Buy It For Life

It has been a pretty normal weekend here in the Frugasaurus household. As I am typing this, Mr. E. is pondering away on his own computer and I have been spending the morning puzzling away at sidehustles.

I’ve pulled my kindle out of the bookshelf to read a sample of “Meet The Frugalwoods” written by Liz over at Frugalwoods.

I would like to buy it. A part of me stops with a finger above the purchase button. I just don’t buy that much stuff any more. But I want this book. I want to buy it, write my name in the margins and then lend it out to the world. To encourage friends to write their name in it and then lend it on, hopefully leaving them inspired.

But for the moment, my finger hovers above the purchase button. I still have several tasks to finish today before the day is done. Work before play and all that.

So I cast a glance at the other recommended titles related to Frugalwoods. I find “A Life Less Throwaway” by Tara over at I get another sample.

I like the way she writes. Her style flows effortlessly off the page in a kind, non-judgemental way.

Buy it once

The essence of Tara’s book and mission was to create a webpage where people can go to find items that will last them a lifetime or even generations if taken good care of.

That is certainly an idea that appeals to me. I consider myself a very lazy consumer. I would much rather spend some extra time and money researching a quality item that will stay in my faithful service for years, without the need to purchase a new one any time soon.

I dislike shopping with a passion, and avoid it as much as I can. I would much rather the things in my life just perform their desired task and leave me to live my life.

But am I going to throw hundres of dollars at something for that privilege?

Well, yes. We have on occasion, like the time we bought a kitchen machine, or the recent purchase of new bras that actually fit.

Used but not forgotten

Those two examples are both things you would be hard pressed to find used. At least in our area. The items which are easy to find used, such as furniture and cutlery, have all been sourced for free from various parts of the city, and with few to no second thoughts about how long they might last us.

We curate an interesting mix of free, used things and a few expensive thins with more of a “Buy it once” mindset.

I think such a dual mindset can be helpful to any frugal person trying to live more mindfully. In my experience, buy it once tend to be items that could very well last a lifetime, yes. But often they will do so only if taken proper care of.

My blue cast iron pot

Blue cast iron pot, for life
My poor friend.

Take my beautiful blue cast iron pot as an example. It is not a Le Creuset or any such famous brand. In fact, there isn’t even a brand stamped on it.

It was given to me one Christmas from my mother, and I loved that little pot to pieces. It serves us well in our years in London, and I left many other items behind when we moved back to Norway in order to carry that heavy cast iron letter weight back on the plane.

But I had no idea how to care for it. Not truly. I had a vague idea that you should be careful with the enamel, and only use wooden or plastic utensils. But one day after a particularly bad set of burned-to-the-bottom stew, I went against my better judgement and took a steel scrub to it.

Cringeworthy, I know. But it didn’t stop there.

Rewarded with a clean pot and no obvious damage to the enamel, I thought to myself that maybe I had been wrong about how fragile the enamel was. Maybe it was all right.

So I kept doing it whenever there was burned residue at the bottom. I stopped thinking about it, until one day I realised that the brown spots at the bottom that I was working so desperately to scrub off were not burn residue, but the darker colour of cast iron peering through my cream white enamel.

I had worn the enamel away. My beautiful pot would never be completely cream-coloured on the inside ever again.

Growing that experience

Buy me once and other quality mindsets takes knowledge and experience to care for. Knowledge we had a couple of generations ago, but has now been worn away much like my pot by the convenience of items that are meant to be bought, break and replaced.

Quality items, on the other hand, require patience and time.

I can oil our leather shoes and mend our clothes. I have just started canning in earnest and knock on wood, not a single jar or bottle has gone bad on me – yet!

But there are so many skills I do not yet master, and I think trying to do them all at once would be nothing short of completely overwhelming.


I still have that little blue pot my mother gave me. We still use it any time we make stews or casseroles. The iron is still solid, and the only thing I found online was that it could be an issue if you get chips of enamel in your food. But we have never found a chip, as the bottom is more or less sanded down.

It is a constant, humbling reminder to google first, and act later. Something I must admit I am notoriously bad at.

“For some, the path is created as they go.” My mother would tell my little brother when he asked her why I never followed recipes. It exasperated her, an avid recipe-reader, to no end.

I recon if we are to get “back to basics” as it were with a house in the woods, there are a great many more practical and housekeeping skills we need to work on, and practice is the only thing that helps.

Buy it for life

But which life are we talking about? We certainly use the things we buy until the end of their life. Often they are given new life as rags or patches as well. We try to balance somewhere between rescuing free stuff from the landfill, and one or two precious items that needs to be purchased, but once we do, will last our lifetime. If we learn to take proper care for them.

What is your attitude to “buy it for life”? Do you follow it? Disregard it? Consider it irrelevant to a frugal lifestyle?

12 Comments on “Buy It For Life

  1. We’ve come to the conclusion that if we spend a bit extra on something of quality, we end up saving money in the long run, since we don’t need to keep replacing it. Beforehand we would try to buy as cheaply as possible, but for some things this is a false economy. As we attempt to buy less of what we don’t need, we can afford that bit extra on good quality items that we do need.

    • That’s a great philosophy. We strive for the same thing. We are also continuously working on identifying good quality when getting free/used stuff. Practice makes perfect!

  2. We mostly buy it for life now that we’ve been working for a few years. But immediately after college we didn’t have the luxury. But one of the best purchases I made in grad school (our food processor) is still working great, and one of my favorite kitchen tools seven years later.
    I think there are some items that work better to use that motto for (kitchenware, wooden furniture) and others that just aren’t made “for life” (couches, cars). And so finding that balance of buying used vs. for life has helped us.

    • Great points. I have never owned a couch until less than a year ago, so I guess I will finally learn that they do not last forever in… a decade or so?

      Seriously though, I am one of those people who keep using things when I really shouldn’t (at least according to other people). I kept taking my old hand-me-down shoes to the cobbler (a friend of mine), until he told me unapologetically that this repair was the last repair these shoes warranted, short of remaking the whole thing.

      We both love our kitchen machine. Still don’t regret that expense!

  3. Our bagless vacuum cleaner just needed replacing and although we found it in a good deal at Currys – it was still expensive but… it is a cordless machine and we are thrilled with it. We have bought the same brand 3 times now – each one lasts about 9 years so I think we get good value for price divided by years of use! Cordless, bagless -they weren’t invented when we owned our first home. How things change! Love reading your blog btw and am also an avid Frugalwoods reader

    • Thank you for your kinds words! Great Frugalwoods fan here too! I would absolutely say that nine years of service is a decent time for most electric devices.

      We actually didn’t get a vacuum cleaner for the first 6 months in our apartment. In the beginning we were looking for a free or cheap used one, but they kept getting snatched up before we even sent the message, and then Mr. E’s nan needed a new vacuum because her dog developed allergies, so she offered to give it to us for Christmas.

      A dustpan and broom/mop does do the trick, but what an amazing luxury it was to suddenly be able to cover all corners of our little flat in less than half an hour!

  4. Just meant to add- we always buy decent beds and sofas/chairs – you have to take care of your back and it will look after you!

  5. I try to do as much “buy it for life” as I can, my husband is a big proponent on quality over quantity too so it’s easier. I try to apply the same thing to clothes/shoes too. Perfect example in New England now are boots. I had multiple cheap pairs over years that always started leaking or fell apart after a season. I bought Hunter rain boots and have had them 7 years now and still in perfect shape! Expensive at first, but cheaper in the long run only buying one pair.

    • Ooooh yes, boots. Good footwear in general. I’ve inherited some good shoes from Mr. E’s family (they always think his feet are bigger than they are!), but when I do need to buy again, quality, longevity and repairability are high up there on the list!

  6. I really like your ‘buy it for life’ mentality. I’m trying to be more purposeful about what I buy these days and have noticed it has made a difference in how happy I am with the material things in my life. I have a bad history of getting swayed by cheap prices, especially when it comes to clothing. Now I’m focused on adding quality pieces that will last years instead of one season. It’s still a work in progress but my wardrobe is now more limited but feels like it has more options.

    I’m not at all the cook in our house, but my boyfriend asked for a cast iron pan for Christmas a few years ago and it is one of his most prized possessions. He cooks everything in it and takes very good care of it.

    • Thank you. I have noticed the same thing in my own life. When I shop for quality, it tends to be more timeless and it adds joy to my life to buy something well made.

      I once had to buy some really cheap shoes/trousers for a bad job while in London, and we really couldn’t afford anything but the cheapest and it really aggravated me how they would chafe and itch and fall apart within only a couple of weeks!

      Cast iron cookware is awesome! Season it well, cook with it for generations!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *