Sustaining The Good Life

Lifestyle Philosophy For Financial Independence and Environmental Sustainability

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BIFL: Buy It For Life, or “Consume Like Your Grandparents”

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BIFL is a common web meme acronym for “Buy It For Life.”  The idea at it’s core is that whenever possible we should buy goods that will last us for the rest of our lives.  While there are some items that do truly fit this description – such as cast-iron or stainless steel pots and pans – the vast majority of items deemed “BIFL” are really “BIFRLT,” or “Buy It For A Really Long Time.”  Regardless, I believe in this concept, and I try to ascribe to it whenever possible.

“Consume Like A European”

I think it’s really interesting that we even need such a term on the American web to refer to this concept of BIFL.  In other parts of the world, particularly Europe, BIFL is just normal, every day consumption.  Europeans generally own a much smaller wardrobe than Americans, but the items are each of much higher quality.  Besides the obvious sustainability and financial benefits to buying things that last a really long time, you also get to wear or own nicer things.  It should also be noted that most Europeans, particularly Italians, build homes to last “forever” too.  On a recent trip to Italy, I compared the American method of stick-built balloon wall construction to their 100% masonry-built homes.  My gracious Italian host informed me, “No, we don’t do that, we build our homes to last.”  So BIFL is really a state of mind, unless you’re European, in which case it’s just obvious.  For the record, this is also how Americans consumed until the invention of outsourced manufacturing and cheap, disposable consumer goods.

An Example – My Trousers

One example of “Buy It For A Really Long Time” is my khaki pants, which I’m wearing right now.  For years, I would wear out two pairs of khakis every 6-12 months since I rotated those two pairs through the week for work.  I had and have other pants, but I just get in a groove with two pairs of pants, and then I wash them at the end of the week.  After some time, I became frustrated with this purchase and replace cycle, so I set out to research the most durable khakis.

I came up with Bill’s Khakis, which are sold in fine men’s shops, on their website and on Amazon.

I chose the M3 Original Twill pants, which are made of  heavy duty 8.3 oz cotton twill.  All of the reviews said that these pants would wear hard, and so far they have.  I’m actually really happy that they’ve started to break in a bit after nearly 9 months of wearing these several days a week, because stiff khakis are kind of uncomfortable.  If you’re interested in Bill’s Khakis pants, I would recommend the M3 fit, because the M1 or M2 fit are way too high-waisted for me or anyone under 60.  Also, the Original Twill variety are not enzyme washed and will thus last much longer.  Lastly, please note that their sizing is true, and you need to order your actual waist circumference (they don’t do vanity sizing like most men’s pants).

The Shrewd Economics and Sustainability of BIFL

The pants in my example cost $129, which is a lot.  However, I expect that these pants should last 2 to 3 years.  In that time, I would have gone through about 5 pairs of my ordinary department store pants at $35 per pair for a total spend of $175.  That’s also 5 pairs of khaki pants in a landfill (which is where a lot of donated clothing actually goes; there is just too much donated clothing in the US to actually go to use).  By buying the Bill’s Khakis pants, I get to wear a much nicer pair of pants for 3 years, I save about $45, and I prevent 4 pairs of pants from being produced and thrown away.  I don’t know that one can wear a single pair of khakis for 3 years straight, but in rotation these pants may last even longer than 3 years.

Cautious Decision Making

When buying anything “BIFL” or “BIFRLT,” it is important to make sure that you really like the product a lot and that the product fits well.  Buying from Amazon is good for this reason because they have a good return policy.  Also, the Bills Khakis pants can be tailored in the waist and come un-hemmed.  You can just take them to your local dry cleaner and get them hemmed to fit you for $10.  The tailor at your dry cleaner can also take in the waist or seat if needed.  In some ways, this is a real luxury, because you will get a pair of pants that fits you better in general.

Social Benefits

There are additional social benefits to buying high-quality clothing and other goods.  Usually these products are produced by workers working under better labor standards, since the quality of their production is more important.  Sometimes, these goods are actually made in the USA.  In the case of my pants, Bill’s Khakis are made in Reading, PA, which is near my home town.  That connection leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside every time I put these trousers on.  I love that my choices are helping to ensure jobs in my home town community.

Taking Care of Your Stuff

A general rule is that your stuff will only last a long time if you care for it properly.  This is definitely the case with pants.  One trick for making sure your pants last a really long time is to zip up the zipper when washing, turn them inside out, and wash them in cold water with your other high-quality clothing.  Then, line dry them (perhaps on your shower curtain bar on a plastic pants hanger).  This is how I wash my shirts and pants, and it really prevents them from wearing out prematurely.  Also, this is how most Europeans take care of their nice clothing.  While this process sounds more labor intensive, it actually is easier than machine drying your clothing because you can skip the entire step of putting things in the dryer and waiting for the dry cycle to finish.  As a general rule, just follow the care instructions for anything you buy, but especially any product that you expect to last for life, or a “really long time.”

Let me know in the comments below if there are any BIFL items that you think are a good value.  I’ll post some more BIFL products in the coming weeks, too!  I might even make a dedicated section on the website.

BIFLBill's KhakisBomb ProofBomberBuy It For LifeDurableHard WearingKhakisSustainable

Radical Finance Guru • April 22, 2015


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Comments

  1. vivianne April 30, 2015 - 7:53 pm Reply

    BIFL is an excellent way to save money long term. When I was in school, dirt poor, but I always hold out for quality stuff instead of buying cheap stuff that didn’t last. Living in poverty for a long time has taught me delay gratification. I find something I want to buy, I’ll have to consider, reconsider, save money, then actually wait for a couple of generation later before buying a model that would last and stand through time. 🙂
    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    • Radical Finance Guru May 2, 2015 - 2:22 am Reply

      Thanks, Vivianne. I think BIFL is a good way to save money in the long-term too, and it also is a good way to minimize our environmental footprint. I think the trick is to do enough research to make sure the item really is BIFL before buying; price is not necessarily a good indicator of quality.

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