Monday, July 9, 2012

Buying New vs Re-Purposing or Buying Used

Writing this blog has helped me to think about some of the things I do in a different way. One of those things is the purchase of new items, and the other costs, such as driving and eating out, that end up accompanying these purchases. After writing my daily post on Sunday, I realized that some readers may question how shopping trips to Nicholasville on Saturday, then to London on Sunday fit in with simple living. To be honest, this is something I often wonder myself.

In some areas we do a fairly good job of re-purposing old materials and finding ways to make do with what we have, rather than buying new items. We like buying used items whenever possible. However, there are other situations in which we purchase new items. Sometimes there are, at least what seem like, good reasons for this, but other times there are not. Sometimes, even when we buy used items, I know that we could have probably avoided making the purchase at all, or could have found the item closer to home a the very least.

Lets take our purchases this weekend as examples. On Saturday we bought 2 barrels, and some parts trays. One of the barrels was a 30 gallon plastic barrel with removable lid. We are going to use it to store water at the garden, so I don't have to haul it from the creek as often. I doubt that I could have found a barrel like this around here, but did we need that exact barrel? We didn't go to Nicholasville with the intention of buying that specific barrel, it is just what we found that seemed like a good fit for our needs. Could I have found a barrel around closer to home that would fit the need? Yes, I suspect I could have, although it would likely have required a few alterations. There is a good chance it would not have been as clean as the one I purchased, requiring quite a bit of washing, etc. I'm certain that we could have found the 55 gallon metal barrel around here. The cleanliness of it wasn't as big of a deal, since I just plan to store tools in it. The benefit of buying from LexCon, though, was that I had a large selection to choose from, and was able to acquire the barrels when I wanted them. I probably could have spent some time searching around here for similar items, but how much time would I have spent? Did the convenience make up for the cost and driving? Obviously for me it did, but I'm not sure if it should have or not.

Next, consider the trip to London on Sunday. The primary purpose of that trip was to look for a new office chair. The plan is to buy a new chair for my office, move the old chair to the living room, then, if we can repair the broken wheel on that one, move it to Andrea's sewing area. Andrea does have a chair, but it isn't a very good one. We bought it used for a couple of dollars several years ago. Its hard for me to justify buying a new chair in this situation, especially since the new ones I'm looking at are quiet expensive. I do, however, spend 40-50 hours/week sitting in the chair, so it is the type of item that I believe is worth investing in when its needed. Again, though, I have to wonder if this sort of purchase is in line with my goals of simple living. Personally, I don't think it is.

Last, I'll discuss the items I purchased at Lowe's on Sunday. First was the bag of drainage gravel for the ditch I just dug to route the water from the a/c into the yard. I had initially planned to pick up small rock from around our property to use for this task. Since we were going to Lowe's Andrea suggested I at least look at the ones they had for sell. At less than $4 for a bag, I decided that it made more sense to buy a bag than it did to spent an hour or more looking for small enough rocks to use. From a purely financial standpoint, I think I made the right decision, because the cost was far less than the amount of time I would have otherwise spent. However, from the standpoint of simplicity and sustainability, it would have been better to use rocks from our property rather than buying something.

The other items I bought at Lowes were for a future project. I bought a piece of 2" drain pipe, a couple of caps to fit the pipe, and a package of 18" zip ties. I did look for the pipe at the Re-Store, and while they didn't have the exact thing I was looking for, they did have something that probably would have worked. I worried that it would be hard to find the caps, though, so decided it was better to buy exactly what I needed, to make the project itself go easier. As for the zip ties, had I gone to the flea market I could probably have gotten them cheaper, but the impact of the purchase would have been the same. The best solution would have been to figure out an alternative product to use which I could have bought used, or re-purposed something else. Again, I opted to buy a new item to make the project easier.

This sort of purchasing is always a balancing act. While I can justify each purchase, I have to wonder if I am really working against my goal of simple living by doing so. Is it better to buy materials, so that I can do a project now, when I am motivated and have time, or wait until I can find the materials used? Is it better to buy new materials so that I can get exactly what I need,  making the project simpler and therefore more likely to be completed, or try to make due with whatever used materials I can find or whatever materials I already have on hand?

I realize that those questions would likely be irrelevant if I were in a situation where I did not have the money to spend on new materials. Should I be making my choices as if we didn't have the extra money, and then saving up that money to go towards the eventual building of our house? Or is it better to spend the money, since we have it, so that the projects get done? It isn't like we aren't saving any money, but an extra $50 towards savings would put us that much closer to that goal.

Similarly, I find myself purchasing quite a few tools and pieces of equipment. My logic is that, since we're still basically starting out, there are a lot of items that we need to be collecting. I could try buying cheaper or used items, then plan to replace them later. I tend to choose, though, to spend more money up front on items I expect to last. I think that, in the long run this will save money. I think an argument can be made that it has less environmental impact as well, since it, hopefully, reduces the amount of new items being purchased. Hopefully, as we collect more and more tools, the frequency with which we need to buy them will drop off. My fear is that I'll always identify more tools or pieces of equipment that we need, and continue to use the same logic to justify purchasing them. My desire to buy a tractor, for example, likely falls into this category.

No comments:

Post a Comment