Friday, July 18, 2008

It's not about the money

My parents have started reading my blog, and the last time I visited them, my Dad commented on the July No Buying Challenge. He stated that he and my mother have always been careful careful with their money, and it's true. They have always had little to no debt, and did their best to live within their means. With consumer debt ballooning, and home foreclosures at a 20+ year high, reducing spending is of huge importance, but, it is not what the no buying challenge is about.

The July No Buying Challenge is about reducing consumption, not spending. Reduced spending is often a happy consequence of reduced consumption, but it is not always the case. Buying something that will last the test of time often costs more than disposable items (at least in the short term). For instance, outfitting your house with cleaning cloths will likely initially cost more than a roll of paper towels. However, the cloths can be used again and again, potentially giving you years of use. The paper towels on the other hand are used, then tossed, requiring you to consume and spend more in the long run (then there is also the issues of shipment and chemical production representing further environmental impact).

-Cloths do require washing which uses water, and likely electricity, and detergent. Using environmentally appropriate washing techniques can reduce this impact, as can composting paper towels.

How do you know if a product will last for the long term? The old adage "you get what you pay for" comes to mind. Bargain basement prices are generally not synonymous with high quality; however, you don't have to break the bank to get a quality good either. Companies that have enough faith in their goods to give life long product guarantees are probably producing quality products. Goods that are meant to be repaired rather than replaced are likely better quality than their disposable counter parts. Finally, quality goods do not need commercial advertisement. You will likely hear about them through word of mouth.

My favorite clothing company is Patagonia. They offer a lifelong guarantee against manufacturing and material defects, and will repair clothing damaged through the users actions. They have also been working to reduce their environmental impact, create organic clothing, give a percent of their profits to environmental causes, and support their employees in environmental efforts. What keeps me from having a closet full of nothing but Patagonia clothing? Reality. While their prices are reasonable, full price if often more than I can afford. Rather than buying cheaper clothing that won't last as long, I wait for their sales. They notify me by e-mail when their sales occur, and I buy the quality I want, at prices I can afford. The rest of the year I just don't buy clothes, unless I find something equally suitable and need the item.

The moral of the story:
  • The July No Buying Challenge is about reducing consumption, not spending.
  • Buying quality items that will last will likely cost more than the disposable alternative.
  • Reducing consumption (by not buying, buying used, or buying quality) will likely save money in the long run.
One last thought; all products must be properly cared for to last.

2 comments:

The Gadabout Knitter said...

Or instead of buying cleaning cloths you can take all of the old t-shirts or underwear and cut them into strips to use to clean... :)

Gerwerken said...

As yes, reuse. Besides eliminating the use of a product, reuse is perhaps the pinnacle of consumption reduction, and a great money saver.