Thursday, 24 July 2014

On consuming and giving

In this day and age of mass consumerism, we are raised by society and expected by society to consume. No longer are our shopping sprees about ‘need’, it is about ‘want’. One of the focal points of my life recently has been to reduce how much I consume, and reduce my wants. Focusing instead on high quality products, that is applicable in many situations.  The kitchen for example, modern kitchens have a plethora of equipment, pots and pans and electronic gizmos and devices that crush, and slice, and scrape and do all sorts of things. Do we need them all? Do they add as much value to our lives as they take away (shopping, maintenance, warranty, worrying about bigger and newer models).  

I personally do not think these items add value.
Take a knife set, you can purchase a large set of knifes for cheap, with fancy shaped blades, but you will have to replace the set within a short time span. Why? Quality, they do not hold their sharpness and edge for long, and some of the knives you will rarely use.  Me, I invested in a singular Naifu D67 chefs knife (I would have spent on a Kai knife, but it was a over twice the price of the Naifu, and didn’t offer as much value to me). Both of these blades are high quality, have a last-a-lifetime construction, and are useful in every situation, slicing, cutting, crushing – letting me use a single knife in multiple situations and reduce the clutter in my kitchen. But this is not the point of this post. I will rant about consumerism another day. For now let’s discuss after sales service.

Businesses no longer sell singular products, along with the product comes presales service, and after sales service. It’s all done to tie you in to the brand and grow loyalty and sales. And many people are willing to pay a premium to show their loyalty. I have never understood this need. I would only use the manufacturers services, if there was no one else out there who could do this. 

For example, a jeweler can hike up the price of a ring polish up to £45. On the high street, I have found prices less than £10 – while you wait. Shopping around for things you cannot do pay dividends.

Other recent examples follow.

Mobile phone screen: I recently took apart my friends phone and replaced his cracked screen for a total cost of £37 (the tools supplied with the kit was inadequate, and my trusty toolkit came in handy).

Car tyres: I bought them online, to the same specification as my car manufacturer recommended, saving myself £100 on the cost of tyres, and my local garage fitted them for £15, saving me another £99.

Wing mirror for my car: One of the uncertainties in life, is having people hit you (I am a good driver and have not hit anyone as of yet), luckily in this case the only damage was some shattered mirror glass on my wing mirror.  Just the glass costs £150 from the dealership (not the housing for the electronic motor that attaches to the car, just the mirror glass!), google came in quite handy, as I was able to call a few car breakers and scrap yards and get quotes (~£75 region), until eventually I found a part on amazon, that I could either stick on top of the shattered mirror or I could replace the mirror with. £11 and about an hour of my time is all it took, but I saved about £140, so that was well worth it.

A replacement watch battery, £10 at high street retailers (they will do it for you while you wait). I have invested in a precision screwdriver toolkit with plenty of removal heads and a flexible attachment that lets me work the screwdriver at odd angles, this lets me take apart plenty of small things, like glasses, watches, car keys, toys and so on. My cost for replacing the battery on my Timex? 99p for a set of 5 batteries, I still have 4 left over, so total cost was 20p and and 3 minutes of my time.

In the process of all of this tinkering, I believe I have learnt a lot. Not just handyman skills (I am quite a handyman already), but my curiosity about how the world works was sated a little each time I attempted something new, I have now replaced parts on broken watch complications, I can refurbish alloy wheels at home, repurpose old computers, reuse wooden pallets for building things, fix broken buttons, and shorten/lengthen the cuffs on my trousers – I am no longer just a consumer, I can create and repair and give back to the world.

I no longer hoard lots of things, in case I might need them some day, I find value in high quality items that I can build a bond with and reuse time and time again.

The point of this post is that, shopping around and getting your hands dirty can not only save you money, but bring about a better person in you. It certainly has in me.

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