Paying more vs. consuming less: the conundrum

8 May 2009 an economic recession, spend more up front for a better return is probably the last thing on your mind. The logic is to think long term. Higher quality goods have lower maintenance costs, while purchasing cheaper items will result in a higher cost of ownership.

This "total cost of ownership" is based on the idea that the value of goods should be judged on its lifetime value, and not the immediate cost of purchase. In other words, the total cost of items should be evaluated by considering its cost on energy requirements and repair costs down the road.

Of course, not all of us have time to punch the numbers into our watt calculates, but take this case of expensive versus inexpensive washing machines from The Simple Dollar blog that illustrates this fine point. Energy and water savings are great things to count on, and while a more 'expensive' washing machine may not be as appealing up front, the less energy costs per cycle adds up over a number of laundry sessions.

On the other hand, it would also take an average of 15 years in order for the washing machine to "pay for itself". So considering that most people do not keep washing machines for that long, would it be worth paying double the money up front?

My personal opinion is no, but I also don't believe in either options. Instead, there is one fundamental alternative to consider:

Why not consume less?

There are, after all, many articles of clothing that don't require washing after just one wearing. Those trousers you're wearing right now could probably last for a couple more dress up sessions through the weekend. When you get around to washing it, you could also line dry it instead of using a dryer.

Of course, this argument doesn't apply to things like expensive HDMI cables, as there is no energy savings or lowered repair costs down the road to make up for the high price. But I'm sure if we all think about our lives right now, we can find at least one area where we consume less and still maintain our quality and costs of living. And if the end objective is to have less impact on the environment", why not switch off the laptop when you go out this evening, and instead of spending more on a hybrid vehicle, simply drive less and walk more?


  • johnny
    can also turn underwear inside out and back to front etc and/or just not care about hygeine at all
  • John
    Great, i will buy a Bentley, because it won't wank out as quick as a Ford Fiesta.

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