A Life Without Debt: Take Care of Your Stuff

One of the ways we’ve managed to avoid debt is very simple: We take care of all of our possessions so that they will last. Making things last longer means we don’t have to replace them as often, saving us large amounts of money. This sounds like a no brainer, but I’m always surprised by the number of people who treat their things poorly. Then, when their possessions break or get lost, they head off to the store to buy new ones, griping all the while about the expense. If they had just taken better care of the item, it probably would have lasted longer.

Here are some ways you can make sure your stuff is taken care of and that it lasts for the long haul:

Perform routine maintenance: You car comes with a schedule of routine maintenance for tires, oil changes, brake replacement, and other parts. Appliances, heat/AC systems, and water heaters come with recommendations for cleaning, defrosting, and servicing them to keep them operating well. Your home should be inspected for termites at least every two years and you should check your roof and foundation at least once per year for damage. Those schedules and advice are designed to keep your things in peak operating condition and free from problems. If you fail to keep up with the routine maintenance, things will start to break down, leak, or rot, resulting in costly repairs or permanent damage to the item. The maintenance may be annoying to perform and keep up with, but it is always cheaper to do it than to wait until the big breakdown happens.

Don’t abuse things: Only use items for their intended purposes and within the stated guidelines for use. Don’t overload an item or subject it to conditions for which it was not designed. Don’t drop breakable items or put electronics in places where they might get wet. Don’t let kids play with things that are easily damaged like cell phones. Handle DVD’s or video games with care so they don’t get scratched; don’t just toss them on the floor. Many things are fairly durable these days, but everything has its limits. Handle items with care and treat them with respect if you want them to last.

Fix things immediately When your car or an appliance starts making a funny noise, get it fixed immediately. When your skirt loses a button or gets a small hole, mend it. If your roof loses a shingle, replace it. If your heater seems like it’s not heating efficiently, have it looked at. Waiting to deal with problems only makes them worse. Funny noises, leaks, rips, and cracks rarely get better with time. If you address the problem when it’s small, it’s less costly to fix and you get to it before the damage spreads. When you wait, more damage is caused and it may reach a point where the item simply cannot be fixed and must be replaced.

Take protective measures: Bring your bike inside when it’s supposed to rain to prevent rust. Get a sturdy case for your cell phone to prevent scratching and cracked screens. Bring the car into the garage, if possible, when a hail or windstorm threatens to prevent damage from ice or falling limbs. Use coasters to prevent rings on furniture. Carry your laptop in a protective bag to guard against breakage. Lock your home and car doors and secure valuable outdoor items to prevent theft or vandalism. Take down dead or dying trees to keep them from falling on your house or car. Keep your DVD’s and video games in their protective cases instead of leaving them out. Have your foundation treated for termites to prevent infestation. You can protect against many of the events that might damage your stuff by just taking some simple precautions. Taking protective action is much less costly than dealing with the resulting damage or loss of your things.

No amount of protective care will make something last forever. There are times when items just stop working or circumstances beyond your control damage your things. In those cases, you’ll probably have to buy something new. However, taking care of your things will prolong their lives in most cases, meaning you will spend far less money over the long term. Cars, appliances, cell phones, furniture, electronics and other items are expensive. Buying as few items as possible, particularly big ticket items, is a big help if you want to stay out of debt. Taking care of your stuff is one way to lessen the expense.

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6 Responses to A Life Without Debt: Take Care of Your Stuff

  1. hair bow girl says:

    We recently just paid off all debut except for our mortgage. These are good tips and I’m a firm believer of taking care of your things. I also think it makes sense to watch for really good deals (especially during this recession) and buy items of higher quality and a good reputation.

  2. Monkey Mama says:

    Agreed about 90%. We notice this A LOT with our friends, etc.

    My only disagreement is when it comes to preventitive maintenance. Good advice, of course. But most “recommended maintenance” is WAY overkill and more costly than necessary.

    Figure out what is reall necessary (i.e. regular oil changes) and follow the “fix it immediately” philosophy. I have found being debt free that we do not put off minor repairs that the average person tends to due to lack of funds.

    On the flip side, most of my frugal friends are a little more discerning on regular maintenance than the non-frugal ones who believe everything a sales person tells them.

  3. Sometimes though, it bites you.
    We have run into this with our computers. Our older ones were working fine, then an issue here and there–many places won’t fix them-they want to sell you a newer one. 5 shops turned us down=then we found a guy who does it out of his home on the side and he repaired them for $30 each. He added memory or did some updates and they hopefully will last another 15 years each!

  4. Jay Gatsby says:

    The most important preventative maintenance you can perform is on YOURSELF. Material things come and go from your life, while your life, if you take care of yourself, will outlast any importance you placed on such things.

  5. larabelle says:

    This article came at such a good time. I just completed $1,300 worth of car repairs and routine maintenance (timing belt, water pump, coolant flush etc). My car is in good shape and I am sure I will have many more years of life in it. It is also paid for!!!

    I happened to mention to one of my nonfrugal relatives that I had paid out $1300 and his response was that instead of paying for repairs/routine maintenance I should just buy a new car. I thought about that for about a half a second as I would have a car payment. I then realized that this same relative has always had a car payment and is BROKE!!! I think I will continue to maintain and drive my present car :)

  6. rob62521 says:

    Good points about taking care of stuff. And Jay, I agree, taking care of yourself should be at the top of the list. Eating well, exercising, having friends — good for physical and mental health.

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