When do you replace something? My wife and I have discussed this quite a bit lately, with our decision over the last couple of months to get a new car, we’ve set a repair maximum of approximately $1,000, over which we’ll probably just replace the car. With a car, there’s a market for even semi-broken vehicles – they can be sold “as-is”, generally at a steep discount, but there are buyers out there for them, with published book values available to buyers and sellers. With my car only being worth $2,000-$3,000 in its current condition, it really doesn’t make sense to spend half of the vehicle’s worth to maybe make the money back, if the car is at least salable. In the past couple of weeks though, similar situations have come up with smaller items which have required repairs.
Earlier this week, it cost me $15 to buy a new watch band for my Timex digital watch. I had to call directly to Timex to order it, because a replacement band was not available at retail stores. The $15 I paid for a new band would have been about half the amount I would spend on a new watch to replace the five-year old watch. It doesn’t really make sense to replace the band, given the cost of a replacement, but if I didn’t replace it, there’s really nothing to do with the watch at all, other than to throw it out (or alternatively let it sit somewhere until the battery dies in a couple of years not getting any use).
In the same vein, the set of hair clippers that I’ve owned for several years has a missing guard, something that happened during my move last year. A new set of hair clippers is reasonably cheap (less than $30), but much like my watch, there would be a perfectly good product that would most likely go to a landfill because I’m not sure anyone would want a used set of hair clippers. Ideally, I wouldn’t have lost the part, but a replacement part can be purchased for $10.
There are a myriad of products out there that are essentially disposable due to replacement parts being just as expensive to buy as the product itself (think printer cartridges). What these products create is a lot of waste, as most people, including myself would rather pay a few extra dollars to get something new than keep the old product, which has a higher probability of breaking. Over the last couple of years I have tried to reduce my waste as much as possible. I realize that a set of hair clippers and a watch really wouldn’t have that much of an impact on our landfills, but if applied across everything I owned, there would be a lot less waste created.
I’m just not sure where to draw the line – right now, the items that I’m “saving” are things that I use regularly and are easily (and cheaply) fixed; the car decision comes due to my recent decision to replace our car in the spring of next year, as well as the fact it can be sold.
How do you decide what to throw out and what to keep? Have you been burned by fixing something that broke again shortly after?