Besides the obvious, it seems an ideal strategy is whenever possible, never buy new.
For example, with digital cameras, whenever possible — buy your equipment second-hand (includes lenses). Most people baby their cameras, and the benefit of buying camera equipment second-hand is that you can get insane savings — usually things from 30-50% off!
In praise of refurbished
A very smart recent investment:
Buying a maxed-out 13” MacBook Pro laptop (Touch Bar) refurbished.
I bought a refurbished model (1 year old), with maxed-out specs (maxed processor, maxed ram, memory, etc). I was able to save ~$1000+ from retail! I think I bought my laptop for around $2000 USD, instead of $3000 USD+.
If I buy a car, it will probably be a used or second-hand Tesla. It is insane– you can buy a second-hand Tesla Model S (older model) for only ~$40,000 USD (compared to the retail of $80,000 USD+). That is almost a 50% savings!!!
Ever since I was a 15 year old kid, it never made sense why anyone would buy a new car (which cost over $20,000 USD). Secondly, I was curious:
How do people actually afford a car? Do people have $20,000 USD of cash just lying around?
This is before I learned about the pseudo-magical world of finance, payments, etc. The thought of buying a car and having ‘monthly payments’ seemed horrific to me. All the cars I have ever bought in my life were second-hand, and less than $2,500 USD.
- 1991 Sentra XE (4-door, 5 speed): My first car at age 15. Bought with my own cash, $1000 USD.
- 1991 Sentra SE-R (2-door, 5 speed): My second car at age 17. Bought with my own cash, $1500 USD.
- 1990 Mazda Miata (no AC/no power-steering): My third car in college at age 20. Bought with my own cash, $2500 USD.
Now that I think about it, I haven’t bought a car since then (10+ years). Perhaps this is why I have been able to save a lot of money — I never had a car payment (NEVER), I’ve never financed anything (I’ve only ever bought everything straight-up in cash).
You are not your car
Tyler Duren (fight club): You are not your car.
The problem is we often look at our possessions as a reflection of our personality, ego, and soul. For example if we consider ourselves a masculine and powerful person, I might buy a muscle or sports car. If I consider myself a sophisticated person, I might buy a Porsche. If I consider myself a successful techie, I might buy a Tesla.
My recent thought about cars:
Barbell it. Your commuter car should be the most bare-bones commuter car (perhaps a used Toyota Prius, or a used electric car like a Chevy Spark or Nissan Leaf). If you want a fast car, perhaps better to have a pure-track sports car that you only drive on the weekend– which has a stripped interior?
I never think people should use a sports car as a commuter car. This is ridiculous. You cannot even drive it fast. And if you can drive it fast, you might kill yourself (or someone else). If you want to drive fast, just go to a race track, and perhaps just rent a race car for a day.
What to buy new?
- Clothing: If there is very specific clothing you want (for example for myself, I like merino wool), it is best to buy new. But even with clothes, you can buy much stylish clothing for used (consider thrift shopping).
- Totally new things which don’t (yet) exist second-hand: For example when the new Apple AirPods came out. But even with brand-new products, it seems to be wise to be a ‘late adopter’, and wait for the second-generation of that thing to come out. For example, I don’t recommend buying a first-generation folding phone, but the second generation one might be good (second generation always squashes many bugs from the first generation).
- Whenever possible, buy something used, second-hand, or refurbished. Almost all Apple products can be purchased refurbished on their online store (iPhone, MacBook Pro laptop, iPad).
- Shop at outlet stores: Huge discounts on BOSE headphones, NIKE shoes, etc.
- Before buying something, see if you can just get it for free or to borrow it from friends or family. For example I gave my brother-in-law my old noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones, and saved him from buying a new pair of $200 noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones.
When it comes to buying stuff, the tip is simple:
Don’t be a sucker. [inspired by Nassim Taleb]
Unless you like being a caveman eating acorns away from society, we all engage in consumerism and capitalist culture to some degree. Rather than denying it, just don’t get suckered by it.
The point isn’t to not buy anything, the point is to only purchase things which truly empower you.