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  • To Repair or to Replace? That is the Question

    by:
    Kerri Barreca

    I’ve been teased for mending a pair of knit mittens so many times that you can see 4 shades of blue along the seams.  That’s ok by me, I try not to dispose of things until they really need to go.  This is partly for environmental reasons and partly due to my frugal nature.  I figure, why buy a new pair when I can fix up an old pair almost as good as new? 

    In the debate to repair vs. replace, I am a repairer at heart but things can get tricky in today’s electronic age as it is often cheaper to buy a new digital camera or cell phone than to try to repair a damaged one.

    Before giving in, check out local services like the Repair Café.

    These events are offered in many communities and are possible thanks to the help of skilled volunteers who attempt to fix anything from your broken fan to restringing your old beaded necklace. Note, the next event takes place on November 19th at the S. Walter Stewart Branch of the Toronto Public Library.

    Even better, some Scandinavian countries are providing incentives for consumers to repair items rather than replace them.  In September of this year, it was announced that Sweden will offer tax breaks on repair expenses.  This will hopefully not only cut back on waste but also allow an industry of repair shops and mechanics to flourish.  Sounds like a win-win idea to me. Here’s hoping the Canadian government takes note.

    This Old House’s website does a good job of listing common household items that break down and gives some rules of thumb about when to repair or replace them.  You may have also heard about the 50% rule.  Generally speaking, if something will cost more than half the retail price to be repaired, opt for replacing it instead.   Of course, before splurging on a new washer or air conditioner check to be sure that the old unit is not still under warranty.  If you are on the fence about getting a new appliance, consider the energy efficiency of your old appliance versus newer models on the market.  Switching to energy efficient models may end up cutting back on your hydro bill over time.  Also be sure to check out Green Saver, as they offer free home energy upgrades.

    In the end, choosing to repair an old item may save you a bit of cash in the short term and helps reduce the amount of trash ending up in our landfills. On the other hand, opting to replace a broken item may have newer features, be more energy efficient and hopefully have a long shelf life.

    Basically, the extent of the product’s damage and your individual priorities will determine whether to repair or replace an item.

    I’m guessing that I have at least one more winter season left in my blue mittens before they bite the dust; but then again knowing me, maybe it’s two winter seasons.

    Looking for more ways to save? Read:

    How to Save Big by Cutting Small

    Tips for Saving Dollars on your Vehicle Costs

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