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Built to Last

Our 11-year old computer is showing creaky signs of age, just about ready to go to sleep (and never wake up). But, we feel that it has served us well. When I compare it to other expenses over the years, the laptop is — at about a $100/year investment — one of our best value-for-dollar belongings.

When shopping for items like this, how do we choose well? How do we discern what brand/style/variety is built to last? Or, how do we determine even if “built to last” is relevant to the purchase?

Unprecedented Functionality

Yeti coolers are “engineered with a nearly indestructible, weatherproof armor.” Canada Goose jackets were designed for Canadian Rangers and Antarctic Exploration teams. The origin stories of popular goods are full of NASA architects & other highly technical researchers & designers.

One wonders… What intensity of weather are most cooler-users encountering? Are wealthy, urban, twentysomethings walking to the bar or to spin class in polar conditions?

We — the average consumers — have access to incredible products with awe-striking technology. Truly, we are using the most effective water bottles/toothbrushes/sports equipment in the history of time. But, for many of our everyday purchases, we may have access to buy the best that innovation has to offer, but is it necessary to maximize every purchase for lifelong, peak performance?

Do I need the same precision of advanced technology in my workout clothes as an Olympic-level athlete? Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s nothing new that it feels good to have “the best” out there (and inspires envy/fomo). Though, this sense of status reflected in goods used to mean cars & watches, not suitcases or to-go mugs.

Marketing efforts will incline you to feel that yes, it’s all worth it! Anything less than the best available would be a waste of money, an underperformance from what is possible. 

But, that’s not always true. Here are some factors to consider when you’re discerning between hype and helpfulness.


Frequency of Use

How much will I use the thing I am buying? 

*An important distinction*: an estimate of how much you would use something is not the same as how much you actually use something. We have bought a lot of half-price, excellent sports equipment from folks who bought the best out there for their aspirational, new hobby… only to discover they didn’t love it.

If you, on the other hand, have a proven interest, daily use, or more than a casual engagement with the item, it is likely a great choice to spring for a well-built, (probably) more expensive option.

If you walk every day, of course it is prudent to spring for great footwear. But, if you are a casual exerciser who wants to start occasionally running, you do not need the top-of-the-line heart rate monitor right out of the gate.

A computer that I use most of the day, every day, needs to do a lot of heavy lifting. A coffee machine that is brewing 3x/day needs to stand the heat of the kitchen! 


Level of Expertise / Need

Advertising copy tells us that we need the best in order to enjoy something. We sometimes believe it & echo to ourselves (as we stare at the under-utilized dayplanner) that maybe if we had the right version, then we would use it more. I would say that in almost all cases, that it false thinking motivated by our guilt (from lack of use) and the effectiveness of marketing.

If you are trying something new, or dabbling in a hobby, or replacing something with only occasional use, it's great to ask: what level of performance do I actually need in this thing? 

There is nothing foolish about investing only a little bit to test whether you will like something first. If, it turns out, you really need a bigger/better/higher level product, you can sell what you have and upgrade! 


Personal Patterns

One more thing to consider: the unique ways that you, personally, have had experience with different items. 

Do you lose your glasses? Are you clumsy & drop electronics? Do you tend to wear through the knees of your jeans or forget to bring things in before it rains?

There are good reasons to spend less (on something you may lose or break) or spend more (on protective covers or reinforced stitching) on your items. Look at your history! 


Of course, there will always be things that we buy, that are thoroughly satisfied with! And, there are others that may have been a <facepalm> mistake. (After using brand new snowshoes 1 time in 3 years, I resold them & bought a step-counting watch instead). The successes & failures are totally subjective! But, I would love to hear about any of yours! Share them below or by email

Frances O'Flynn

Good point, all, (and, thanks!) but what computer did you choose? I’m in the market and there’s such a daunting selection – how do I narrow down to THE ONE without falling for the hype?

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