Old radio by Kumsval

Buy and Hold: Works for Stocks, Works for Stuff

In investment terms, a “buy and hold” strategy refers to buying stocks and hanging onto them for the long term. Most experts agree this simple approach yields higher returns than more complicated strategies that seek to time the market’s ups and downs.

“Buy and hold” works equally as well for your possessions. If you buy one quality toaster oven and use it for thirty years, you spend much less than those who buy a succession of cheaper models. You also sidestep inflation by locking in a low price and thereby skipping the many upticks that ensnare repeat buyers (yes, prices sometimes fall as well, but such deflation is the exception and not the rule).

In today’s post, I show off ten of my possessions that have stood the test of time—multiple decades, in fact. Each aged treasure has its own unique back story about how it’s managed to survive for so long. As I go through the bric-a-brac, I’ll list the lessons I think I’ve learned. That way, you can consider for yourself whether “buy and hold” works for anything you’re about to purchase or already own.

So get ready for some show and tell—and think about how all this ancient history might eventually apply to your own stuff.

1. Art Deco Bureau
IMG_1881
Year Purchased: 1984
Purchase Price: $15 (used)
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $0
Cost Per Year: $0.50

When I moved to Denver, I needed furnishings fast so I spent a whirlwind weekend visiting estate sales. This art deco piece caught my eye because it looked like it came from straight out of the Wizard of Oz. I bought it for $15 and for years it “deco-rated” my bedroom. When I moved into my current home in 1993, I relegated the bureau to a closet and that’s where it’s stayed ever since. The veneer top has split, but that can be expected of anything over seventy years old.

Lessons Learned. To hold for the long haul, buy stuff that appeals to your aesthetic sensibilities. If you really like the way something looks, you’re more likely to keep it around. The style of this old bureau has enchanted me for three decades. Many years from now, you’ll probably find it at my own estate sale—where I hope it fetches more than the measly $15 I paid for it.

2. Mizuno Pro Golf Irons
IMG_1870

Year Purchased: 1985
Purchase Price: about $280
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $65 (replaced grips; bought used replacement wedge)
Cost Per Year: $11.90

When I landed my first real job, I figured that I’d spend lots of time on the golf course entertaining clients. I figured wrong. Instead of enjoying sunlight, I labored in an office under the dull glow of fluorescent lamps. Since buying these irons, I’ve averaged fewer than ten rounds per year, so they’ve been used no more than 300 times. Several years ago, I replaced the worn out grips.

Lessons Learned. If something old performs its job well, don’t replace it—repair it instead. I figure these ancient irons still have 100 rounds left in them, so I’ll be hitting bad shots for another decade at least.

3. B&W DM17 Limited Speakers
IMG_1903
Year Purchased: 1985
Purchase Price: about $900
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $0
Cost Per Year: $31.03

These bookshelf speakers are about the size of cinder blocks and just as heavy. They still deliver bass and treble that’s every bit as solid as their construction.

Lessons Learned. Whenever you buy for the long haul, invest in durability and quality. Do this and you’re more likely to make a sound decision (especially if you’re buying speakers).

4. Eastern Mountain Sports Gortex Outer Shell
IMG_1900
Year Purchased: 1985
Purchase Price: about $100
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $0
Cost Per Year: $3.45

Okay, I concede that the once-popular shade of powder blue has fallen out of favor. But this shell still has plenty of wear left to it. And when I’m in the forest snowshoeing, few people see me anyway (and I apologize to any wildlife I’ve offended with the outdated color).

Lessons Learned. In the case of my art deco bureau (see no. 1 above) beauty melds closely with function. But sometimes, as with my hideous shell, form and function diverge like two roads in a wood. Even so, some unstylish things remain so useful that it makes sense to keep them around. Here’s my bottom line: because I’m still able to stomach the color, although barely, I don’t need to shell out new money for a new shell.

5. Sony Trinitron Console TV
IMG_1894
Year Purchased: 1989
Purchase Price: $750
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $100
Cost Per Year: $34

In 1988, someone burgled my apartment and made off with a 19” portable TV. In what I thought was a brilliant decision, I bought a 250 pound behemoth TV console—an object so heavy that it was immune from theft. What I failed to consider, however, was the strain of moving it myself. Once in the early 1990s, I had to haul this massiveness to a repair shop. I remember nothing about the repair, but I remember vividly the back-breaking hassle of hoisting the whale in and out of my SUV. Shortly after this, the TV’s tuner died (it had likely been jostled in transport). No way I was lugging the Sony back for more repairs, so I relied instead upon the tuner in my VCR. Much like the aborted Apollo 13 mission, where the LEM supported the command module, the VCR allowed me to “make do” with my malfunctioning TV. This stopgap worked until Black Friday of 2010, when I finally broke down and bought a flat screen. Since then, the console has remained squarely in place, where it now serves, quite literally, as a “TV stand” for the new HDTV (see above photo).

Lessons Learned. Beware of heavy stuff. Dead weight might mean you end up holding onto something for much longer than you would like. Look for creative patches to keep your stuff in service (VCR tuner for a dead TV tuner). Instead of throwing something out, consider whether it can be repurposed in some way (like providing a perch for a new HDTV).

6. LL Bean Presidential Rocker
IMG_1885
Year Purchased: 1990
Purchase Price: about $200
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $65
Cost Per Year: $11.04

I’ve always loved rocking chairs. JFK used this classic model to soothe his sore back. LL Bean still sells it today (the all-weather version lists for $349). My chair’s wicker seat wore out a few years ago, but I was able to buy an unfinished replacement that I stained and varnished myself.

Lessons Learned. Long term ownership is more likely if you buy classic designs from manufacturers that stay in business and continue to provide product support (like selling unfinished wicker seats). Predicting whether you’re buying such a classic can be difficult, but if the model already boasts a long track record, as my rocker did, you’re making a relatively safe bet.

7. Folding Metal Table
IMG_1875
Year Purchased: 1991
Purchase Price: $40
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $0
Cost Per Year: $1.74

This heavy duty steel table has been the utility infielder of my furniture collection. It’s served as picnic bench, copy room collating space, laundry folding area, crafts center, and spare desk. Like the Sony TV, it’s ridiculously heavy, but at least I can move it all by myself.

Lessons Learned. You’re more likely to keep something around if it’s versatile. To avoid landfills, favor stuff that has many possible uses.

8. Trek SingleTrack 930 Mountain Bike
IMG_1873
Year Purchased: 1992
Purchase Price: $450
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $300 (tune-ups, new back brake hardware, new control for rear derailleur)
Cost Per Year: $34.09

I enjoy making regular use of something I bought over twenty years ago—and this summer I’ve ridden my antique bike more than ever. Although I’ve had to pay for some overhauls, the Trek remains in good condition. And its advanced age makes it less prone to thievery (so it’s a bit like riding around on a Sony TV Console).

Lessons Learned. As noted earlier, you can keep stuff longer by investing in repairs instead of replacements (see no. 2 above).

9. NordicTrack Pro Ski Exercise Machine
IMG_1907
Year Purchased: 1993
Purchase Price: $622.75
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $0
Cost Per Year: $29.67

I’m an avid cross-country skier, so I gambled that I would keep using this expensive machine for years to come. The bet has paid off: I still ski indoors about once per week. My NordicTrack has never needed repair. The only thing I’ve ever replaced is the cord that connects the monitor to the machine’s base, and I had that on hand. (By the way, I know the precise purchase price because I found the receipt in the owner’s manual.)

Lessons Learned. Spend big only when you’re confident that you’ll use the product for years to come. Too often, exercise equipment ends up as an overpriced clothes rack. Avoid this result with some careful upfront thinking about your long term needs.

10. Home Sweet Home

01-16-07 Small

Year Purchased: 1993
Purchase Price: $311,335 (including interest payments)
Upkeep/Repair Costs: $45,574
Cost Per Year: $0 (yes, you’re reading that right)

As a prior post mentioned, I’ve saved $57,000 in moving/closing costs because I’ve stayed in the same place for 21 years (a typical homeowner would have moved twice during that time). Those savings have eclipsed my costs of upkeep by a wide margin. And since the house is worth far more now than its original cost of $311,335, when I finally sell it’s likely I will have had lived 21 plus years in this peaceful mountain retreat for FREE (barring a big collapse in property values). I’ll have enjoyed such a great result largely because I stayed put—in other words, I bought and held. People who move a lot pay a lot more for housing.

Lessons Learned. Keep on using what you already possess. The longer you own an item, the lower its annualized cost. And if your item appreciates in value, you might even end up recouping the purchase price or showing an actual profit.

*   *   *

All of us are subject to the consumer culture we live in, including its deplorable scourge of disposability. We can combat this in two ways. First, before we buy, we can think about whether we’ll keep the item for the long term. If that seems likely, then we can favor classic designs, established manufacturers, durability, versatility, replaceable parts, and repairable products. Second, after we buy, we can use maintenance, repairs, repurposing, and tender loving care to avoid the cost of making replacements. Most helpfully, we can remain open to the vision of seeing utility and beauty where others see only outdated junk.

Credit for great Zenith Radio Pic: kumsval—to see the original at Flickr, click here.

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7 Responses to Buy and Hold: Works for Stocks, Works for Stuff

  1. Will June 30, 2014 at 7:38 PM #

    Really cool article. Reminds me of that old phrase, ‘Buy once, cry once.’
    Will recently posted…How to Avoid a Financial HangoverMy Profile

  2. Free To Pursue July 1, 2014 at 8:41 AM #

    Fun post. Your purchasing style has a european feel to it: buy quality & style that you intend to keep for the long haul. Classics. Good news for your Gortex outer shell too: Lululemon is featuring dusty blue in their men’s collection this year, only they call it “heathered ocean hue”. You’re back in style!

    I still have my dad’s rocking chair, a fabulous piece that’s over 30 years old, along with a black leather living room set that’s 25+ now. I love these furnishings every time I look at them and use them. Definitely satisfying. The only purchases I regret are those I didn’t properly consider beforehand. Their ROI ends up being a deep shade of red.

    As an aside, the view from your living room and the trees outside your home were distractingly beautiful. What a lovely part of the country you live in. No wonder you haven’t wanted to move!

    • A Noonan Moose July 1, 2014 at 8:50 AM #

      Thanks F2P! I’m psyched that the hue of dusty blue is on the comeback trail. Let me know if you see anything about tube socks! 😉

  3. debs August 2, 2014 at 7:17 AM #

    Your home looks so lovely! I would love to live in that setting!! I’m in the suburbs. It’s good but not as good as that. I love nature.

    I think your powder blue shell looks pretty good. I think colours can come back into style so stick with it!

    Great recap on these fabulous objects. Maybe some would say this is bad form to cover up the natural wood but I would fix the top of the bureau and paint it to repurpose it, either in white or black. It would look great in any bedroom.
    debs recently posted…Monkey Butt: The Power of NowMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose August 2, 2014 at 7:19 AM #

      My prom tux was powder blue too! Some day it’ll come back!

      • debs@debtdebs August 25, 2014 at 8:46 AM #

        ha ha, well I don’t know about that one, Noonan. I’m from that ERA too and wonder, what were we thinking?
        debs@debtdebs recently posted…Cutting Cable – Will it Payoff?My Profile

        • A Noonan Moose August 25, 2014 at 10:06 AM #

          DD–it’s all about the power of powder blue! 😉

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