Throwaway Culture and Personal Finance

By | Saving Money

What would happen if you collected all the things you threw away for a day? A week? A month?

Chances are, like this New York man, you would be literally swimming in discarded goods in just a few days. Experiments like this one are proving just how much the “throwaway culture” has impacted our lives, with goods that are cheaply replaceable becoming the norm as opposed to those which are designed to last a lifetime or be easily repaired in case of failure.

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Having to buy a new household item once the one you have has fallen into disuse – for whatever reason – can be a big drain on your personal financial stability and your budget. Many people fall into the trap of buying inexpensive items that will save them money in the short term, but end up needing to be replaced in the longer term, costing them far more over time than the amortization of a slightly more expensive, but longer-lived, item would across its lifespan.

Some countries are taking the initiative to go even further in reducing the environmental and economic impact of throwaway culture. Sweden, for example, has cut the tax on repair services to clothing, bicycles, shoes and other items by over half, as well as submitting a proposal that would allow people to claim back from income tax half of the labour cost on repairs to appliances such as fridges, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines.

What if you’re keen to start repairing your own household items, saving money and helping the environment… but you don’t know the pointy end of a sewing needle from the blunt one? Or what, exactly, is meant by tensioning the front derailleur on your bicycle? Well, you’re in luck. Many communities have recognized the importance of minimizing throwaway culture, and it’s likelier than not that you can find a “pop-up repair” event in your area where people come together to combine their skills at low cost and teach others how to make the most out of their possessions. If you have a certain skill set, you can even drop by and contribute to the cause.

Even if you can’t get together with a group to combat throwaway culture, there are a wide range of online resources that can help you out. The do-it-yourself communities on Reddit are a great place to start. Community-driven websites such as iFixIt.com and Instructables are also valuable, though their submissions need to be vetted carefully so you know you’re getting the right advice.

Throwaway culture has a high cost for both consumers and the environment. Changing our cultural attitude toward preservation, instead of obsolescence, can go a long way to making our personal finance goals easier to achieve, while also making the world a more sustainable place to live.

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