Function vs. Form

In the past couple of weeks, I have had a couple of discussions related to “things” my wife and I were looking into buying.  In both cases, the question of the purchase came down to the question of function versus form of the thing we are looking at.

The first item we were looking into buying was a charcoal barbeque.  We decided to purchase a simple Weber model that had a 22” grill that cost $120.  It came with a 2-year warranty and reviews on it were highly positive from what I could see.  Prior to purchasing it though, I noticed a smaller portable grill that cost $30 that I asked my wife if she would think about buying  – turns out she was not a fan at all.  I asked her why, and she stated that it would be ridiculous to have to be squatting down to cook on the grill and would just look silly.  My question to her was basically whether the meat that we wanted to eat (cooked on a barbeque) would still end up cooked, which it obviously would – for $30 compared to $120.

We ended up buying the larger, more expensive model mainly because it would be inconvenient to cook for a larger group of people on the smaller, cheaper barbeque – which is probably when we would use it the most.

In the same vain, we are looking for a freezer to put the half of a cow we recently bought and will be ready by the end of the summer.  We need about a 9 cubic foot freezer to accommodate the cow, as well as the pig that I want to buy at some future point.  There have been several of these listed on kijiji at approximately $50 – $100 depending on the listing (tax free).  A new model will end up costing $400 plus taxes.  Initially, my wife (who seems like she is being picked on here, but as always is the one that I have these kind of discussions with) was against getting such an appliance, as a 5 or 10 year old freezer does not look as nice as a new one, and it would be going into our basement living area rather than a dusty corner somewhere. [Editor’s Note: Another consideration is the amount of energy a new one would use vs the old one.  Don’t save cash up front to pay it out in a lifetime of energy costs.]

In this situation, I think we will end up buying used.  A freezer is a very simple appliance, and a new one is not significantly more efficient than a used one – we could buy 4 used freezers for the same price as a new one.  To make it look nicer, or more fun we’ll probably paint it with chalk-board paint, which would allow my wife to draw all over it (which is something she enjoys doing).

Those are two situations where the alternative would do exactly the same thing as a newer, more expensive model and cost significantly less.  I think at least keeping an alternative in mind can allow for significant savings on purchases, rather than just going out and buying the shiny new thing.  Obviously, neither one of these purchases are life or death in nature (both are what I would classify as luxuries) but do stand as an example of looking for something that carries out the same function that you’re looking to carry out.

Do you have any examples where you found a cheaper alternative?  Did it work out, or do you wish you would have gotten the exact thing you initially wanted?

4 thoughts on “Function vs. Form”

  1. Most used things are fully depreciated therefore making the world your library. When I buy used, I don’t contemplate my purchase near as much because if I don’t like it I can sell it for the same price. Sometimes you might get less and sometimes you might get more; I think in the end it will essentially be a net zero.

    After four great years of use, I just sold a bed I bought used for the same price. Nifty!

    . . . but perhaps your biggest obstacle is aesthetics?

  2. Hmm, $30 plus a $20 (or less) table/cart would still be less than the $120 BBQ and even take care of the squatting issue…

    Of course I’m still considering purchasing a $500 gas BBQ with rotisserie. Been considering it for 5 years now. We used to have a $30 squat-while-you-cook BBQ perched on bricks, but it died from neglect (always left out in the open) after 15 years.

    Contact paper, like they use for shelves, might be a good way to decorate the used freezer…

    Sorry, I can’t think of any good stories for this topic off the top of my head.

  3. @ pete – my wife likes “nice” things, which means she usually doesn’t like used.

    @ George – I tried to explain the cart/stand to her, but it wasn’t gonna fly – the bigger barbeque has been useful thus far with a couple of crowds we’ve had over, but the worst that would have happened is people would have had to wait for a little bit to eat.

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