Thursday, December 31, 2009

In With the Old, Out With the New

As our traditionally Western holiday season winds down and another new year begins, many take time to reflect on the year past, and look forward to starting fresh.  I know I do.  I think about the crazy year we just went through and think, "Whew, what a ride!  We did all THAT in just 365 days?  No wonder I am tired!"   But, this time is also a time of celebration, welcoming in the New Year with hope and optimism. 
I think over the last year, we've learned a lot as a society.  We've learned that investment bankers aren't always the smartest people in the room (quite far from it).  We've also learned that credit cards are not necessarily our friends and that just because something is shiny and new, doesn't make it better than what we already have.

This last concept has hit home for me in the last year.  In late summer, we learned that our dryer no longer worked and were faced with the prospect and expense of getting a new one.  Well, this caused quite the debate in my household.  Should we get a new one?  Should we get the old one fixed?  After all, where would the old one go?  Into a landfill somewhere?  Who made the new one?  How long would it last?  And, really, it would be expensive.  And, do we even *need* a dryer in the first place?  After all, won't things dry by themselves over time, especially if you use the sun or craftily hang clothes over heater vents?  This debate actually ended up spilling over into social settings and dinners.  Some people would gasp when we told them our dryer was broken.  How did we manage, they'd ask.  Many a generous offer was given to take our clothes over to use our friends' and neighbors' dryers.  (Thanks again, by the way).  Then, right around the same time, our vacuum cleaner decided to die.  Mind you, we have three kids and two very hairy, and often times muddy, dogs.  The vacuum cleaner situation almost had me immediately online looking for a new vacuum.  After all, who fixes a vacuum (and a highfalutin' bag-less one at that)?  I could live without a dryer, but not a vacuum. 

Then, my wonderful husband decided to apply his electrical engineering degree to the vacuum and voila!  Our vacuum worked again (hooray!).   Sure, there was some swearing in the process, but far less than if I had ordered the shiny new vacuum online as I was so tempted to do!  His efforts saved us about $500 on a new vacuum.  And then there was the dryer.  After several attempts to fix it, we decided to call in a professional, who also fixed the dryer.  Not sure of the exact savings there, but it was definitely several hundreds of dollars worth and no dryer in the landfill, no huge dent in our checking account and a dryer that works just fine... when we use it. 

As if those two things weren't enough, on the first frigidly cold day, our furnace conked out and we woke up to a very chilly house.  We immediately called our furnace service company and they came right away.  But then, somehow, the conversation turned into we need a new furnace.  Or did we? We hadn't woken up that day thinking we'd be shelling out nearly $5000 for a new furnace.  Sure, there are incentives out there, and if you *have* to, now is the time to get a really good deal and save some money on a newer, energy efficient furnace.  So, the negotiations began and a sales guy was at our house within an hour to walk us through our "options."  The technician had gotten our furnace functioning and heating the house again, but for how long?  Hmm... decisions, decisions.  Ultimately, we chose "option #1" and decided to stay with our current furnace, delaying the costs until we absolutely have to replace it.

The moral of these little stories?  With some thought, a little elbow grease and a couple of trained professionals, we were able to save ourselves thousands of dollars by keeping what we already have.  This may not always be possible in every situation (and our fridge is now making noise...), but it's definitely worth the thought and the conversation.  Sure, who wouldn't love a new vacuum, a fancy dryer on a pedestal and a brand new furnace to warm your home?  But... what are the costs?  The real costs?

So I bring it back to the title of this blog, "In With the Old, Out With the New."  In this new year, I encourage everyone to evaluate what you already have when faced with decisions of old vs. new.  And, to really ponder the consequences of decisions and purchases on the planet, environment and your bank accounts.  Happy New Year and Peace to All.

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