What is “Buy It For Life?”
“Buy It For Life” (BIFL) is a general term used to describe a sizeable ground swell of disgruntled consumers who are moving away from mediocre, mass produced merchandise in favour of extremely durable and practical products. It’s not the luxury they’re after. It’s the durability (luxury is an occasional byproduct).
Today we’re going to unpack the rational of the “Buy It For Life,” movement. We’ll take a look at its pros, its cons and why I (mostly) agree with the BIFL principle.
This entire website is dedicated to curating and reviewing the most durable products on earth. So if you are inclined toward quality and durability, then you are in the right spot!
Why Buy it For Life? (BIFL)
Here’s six reasons why BIFL makes a lot of sense.
The average shoe only lasts around 2 years if worn on a regular basis. Then they’re heaved into the garbage. 100’s of millions of them choke our landfills.
“Hasslebuddy” on the BuyItForLife subreddit keenly pointed out that if folks chose higher quality re-solable shoes the only thing that would need to be changed is the rubber every few years. Dr. Marten’s “For Life Shoes”(see my review), Redwing, Thorogood and Danner are all outstanding re-solable options(aka goodyear welts) that will help keep the landfills emptier.
“The Everest never ends!” said the Grinch to the citizens of Hooville who daily piped their garbage into his layer. The old grinch had a point. Greed, and mass production with poor durability have created an environmental tsunami of unnecessary waste.
Many BIFL folks want to be more responsible with the amount of waste they produce. It makes plenty of sense environmentally to buy a product that will last far longer. One BIFL Product could reduce waste by 2-10 times simply because you are not replacing it as often as its lower quality counterparts.
In many cases (not all), “going long” by buying better quality at a higher premium makes more financial sense because of the extended service life. For instance, a health food junkie who makes shakes every morning will burn through normal blenders like nobody’s business. Get one of these blenders instead. They cost more, but in that particular context it makes a ton of financial sense.
On the other hand, sometime’s going for BIFL doesn’t present a real cost advantage. It’s still a premium often worth paying when considering all the other advantages BIFL products bring. Cost is only one of many factors as you’ll see.
This is why I became a Buy It For Lifer before I even heard of the term. It became a matter of life or death for my family and I in Africa. You can read my story here. Of course, for most of us it’s not that serious. However, poor quality products often result in real safety hazards (lead paint, electrical fires, catastrophic failures, infant deaths, etc).
Consumers are sick and tired of of unreliable junk that’s being foisted on them at almost every big-box store. There’s a huge ground swell of people that are completely fed up with drinking from the firehose of mediocrity.
Its especially stressful when it comes to buying critical use items. The more critical an item is to your day to day life, the more you should consider it in your BIFL buying strategy.
I live in eastern Canada. Currently the temperature outside is -18ºC (0º F). Reliable heating is really freaking important! You don’t want to go away for the weekend and find $20,000 worth of plumbing damage because your pipes froze up. It’s a big stresser if you’ve got a bad heater.
Two years ago my poor father-in-law got taken by a sleazy heat pump installer. It was a super deal! Only $3000! Since then its broken 3 times (two circuit boards and one motor.) That coupled with horrible warranty service has cost him over $1000. Brand Name? Air Crapo..ahem, I mean Air Tempo.
I’d steer you toward two brands for Heat Pumps: Mitsubishi or Fujitsu (10 Year warranties including parts and labor)
A Matter of Principles
A person’s character and standards play a role in what they settle for. Some folks are happy to keep a second Dodge Caravan for parts on the back lawn. Perhaps they are mechanically inclined. BIFL people will save up and go for a perfectly maintained Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna.
I don’t knock people with the back yard Caravan, I’ve owned a Dodge Caravan out of necessity (They’ve been accurately described as disposable minivans). It wasn’t my end goal though. I place a high value on reliability. The choices I make in life, relationships and with products reflect that inner principle.
For half my life I lived amongst the very poorest people on earth in West Africa.
$100 a month was a top paying government salary. Avoidable death and tragedy were everywhere. Yet, the people themselves did not suffer from depression, PTSD, angst or mental health issues anything close to levels of North Americans.
Why? Because community and relationships were far more fulfilling and important than what they physically had. They had something of far more value than “the most durable products.” They had durable relationships: RFLR (Real For-Life Relationships.) We stand to learn a lot from my African friends.
My point is simply this, BIFL is driven from inner principles. Some folks have poor reasons for BIFL like prestige that comes with acclaimed brand name products or just accumulating cool stuff. That is an empty well. Don’t go there. Don’t get enslaved to “stuff.”
To be clear, it is not about pointing the finger at folks with different principles. BIFL Or Non-BIFL. Learn to appreciate and learn from other’s wisdom. The back yard Dodge Caravan guy can teach us a lot. Instead of junking stuff he fixes it. That’s a very environmentally and financially responsible philosophy!
A Matter of Influence
Go ahead call me an old man! Yeah, you know the type, swinging there in a rocking chair bemoaning the good ol’ days and how,”they don’t make quality anymore.” I’ll own it!(even though I’m only 37).
The Old Timers have a point and “by gum!” so do the BIFL crowd. Part of the push-back is an effort to influence manufacturers back to higher standards. Money talks and BIFL buyers are making their voice heard in the marketplace.
Greedy low grade manufacturers are being tossed aside. Instead, hard working businesses with real pride in their products are getting rewarded. Many of theme are Mom & Pop establishments (Buck Knives, Darn Tough Socks, A.G Russel to name a few). By the way, that’s great for the economy too. More money stays home instead of going to China or elsewhere.
Does BIFL Really Make Sense?
Sure! IF…you’re not fanatical about it. It makes sense, if it makes sense in your context. That’s not double speak. Every person’s context is different and therefore their needs are different.
An inner city computer programer doesn’t need a BIFL flashlight, he needs a BIFL office chair. A Canadian like me doesn’t need to worry about BIFL air conditioners, but a BIFL Pacific Energy Super 27 wood stove would be great! Hey, I’m Canadian and I know my wood stoves eh!
You’re getting my drift? Context is everything. And yes, everyone has several BIFL shaped holes in their day to day life.
Reasons Some Disagree
If you Google “buy it for life” these days. One of the first results you’ll get is an article entitled, “Why I Disagree(mostly) with Buy it for Life by “Mrs. Frugalwoods.” I’ve read her other stuff and think her financial advice is pretty good. Even the article is decently written with plenty of thought put into it. Unfortunately, she makes several wrong assumptions (big ones) about “Buy it For Life.”
If BIFL was actually what these folks think BIFL is, I would reject it too.
The problem with good philosophies is that somewhere along the line someone declares (or falsely assumes) it to be universally applicable. Thus, an extreme is born.
Of course, we know anything controversial gets the publicity these days. Be aware, writing controversial headlines is a very common click-bait tactic that bloggers use to get ranked on the first page of Google.
Sensible people then hear about it this false definition, assume it as the “norm” and throw the whole idea under the bus. (Sigh*) We humans are a complicated lot.
I’d like to set the record straight. The following are several false assumptions folks often make about BIFL.
Some Critic’s assume BIFL applies to all purchases.
What a load of boloney!
The BIFL philosophy is a wise one, just not a universal one. For instance, it makes no sense whatsoever to buy trendy BIFL clothes. Trendy clothes are by definition transient. Styles change faster than a fruit fly farm in August. Its a colossal waste of money. If you’re into the latest styles. Fine. Just don’t go crazy with it.
However, there are timeless clothes that definitely are BIFL prospects. Depending on your life circumstances blue jeans, flannel jackets, boots and carpenter pants are all examples of clothing items that transcend styles. These are definitely fair game for BIFL consumers.
They Criticize Other’s BIFL Purchases Based on Their own Life Context.
What the heck kind of reasoning is that?
My wife loves cooking, and she’s awesome at it. I can’t fry an egg without destroying it. I would buy a dollar store pepper shaker for my eggs. She would buy a Peugeot Pepper Mill for her endless culinary adventures.
With the above faulty reasoning, I’d be within rights to to minimize and criticize her decision based on my horrible cooking skills and general disinterest in the topic. However, if a guy like me went out and bought a Peugeot Pepper Mill just because “its cool,” I’d suggest a lesson in personal financial responsibility.
They think BIFL refers strictly to a literal “Lifetime.”
BIFL is a quest for the most durable product in its category. No matter how over-engineered products may be, there are many that will never last a lifetime.
I dare say, you wouldn’t want many of them to last a lifetime. Fifty year-old underwear anyone? You sure? No takers? How about socks that last for 75 years? I hope not! Still, there are BIFL companies that offer free replacements for life if/when they wear out. (Darn Tough Socks for instance)
“Buy it For Life is just an excuse to buy luxury.”
Ok, this one can strike true on some folks. I’ll own that. There are people who use any means possible to rationalize there excessive living. I don’t condone it. This is not however, the stream of thinking for most.
In general, BIFL products do bring a level of luxury. However, they can still be very basic so don’t be fooled.
For example, Ninja blenders are a well known brand. They’re even a cut above a lot of other junky blenders. Many consider them a luxury blender. They’re attractive, have plenty of features, and do a decent job…for a while.
Yet they aren’t even close to BIFL, but Vitamix and Blendtec blenders are. Just look at the Vitamix Classic 5200. It’s got a face only a mother could love. No LED’s. No digital display. Just two big switches and a dial. Luxurious? I don’t think so. It’s boring, but the Vitamix 5200 will eat 10 Ninja’s for breakfast….every morning….for 20 years.
The goal of Buy it for Life is to find the most practical and durable products in the categories that are most critical to ones own life. It is not a one size fits all buying program, and it’s not entirely based on a financial rationale either.
BIFL is a healthy movement that’s rewarding quality businesses and manufactures who have suffered enormously in a market place of compromise. They held to their principles and character when they could have outsourced and downgraded in exchange for huge profits long ago.
BIFL is about living a safer, more worry free life. Its about streamlining life and even enjoying the perks of better products. You’ll take better care of the environment and better care of your products due to pride of ownership. Choosing durable products keeps the landfills emptier.
I think BIFL reflects who you are in many ways. Not so much your identity, but what your interests are and what’s important to you.
As you peruse WellRigged.com you’ll find a growing list of Buy It For Life recommendations that have been deeply researched and vetted. My goal is to be a reliable resource for quality/durability conscious folks.
Only some of the products I recommend will fit who you are and your lifestyle. That’s fine. If I can help you find a BIFL item that fits you, I’ve done my job.
I can also help you decide where to start.
May I recommend the subreddit:BuyItForLife? It’s hands down the largest and best BIFL community online. I’ve found it an absolute gold mine of contributed by other unbiased Buy It For Life enthusiasts.
If you you think this site is worth sharing(FB), I’d appreciate it. I’m kind of sick of eating baloney sandwiches. (Joke!) But, it would help me pay the bills. Cheers : )