When making a big (or even small) purchase, many people fail to think about the end game. What happens when you no longer want the item, it’s old and broken down, or you have to sell it to help with bad financial circumstances? This is normal. After all, when you’re buying something, you’re excited about it, you can’t wait to start using it, and you think the love affair will never end. Eventually, though, you’ll have to get rid of the item and some items aren’t all that easy to get rid of.
Furniture is one example, as I discovered last year when I finally replaced our aging couch. If you buy an appliance, most appliances dealers will haul away your old one when they deliver the new one. But this is not the case with furniture. You usually have to find your own way to dispose of old furniture. This may mean taking it to the dump, selling it yourself, or donating it somewhere. If you don’t have a truck, getting it to the dump is a problem, selling it requires time and a bit of aggravation on your part (for every serious buyer you’ll have a quack or two), and some places are super picky about what they’ll accept for donations (few places accept soft, upholstered furniture, for example, due to fears of bed bugs).
Many things are complicated to dispose of. The end of a product’s life comes eventually and you’ll have to deal with it, so consider how you’ll get rid of it before you buy it. Here are the common disposal methods and the problems with each.
Small things are easy. Just put them in the can and send them out the door. Bigger things are more problematic. Will your municipality do a curbside-pickup of a big item? If not, do you have a way to get that huge bed or sofa to the dump? Does your dump charge fees? If you’re going to have to rent a truck and pay dump fees, disposal is going to get expensive.
One of the things that is often not considered when something is no longer needed is whether it can be used in a different way, which has the added benefit that it keeps it out of the trash. Sometimes it can be repurposed for another function as a whole while other times it may be able to be broken down into smaller pieces, and those pieces used for something else. The repurposing doesn’t need to only something that you would use. Many things that you no longer need may be exactly what artists are looking for as raw material for their artwork. Many times using a bit of creativity will allow you to find a way to give the item a new life as something else.
Rather than trash the item, it’s great if you can recycle it. Many places now accept (some require) electronics for recycling, but you have to remove all personal information from the device. And that may not be as easy or as fail-safe as it sounds. Even though you think you’ve removed your information, some of it may still be recoverable. If this worries you, you’re going to need to totally destroy the device and then dispose of it another way. There may be fees for recycling, as well. If you want to take something large like a dead car or appliance to a metal recycler you will again run into the problem of transporting it.
Many donation centers are picky about what they’ll take these days. Some won’t take anything soft or upholstered, some won’t take any type of electronic device (some won’t even take small appliances like toasters due to too many being donated that didn’t work), and some won’t take anything over a certain size. Even if you can find a donation center to take the item, you’ve still got to get it there which can be a problem if you don’t have a truck.
This is the method that will put some money in your pocket, but it comes with the most hassles. For big items like campers, boats, and cars, you have to arrange times for test drives and showings. (And campers, boats, jet skis, and ATV’s have fewer numbers of potential buyers.) You have to deal with potential scammers and the hassles of making sure you get the money and getting the title transferred correctly. For smaller items, you may have to deal with shipping. If you list on a site like eBay, you’re probably going to have to pay some fees and deal with scammers. If your stuff is specialized, as in a collection of some sort, you have to find the right buyer or auction house as collectibles don’t appeal to everyone. Even something that seems simple, like a yard sale, can present a big annoyance.
Give It Away
You can always try to give stuff away, but even this sometimes won’t work. You can list items on sites like Craigslist or in the “free” section of your local paper. You can also just place it by the curb with a “free” sign on it. If you’re lucky it’ll disappear. If it doesn’t, though, you’re back to having to use one of the options above.
If you don’t think you can find an easy way to get rid of the item, you might be better off not buying it in the first place. (After the hassle we had to go through to get rid of our old couch, I kind of wish we’d just kept it.) Luxury and “fun” items in particular that have a small pool of potential buyers might be better left on the shelf or the showroom floor. Also consider whether this is something your heirs are going to have to get rid of. Do you want to burden them with the disposal of a hard to unload item? Sure, it’s fun to upgrade furniture and buy “toys,” but when you factor in the hassle of getting rid of some of this stuff, you might not want to buy it. If more people asked themselves, “What will I do with it later?”, there might be fewer regretted purchases and more money saved.
(Photo courtesy of F Delventhal)