Beg, Borrow, (But Don’t) Steal: Cutting Down On Buying to Own

A cordless drill. A printer. A tennis racket.

These are all things hanging around in my room right now that I use once a month or less frequently.  Why do I own them? Well, I’m not really sure anymore.  I acquired them all at one time or another because I either needed them for a specific project (drill) or I thought it would be convenient to own (printer) or I used it much more frequently in a previous life of mine (tennis racket).  They’re all relatively expensive items, and they’re most definitely worth something to someone.  I just feel like they’re not worth a whole lot to me.

Having items like these around, and purchasing new things that assume a similar, infrequently-used role, made me think that I could easily get away with not owning but borrowing these types of things instead.  Here are some reasons why I would choose not to buy these types of things in the future:

1) I don’t have to pay. There’s no cost if I don’t buy.  Simple as that.

2) I won’t need to waste space storing it. Owning stuff requires a place to put it.  Borrowing doesn’t. Let someone else who already owns the item keep it at their place.  I can borrow it when I need it and simply give it right back when I’m done.

3) I don’t need to keep track of where it is. I like this point because it becomes a more and more relevant factor when I own less and borrow more, resulting in less things I own.  Owning a lot of stuff creates a problem itself for things getting lost in the shuffle.  But I would argue that the less frequently I use an item, the more likely it is to get buried and lost somewhere.  It’s fairly unlikely that I’ll lose my toothbrush, but I guarantee it’ll be harder for me to find that one-quarter inch drill bit.

4) I don’t have to care for and maintain it. This can work for a lot of delicate or expensive things, but in my mind, this fits best with car ownership.  I don’t like owning a car, and I lived almost two years without owning one.  Instead, I used Zipcar, which I found to be easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost stress-free.  I can reserve cars online quickly and easily.  It costs $8-10 per hour.  Best of all, I don’t have to pay for maintenance , gas, or insurance, which represent the majority of the cost to own a car.  At $8 an hour, I would need to use a Zipcar for about 25 hours a month to roughly break even on what I’m paying to own my car.  I typically only use my car for 2-3 short trips a week, so it’s unlikely I hit 25 hours in any given month.

As for items other than cars, they tend to deteriorate or become outdated with time.  I don’t want to own something just so it can collect dust while simultaneously becoming obsolete after a new and improved widget is invented.

The three items I listed at the beginning of the article are things that I could either readily borrow from others or find a way to use it somewhere else.  While it may cost you some money to rent or bribe a friend to use a tool only occasionally, you’d be surprised how much money this can really save.  There’s most definitely the tendency for the mind to create the idea that an item is used much more frequently than it really is.

Some might say “What if I need it right away? Borrowing or renting is a pain!”  Sure, I can see that argument.  But I still don’t agree there are enough instances of this for me to justify owning my drill, printer, or racket.

While we may all use the things we own at a different frequency, the main idea is to eliminate ownership of what’s not used often.  You may use your tennis racket every day, and it makes total sense to own one if that’s the case.  But if it’s been so long since you used it that you forgot that you owned it, maybe consider how often you plan to use whatever you are going to purchase before you make the decision to buy next time.

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photo by rudlavibizon


  1. Dollarstoshop says

    True…just got rid of my old generator…used it for one storm only!

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