Posted on February 3, 2016
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about consumerism, marketing & waste. We are being sold things constantly, whether online, on billboards or TV & radio marketing. I think a lot of us feel immune to it by now, but the fact is, the ads stick in your head. Think about it, how many times have you seen an ad for a new car, or a new laptop or something else shiny and actually thought to yourself “I’d like a new one of those”? Seriously, we all do.
I am exactly the same, I always get sucked into car adverts in the newspaper. I see the low deposit & APR deals and think I would love to own a shiny new car. I’ve even gone into showrooms in the past and almost bought cars on a whim, the deals seem so good. But I haven’t & I’m glad.
I was always brought up to respect what you own & make it last. I became an expert at fixing things, I’d even beg or buy broken items off people and repair them, especially electronics. I did this for years, building PC’s out of bits of broken computers, fixing TV sets and VCR’s. I had very little money growing up but adopting this mindset I had all the same things as my friends. I also developed a great respect for the things that I owned & a wonderful skill set, being able to fix almost anything. I had Frankenstein bikes built out of parts of broken bikes & the best go karts you can imagine.
I maintained this right through my university days up until the point when I started working. At this point, free time seemed precious and I started to think replacing something was easier & would save me time. I did this for a few years before realising how wasteful I had become. I leased a brand new car with no intention of ever owning it, I built bigger & faster computers because I had the money & wanted the best (I never needed it, I wanted it).
This led me down a slippery slope & I soon ended up with all the latest gear and no respect for any of it. It also helped me run up a lot of debt. Replacing stuff for the sake of having the latest without any actual need for it. Over the last few years I’ve taken it back and now I enjoy my old lifestyle again. I enjoy fixing things, I enjoy making things last longer than they should. Only last week a few drops of coffee splashed onto our Macbook Pro. The Macbook is over 4 years old & perfectly good for everything we throw at it, however this drop of coffee killed it. It was stressful. We called a guy who repairs these things and he quoted £280+ so I dug out my tools & dismantled the laptop. After poking around it would appear that the only trace of coffee was a tiny drop on the keyboard. I disconnected the keyboard ribbon cable and the laptop started just fine. Problem found, I hit eBay, ordered a replacement keyboard for £24.99 and the next day repaired the macbook. I saved myself a fortune in repair, not to mention the old me would have just spent another £1100 on a new laptop. This is a great lesson.
It’s the same with cars. I used to run big, posh, expensive cars when I started working & after that, but years ago I ran a G reg Mini (old style). I could take it apart with basic tools and service it myself. It was so simple & it felt so liberating knowing I could fix most things myself. On the posh cars I’ve had gearboxes explode costing many thousands of pounds & putting us into financial difficulty. I now run a 11 year old Fiat Panda. It’s bright blue, very basic & so easy to run & repair. It’s cheap to run petrol wise, insurance & tax is cheap and I can service it every six months on my own drive.
I have loads of examples of this. I kept an xbox 360 running for 11 years. It RROD after 2 years so I repaired it, the DVD drive failed so I repaired that, it had numerous problems & I just kept stripping it down and repairing it. The same story for the original xbox. It’s a great mentality to get into. I even watched a great documentary on the subject of planned obsolescence which helps me feel even better about repairing things (funnily enough I used the same software to keep an old Epson CX3200 printer going, even though it was 8 years old as is featured in this documentary). See below for The Light bulb Conspiracy documentary on Youtube.
The ability to fix things not only makes you feel amazing, but it saves you money & saves waste. I’m currently writing this post on my trusty Lenovo X200 running free software (Linux & Firefox). This is my geeky laptop for projects but it’s now 8 years old and it’s a brilliant laptop. It still holds over an hour of charge on the original battery.
So next time you see something shiny marketed at you, ask yourself do you really need it & in fact do you really want it, or will you get home and feel guilty for making a pointless upgrade or purchase.
My wife & I now work for ourselves. We earn a lot less than we did when both working full time, but we have time to relax, time to write & time to enjoy each others company. What’s more we have loads of free time & no less than when we both worked full time. The car is less flash, the house is more rural & we don’t have all the latest kit, but we are better people & we get all of those hours back. That is better than money. What’s more, by learning to fix things, not replace on a whim and be more frugal you can live a great lifestyle on a budget. I’m going to write more about this soon, I just felt the need to write this post after fixing the Macbook.
If you are interested in this subject here are some things to get started:-
- Install Adblock on your browser & on your smartphone
- Record TV on your PVR and skip over adverts
- Limit your advertising intake
- Always ask yourself do you really need to make a purchase
- Always try to repair, you can find great guides online
- Consider an item based on the ability to repair it (fairphone is a great example of this)