Save money by embracing old technology

by Katy on August 6, 2016 · 36 comments

This blog post first appeared over at

If you wanted to research how to save money on your electronics, you’d likely be pointed in the direction of where to buy cheap! and on sale. Never even addressing the possibility that making do with what you already own or scooping up a deal on what others would consider to be out of date are perfectly acceptable options. It turns out that there are amazing opportunities to save big bucks when you bypass the latest and greatest technology!


It’s a recent assumption that televisions need to be as thin as a saltine cracker. Look back a decade, and television depths were measured with yard sticks not millimeters. However, many of those TV’s were flat screen with high definition and excellent picture quality, and frankly they lasted longer than today’s plasma-whatever version. My household boasts two humorously thick TV sets that offer perfect screen quality and came to us free via upgrading friends, who have since confessed regret, as their new TV’s have provided inferior picture quality. So unless you live in a Manhattan micro-apartment and have to justify every square centimeter of your living space, open your mind (and your square footage) to a thicker television.

Kitchen appliances

Watch even thirty seconds of any HGTV House Hunters show, and you’d be right to assume that many Americans would rather eat dirt than prepare food in a kitchen not outfitted with stainless steel appliances. However, if you’re willing to consider, gasp . . . white appliances you could save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Why? Because people rip out their perfectly functional, often high end kitchen appliances to replace them with their shiny metal counterparts. Keep an eye out on Craigslist, and you can even scoop these up for free. Yes, it has been shown that “homes with stainless-steel appliances sell 15% faster than average homes,” but until you’re on the verge of putting your house on the market, you can probably suffer through the indignity of a classic white stove. Especially if you got it for free.

Video game systems

Video game manufacturers would have you believe that you’re a cave dwelling luddite if you don’t upgrade your video game system every couple of years. So, unless you’re an elite professional gamer, (seriously, that’s a thing!) you can continue using your older game system. And if you put the word out, you can even pick up games for pennies on the dollar. Games that are still fun to play, games that won’t rob you of your financial security. And if you’re self conscious about not having the latest Mortal Combat or Guitar Hero, just label yourself “retro” and embrace the old school lifestyle. After all, people are already going bonkers for a mini Nintendo NES that’s not even scheduled to be released until November. Priced at $59.99, it turns out that out of date will eventually be repackaged as cool and retro!

Mini NES



You may harbor a negative view of clotheslines, but they’re making a resurgence right here in the U.S., with dozens of states passing “Right to Dry” laws that guarantee citizens the right to install personal clotheslines. The simplest of technologies, (can you even call rope “technology?”) clotheslines save both money and energy, not to mention wear and tear on your dryer. I use my backyard clothesline throughout the summer here in Oregon, which always causes my electric bill to go down by at least 25%. You may think that you’re not allowed a clothesline due to home owner association rules, but if your state has a Right to Dry law in the books, you have the freedom to dry your clothes in the sun and wind. After all, there’s nothing more luxurious and delicious smelling than line-dried sheets!

Cell phones

If you’re the type to upgrade your cell phone with each new technology rollout, you might want to rethink this practice. Believe it or not, phones can and do last longer than a year, as well they should when you take into account the environmental impact of all that serial upgrading. And don’t even think about financing that brand new phone! Not only does a carrier financed phone tie you to that company, but you almost need a PhD in finance to understand the terms. This Life Hacker piece dumbed it down, but still called it “convoluted” and advises you to “take a hard look at the fine print.”

If you have your heart set on a new cell phone, you’d be smart to consider last year’s “new” version, as spendy types will have dumped theirs faster than a lead footed Nascar driver. Instead purchase an older unlocked version through a friend or eBay, and then bring it to your carrier for activation. Hey, hold onto your old phone long enough and it might even be worth some serious moolah!

Push mower

Revving up your gas lawn mower might be part of your weekend routine, but imagine how pleasant that chore would be without all the noise and exhaust. Add in a healthy bit of exercise and you’re describing a push mower. You know, the kind used by hippies and healthy elderly people. Sure, they’re not practical if you’re mowing 40 acres, but admit it, you’ve probably got a suburban lawn that’s well within your ability. Without a motor, there’s nothing to maintain and no gas to buy. Maybe sharpen the blades every so often and you’re set for the season! Save money at the purchase, on maintenance and supplies, and you might even save money on a gym membership!


We’re all trained to believe that our role as consumers is to keep up with the Joneses and all their shiny pretty stuff. If you make a conscious decision to say “no” to perceived obsolescence, you can keep more of your dollars in your wallet, which is where they belong. Because yes, it turns out that a year old phone does still work!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruby August 6, 2016 at 10:11 am

Excellent article, Katy. When my 5-year-old iPhone started acting up, my husband did some troubleshooting on it and determined it needed a new battery. We found a local store that repairs phones. It cost $38 to get that “old” phone working great again.

Our house came with stainless steel appliances (actually faux stainless) that were fancy-looking pieces of crap. We replaced each one as they broke within four years, buying black Kenmore models whenever Sears was having a good sale. Black is not popular any more, but it wasn’t expensive and it suits the dark-toned kitchen much better than white would.


Amanda August 6, 2016 at 10:13 am

We have a VCR/DVD combo that still works great and my kids are thrilled with the dozens and dozens of Disney movies we purchased for 50 cents a piece at the thrift store.


Heather August 6, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Yes! As I type this, my children are watching a Disney VHS on our combo player…. on our circa 1999 TV that works perfectly fine. Our other TV is a 30 inch flat screen that my husband picked up off someone’s curb. Why someone would get rid of it is beyond me.


LisaC August 6, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Yup. We were so proud of our box tv. Then a friend gave us a great deal on a smart tv. I started dreaming of cutting out our tv service, going to only cheap or free apps, so I took his deal and bought it.
Now I’m paying for a receiver, the old one doesn’t work with the new tv. I am building a space for the tv, the old box over the fireplace doesn’t fit the new tv. And so on…
I gave the tv a good home, and some days I miss it.


Carrie August 6, 2016 at 1:02 pm

I hate the stainless steel appliances in our house, renting, and when we buy I hope that the house has white appliances. Stainless NEVER LOOKS CLEAN. It also scratches easily. White appliances can be touched up cheaply with appliance touch up paint.


Molly August 6, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Oh my gosh YES!!!!!! I hate stainless steel appliances, but I can’t justify buying new ones when they work fine. But man, my dream kitchen would be easy clean. Black, white, light blue – and EASY CLEAN.


Gina August 6, 2016 at 6:47 pm

Good to know. I frequently wish I had stainless steel. It always looks so nice on HGTV shows and at others homes. I have white and one of my friends always laughs when she sees them and asks when I’m going to get stainless steel.


LisaC August 7, 2016 at 7:51 am

That is so crazy. We bought white on purpose. The stove top is easy to clean, and the kitchen is brighter.
I’m not sure what my friends say when I’m not around, but to my face, they never encourage me to spend money to upgrade anything. We actually encourage each other to save, and help each other with tips to save money.


Gina August 7, 2016 at 12:09 pm

I bought white on purpose too. Little did I know it’s looked down upon as “cheap” by so many. Count your blessings for the support of your friends and family. I have noticed more then ever the last few years since I have focused on a frugal, less wasteful and eco-friendly lifestyle just how materialist the people in my life are: siblings, nieces, nephews, ALL friends & co-workers and neighbors. Not sure if it’s the area we live in, or some cultural influence or what. But it’s frustrating not to have anyone in my life with the same values. It’s so wonderful to have this NCA community of like-minded people!


Beth August 8, 2016 at 6:31 am

I completely agree. Also, hubby and I bought a black stove when we moved into our place because we thought it would look nice (and would match the black fridge). I never would have guessed it at the time, but that stove shows everything-water spots, streaks, EVERYTHING. I have to polish it guys. POLISH IT. Now, this may be a lack of cleaning techniques on my part, but I just thought I’d add to the conversation for anyone thinking about getting black appliances instead of stainless steel…If I could go back in time, I would absolutely get white appliances.


janine August 6, 2016 at 1:39 pm

This article reinforces all my long held prejudices er, opinions.
-Our new TV is not so great;
-After purchasing a gas lawn mower which never worked, I bought a push mower at Home Depot for under $100 – sharpen the blades every spring and you are good to go. As a side note the newer models are light weight so easier to push – we have a large lawn!
-Good advice about the clothes line – don’t forget that a drying rack also works.
– My cell phone is ready to gasp it’s last breadth but has been OK for many years. (at least 5).
-We own a combination VCR/DVD but seldom use it.
-Wish I could convince my kids that old gaming devices might have some value.
-I also prefer white appliances but paid full price to get them so no bargains there for us. (have an oddly configured kitchen so they had to be special ordered)


Marilyn August 6, 2016 at 2:16 pm

I still like my old flip phone. The best part of not having a new smart phone is the fact that I’m never tempted to be checking my e-mail when I’m with friends. I can focus on the conversation. We have white appliances and they’re also fine with me. We did buy a flat screen tv earlier this year after our 20-year old box tv broke down completely. When I asked the sales person how long the new tv would last he said ” You should get 5 years out of it.” They just don’t make ’em like they used to!


Molly August 6, 2016 at 3:49 pm

I had a motorola flip phone for 7 years. It was indestructible, and I went through many batteries at $10 a pop (4 in total, I think), but it finally stopped holding a charge at all, even with a new battery. Sigh. It was a good phone.


Krystal August 6, 2016 at 4:52 pm

I miss my Nokia bar phone like crazy. Amazing phones. Wish I could go back!


AnnW August 6, 2016 at 4:02 pm

You can repaint appliances or send them to an auto body painting shop. You can also wallpaper them. Check out to see how. It’s funny when you think how many people actually come into your kitchen every year. Not many, so why is all this stuff so important. We lived with an electric stove top from 1967 that only had two working burners for years. We survived.


Cathy August 6, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Great article Katy!
I had my flip phone for 10 years…never replaced a battery or had any problems. At the end of my relationship with “Flip” it was actually the wall charger that died and I couldn’t find another anywhere. We bought new androids, but with good plans that are considerably cheaper and are month by month…no contracts.
We’ve received three box tvs over the years for free from people who were “upgrading”. Each has lasted for several years and then we have taken them to the local recycler who takes care of them responsibly vs filling a landfill.
Our family motto for years has been, “If it’s free, take it!”


Cathy August 6, 2016 at 4:37 pm

We have a tube (aka box) tv that we got for Christmas in 1994. It rocks! 🙂


Krystal August 6, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Perfection. We’ve been able to address most of the items above with the same approach.
TV: We have never paid for a TV. Upgrade from others who are giving away their old and perfectly functioning sets, and recently have our first flatscreen that was a hand-me-down from my dad and stepmom. Ironically, I work in emerging TV technology, but never have any luck taking home one of those tester sets they use for demos. Nuts.
Kitchen Appliances: Bought our KitchenAid refurbished. We have yet to upgrade anything else, but our friends just offered us their 2 year old dishwasher that even fits our aesthetic!
Video Game Systems: We have a Wii (Christmas Gift 6-7 years ago), and a SNES we saved from our childhoods. And we play both! Our Wii doubles as our OTT device.
Clothesline: Yep!
Cell phone: My husband’s 6 year old phone will soon be upgraded by my hand me down.
Push mower: We had one we bent from our very challenging lawn, and my father bought us an electric mower as a gift. Our family generally doesn’t exchange gifts, but from time to time my father gets us gifts we can really use for home improvement (the rest of the occasional tools we borrow from our tool library!)


Alison August 6, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Former flip phone owner as well. Loved it, it was adequate for me. I would still have it, if I hadn’t lost it! Only cost me $10 a month. I now have an android, which does more than I need. DH said only today, you need to get a smart phone. No, I don’t , dear.


Megg August 6, 2016 at 5:10 pm

I was with you until the push mower. I’m here to say those things are a crazy workout, and not in a good way! Give me our old (free with the house) gas mower any day. Even that’s a serious workout!


Becky @ Becky's Place August 7, 2016 at 7:00 am

I’ll second this regarding the push mower. It’s really only feasible for a small, flat, trouble-free yard. We don’t live on acres and acres. We live on less than 3 and only mow a small part of it. I had bought a push mower for a couple hundred some years ago. We used it a handful of times before deciding that taking days to get a yard mowed, compared to maybe two hours total, was just too much. Any tough weeds or taller grasses, ruts, holes burrowed by rodents, little ant hills, etc… it stopped us.


auntiali August 6, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Box HD tv at least 10 yrs old – gets unplugged when not in use which is often
Flat screen tv is 6 – 7 yrs old
My tiny flat screen tv in my bedroom is at least 10 yrs old – don’t watch it that often. Keep that unplugged too.
Son bought a Nintendo DS? gaming system 10 or so years ago. He bought it and didn’t play it that often. Liked playing games at his friend’s house better.
White appliances all the way baby! I will never, ever get stainless steel appliances even if we are selling the house.
My cell phone is a flip. I’m happy with that. Dh gets his iPhone through work and dd has a smart phone that we pay for
Clotheslines both inside and out.
I still have my first generation iPad that is 5 yrs old. No camera. Use my desktop computer more than the iPad.


melanie August 7, 2016 at 1:43 am

Products certainly aren’t made to last nowadays. My parents had a fridge that lasted 30 odd years and I’m still using my Nanna’s food processer (she’s been gone 29 years!). Another good reason to buy preloved (including clothes) – if an item still going it’s likely to keep going!!


marieann August 7, 2016 at 3:37 am

We do have one of those thin TV’s, our old one broke, we only really use it for running DVD’s , but we don’t have cable, we run it off an antenna
Our old VCR broke, it was over 20 years old.
We had a white stove, our 19 year old one died a year ago, we replaced it with a white one with coils….bought new.
Clothesline…yep, we have a dryer, seldom use it even in winter
No cell phone, landline wall phone…it’s about 30 years old

I look for older appliances at yard sales as a back up. Our cordless kettle is leaking. I researched new kettles and they are all junk. I looked to replace it with a non cordless stainless steel ( I don’t want a plastic one) They can’t be had…anywhere…well, except the thrift stores, my back up one is ready when this one dies for real.
I have 2 back up breadmakers, a hand mixer and a blow dryer.


Hobart Chic August 7, 2016 at 3:56 am

I prefer my smart phone to my old phone. I mainly like it because the speaking quality is a hundred times better than my previous phones. It takes pictures of good quality which is great too.

While I was content with my previous phone, this newer, prepaid phone is actually cheaper per month and much better quality. I did drive me crazy with some apps that were reminding me every five seconds of things I was not that interested in. I’ve found the perfect balance between my older phone and newer technology by deleting those apps.

I’m never tempted to play with my phone when with people to talk to. I can always log onto the internet. People are generally more interesting.

I must admit, I do generally prefer flat-screen TVs and if you can get a good deal and they are good quality they can last for years. They really can make a difference to a small space. I can see a benefit of the older TVs is that’s not a priority, or choosing to not have a TV at all!

I personally find white appliances harder to get looking clean than stainless steel. I think the main thing to maintaining them is to clean them regularly, whatever the finish.

I love sheets dried in air but when the weather is cold and wet for days at a time, a dryer, or clothes in front of fan heater are absolutely fab!


That Other Jean August 7, 2016 at 7:35 am

Oh, yes! When a friend moved into a new condo, she offered us her white dishwasher and two-door refrigerator, so she could replace them with the black appliances she wanted. We now have brand new appliances for the cost of moving them, plus hooking up the ice and water dispenser. That’s a couple of thousand dollars worth of appliances for $400.

We got our 40+ year old wall oven (stainless steel) working again for $200, rather than replacing it. It doesn’t match the white appliances, but who cares? It works, and we saved a bundle by not having to buy a new one.

I have an iPhone, but it’s a 3G, bought for next-to-nothing. Never had a problem with it.

There’s a lot of money to be saved by not chasing the newest, most fashionable thing out there. After all, what’s stylish now will be outmoded by this time next year.


Gina August 7, 2016 at 8:44 am

I have white & black stove, white fridge & black dishwasher. My circa 1929 cottage has the original black & white tile countertops & backsplash. When I purchased 20 years ago I wanted to match it. I don’t have a lot of people traipsing through my kitchen,but my friends who upgrade constantly, always need the “it” products and live with debt always tell me I should have it all ripped out, reconfigured, granite tops & stainless steel appliances. I LOVE my kitchen the way it is.

I was checking email on my iPhone 4s this week and a coworker stopped in their tracks and “literally” gasped and asked what version it was. I told him and he laughed and said he’d forgotten how tiny they were…and followed up by telling me it was 2016, maybe I should consider an upgrade! I told him I’m into vintage. Another coworker told me recently I should “treat myself” to a new phone. I don’t consider $650 of debt a “treat”.

And last year I finally had to say goodbye to my 22 year old Miata. It was the best and most reliable car I ever had. Plus the most expensive. I paid $35K for the leather MX5 model. Five years in and EVERYONE asked when I was getting a new car or new model year Miata?! I had just paid it off and was enjoying payment free driving – plus I LOVED my car and did until the day it died. The questioning turned into constant joking about my car over the next 17 years. Everyone always laughed except me. I found it extremely rude and I would never speak that way to or about anyone. But I always ignored it and happily drove off in my favorite car.

I don’t understand the product shaming that so many people practice. At least the people I know, work with and live by. And then when you get something new everyone’s jealous or envious – which is also strange behavior.

I have a flat screen TV but I also have a 23 year old box TV in FR. A friend came to my house for the first time a few years ago and asked me what it was. She’s MY age I know she’s seen AND watched a box TV before. Again it was passive aggressive shaming. I’m happy I don’t live in a McMansion with the latest & greatest of everything + massive debt. I’m happy and content with my life. I think that’s what is missing from so many people’s lives who have that NEED for all new everything – CONTENTMENT.


Katy August 7, 2016 at 8:53 am

Yes, you hit the nail on the head! It’s about contentment.


Is it a need or a want August 7, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Contentment is the word here. When you find “contentment” you really don’t care what anybody thinks.


Michelle H. August 7, 2016 at 8:49 am

Great article, Katy! When we were remodeling 6 years ago I was able to get a brand new, never used black stove and dishwasher for less than the cost of just the dishwasher in the store. The sellers had moved into a brand new house and the wife wanted stainless appliances, so they sold them cheap on Craigslist to get them out before the new ones showed up. I love the look of black appliances with wood toned cabinets.


Isabelle August 7, 2016 at 10:37 am

OMG, I’m right there with you. All the technology is driving me nuts, I can’t follow.
I feel like a freaking dinosaur!!
We have : a big-box tv bought 20 years ago (and no cable), an old-style big box computer monitor (no flat screen, no laptop), a minimalist cellphone with 100$ pre-paid card lasting a year (so only for emergency). We have a dvd player (no blueray), a VCR and an old Super Nintendo. And we have 2 tablets, the only sign we are somewhat of our time. I don’t even know how to text……
And we do have regular (white!) appliances, no ceramic stove top, no front loading washing machine.
Basic, basic, basic!
And nothing electronic in our car since it’s a 2004.
I am totally lost in this technological world, I would not even know where to start!! I feel so old….. (I’m 35, but I feel like I’m a hundred when it comes to technology…)


Theresa P. August 7, 2016 at 10:42 am

Love this post!

Television- we have a flat screen we purchased about 8 years ago even though our fatback TV was still working. The flat screen fits our narrow space so much better so it was worth it. We put our old TV on Freecycle and it was immediately claimed by a nice man who I felt good about passing it on to.

Kitchen appliances- we are still using the previous owners gas stove and dishwasher from 1993 or so. We did buy a friend’s used refrigerator 6 or so years ago to replace the circa 1993 fridge with the thought that the newer one would be much more energy efficient.

Video game systems- Nope. None. That’s about as frugal as you can get!

Clothesline- Sadly my terrible allergies preclude me from using a clothesline here in pollen-filled North Carolina.

Cell phone- I was finally convinced a year and a half ago to move from a flip phone to an iPhone. I must confess, I love it! We use Verizon so it’s expensive but we did cancel our landline awhile back.

Push mower- Yep, have one for our very small patch of grass on our largely wooded lot. However, my neighbor almost always comes over with his gas mower and spends a few minutes running it over our patch too when he mows so our push mower rarely gets used. I thank our very nice neighbor by sharing baked goods with them periodically (I just brought over some blueberry almond breakfast cake yesterday!).

As I read a few other readers experiences of friends who urge them to upgrade to newer and “better,” I find myself feeling very grateful for the family and friends in my life. No one ever makes fun of the “vintage” things I own or urges me to spend money to “upgrade.” I’m grateful for their lack of materialism and a focus on what’s most important in life–relationships over stuff.


Mrs. Picky Pincher August 8, 2016 at 6:29 am

I think “old” technologies still have their place. I’m totally excited to set up a clothesline at our new home; hopefully this will help us save on energy expenses!

It’s such a rat race nowadays to get the newest and best toys. But using (cheaper) older appliances and tech is a great way to extend the shelf life of these items to save money and prevent waste.


Beth August 8, 2016 at 6:36 am

What timing! Hubby and I were just talking about whether we should get new phones this Black Friday. We got new (older model) smartphones 2 years ago, and since people in the non-frugal world generally upgrade every year or two, the conversation came up. We are still undecided, mostly because the camera quality on our current phones isn’t very good and we use our phone cameras all the time to take pictures/video of the baby. A phone is so much handier than an actual camera. #firstworldproblems


Vickie August 8, 2016 at 8:47 am

I was perfectly happy with our old Toshiba TV, then hubby decided a free Megasaurus projection TV (2005) was an upgrade because the screen was bigger – until I refused to help him bring it in the house. I hated that thing. It finally died a few months back. I could have cared less. He had withdrawals, so he went and bought a new flat screen HDTV at Best Buy and paid to have them take the Megasaurus off.
I still have an older TV in the backroom that works for DVDs and VHS tapes that my grandkids watch at our house.

I upgraded to an iPhone 5 SE from a Samsung flip-phone, because I could not get the group texts on my flip phone – they came through as pictures. My 5 SE will likely be the last smart phone I buy and it only cost me $50 through my department’s Apple Contract for their employees. I still have my flip-phone, it will be a back-up phone if needed.

Hubby has a riding lawn mower, since he doesn’t want to mow our 3 acres with a walk-behind mower. I’ve encouraged my daughter to get a push mower for her house, since she has a small yard and lives in the city. Less to worry about!

Clothesline envy
I have clothesline envy. I want to run one between two of our trees, but I need hubby to brushhog the area. I’m clothesline dreaming!

Video gaming
We upgraded my grandson on his last birthday to a PS4. We sell or donate his old gaming systems to Vintage Video. I love that we have a way to recycle them. We don’t upgrade his systems until they’ve been out a few years and he only gets them for either Christmas or his Birthday. I bought the PS4 at the Pawn shop. ALL electronics can be bought second hand at Pawn Shops for 1/2 the price they are bought for new.


Karen August 8, 2016 at 7:04 pm

We had a very old fat box TV with a picture quality so poor when my husband watched football games he could not see the score.

For years he wanted to upgrade to a flat screen but I kept saying wait until this one dies. He researched and figured out which one he wanted and waited and waited and the TV chugged on.

Finally one day when I came home from work he was setting up the new TV. I have to admit I could not believe the difference in the picture quality. It was amazing. No cable though.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: