The BIFL philosophy

Those who practice the BIFL (Buy It For Life) philosophy believe that you should purchase only items of high quality so they will last for your entire life and preferably beyond so you can pass them down to your heirs.

BIFL was a very common practice up until the early part of the 20th century. Afterwards, consumer goods became more affordable and technology changed at a rapid rate. This, coupled with the driving forces of consumerism caused a decline in the BIFL philosophy. And, at the same time, our homes gradually filled with more and more stuff.

Today, BIFL seems to be making a come-back. People are aware the effect of mass consumerism, from poorly paid workers in unsafe conditions, to the environmental damage caused by production and disposal of items we are driven to purchase. They also want to live in less cluttered homes.

If you’re considering becoming a Buy It For Lifer, here are some things to consider.

Buy the highest quality you can afford

If a pair of $150 boots will last you three winters and a $60 pair will last only one winter, the more expensive boot would be the better option — not only for your pocketbook but for the environment as well. Buy the highest quality (in this case the most durable) that you can afford.

A disadvantage of BIFL is that often people get convinced to pay for more ‘quality’ than needed. For example, if you never play computer games, there is no point in paying extra for a high-quality graphics card on your new computer.

Define exactly what you need the product to do and the type of performance you expect. Do some research on the internet, check product review sites, and ask your friends and family for opinions. Don’t overspend on high-end products when you can get ‘good enough’ products at much lower prices.

Choose classic styling and neutral colours

Professional Organizer Julie Bestry cleared-out a client’s closet recently and posted a photo of a classically tailored man’s suit on Facebook. She asked her friends to guess what era the suit was from. The answers spanned from the 1950s to the 1990s — an indication that time-honoured fashion transcends fad styling.

Classic styling does not just apply to clothing. Simple and elegant home furnishings stand the test of time as well. White kitchen appliances may wax and wane in popularity but they certainly outlasted those of avocado green and harvest gold. Plain dinnerware and flatware sets can be dressed up for any occasion with fancy napkins and tablecloths. A beige sofa can be jazzed up with a colourful throw and decorative cushions.

Is it repairable, replaceable, upgradeable?

When you are considering purchasing an item, inquire whether it is possible to repair it if it breaks and what the repair costs would be. Often the owner’s manual will contain a list of available replacement parts. If it doesn’t, then it may not be easily repaired.

For large items such as appliances, televisions, etc., it might be helpful to talk to local repair shops and find out which makes and models to avoid. When I took my vacuum cleaner in for repairs, I learned that certain brands should be avoided because they are almost impossible to fix while other brands can be inexpensively repaired and outperform newer models even after 20 years.

Check for a Repair Café in your city. At a Repair Café, visitors bring in their broken item and working with volunteer repair specialists, they can make repairs to their items right in the café with the tools and materials available. (Coffee and snacks are also available!) If the volunteer specialists can’t fix it, they can give you advice on whether or not your broken item is worth repairing and where the local repair shops are located.

If you have a set of items and one of the set breaks or gets lost, can it be replaced? and CorningWare offers replacement lids, and Tupperware has an almost lifetime guarantee on most of its products. Most dinnerware and flatware will sell items individually however, some patterns may be discontinued.

Technology is one area where BIFL may not make sense. Certainly keeping a computer or television for as long as possible is a good idea, but at some point the hardware will no longer accept new software updates. Look for manufacturers and retailers that offer upgrade or trade-in programs. They will accept your old technology and give you a credit towards your new product. Apple has both an upgrade program for iPhones (as do many cell phone carriers). It also has a trade-in program that gives users Apple Store credit towards the purchase of new Apple products.

Extended Warranties

Often sales people will offer extended warranties on goods and customers may be tempted especially if they are considering buying it for life. Many extended warranties are expensive and have a host of exclusions so may not be worth it for a particular product. I encourage our readers to check out the excellent advice on extended warranties by both Consumer Reports and the Toronto Star before they agree to buy.


Are you someone who buys it for life? Has it helped you stay uncluttered? Share with readers in the comments.

8 Comments for “The BIFL philosophy”

  1. posted by Arnotron on

    Regarding computers and smartphones I try to maximize the usable lifespan. With my MacBook Pro, I went with a better CPU, Maximum RAM and more storage than the base model. My intent is, to make it last as long as possible, because a faster CPU or more memory chips don’t increase the environmental footprint that much. If this way I can make three laptops last for 15 years, it’s better than buying new every three years.

  2. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    I believe the idea that a pair of boots or shoes that cost $150 will last longer than a pair costing half as much is totally false. A Volvo will not last longer than a Ford. That is not to say that some products will not last longer than others, because they do. But price is not necessarily the best indicator of value.

  3. posted by SkiptheBS on

    BIFL is an excellent strategy for older people. My laptop is a decade old. I’ve upgraded both hardware and software but the OS is now obsolete. At some point, I’ll install Linux and Wine and continue using it.

    Bed’s a century old cast iron model. It should go another hundred years.

    My winter coat has a lifetime warranty and I buy classics on business attire to maximize its useful life.

    Some vintage household items will outlast contemporary models. Hand mixers, electric can openers, and non-aluminum American made cookware are excellent choices.

  4. posted by Nana on

    Sorry, Kenneth…I had a Volvo that went 20+ years, 200,000 miles. Not many Fords can make that claim, I suspect

  5. posted by Jami on

    I think this is a goal we should all aspire to achieve. There will be some miscalculations along the way. We bought living room, dining room, and bedroom furniture 11 years ago from Room and Board and all but the dining room table and one dining chair are still perfect or little wear. However, we also have two kids in that time span so the table took a real beating. I have found though that BIFL can be a disadvantage for me because I like to have things, like boots, for different occasions, e.g. leather riding boots (11 years), snow boots (7y), rainboots (4y), weather resistant leather ankle boots for day (2y) and for night (1y). Now I have 5 pairs of boots that are all great quality that I use, but i want to be a minimalist! Yes, I can justify—I walk or take transit most places in a 4 season climate, but this still seems excessive. This is my personal challenge.

  6. posted by Dana on

    Now that my husband is working (woot DINK life!), we’ve started replacing the most falling-apart of our kitchenware with Le Creuset where we can. Since those pieces tend to last FOREVER, we’ve found a few things used on Ebay, and bought a few more new at drastically reduced prices from an outlet store. Corningware and old-school Pyrex will also go the distance – I’m using a few casserole dishes and measuring cups that my grandmother got as wedding gifts back in the 1940s. The pattern isn’t one that I would have chosen, but it’s still perfectly functional.

    Re: cars – I just traded in my ’04 Toyota Corolla with over 240K on the odometer (and I bought it brand new in 2003; all those miles were mine). Some vehicle makes will absolutely last longer than others, but it doesn’t necessarily mean paying the highest sticker price.

  7. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    We have had four Volvos. The first one we had for (only) eighteen years, unknown number of miles. One is still in the family, an S60. My V40 starting having reliability issues at around 140,000 miles. The other one, a V70, was totaled in an accident. At age 72, I no longer require a vehicle that lasts 18 years. My son, who drives a 15 year old Ford Ranger, once commented that you could tell how old our (first) Volvo was by the lack of cup holders.

    I stand by my original comments.

  8. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    I forgot to mention that the car I drove before the V40 was a Ford Escort station wagon. It had 187,839.7 miles when it was totaled, sitting in the driveway. I only had it eleven years. Excellent car, easily as good as the Volvo, though smaller. Volvos these days are frightfully expensive. It’s really more complicated than you might think, since much more than price (that is, cost) goes into the matter. My current Ford was half what the least expensive Volvo would cost and our priorities have changed.

    They all have plenty of cup holders these days, by the way.

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