Rent, Don’t Buy

by Scott Sery on April 25, 2012

Americans love to accumulate possessions.  It has long been part of our history, and despite rising costs for goods, we keep buying.  Eventually our houses get too full, so we hold a garage sale.  We sell all of our unneeded or unwanted stuff to other people.  They will then add them to their accumulation.  Much of it started years ago when the American Dream was to own a house.  And when you own a house, you need goods to go in the house.

Financially it makes no sense to accumulate goods like this.  We end up spending way more than we need to on a product that might get used once, then it sits in storage until it is finally sold, at a deep discount, to someone else.  In the end, we pay full price for an item, only to sell it years later for a fraction of what was paid.

For instance buying a brand new, top-of-the-line paint sprayer will cost around $1,000.  If it is not being used to provide income (that is, you don’t have a house painting business) the sprayer will most likely get used once.  Selling it could bring you $500.  To use the sprayer just one time, it will cost $500.  So you might argue that instead of buying a brand new paint sprayer, simply buy the used one for $500.  Again, the sprayer is going to only be used once.  Instead of spending the money to buy something new, or even used, rent it.  If all the prep work has been done painting a house only takes a few hours.  A half day rental for a top-of-the-line paint sprayer only costs $35-$50.  Rather than spend 20 times that, and then sell it a few years down the road, just rent.

The paint sprayer is just an example.  This goes for just about everything a person could need on an occasional basis.  Anything from a chainsaw, to power tools, to even simple shovels and rakes.  If they will only be used once, or even five times throughout a person’s life, there is no point in spending the extra money to own it.

But do not take this concept and apply it to everything.  There are some items that it makes much more sense to buy.  A lawn mower gets used almost every weekend.  A car is driven every day (unless public transit is easily accessible).  Items such as furniture and appliances make no sense to rent (unless you are having a large party and need more chairs).  A good rule of thumb is to look at the item.  If it is going to be used more than once per month, then purchase it.  If it is going to be used less, then consider if you really want it lying around cluttering your living space.

It is great to be able to save money.  However, avoiding spending money is not quite the same as saving it.  Instead of simply patting yourself on the back when making a smart money choice, take the difference between the rental and purchasing, and put that money into a retirement account or emergency fund.  The money was earmarked to be spent anyways, at least this way you will have more money to enjoy your retirement, and your living space will be much cleaner and easier to maintain.

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website ScottSery.com
  • http://www.modestmoney.com/ Modest Money

    Good points about renting certain items. You don’t have to go out and buy every item that you need to use. It’s best to really consider how much you’ll use that item. The same can be applied to movies and video games. Tools are one of the best examples though. A lot of power tools are just needed once or twice and then they just fill up space.

  • http://prairieecothrifter.com/ Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter

    I never thought about owning or renting a paint sprayer – that is ingenious. No wonder it took us 9 hours to paint our living room 4 years ago. I feel like an idiot…

    • http://twitter.com/OneSmartDollar Sean Bryant

      Until not too long ago I had no idea that Home Depot renting out most of this equipment.

  • http://add-vodka.com/ Daisy

    I definitely agree. Just like renting a carpet cleaner – it’s much cheaper in the long run because you don’t use it all the time!

  • http://alongforthejourney.com/ Katie

    Renting definitely has it’s advantages. If it’s an item not going to use more than a couple of times renting would definitely be the best option.

  • http://twitter.com/YVRdads Yvrdad.com

    Its also great to comb through garage sales, because you can really get some great deals. However, you end up also buying something that may not necessary need, and it turns into more junk! I bought a mitre saw off a friend that was moving out of town. It was very cheap, but its been sitting in my garage for about 5 months. I guess its time to plan a few projects so I can make use of it!

  • http://twitter.com/prairieecothrif Miss T

    We rent items we use very rarely. It is still cheaper than buying one ourselves. Just this year we rented a power broom to clean up our boulevards. It worked great and saved us from having to buy one.

  • http://www.thegeezergadgetguy.com/ Thad Puckett

    Very good advice. There are always things that you can rent (or even borrow) that can save you serious cash.

  • Frugal_Confessions

    This is why I love to borrow what I can! I hate buying something like a tool that we have no future with. If we are going to use it, then I don’t mind buying it (well…only if it’s full price;)). The only problem with borrowing is that I want to help others as well, so I need to own some things in order to be able to loan them out! Funny thinking, but I like to keep things even abnd have everyone save money.

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