The PJ Tatler

The Case Against Buying New

Michael Walsh linked to an excellent article on the inability of many millennials to fix the simplest of household devices. Walsh was joined by many of my Boomer/Gen-X friends in his comment that it’s usually cheaper to throw out and buy new, but speaking as one of those Gen-X/millennial crossovers, going shopping isn’t always the cheapest thing to do. Especially when you’re caught up in a lousy economy.

Here’s where I praise my incredibly handy husband who grew up learning fractions via wrench set before he ever encountered them in school. When he lost his job shortly after the recession hit, we newlyweds risked becoming a statistic, joining the millions of college graduates like us who were out of work at a time when no jobs could be found. Thankfully, along with raising us with a fabulously humble work ethic, our parents also trained us to make the most out of nothing. My husband saved us thousands of dollars by repairing cars, plumbing, even our household heater himself when times were lean.

Fixing things doesn’t always mean owning crap, either. How did my husband manage to drive a Mercedes in college? He found a wreck in a salvage yard and spent one summer fixing it up with his dad after work. That car lasted him over 10 years and remained a great investment because he took the time to learn how to maintain and repair it when necessary.

His Mr. Fix-It habit is far from over now that he’s back in the work force. Do you know how much it costs the average young homeowner to re-do a bathroom in their first fixer-upper? Enough to make them not bother, or mortgage more for a home that’s already been upgraded. Every project we’ve done in our home we’ve done ourselves with little to no outside help. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it’s hard work. But when you’re young and newly married in a depression marketed as a recession, knowing how to be handy around the house is a lifesaver for your budget and your marriage.

Speaking as the former office manager of a mom and pop TV repair shop, do I think the average TV owner is going to buy a $500 circuit board to fix their flat screen? Nope. However, I do think they’d be wise to salvage those old speakers from grandma’s stereo to build their own surround sound setup before spending anywhere from $500 to $20,000 to have it done for them. In this economy, millennials especially ought to think twice about throwing out and buying new. There’s a lot to be said for being able to do things yourself. It’s a thrilling kind of independence to not have to crack open your checkbook every time something breaks. Perhaps learning how to be handy would help the new generation to save a few more bucks, get out of the house, and even get married before they’re old enough to be considered disposable themselves.

And for the record, Michael, without that oh-so-antiquated sounding radio frequency engineering you’d be hard-pressed to access your Wi-Fi.