in my book.
I'll give you some examples from our own home.
Exhibit A: The Bed (Yes the bed, I love our bed. But no picture of the bed this time, sorry :))
When we got our memory foam mattresses as a wedding gift they were so comfortable. A few years later they had lost the "memory" and become limp sponges which sucked me in and killed my back. Then I read that they off-gas toxic chemicals. Of course- they are made with petrochemicals and toxic crap. I wanted to get a completely natural bed, but not a futon. I think a thick regular old cheapo foam mattress would have been kind enough to my back, but I really wanted to get a natural bed. There are exactly two companies to choose from here, and we chose the one that seemed to be of better quality and had better warranties, and was cheaper. Still it was the most expensive thing we have in our home. I really love how my back ache was cured, I love the way it feels, I love the soft dense fabric and the woolly goodness and horse hair filling. I justified the cost by calculating that a monthly visit to my massage therapist for ten years would cost more than the bed. And the bed has a lifetime guarantee and we are not likely to ever need to buy another bed for ourselves.
Then my brother's cat peed on the bed. Twice. (The first effort landed on the bunched-up duvet only.) My husband found instructions on how to clean cat pee and get rid of the stench with household peroxide, vinegar and baking soda. I tried it and was thankful to see it worked and we are left with a very faint stain and no stink, and luckily only in the pillow top and not the actual mattress.
But the moral of the story is that life happens, accidents happens. If you can't handle cat peeing on your expensive stuff, then don't buy expensive stuff.
If there is a high risk of a cat peeing on your expensive stuff, consider long and hard before getting said expensive stuff :)
Also, take good care of your expensive stuff. (Note to self - wool mattress cover would be great in case any cat or toddler might have a pee-related accident. Though it was no accident with the cat. Twice. Need I say more?
Will look into the woolly mattress cover. Though Indiana already wears wool "panties" on top of her diaper at night so there is no leaking.)
Exhibit B: My office chair.
I hate ugly office furniture. I hate the plastic chairs. And when they get old and broken they can't be fixed. They look uglier and uglier until you can't stand them anymore and they are taken to the dumpster.
My (expensive) office chair looks adorable, is made with reclaimed oak in Denmark, is sturdy and comfortable, the upholstery is made in a way that is very easy to replace and I will never need another office chair. In fact it will outlive me by two hundred years.
And it's one of my favorite pieces of furniture ever.
Definitely worth it to me, all things considered.
Exhibit C: Indiana's snowsuit
Last fall I bought a brand name snowsuit that was like new, for 70 euros at a fleamarket. SEVENTY euros for a second-hand snowsuit?? Crazy, right?
Well, it was super warm and light and waterproof and the fit was perfect for her long-legged body. In the spring it still had only minimal wear and I put it in an internet auction and it sold for 80 euros, I kid you not. So we got to use this awesome snowsuit and we got 10 euros for it too! (These sell for 159 euros when new.) I would love to know how many kids does this snowsuit go through before wearing out? Definitely more ecological -and actually much cheaper- than buying a new 70 euro snowsuit that nobody will want after one or two winters.
Sometimes expensive isn't even expensive, if you get it second hand.
I used to be terrible with money and I still am somewhat terrible but I'm learning to be better, and intentional minimalist simple living really helps there. I sometimes feel a bit envious of the naturally frugal. I need to work on it.
Save money and nature by NOT buying stuff.
Save money and nature by buying second hand.
Try making stuff, it's really satisfying. And your creations will be so unique. And there is a touch of love in the hand made.
Then spend money on good, lasting stuff that makes your life a little easier and nicer (but doesn't make someone else's life miserable).
I will buy some fabric at the thrift shop for practically nothing. Then I will splurge on Belgian linen fabric to sew us some new flat bottom sheets. (We have two, which is quite risky sleeping in the same bed with a toddler. And one of the sheets is too small and needs to be re-purposed. So we need two new sheets so that we'll have three.)
I will skip a few take-away lattes and buy fair trade dark roast coffee and brew it on my french press.
I will sew most of Indiana's clothes and buy her really good winter boots and fair trade toys as gifts.
I will sew my husband a bunch of new boxer shorts to replace some disintegrating ones, and then buy him cool organic fair trade pants.
You get the idea.
I'm probably leaving out some super important points for and against expensive stuff.. If you can think of anything please share in the comments :) I need to go sleep in my wonderful bed, cat pee and all, next to my wonderful fairy girl, who can't wait for snow. She has an expensive second-hand snowsuit ready for her.
Oh, and final disclaimer: I am
for the fact that I'm even in the position to consider the pros and cons of expensive stuff. I know some people have to scramble for just something, anything.
And I want part of my effort to live more frugally to be so that I can give more to others.
I'm spoiled and privileged and don't I know it.
Posted by Vappu at 7:55 AM