Monday, April 24, 2006

Our buying strategy

We have a lot of really great stuff. Our house, our car, our computer systems, our treadmill, our TiVo, our DVD player, some of our furniture, our Roomba and Scooba, some of our kitchen equipment, our cell phone, and most recently our TV, for instance.

And yet there are many other areas where what we have is basically cheap crap, or bare minimums. Our lawn tractor is one of the cheapest riding mowers out there. Our kitchen knives are poor quality. Our surround sound system is barely surround and not great on the sound either. Some of our furniture is pretty minimalist. Our barbecue grill is a barely-functioning three-year old cheapie model heavily rusted. Our lawn is nearly devoid of grass and paving stones and anything else, and our lawn and garden care tools are mostly WalMart cheap stuff.

This might seem paradoxical, but it's very much intentional. Like most people we started off very poor. When my wife and I first lived together, we had a net value in the negatives, and cardboard boxes for furniture. Right from the start, we adopted a leapfrog strategy for buying things we needed, and that's what's gotten us here.

Most of the things we have to buy, we buy a cheap version and then make it last best we can. But every once in a while we use the money we saved doing that to buy one thing really good, way better than most of our other stuff, something that'll last a long while. And we make it last that whole long while.

The TV we just replaced, for instance, was about 12 years old. It has a good picture for its size, but it has only a single coax input, which seriously limited picture quality and made it hard for us to have a TiVo, DVD player, and VCR at once without even more problems. But though it was tempting to replace it with one that had more and better inputs, I held out for years and years. Instead of doing a bunch of money-sucking intermittent upgrades, I held off a long time and then leapfrogged ahead to something that's way, way better, and which will still be excellent many years from now.

So eventually the day will come where we'll buy a really fantastic high-quality chef's knife, or a good surround sound system, or a nice barbecue grill, but that's not today. Today was the TV. Putting off getting the good stuff in all those other areas is how we can get the good stuff on the one thing we got today. And doing that over years, decades, is how we got to where we have all the good stuff we have now.

No comments: