false bargains, used goods and buying dilemmas

I've blogged many times about the "false bargain" of buying a cheaper product that quickly falls apart, as opposed to spending what seems like a lot of money on a higher-quality product that will perform better and last longer.

I generally opt for higher quality and long-lasting. I hate shopping, don't accumulate, and hate sending a recently purchased pile of junk to landfill, so spending more money but buying less frequently is usually a better fit for me. The perfect example of this is the expensive chair I bought, which will last at least 10 years, probably twice that, and has alleviated a huge amount of strain and stress from my back, hips and legs. I was spending $150 or $200 on a new chair every few years. I felt strange spending nearly $1,000 on a chair, but it's actually a bargain, and that's without the physical benefits.

On the other hand, since moving to Canada, I've discovered the joys of buying things used on Craigslist.

There have been things I'd like and could use, but am unwilling or unable to spend a lot of money on, so buying used is a good deal. It started when we found this house. We really wanted to take it, but it didn't come with a washer and dryer, which is strange for a rental. As a lifelong renter, I wasn't going to invest in beautiful new appliances; if you rent, your appliances are always used anyway. We found a washer in one place, a dryer in another, and a guy with a van to transport them both to our new place, all for $300. They worked great and I was thrilled.

The following summer, I briefly tried notetaking for hearing-impaired college students. I needed a laptop (I use a desktop at home), but I had no idea if the job would work out, and couldn't invest in an expensive new machine. As it turned out, the job did not work out, but I immediately found other uses for my little ThinkPad, especially Joy of Sox gamethreads.

That laptop died, and I replaced it with another used ThinkPad, and now I use it in school. At this point, I'm so accustomed to having both computers that I'd be loathe to give up either.

After that, we needed a new TV for the bedroom. Found one used on Craigslist, exactly what we wanted, and found a rolling cart to put it on. Both great, and the price was right. In this case, if it meant spending 1,000 bucks, I'd do without. But for $200, no problem.

So depending on the situation, I can go either way. Now I find myself in a middle ground and don't know which way to go.

Our old clothes dryer, the one we bought on Craigslist before moving in this house, recently broke. It might have been fixable, and Allan wanted to try, but we were both busy and stressed, and I felt it would be a mis-use of time to try to fix an old dryer, especially without experience, relying on instructions found online. I insisted we junk it and buy another used dryer. There are always people renovating or moving and getting rid of old appliances.

I found one in Mississauga for $50 and it fit in our car. It seemed to work at the guy's house. Alas. It sucks. It was not much better than our previous used dryer, and as of today, it's useless.

Is it worth it to fix a dryer you bought for $50, when you really don't know how?

Do I assume this was just a bad experience that cost us $50, and buy another used dryer? Like our first one, it might last two or three years.

Do I now spend more money on a new, higher-quality product? Of course, I don't have the money to do that, I'd have to charge it. I'm willing to incur debt for travel and for necessity, but for a dryer? Eww. (I know many readers are credit-averse, but to me Visa is a fact of life. But it has to be within a reasonable comfort zone, especially since we have no writing income coming in right now.)

I have similar questions about my laptop. Now that I regularly use both my laptop and my desktop, should I spend more money on a better laptop? It doesn't seem smart to spend $200 every two years on a used machine. But then again, I can do that in cash. A new machine means credit.

You guys always have good ideas. What do you say?


Dryers. It's silly to spend a lot of money on a new dryer, money we don't have and would rather put to different use. We don't think the problem with the current dryer is house-related. I think I carted away someone's crappy old dryer and paid $50 for the privilege. No big deal. Win some, lose some.

In a fortunate coincidence, a friend who reads this blog (I'll let him identify himself if he wishes) happens to be getting rid of a dryer, only six years old, brand-new by my standards, and in good working condition. He was about to list it on Craigslist when he saw my post. We'll take it!

Laptops. I've continued to ask around, and everyone I've asked hasn't replaced their laptop in about five years, unless they just wanted an upgrade while their old computer was still working. But whether I've been fortunate that my computers have lasted many years longer than most people's, or whether my experience is the norm, there's no reason to spend major money on a new laptop, considering it's not my primary computer. It makes more sense to replace one used laptop with another, keeping my cost per laptop at about $200, which so far has lasted two or three years.

Whether these are false bargains, or sound rational decisions, I don't know. But I think for me dryers and laptops still fall under the heading "buy it used".

Thanks for the input!

No comments: