Is Penny Wisdom Plain Foolish?

December 8, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More

I spent an hour this evening fixing an appliance that I bought at a yard sale many years ago for a coin. Not only that, but I solely and regularly use this appliance for my daily work. You may wonder, how do I use a potpourri crock pot for work? As the heater part of a small double boiler for an etchant that can eat through glass or titanium, of course.

And what can go wrong with a crock pot? Well, this one has been dropped a couple of times. But the crack was dealt with well enough some years ago by a liberal application of Acrylic monomer (Super Glue).

So what was wrong now? The crack had weakened the heating element (the hair-thin Ni-chrome filament) and it finally burned through.

So I took the thing apart and spliced in a bit of brass wire that I had lying around. That delicate job turned out to be the easy part, given strong magnifying goggles, tiny tools, and decades of fix-it experience.

But these diabolical inexpensive units are designed to not-be reassembled. They had actually added an extra part to the design to make reassembly impossible. It took me over a half hour to outwit the designers and get the base re-attached in a manner that would let me take it apart again in the future.

For a dozen tax-deductible dollars I can have a new one delivered to my house via eBay. Why do I regularly chose to repair disposable appliances?

My parents both went through economic times much worse than the U.S. Depression, each losing nearly everything but their lives. They raised me with essential parsimony. Not actual deprivation, mind you. Just a frugal mindset that pervades my being.

But now I have predictable (if meager) income, and no debt. I have money in the bank, and could afford nice things. But it just feels wasteful to throw away something that I can fix. I mentioned this in “How Does a Microwave¬†Work?

Things I no longer need may end up on eBay. I usually net less than minimum wage for my time on most of these sales. But the widget/parts/book gets a new life with someone who really wants it, and the post office makes some money.

Yet I regularly ask myself, “Is it worth it?”

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Category: American Culture, Economy, Quality of Life, Simple living, Whimsy

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (6)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    I love glue. Really and truly. Especially epoxy. I love glue because it allows me to save many old and imperfect things. I'm not keeping count, but almost every month I get the satisfaction of saving an object rather then dashing out and buying a new one. Gluing things back together also saves considerable money. And it reminds me that it's perfectly OK to live among imperfect but fully functional possessions.

  2. Tony Coyle says:

    The true worth of something is not measured in the dollar value ascribed by society, but in the intangible benefit you get from being, doing, or enjoying.

    You might retain a skill that otherwise would be lost. Maintain dexterity that would otherwise disappear. Or simply keep something running for the love of keeping something familiar rather than buying something new.

    Whatever the reason, it's never a bad idea to invest time and energy in refusing to add to refuse.

  3. Karen Jackson says:

    I think it's absolutely wonderful that you fix or "recycle" used things, rather than participate in a throw-away economy. I'm always happy for you when the fix works, and proud of you that you do it.

  4. Rich Paxson says:

    Dan, Thanks for your post. I liked your "frugal mindset." It made think of how I decided last summer to hang onto my 12 year old car a while longer. It's not my father's Oldsmobile, but I've been driving this car for the last ten of its twelve years. Last summer I decided to fix what needed fixing on it. It still gets 31 mpg on the highway, keeps me warm, dry & comfortable in the winter and cool in the summer. I read somewhere that over half the carbon footprint of a vehicle comes when it's built, so that too was a great incentive for me to fix-it-up and keep it rather than buying something new.

  5. Ben says:

    I drive a 1992 buick. Got it as a hand-me-down (for free) 5 years ago.

    Anyway, my secret is proper tire inflation and I use Lucas Oil Stabilizer. One quart per oil change (approximately 1 part lucas, 3 parts valvoline).

    http://www.lucasoil.com/products/display_products

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