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.