Are Your Expensive Purchases Weighing You Down?

by Katy on January 10, 2012 · 39 comments

My $50 dishwasher will not make me any sexier, but it sure does free up the budget.

A recent conversation about my $50 Craigslist dishwasher got me thinking.

Because I choose to buy a $50 dishwasher instead of a $500+ dishwasher, (and a $45 washing machine, etc. etc.) I am then able to do things like travel to Japan and work part time.

So enjoy your sexy high end stainless steel appliances, as they are now your ball and chain.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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Megyn @Minimalist Mommi January 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

Hey! Stainless steel doesn’t have to cost a fortune! We got our SS oven & microwave off CL for like $300! Plus, they match our fridge & dishwasher which were housewarming gifts. Now we have a matching high-end looking kitchen for barely anything.

Also, with rebates and such you can get NEW washing machines for what you can buy a used one for. We got our HE front loader for about $275 when it originally cost $700 due to rebates and incentives 🙂

Katy January 10, 2012 at 10:35 am

But the whole “I have to have a $5000 Viking stove” thing is out of control.


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi January 10, 2012 at 10:43 am

Oh definitely! I don’t know how it will cook food any better than an old one off CL.

Margaret January 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

If you get the chance, definitely check out what Consumer Reports has to say about stoves. The $5,000 Viking stoves are ranked lower (on all counts… reliability, ease of cleaning, etc.) than the simple white Maytags, Kenmores, etc. Also, I think there was a Viking Range that they marked as “unsafe… do not buy.” Really important to be skeptical, no!

Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land January 10, 2012 at 11:06 am

A new one isn’t necessarily any better than an older one. The older ones were built well. The newer ones? Not so much. Efficiency is all fine and good, but if the item only last 7 years, that kind of makes the efficiency a moot point.

Annie @ PhD in Parenting January 10, 2012 at 10:32 am

Interesting post and point.

We will buy second hand for things like clothing, some furniture, and other things where you can assess the quality by looking at them.

However, we almost always buy new with things that have moving and/or computerized parts that we have no idea how to fix ourselves – e.g. washing machines, dishwashers, cars, computers, smart phones, etc. The repair costs on a lot of those items are more than the cost of buying them and I would rather know the price and budget for it than be caught off guard each month with unexpected repair costs.

We look for bargains and try to plan our purchases for the times of year when things tend to go on sale, but we’re very hesitant to buy second hand for appliances, electronics and automobiles.

Reese January 10, 2012 at 10:41 am

I bought a huge portable A/C unit used from a coworker this past summer. We live on the third floor of an apartment building with no cross-ventilation (bad idea on our part) and needed A/C to keep the cats alive. So far, it’s doing well! We paid $50 for it. It was 2 years old and was originally $300+. I figure if it breaks once, we can repair. But if it breaks multiple times, we would just buy new. Google offers many repair manuals for free online!

Would I consider buying a used washing machine? Or dryer? Depends on who I’m buying it from. I think I’m hesitant for those items because I don’t know how they were treated. But I’d probably risk a dishwasher 🙂

Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land January 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Our used washer has outlasted two of my sister’s new ones. Getting a new one is no guarantee of quality. Getting a used one is no guarantee of a dud, especially if you get an older model. Best bet is an estate sale, because you know why they’re selling it!

Rachel January 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

It really is about choices and living your values. We gave up car ownership over a year ago to pay off debt and enjoy our lives more. The debt is paid off and now we can use those funds for travel. I’d rather walk, take the bus (things I actually enjoy) and also get to travel with my family, than have a car.

You dishwasher looks quite nice 🙂 Nice CL score!

Annie @ PhD in Parenting January 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Agreed. Each person has different choices and values. We went from walking/bus riding people to car owners because we moved out of the city and into the country, where our kids can run free, swim in the lake and garden in our yard. But there is no public transit and there isn’t anything within walking distance.

Diedra B January 10, 2012 at 11:00 am

It’s all about choices. . .

Jade January 10, 2012 at 11:26 am

Not to be super negative, but I am going to unfollow this blog and I thought you should know why. Your posts lately have had a very confrontational, in-your-face tone which I do not enjoy. I applaud your choices to live more frugally & simply, as well as your work to live the life you desire. However, phrases like “your new appliances are now a ball and chain” are neither true nor helpful. If someone can afford a stainless steel appliance and genuinely wants it, who are you to say this is a bad thing?

Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land January 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Personally, I love the “tell it like it is” style. Just because there are exceptions of people who can pay full price for expensive stuff and still have plenty of money for other things doesn’t mean she’s not right. Keep up the good work, Katy!

David January 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I do like Katy’s blog but I do agree that saying “your new appliances are now a ball and chain” is not “tell[ing] it like it is”, it’s more a judgement. Choices are important as many people have commented but just because you decide to by a new product doesn’t mean it’s money wasted, especially if it’s a good, easily repairable products that will last you years. Also, values do play a role in my decisions as to whether to buy new or used such as efficiency, aesthetics, and quality.

Pollyanna January 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I have to weigh in here, I love my “ball and chain” ss fridge, I wish I’d purchased it sooner. I have no interest in travelling to Japan, have seen enough of Asia/Pacific in business trips over the years. I am saving for a return trip to Alaska. I love to entertain and my stainless fridge is fantastic. As many have said, it’s all about choices. I still shopped around for it, got it on sale, received a rebate, and it runs at a lower monthly cost than my 20 yr old one that died.

Pollyanna January 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Forgot to mention, my washer and dryer are off Craig’s List — they weren’t important to me like my fridge! Again … Choices….

Megg January 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I feel similarly, though I wasn’t going to say anything, but when you did, Jade, I thought I’d speak up.
I see nothing wrong with high-end appliances. What I do wish, for everyone buying them, is that they don’t go into debt for it, though that isn’t always the case. We bought a washer and dryer off CL for $250 total, and they’re a really good brand/model. We’re actively saving for brand new furniture. We also saved for a trip to Hawaii this February. Everyone has different goals. We are able to save for both a trip and furniture, because those are our goals. We saved over $4,000 for Hawaii and will save over $1,000 for furniture. It’s unfair to judge people based on their decisions because everyone’s goals are different.

Kelli January 10, 2012 at 11:29 am

When we got married, my mom bought a used Maytag washing machine at a household auction for $50 (20 years ago). It lasted us 12 years before the repairman said he could no longer get parts for it….he researched the manufacture date and found it was 27 years old. I replaced it with a new maytag and it only lasted 2 years….the repairman said the parts were not made well in Mexico during the period ours was made and it would cost more to repair it than get a new one. My next one was a off-brand name but it at least it has lasted 5 years–sad that 5 years is a long time anymore in the life of an appliance.

Margaret January 10, 2012 at 11:50 am

this is so depressing.

Samantha January 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm

The good news about repairing though is that the replacement parts are made in North America. Our repairman told us that basically once it’s repaired, it likely won’t fail again.

Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land January 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Someone posted this documentary on planned obsolescence on the Facebook page a few days ago:

Worth the watch, super-depressing, and makes me ever more committed to choosing used items.

Penny January 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I really enjoy your posts. It is good to keep things in perspective and not try to keep up with the Joneses. This reminder keeps me motivated to pay off debt and not be controlled by it. Thanks for sharing.

Renee January 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Perspective and choice. My husband is a retired custom home builder and we are currently living in a home that we rehabed and will eventually sell so we did buy new. Definitely not top of the line but nice. We will make money on the deal. I am very fortunate.

michelle January 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm

This post is really timely for me. I have been following this blog for a while and it’s definitely made think about how I spend my money. I am thinking of buying a new “used” freezer. I looked around on CL and I am hesitant because this business of buying used is new to me and quite frankly a little scary. I am well aware that I have been brainwashed to think new is better and I working on letting that go. I find posts like this helpful and I don’t mind Katy’s tell it like it is style. I need tough love.

fiwa January 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Of course it’s about choice. But I feel the same way every time I climb into my used car. 😉

I LOVE your blog.

Paula January 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm

LOVE your blog…I read it everyday without fail. It motivates me. Don’t stop being who you are!

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl January 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I’ve bee pondering this topic this afternoon, and I’m thinking we probably all have things in our lives that someone else might label as “ball and chain”. For instance, I’ve spent a fair amount of money on cameras and lenses…not quite enough to buy a Viking stove, mind you, but still a lot.

The thing is, though, the cameras don’t at all feel like a ball and chain to me…they delight me and I use them ALL the time. On the other hand, a trip to Japan or a stainless steel fridge wouldn’t make me nearly as happy.

I think what matters is spending money in ways that reflect our values so that our spending choices don’t feel like a ball and chain to us. And of course, that spending should be within our means. If it meets those two criteria, I say live and let live! 🙂

P.S. Katy, I get the feeling that someone must have given you grief over your dishwasher?

Tracy January 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Well said!

Karen January 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Amen! I have a SS Kitchenaid fridge but it’s 12 years old. It came with a warranty and has been repaired only once in these 12 years. I guess what I’m saying is, it is fine to find appliances on C L, as we also have–another fridge and stove in our guest cottage out back–but let’s not demonize SS, as some of these gleaming appliances are not new or glamorous any more.

Also, it’s good to consider the energy efficiency of appliances, since lower energy use contributes to frugality. I keep my appliances until they are dead, but once they’re dead, I wouldn’t feel bad about replacing them with a new or newer model that keeps our utility bills down.

And isn’t it great that we have diversity in our approaches to life?

Cate January 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I was going to comment, but then I saw your comment, Kristen, and realized I didn’t have to! You said basically everything I wanted to say.

I will note that I didn’t get the impression that Katy was talking about people for whom a very fancy stainless steel appliance IS truly important, but rather people who want a fancy stainless steel appliance because it’s something they “have” to have to keep up with others or what-have-you.

Jinger January 10, 2012 at 5:31 pm

As always, Kristen…the voice of reason!

Kathleen January 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Yes! Yes! Yes! I love all my stainless steel appliances in my kitchen. I saved, shopped my budget, and really searched out the best deals on the best products. I spent months researching on line and visiting showrooms. I even took classes by manufactures that had the items I was interested in. I finally knew exactly what I wanted (it changed as I researched more), and waited for a good buy. I now have my dream kitchen, all paid for with cash. I use these items every day, and they are a joy to use. I have extensive professional chef training so my kitchen appliances had to be up to snuff. I can and have cooked on everything, but this was my ultimate dream kitchen. Finally after 16 years in this house.

I did the same thing with my new top of the line washer/dryer combo. My home is very important to me, and I do not feel that these purchases are a ball and chain to me. However, I would maybe feel differently if these items were put on a credit card that took me forever to pay off, or maybe if it was new furniture from a furniture store. This would be my ball and chain! I purchase most of my furnishings second hand and am very happy with them, but there are somethings I am not willing to compromise on. We each have to choose what makes us happy. I would never want to go to Japan, but I am so happy that you get to go and can come back and let us know how fabulous it was.

Yankeegal January 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I absolutely love this blog! And while I don’t always agree with Katy on certain issues, I really admire her frugal integrity-she definitely “walks the walk!”

Kate in NY January 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Our SS GE dishwasher, $500 when purchased new about 4 years ago (before I became a non-consumer, or at least – a less-consumer), recently stopped draining. The repairman told me it would cost nearly as much to fix it as to replace it! So now – – – we have no dishwasher at all! I wont buy a used one on Craigslist because we are notoriously inept at fixing appliances (or anything, for that matter). But I’m not sure I will ever replace it at all. We have our 4 kids taking turns with washing and drying, and they are actually getting pretty good at it. They are not, generally speaking, the most helpful kids around the house – so I have been pleasantly surprised. I’m thinking of letting other appliances “fall by the wayside” as they reach the inevitable breakdown point. It’s kind of freeing!

Practical Parsimony January 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Katy is one of the most pleasant bloggers around. I have never once thought she has had an in-your-face attitude. That ball and chain remark was just a little good-humored sass in my opinion. That said, I would only have a ss any appliance if it were forced on me. They are too industrial for my taste. Plus, I heard they are on the way out in home decorating.

I am afraid of used appliances. I don’t mind used towels or cars or dishes or shoes (never-worn). However, a used appliance would stress me. So, I respectfully disagree with opinion, but not her decision.

So, maybe a new ss appliance is not your ball and chain. Really, it was not a personal attack, offered when she saw your new ss dishwasher.

Avocado green was my favorite color appliance. My washer, dryer, and refrigerator, all bought from 1966-68 lasted me 30 years. The appliance salesman laughed and said, “I hope you aren’t planning for this washing machine to last 30 years!”

I’m 65 and only on my second set of appliances–washer, dryer, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, microwave, all bought new–and hope these all last me as long as I need them. None were top of the line models and none were the most expensive brands–just GE, Amana, Whirlpool, Kenmore. All the present appliances are at least 15-yrs-old. The Royal cannister vacuum is a champ.

Some day, under the right circumstances, I might buy a used appliance.

TJ in MD January 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Of all the comments on this blog, the comments to this post have nudged me out of the lurker category. It surprises me that so many people feel attacked by what she posts on HER blog. I think it’s obvious that life is all about choices. Katy provides a service… a whack-in-the-head service with her frank ponderings about her material acquisitions. Some resonate; others not so much. But it ALWAYS gets me thinking about the application to my own efforts to reduce materialism. I don’t want Katy to pander and be all feel-good… I want her to shock me into a self-realization that I may not have made on my own. So thank you Katy, for telling it like it is FOR YOU.

fiwa January 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Well said! As someone else said, Katy walks her own talk. I have no problem with someone being frank as long as they practice what they preach. Sometimes I agree with her choices, sometimes they aren’t ones I would make, but I admire the fact that everything she does comes from a place of wanting to do better by the environment we all live in.

Abby January 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I think your post is brilliant because it’s so brief and frank. Stainless appliances would be MY ball and chain, so I don’t have them.

Barb January 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Many of us have balls and chains. My ball and chain is a job I’d like to leave but the retirement benefits and generous leave have me held hostage…at least for now.

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