One of the more time-consuming events of my first week in a new town involved hunting for a washer and dryer. I considered doing without since this is, technically, a non-essential purchase. After all, if No Impact Man (a.k.a. Colin Beavan) could use a toilet plunger in the bath tub for a year, couldn’t I at least walk across the apartment complex parking lot and down 22 stairs to the laundry room? Or better yet, why couldn’t I simply pull from an episode of I Love Lucy (remember the grape stomping) and self-agitate my clothes in the bathtub using my own two feet?
Well, the teenager ruled that one out really fast, and she had a valid point; the neighbors downstairs might wonder what sort of strange things were happening up here. Plus, we can’t hang items from the balcony, so our two-bedroom apartment would be filled with damp laundry, meaning a high embarrassment factor for the teen and the procurement of several drying racks by the parent.
So the hunt began for an appropriate washer and dryer. The teen had visions of a lovely, colorful, high-efficiency, frontloading matched set; I, on the other hand, was picturing a used set that worked. The search started at a big box home and garden store with hopes of a scratch and dent compromise. No luck. Plus the prices were sufficient to take my breath away–even on the modest top-loading models. The next stop was a major retailer’s outlet center. The salesperson’s recommendation was a high-efficiency Elba washer and dryer–delivered and set up for under $900 on sale. Compared to the big box prices this sounded pretty good, but the voice of reason kept shouting “too much, too much!” I listened to that little voice and spent a couple of days of searching on Craigslist. I found nothing I would consider a value.
Finally, just as I was seriously contemplating how much longer I could avoid that trip across the parking lot with two big baskets of dirty laundry, my mother called. She had that distinct note of satisfaction in her voice that I have come to associate over the years with the discovery of a real deal. Sure enough, she’d called around and found a small family appliance store that sells refurbished units for $250/set—with a warranty. We arrived at Baugh’s Appliances that same afternoon, and I put money down on a heavy-duty apartment-sized Kenmore washer and a decent-looking GE dryer. They had it ready for delivery the next day, so thanks to the goodwill of strong friends with a borrowed pick-up truck I was soon doing laundry in the comfort of my own home.
What’s the net result from this experience? I could have dropped $3,000 or more on a really cool front loading laundry pair, but that’s not something I would do even if I had the funds to spare. I could have spent nothing and startled the neighbors with my self-agitating tub-wash tango, but my daughter would have been appalled and good will between neighbors compromised. Yes, I could have schlepped my dirty clothes to the laundry room and dropped $4 a load to wash and dry like millions of folks do every day. I opted for something in between that I feel is consistent with my attempts at justice and simple living.
I bought the refurbished washer and dryer for $250 from a small, locally-owned store. In less than nine months it will pay for itself, surpassing what the coin-operated system would cost, water and electricity included. Plus, while my clothes are washing I can do other things like write blog entries, work on my novel, or prepare supper. Finally, by purchasing refurbished goods, I am doing my part to keep new items from entering the “stuff stream” while also supporting local business.
Ultimately, each purchase we make challenges us to think about what we are doing. Is the item (or items) needed and useful? Is the purchase just? What’s the overall impact of the purchase? Someone else might have chosen differently for very good reasons, and that’s o.k. We are charged with doing the best that we can with what we have by making decisions that are ethical, fiscally sound, and consistent with our lifestyles and practices.
What about you? Do you have any stories to share about a purchase you have made where you got what you paid for–and more?