What is BIFL and why should I care?
How many pairs of shoes have you thrown out? How many of those were within two years of owning them? I think we are all guilty of this. We want new stuff, that’s natural, but is it the best way to live your life? This is where a buying philosophy called “Buy it for life” or BIFL for short comes in. BIFL is essentially a way to re-examine how we all buy stuff. Whether it’s a handbag or a new hammer, BIFL aims to seek to find the most durable, reliable and ultimately longest lasting quality goods available. So for every buying category you could try to find the “most BIFL” version of that particular item. Sure, you may never find a BIFL lightbulb, but how can we all try to find alternatives that will at least last a bit longer, save you the hassle of buying a new one every 6 months and divert waste from landfull as much as possible?
Definition of BIFL
This is from our Buy it for life (BIFL) Explained Infographic:
Buy it for life focuses primarily on products that are durable, reliable and high-quality. The products should have a life-span that is longer than a typical product in that category.
So there are a few tenets here that need further examination.
The BIFl product should be able to withstand normal wear and tear. It shouldn’t fall apart after a year of use. So if we use the shoe example from above, the sole should not start detaching. There are signs of durability that are common across many categories, the most important being the warranty for the item. If a company knows that their product can withstand anything you can throw at it, they will likely have a good warranty to go with that product. This isn’t always the case, but be sure that a lifetime warranty will often point towards a more BIFL product.
What good is a product if it conks out at the most inopportune time? That is why reliability is a key element of the BIFL philosophy. You should be able to count on the product. Look for reviews by people testifying to the product’s reliability over a number of years.
#3 High quality
This one is a bit more nebulous and will tend to be quite different depending on the product type. Leather wallets will obviously have many different levels of quality associated with them. What is the stitching method? What grade of leather is it made from? Is it hand stitched? These are all the type of questions that you want to ask yourself. Same with leather boots. Are they hand made? Do they use a Goodyear Welt to attach the sole? (this is a real important one if you know anything about footwear). So in the end quality will require some research into the kind of product you are buying.
It just makes economic sense
Let’s do some math here. Let’s say you buy a pair of $150 shoes every year. That will add up to $1,500 in ten years for footwear. But if you drop $400 on a great pair of BIFL boots once then you can likely forego a fair number of those shoe purchases over time and save some money. Sure, you will want to buy new stuff as trends change, but that pair of boots you bought is pretty timeless and you could probably wear them no problem in a decade.
Buying some of low quality can sometime seem like a great deal but try to look at the hidden costs. Of course you will be buying replacements more often, that’s a given. But what about your time? Is it a good use of your time to regularly be replacing items that could have been bought once or twice instead? Laying out a few extra dollars can absolutely make sense for your pocket book.
Give mother Earth a hand
One central tenet of BIFL is that it reduces waste that is sent off to landfill. In Western culture we have been trained to expect to replace our stuff regularly. This absolutely does not need to be the case with many BIFL products. Buy a cast iron pan and keep that sucker until you’re six feet under. Look into higher quality fabrics for your clothing such as merino wool or durable synthetics. Buy tools at a premium that have been tried and tested by professionals. That hammer that you bought might just be the same hammer you hand down to your grand child someday.
The message is this: Some items really do not need to be replaced very often, especially if you look at durability, reliability and quality. And the environment will only benefit from a movement of people all thinking in this way.
Some BIFL myths busted
#1 Buying something that is more expensive is always better
Obviously this is not true. There are all sorts of products out there that are “more sizzle than steak.” That’s why you are continuously shelling out that $150 for shoes every 1-2 years. They are expensive, but they aren’t quality. The marketing machine behind some companies can really give a sense of quality where in reality you are just paying that nice fat salary for their marketing team. Some products started with good reputations for quality but then later changed their manufacturing processes and now sell products that are just coasting on their previous good name. Doc Martens is a good example of this. There are much better boots out there to buy that have real quality craftsmanship and companies that stand by their product.
#2 Older products are always better than newer products
This is sort of a fallacy that people have in their mind. Sure, some of those desk fans from the 1950’s are still kicking. But that doesn’t mean they are safer or more energy efficient than some modern products. And there certainly are some terrible products that have been made in previous decades (they just never last until now). Modern techniques to make products can certainly outperform older ones, you just need to look at it in a case-by-case kind of basis.
#3 To be BIFL it needs to be indestructible
This is far from the truth. The spirit of BIFL is that the item should be: durable, reliable and high quality. That doesn’t mean that you should be able to take your blender and drop an iPad into it and safely use it tomorrow (although these crazy bastards certainly did and I love their blenders).
Furthermore, BIFL doesn’t mean that you should treat your stuff like an idiot. For example, it is ALWAYS recommended to own several pairs of shoes or boots and switch it up from time to time. That way you give a rest to your favorite pair and they won’t wear out as fast. If you own one pair of shoes, even if they are the best pair available, you WILL wear them out, and fast. BIFL is about making smart choices and having better quality products that last longer, not living like a hobo.
#4 You can’t find BIFL tech products
This one is almost true. The nature of the tech industry is that it moves super fast. There is a reason why you’re not using an iPhone 3G right now. Technology gets phased out as fast as they can make it. However, there is the odd tech item that truly deserves a BIFL recommendation. Vacuum cleaners are a great example of this. If you buy a great vacuum you can expect that to last at least a decade or even more. Another example is speakers. The core technology behind speakers hasn’t changed in 50 years. I have known people to keep quality BIFL speakers for literally decades.
How to buy BIFL products
All of this can be a bit confusing for new BIFL enthusiasts. But it’s really quite simple once you get down to the actual aim of buying BIFL: Buy better stuff. It will last longer, help the environment and save you time and money. Here are a few tips that will get you started in researching and buying BIFL products.
The best place to start when you are considering something new is to head on over to Amazon. Once there start looking through reviews on possible products, noting the volume of reviews and the average rating people are giving the product. Next, read a few of the best, a few of the worst and a few of the average reviews based on score. Are the people that like the product raving about it? Is there a fatal flaw in the construction of this particular model? After all, Nike has made some great shoes but also a few stinkers over the years… Overall are people loving this product enough to take the time to recommend it to others? Also be sure to note any reviews where people talk about owning it for a long time. This will obviously be a sign of durability.
Look for repairable products
One element of BIFL that is often overlooked is the actual upkeep of the product. Great boots can actually be completely re-assembled and repaired. Is the sole worn out? Then just get the manufacturer or a local cobbler to re-build the sole. Some stuff just isn’t meant to be repairable. That is why it is always a good idea to look for simpler products over needlessly complicated ones. Crock Pots are a good example. If you don’t need the electronic touch screen features then just go with the basic one with a manual switch. Same with headphones. Headphones are probably the thing that you break the most (I know I do). The Sennheiser HD25’s are a great example of a very repairable product. DJ’s have been using these for years because they are simple and have replaceable components. These ones have been known to last decades. Hell, the best can opener you can buy right now is a manual one that costs $8! The simpler the product the less there is to go wrong and the easier it is to repair.
Lifetime warranties or guarantees
Like I said earlier in this post, great warranties are often a sign of a great product. Look for products that have a lifetime warranty, but also do some research on customer reviews of these warranties. Just because a product has a lifetime warranty does not mean that it actually honors that warranty. There are often stipulations on exactly when you can use the warranty and more often than not these are not “lifetime” at all and it is not uncommon to see some pretty ridiculous fine print. Some lifetime warranties are only a few years! An example of probably the most amazing warranty out there is from Darn Tough Socks. These guys somehow allow you to get a free pair of socks if yours wear out at all, for any reason… Do your research and make sure people online have had a good experience with the warranty departments at the company you are considering buying from.
Do some more research
This is exactly why we created this website. Jump around between the categories on Buy This Once and see if there is a recommendation for a product in your category. We add new stuff every week and also write longer comparison posts on for example the best water bottles, so be sure to stay tuned to our site in the future.
Happy BIFL-ing and thanks for reading!