Planned Obsolescence: The Scourge of Frugality

Planned Obsolescence

If you’re a frugal person, the concept of planned obsolescence stinks. There’s no polite way to put it. Manufacturers create things to last a short period of time, forcing you to upgrade or buy a new one at regular intervals. It’s become common practice in everything from appliances to power tools to electronics. Nothing is built to last these days.

At the risk of sounding like an old person, I miss the days when things were built to last. My mother still has the same toaster that she received for her wedding in 1957. The thing is fifty-six years old and still turns out perfect toast. I, on the other hand, have been married much less than half that time and have been throu

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8 Responses to Planned Obsolescence: The Scourge of Frugality

  1. Good article. I completely agree with you that a lot of products nowadays are not made to last. I try to keep my things going just short of becoming a safety hazard, but sometimes still isn’t long as I would have hoped for.

  2. Donna says:

    It’s interesting that you show cell phones in your post. My dad carried the same cell phone for 8 years until it literally fell apart. The cell phone companies are counting on us not being able to resist the lure of the newest feature. We have to differentiate between whether we really need to upgrade/replace or we just want to.

  3. James says:

    Jeffrey,

    Thanks for the great posting. One things I would add is that if you have a health balance of liquid assets (such as stocks or bonds) you may need less of an emergency fund, or no emergency fund at all.

    Also, can’t you find used appliances on craigslist? Otherwise I agree that planned obsolescence is a problem. My wife and I have an old fashioned GE toaster oven, its still working after 30 years.

    Best,

    James

  4. jim says:

    Oh I so get this – and I’m beating it. For all of you with 10 – 15 year old dishwashers, you’ve no doubt noticed that sometimes (in spite of what you use as a “rinse” your silverware/glassware comes out cloudy). Do NOT replace that dishwasher. NO! Go buy a really big jug of white vinegar, fill a dish with about a 1/2 cup of vinegar, place it on the top rack and then run your dishwasher. ALL of the streaks/clouds will be gone. We’ve been doing that with our 15 year old dishwasher for quite awhile and it works wonderfully.

  5. Kate says:

    I’m looking to buy my third laptop in 15 years, it sucks but given that my 2nd laptop came from Craigslist I really shouldn’t be surprised. I use velcro strips to keep the laptop open after its hinges broke, but when my nephew showed me how to use wooden toothpicks to safely add pressure to the plug between laptop and cable wire so power can keep feeding into the computer, that’s when it dawn on me that maybe it’s time for a new machine.

  6. Jo says:

    What I noticed was not mentioned in the article/comments is due to where most of the merchandise is made – SE Asia. As an avid viewer of American Pickers on the History Channel, I noticed how 99.9% of their picks were made in this country. And, even though many of them show to be rusty (bike frames, lanterns, porcelain signs, etc.), brought to the right refurbisher or repairman, the item can turn out looking brand new and operable. Gas pumps with the glass globe on top dating back to the ’30s is a prime example. Yes, it’ll cost, but how old is the item to begin with? Usually 30-50 years old. Given another life, it’ll probably outlive its owner – depending on his/her age.

    That very old toaster mentioned by Jennifer (author)that is still functioning was more than likely manufactured here. And virtually everything manufactured here was made of very sturdy materials – largely, metal. Stainless steel, iron, wood. Today, unfortunately, it’s petroleum by-products, such as plastic.

    In today’s day and age, I’ve noticed that even when products are being made here, the people at the top are going for cheaply made garbage. There’s too much focus on the bottom line, using the same model for production in China.

    On the bright side, much is being done for non-sustainable broken down plastics by recycling and turning them into other products. What was once a 2-litre of Coke, is now a recycled barrel for an gel ink pen. Technological equipment is/are being recycled/refurbished as well.

    Just sayin’….. ;-)

  7. Gailete says:

    I have found that some things if you don’t upgrade, you get left behind in the dust. I bought, many years ago, one of the first sewing machines that could also do embroidery. Great! Then they came out with a converter box that would allow me to download designs from the internet and use them on my machine and I also ended up with a used scanner that could be used to make up my own designs and also as a link to download designs from the internet. What does this have to do about planned obsolescence? As our regular computers would die and since we had to have a working computer for our on line business, we got new computers. Soon the input devices between my sewing machines accessories and the computer didn’t work any more as there were no slots/holes for them. I was able to find one gadget to convert from one input to USB but not for another cord. I asked my sewing machine guy and he said those cords weren’t made any more and if I found one or more grab them. So I have thousands of dollars of sewing equipment (thankfully I bought used for much cheaper) that can no longer be used. Not that it didn’t work well, just because there are no more connecting cords to computers. Just like my first computer had a 5 1/4 floppy, 3” floppy AND a CD ROM, now you can only get CD’s and USB thumb drives. Anyone with the older floppies, unless they are good at keeping aging computers running, is out of luck as well.

    While many things with the computer age are wonderful, it is the worst case of obsolescence that I think we have ever seen. That and cell phones, ipads, etc.

  8. Pingback: Forced Obsolescence | forced obsolscence

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