Buy It Once, Buy It For Life

We are thick into birthday season in our family, a time in which summertime Scout will mourn as Pippin and Roo celebrate their Halloweeny birthdays, I fall around Thanksgiving, and J is fêted on Christmas Eve. And it’s got me thinking about buying for life.

It started, I think, with a wool blanket. I read about a mill in Prince Edward Island (where my Anne-girls at?) that makes wool blankets to last a lifetime, and, freezing through New England winters in grad school, I asked for one for my birthday.


I was in my mid-twenties and beginning to get boring. And when we finally started to make a real income, I got boringer still. After all, I can usually buy myself a pair of cheap rain boots or the new book I’ve been eyeing. So what I want as gifts are things that will last.

For me, those gifts mostly shake out into two categories: wool and shoes. There is nothing cozier than a sturdy wool sweater, and though it breaks my heart to spend $20 for a pair of wool socks, those socks are so astronomically superior to my usual fare that I try to get other people to buy them for me. (I’m in good company: “’One can never have enough socks,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.’”) And my feet are freakish, as we’ve discussed — even after three pregnancies, they’re still obstinately narrow. (For awhile this time I thought they might have expanded, but it turned out to be just a broken toe.) When I can find shoes that don’t look positively orthopedic, they’re usually pricey but going to last for years to come, so that’s something I spring for with birthday money, too.

As a reflexively cheap person, it can be hard to pull the trigger on purchases that will last but cost more upfront, but slowly, I think I’m getting better at it. When J recently announced we needed another bookcase (perpetual problem in these parts), I suggested we go with a real wood shelf, even if we have to finish it ourselves.

What sort of buy-it-for-life items are you eyeing this Christmas? Where are your priorities on quality? Or does it all seem like consumerist nonsense to you?

(See also: “Breaking Out of the Cheap Cycle” at The Simple Dollar and “Investment Pieces” at Modern Mrs. Darcy.)

3 thoughts on “Buy It Once, Buy It For Life

  1. Wool socks are amazing! My favorite part about being connected with crafters is the occasional gifts of cozy socks, hats, etc.

    The best response to consumerism and materialism I ever read pointed out that the problem is, counterintuitively, these attitudes don’t value material things nearly enough. If we had an appreciation for material and workmanship, we would always try to invest in well-made things that would last and that would, each according to their function, be beautiful as well. Valuing “things” -more-, and the workmanship that fashions them, is the real antidote to reckless acquisition and throwaway culture.


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