FP 1, Disposable Culture 2

As you might imagine for someone who sometimes carries drinking water in an old jam jar, I do not like throwing things away. (The only exception is pens. I feel a great sense of accomplishment if I manage not to lose a pen long enough that it runs out of ink, as opposed to ending its life in the dust bin at the grocery store, as I suspect most of my pens do.)

Avoiding throwing things away is hard in a culture, like ours, that makes things easy to replace and hard to fix, and Mr. FP and I have had a run of bad luck over the last month or so:

  1. He dropped his phone and broke the screen.
  2. My phone suddenly went dead.
  3. The TV also suddenly went dead.
  4. The printer went from working “intermittently” to “never.”

Mr. FP called Motorola to ask about having his phone repaired. We don’t do that, they said, but for $100 we’ll send you a brand-new phone. Reasonably good deal for us, sure. But one point for disposable culture.

My phone was an HTC Evo 4G LTE from 2012. About three years old. Turns out that the battery is integrated and can’t be replaced. (Things I wish I’d known before I bought it.) I actually bought a special set of tiny screwdrivers and tried taking the thing apart anyway, but I failed. HTC told me that the phone was “end of life.” Really? I have a kid as old as that phone, and he still wets his pants. But off to the recycling center with the phone. Another point for disposable culture.

I did, however, learn from the experience. I ordered a replacement phone from Glyde (of course) and this time was more careful. I decided that I do not need the LTE capability because I almost never use data anyway, and then usually for email, and that opened up some options. I settled on a Samsung Galaxy S3. You can actually still buy that one new, so I figure there will be a longer period of support as far as being able to get replacement parts and Android updates. And yes, the battery can be replaced. So maybe I can keep this one out of the jaws of disposable culture for a few years. I opted for “Good” rather than “Excellent” condition to keep the total cost under $100 and I’m glad I did. There are some scratches to the case but none to the screen, and the case scratches (a) are not very bad and (b) are hidden by the protective case anyway. One point for the FPs.

Then, the TV, which is at most three years old. Mr. FP took it to a local repair shop and was quoted $250 to repair it because the job requires replacing one giant, integrated board–disposable culture trying to make us buy a new one. Now, that gave us pause, because you can buy a new 40-inch LCD TV for less than that (albeit not from quite such a good brand as we have, evidently). We agonized for a few days while huddling around one laptop to watch Game of Thrones (HBO comes free with our cable Internet for reasons best known to ComCast).

Then we decided to just cough up the money. Here’s why we opted for repair over replacement:

  1. Enrich a local business instead of the businesses making junky TVs.
  2. Avoid having to learn a new TV, program a new remote, and all that nonsense.
  3. Save the time researching a new TV purchase.
  4. Keep our old TV out of the landfill.
  5. Save a few bucks ($30-$50) over a comparable replacement.

I would say that we beat disposable culture on that one, but only sort of–we did get stuck with the hefty repair bill because the TV was designed to be hard to repair. So let’s call that one a draw.

The printer’s death  was less distressing because it’s at least ten years old, maybe twelve, so it had a good run. It was a multifunction color inkjet, but here’s the thing about color printing: 90% of the time when we printed in color, it was an accident. After enough accidents, we would have to replace the (expensive) color cartridge. Then, guess what part of the printer broke? The color cartridge compartment. The printer lost the ability to recognize it and, for reasons of its own, declined to print even in black and white on the grounds that it could not feel the color cartridge.

So for a replacement, we went with this multifunction laser printer. Laser printing is cheaper than inkjet, we won’t have to worry about color cartridges, and laser printers have a reputation for being less temperamental, so we hope it will be easier to own. Let’s call this one another draw.

Well, everything is up and running now at a total cost of $600. Now, if we were REALLY frugal, we would have saved the whole $600. Every single thing that broke is a luxury item.

How do you decide whether to replace something, repair it–or just not have it anymore?

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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

4 responses to “FP 1, Disposable Culture 2”

  1. mrsssc says :

    I get so frustrated when things break and it seems like they are just too new to break! I want to buy stuff for life! But, we had a hard month too – treadmill broke (under warranty – yeah!), garage door broke so bad, my husband was stuck at home with all cars in the garage had to call someone to fix it since he couldn’t get to the store – and I was out of town, glass shower door hinges broke – unreplacable. Oh – and the AC broke… which we called a guy for the first time, but then it wasn’t 100% fixed, but since my husband watched what the repairman did, he was able to fix it himself 🙂

  2. Mrs. Frugalwoods says :

    I get frustrated about planned obsolescence too–seems like so many products are just designed to break after a few short years. We too hate throwing stuff out and use everything for as long as we possibly can. But, when it does actually break, we weigh the cost of repair vs. new (as you did) and just go with whichever’ll be cheapest. We aim to buy-it-for-life as often as possible, but even then it’s hard to know what’ll actually stand the test of time.

    We made a great discovery the other day–we’ve had our electric toothbrushes for so long that the model is no longer under copyright and so we can get cheaper generic brush-head replacements from Amazon! Woohoo! A win for keeping stuff for years and years!

    • frugalparagon says :

      Good news on the electric toothbrush! And that means you picked the right one in the first place–if it didn’t last a long time and wasn’t popular, no one would have bothered developing the generic heads.

      Many years ago I had a temp job answering the phones in, of all places, an auto body shop. We had one customer whose car was only about 7 years old, but he had bought it new and had chosen a model that more or less failed. There were already no parts available for his car! Sometimes there’s an advantage to a big name.

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