The art of buying once, and why it’s important
“They don’t make ‘em like they used to”. This old adage has been in use for decades now, but today it rings truer than ever.
You may have noticed that the stuff you buy just doesn’t seem to last very long nowadays, whether it be a washing machine, an umbrella or a pair of boots. When you think about it, it ought to be strange to look for robustness in old vintage models. Shouldn’t the products in our lives be getting better, not worse? As society and technology advances, why is product quality going backwards?
The epidemic of badly-made stuff
Firstly, you aren’t imagining it - we’re throwing stuff out faster than ever. The number of appliances that must be replaced because of breakage has doubled since 2004. Boilers are a particularly bad example: in 1980, they used to last for 23 years, but by 2020, that was reduced to just 12 years.
That fact is, stuff these days is built to break. Occasionally it’s on purpose, through the shady practice of planned obsolescence. That’s when products are purposefully designed to fail, so that you have to keep buying them over and over. More often though, our badly-made stuff is simply a product of cost-cutting. The majority of manufacturers out there are prioritising cheap prices and big profits, at the expense of quality materials and labour-intensive craftsmanship.
We’re drowning in throwaway products. Making things that are expected to break is not only exploitative of consumers, it’s an appalling waste of natural resources too. Our culture of consumption has escalated unchecked, and it has left us out of pocket, dissatisfied with the things we own - and in the midst of a climate crisis.
The benefits of buying once
Manipulative marketing and rock-bottom prices have caused consumers to lose touch with the concept of long-term value. We want people to rediscover this way of thinking. Buying once allows you to break the cycle of throwaway stuff, with reliable products offering outstanding value over the course of a lifetime.
Take a T-shirt as an example. You can buy a T-shirt for £5 at Primark, but after one or two washes it’s likely to look bobbly and misshapen. For £35, you can instead choose a high-quality T-shirt that comes with a lifetime guarantee. You might initially think a sevenfold investment is steep, but when you consider that your long-lasting tee could last ten times longer or more, it’s a no-brainer.
Of course, the benefits of buying once go far beyond saving money - the environmental and social implications are huge. Stuff that lasts stays out of landfill, and makes full use of the resources it needed to be made. If the average T-shirt lasted just nine months longer, it would result in a 20-30% saving in CO2 emissions, water and pollution. What’s more, investing in long-lasting items means your hard-earned money goes towards makers who are doing things properly, instead of companies pushing the bottom line.
Buying once turns a purchase into a lifelong possession. Instead of surrounding yourself with things that aren’t quite right or it’ll-do-for-now purchases, shopping with longevity in mind allows you to have a more fulfilling relationship with the things you own. It also encourages you to take the time to care for, maintain and repair your things.
In a world telling you to shop your way to happiness, buying once is an act of rebellion.
The role of Buy Me Once
It’s all well and good telling people to buy things that last forever - but it’s actually very difficult to find them. With many reputable brands tanking in quality, it’s impossible to know whose claims to trust. That’s where Buy Me Once comes in. We’re an independent research outfit laser-focused on longevity. Our team has a huge breadth of product knowledge, from cookware to electronics to clothes, and we know what makes the difference between good and great.
There are six things we look out for when we seek buy-for-life products:
- Materials - is it made of tougher stuff?
- Construction - are typical weak points reinforced? Is it designed for repair?
- Aftercare - does it have a good warranty?
- Timelessness - will the design ever look dated?
- Responsibly made - has it been made with people and the environment in mind?
- Innovation - are there smart new ways to make this item last longer?
We’re not simply pointing people towards the products we like. We offer our customers exclusive warranties and extra aftercare. We develop meaningful relationships with makers we trust, and support those doing things properly by showcasing their unique stories. We’re even working to develop new products, specifically designed to last forever.
The idea for Buy Me Once was triggered by a simple cast iron pot that our founder received as a gift. It was solid, beautifully-made, and covered by a lifetime guarantee. She asked herself: why isn’t everything I own like this?
Alongside her full-time job, Tara worked nights building the first Buy Me Once website, dedicated to the power of the idea. Since we launched in 2016, we’ve had some fantastic media coverage, Tara has written a book, and she even found the time to have a baby. Today, Buy Me Once has close to 700 long-lasting products of quality on our site, and we’re still growing.
Our ultimate goal? We want to empower consumers to make a change - to break the cycle of buying things for the short term, and start thinking and shopping for the long term instead. Together, we can make that change happen.
If you haven’t already, join us on our journey and sign up to our mailing list. We'll even send you a welcome discount.
- Help the Right to Repair movement, which advocates for products to last longer and be fixable.
- Buy our founder’s book, A Life Less Throwaway, here.
- If you know of an amazing brand making long-lasting stuff, drop us an email - or if you think that brand might be you, you can fill out our supplier form here.