Buy it For Life – Saving with Quality over Quantity

With sustainability becoming more and more mainstream, I found myself struggling to find the right products to make the smallest environmental impact possible. After learning about the “Buy it for Life” movement, making decisions about products has become much more clear and buying consciously has become more straightforward. 

The “Buy It For Life” movement centers around the idea of buying one high quality product such as shoes, tooth brushes, bags etc., that will last you decades of use rather than buying many cheap products that are made to break quickly and have to be replaced every few months.

The need to be more sustainable as a consumer has hit the markets as the next big trend: pressure is on for individuals to do their part in helping the environment by way of shopping habits. Therefore when a new movement like “Buy it for Life” comes into our radar we scramble to adhere to the new rules of the game; throw out our fast fashion wardrobe and replace it with all new sustainable clothes. 

But “Buy it for Life” is more than just a catchy term, it’s a movement that can shape not what products you buy, but how you buy them.

What is Buy It For Life (BIFL)?

In the last few years, sustainability has become less of a niche hippie mindset and more of a mainstream trend. We are seeing coffee shops straying away from single use plastic straws and offering discounts to customers who bring in their own mug, we see clothing shops offering deals to customers who donate their clothes. 

Used Clothing Exchange - Buy It For Life - But Don't Throw Your Shoes Out Yet - Gone Minimal
Used Clothing Exchange

However, what we have to be aware of anytime something becomes a trend, is how long it will last and how many new products it entails buying. Buy it For Life (BIFL) offers a challenge to the quick turnaround of any modern trends and instead sets up a mindset that can last through any change of mainstream. 

The biggest questions BIFL prompts us to ask when buying something new is, “how long will this product last?”  “How soon and how often will I have to replace it?”  and “how much use will I get out of it?” We want the products we buy to last a lifetime according to the name, but how do we ensure that we buy the right products? Is there even such a thing? 

In this article I’m going to walk through the purpose of the BIFL movement, the common critiques, and what it really means to buy something for life. Additionally, research from the University of Texas at Austin points to the concept that Spending on Experiences Versus Possessions Advances More Immediate Happiness. If we choose to buy fewer items, and they can last a lifetime, it affords us more time to choose and enjoy happy experiences.

Do I Have To Spend a Lot To Live the Buy It for Life Way?

In general, no, one does not need to spend a lot to live the Buy It For Life way. The biggest critique I hear for the BIFL movement is that it’s expensive. That’s fair! The products BIFLers vouch for are often much more expensive than their common counterparts. However, this typically means buying higher-quality products that will last longer than cheaper versions, which may save money in the long run.

Purchasing items made of more durable and longer-lasting materials will prevent the need to buy so often, but the initial cost might be greater. However, I want to show you how the BIFL way doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank.

But Buy It for Life Products Are So Expensive!

I understand it can be hard to justify a movement that tells you to shell out $300 for a good pair of boots that will last a lifetime when the boots you have now cost $75 and still work fine after a few years. It’s certainly a privilege to be able to spend more money on higher quality products that will last you longer than to have to rely on cheaper products that are in your budget that will fall apart sooner. 

It is easier said than done to “just save up for a few months and buy that new jacket that will last 20 years and you’ll never have to buy a jacket again.” What if it’s October, and your jacket from last year is worn out and it’s getting colder by the day? You don’t necessarily have the time to save up, you need a new jacket now. And you don’t have the money now to buy a $300-400 jacket because you have bills to pay. So you do the logical thing: you buy a cheap but warm jacket that will get you through this winter but maybe not last until next year. 

You can’t think about the implications of buying the cheap jacket right now, that it was made with materials that will hurt the environment, that when thrown away it will stay in a landfill for hundreds of years, that the labor used to make the jacket wasn’t well compensated. How do you think of those things when you did not have a real choice as to which jacket to buy? 

Think Of It Less as a List of Products, and More Like a Mindset

Here is, I believe, where we can turn the BIFL movement into a more sustainable mindset. When we think of the three R’s of environmentalism, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, we often magnify Recycle and somewhat forget about the other two key words. But these keywords fit seamlessly into the mindset of BIFL. 


When shopping for new products it can be tempting to buy something that is marketed as sustainable and eco-conscious. However, just because a sustainable replacement for a product exists, that does not mean we need to buy it. At least not right away. First we need to ask: do I already have a version of this at home that I haven’t used up yet? Then we can ask, do I need to buy more of this product now or can I wait and use something else? 

For example, I remember when I first started becoming interested in shampoo bars for my hair. I wanted to use less plastic in my shower and switching from bottled soaps to bar soaps seemed like the right step to take. However, I went out and bought a bunch of bar shampoos and bar soaps before I had even used up the shampoo and body wash I already had.

This meant I ended up throwing away the bottles sooner and adding more plastic to our landfills. What I could have done instead would be, while I was using the last of my shampoo bottle, I could do research on the best shampoo bar for my hair, my budget, my style.

I could also do research into how to extend the life of my shampoo by making my own dry shampoo with arrowroot powder or doing apple cider vinegar rinses between washing so one bottle now lasts three times as long as it did before. The big part of these questions being how can I reduce my need to replace this object?

This can mean mending clothes and shoes that are worn, assessing how many different versions of one product you need (do you need a floor cleaner and a surface cleaner or can you make/buy a bulk version for both).

Reducing your need to replace a product can mean more time to save for that more expensive version that will last you a lifetime while also building the skills to make any product you already have last longer. 

Additionally, the lest time we spend thinking about and choosing products (because we only have to to it once), can give us so much more time and happiness back. Richard Staelin from Duke University walks us through his study here which helps provide insight into how having more choices and information becomes less helpful over time. It was written decades ago and has stood the test of time, even in the digital age. By reducing, and making choices once, we free up so much more of our lives in positive ways.


Secondly let’s look into Reuse, the other forgotten key word. When we finish or wear out a product, do we need to get rid of it? An important question you can ask yourself before buying a new sustainable product is, do I already own something that I can use for this? Do you need to buy fancy bamboo paper towels for $15 a pack, or do you have old towels/ t-shirts you can repurpose into reusable paper towels?

There are thousands of DIY tutorials on YouTube teaching people how to repurpose their goods. Did you know you can make rope out of old plastic grocery bags? You can then use that rope to crochet a multitude of products such as a rug, a reusable tote for groceries, a yoga mat, the possibilities are endless. 

On the topic of grocery bags, the brown paper bags can be used as customizable wrapping paper for gifts, or book covers, compost, again, it’s endless. Reusing products boils down to researching ways to not have to throw something away when it doesn’t work for you anymore, which leads me to my next point.


If I could add a fourth R to the Reduce Reuse Recycle slogan, it would be research. The reddit thread /r/BuyItForLife is a great forum that allows reddit users to share their own favorite items that have been tried and true, built to last. We have a market nowadays that allows us to immediately replace anything that breaks in record speed. 

We’ve got options, more so than we have ever had before, and it is so easy to just click the link to the product that is cheap and will get here fast! Who cares if it breaks in two weeks, when this one breaks we’ll do the same thing: click the link to the fast and cheap product once again.

Does Buy It for Life Save Me Money?

In the long run, BIFL will save you money. But as I talked about in the last section, being a part of the BIFL movement does not mean you have to shell out your life savings on one really good product. Knowing what kind of products you need to splurge on and what products you can buy for life really cheap is a big part of the movement. 

For example, a good pair of Levi jeans can last a lifetime, even if they rip, they are easily mended or the rips can be part of jeans’ life story—up to you! Levi jeans usually go for $10-$30 at most thrift stores which is cheaper than the $150-300 jeans most sustainable brands will have you pay, and even cheaper than some fast fashion websites as well.

Buying vintage or pre-worn clothes is a great way to buy for life on a budget. Bringing a phone to the thrift store and researching the brands of clothing on sale is a smart way to research how long a piece of clothing will last.

Additionally, saving in one area can mean more money for bigger purchases. Spending $20 on a pair of jeans only when you need to, not only when you want to change up your wardrobe can mean more money you can put aside for that high quality vacuum, or cast iron skillet you’ve had your eye on.

Some products are unavoidably expensive: you’re not likely to find a cheap and sustainable vacuum that will last a lifetime, even most expensive vacuums break after a few years. 

But knowing what you can spend more money on and what you don’t have to is an important aspect of participating in BIFL. Just as well, expensive products don’t always mean higher quality.

Buy Me Once

Buy Me Once, very much related to the Buy it For Life Movement, is a website that has compiled products that are proven to last. It is a great resource to refer to, just like the subreddit, to find products that are guaranteed to only need to be bought once and never need to be replaced. It is certainly a website I rely on when I need to replace something in my home. 

Whenever something I own breaks, I check first to see if it’s possible to repair it and if not then I start researching with Buy Me Once to see what kind of products they have. Buy Me Once is no replacement for the BIFL movement but it’s a great place to find products that are known to be good quality.

Benefits of Buy It for Life Products

There are a few obvious benefits to buying BIFL products, the first being that you’ve bought something that theoretically should last you a lifetime of use! This of course means you get to spend zero dollars to buy this product ever again and that money can go to more fun things like art supplies or a vacation or instruments or–I might be projecting here. 

Only having to buy a product once because it lasts a lifetime means you only have to spend the money to buy it once, any more money you put into the item will be small fixes and repairs. If we think of even small products such as clothes and shoes like a house, when you buy a house you don’t replace it the second there’s a plumbing issue that would be ridiculous! You call a plumber and have the issue fixed. 

So why don’t we apply that to everyday items. You’ve now invested $200 in a pair of boots, though they shouldn’t fall apart on you, they still might get a little worn over time, are you going to throw your worn boots away that you spent all that money on and buy a brand new pair, or will you find out how to fix the problem so you can keep the nice boots. 

Over time, this becomes a common practice for everything you own-BIFL investments and cheap quick buys alike. Now that you know your shoes can be repaired, maybe you can also fix that $20 pair of sneakers you bought forever ago. This practice is the less obvious benefit of BIFL. Once you begin thinking of the things you buy in terms of, “will this last a lifetime?” it’s a quick path to finding out how to make products last a lifetime.

Almost everything that you own has a BIFL counterpart. There are very few items that can’t be bought for life. Well, you can’t really get BIFL toilet paper… but I guess now that attachable bidets are available on the market, there technically is a BIFL counterpart for TP. As you can see, it’s not always about buying a direct replacement for an item, rather finding a product you can use instead that will last a lifetime. 

Reframing the problem of “can I find this item as a BIFL product” into “How can I make this product last a lifetime?” Here we have a list of popular and trusted BIFL brands organized by what they sell. These products are the investment, they are all more expensive but they’ve been tested and are trusted by the BIFL community so you know you’ll only have to buy these products once.

Man shopping for Buy It For Life clothing items - Buy It For Life - But Don't Throw Your Shoes Out Yet - Gone Minimal
Man shopping for Buy It For Life clothing items

Personal Items and Buy It For Life Clothing

Buy It For Life BootsRed Wing Boots
Oak Street Bootmakers
LL Bean
Buy It For Life ShoesAllen Edmonds
Buy It For Life T ShirtsIcebreaker
Mountain Hardware
Buy It For Life JeansPointer Brand Jeans
Duluth Trading Co
Buy It For Life ShoesAllen Edmonds
Buy It For Life SocksDachstein
Darn Tough
Red Head
Wool Power

Personal Accessories

Buy It For Life BackpacksOsprey
Granite Gear
Tom Bihn
Buy It For Life WalletElvis & Kresse
Brave Soles
Flow Fold
Buy It For Life GiftsSertodo copper kitchenware
Pacific Merchants
Fisher pens
WearPanda sunglasses


Buy It For Life Cookware360 Cookware
Sertodo Copper
Origin Utensils
Buy It For Life VacuumsMiele

Buy it for Life for Families

Does the BIFL movement even work for families with kids? Kids grow at record speeds, their clothes last a year if you’re lucky, a few months at a time realistically. They’re constantly outgrowing their shoes, their clothes, even their toys! Is it possible to overcome the guilt of buying for life for yourself but not for your kids? Yes- First of all, any step toward a more sustainable life is a positive even if it is small and applied to only a part of your life. 

Secondly, figuring out what products you can Buy for Life and what you absolutely cannot is part of the process. Taking advantage of thrift stores for kids clothes is a great way to not contribute to waste without necessarily buying the clothes for life, saving clothes and toys for when your friends have kids, or as hand-me-downs. BIFL is a movement, not a club with strict rules you have to follow or you get kicked out. Do what you can, do your best, Buy for Life when it works for your lifestyle and when it makes sense for you.

Buy It For Life electronics - Buy It For Life - But Don't Throw Your Shoes Out Yet - Gone Minimal
Buy It For Life electronics

How long does it take to start living the Buy it For Life way?

It takes both seconds and a lifetime to start living the BIFL way. No this isn’t Schrodinger’s movement, it’s just a movement that can be started at any time and takes practice to perfect. You can start it today! right this second!!! 

Or maybe you want to save some money and start it next year. But once you start, BIFL grows on you like a weed, it infects your buying mindset, now everytime you go to the store to buy something–anything– you start to think: how long will it take before I have to replace this item, and is there something similar that will last me longer?

This is what I mean when I say it takes both seconds and a lifetime to start living the BIFL way.

Can I buy used items for Buy it For Life?

Can you buy used items? of course! Buying clothes second hand or appliances from facebook marketplace are a great way to dip your toes in the water of BIFL without dipping too far into your pocket. I would even recommend hitting up estate sales and garage sales. If you see a vacuum that looks like it’s from the 70s, well there’s probably a good reason why it was kept until the 2020s and not thrown away. 

Is Buy it For Life similar to Buy Me Once?

The two are similar, Buy Me Once compiles trusted and true products into one website, whereas BIFL is more of a movement.

Is BIFL valuable, or just a trend?

BIFL doesn’t have to be just a trend if you don’t want it to be! Do you want to start living in a more sustainable way and not buy products that need to be replaced every few months? Great! Once you start buying higher quality investment products and subsequently have to buy less of those items, it can be hard to stop. Like I’ve said, the movement survives on building personal buying and consuming habits that once introduced into your life, are beyond easy to keep up with, 

Is Buy it For Life part of minimalism?

It certainly can be! If for your sustainability journey you want to focus on not just buying less often but buying less in general, then by all means do that. The two movements fit seamlessly into each other and starting one makes it easier to start the other. 

Do I have to spend a lot to live the Buy it For Life way?

No!!! A few years ago I was in need of a winter coat so I hit up my local thrift shop and lucked into finding a Pendleton wool winter coat for $50. Today that coat looks exactly the same as it did when it was sold. Thrift stores, second hand shops, and online marketplaces are great places to find good quality BIFL products for a reduced price.

So although when you start researching BIFL, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the large price tags on a lot of the items, dig a little deeper and you can find good products for cheap.

It’s just a movement that can be started at any time and takes practice to perfect. You can start it today! right this second!!! 

While trends come and go, styles change Buy it for Life, isn’t going anywhere, nor does it have to. Like any skill, BIFL takes practice, no one has to be perfect or have a spotless sustainability record. Most importantly, BIFL does not have to break the bank: it is a movement, not a product.

Other Resources:

At what age should I begin the Buy it For Life mindset?

The great thing about the BIFL movement is that it is just that: a movement. Although it is currently trending, it is not a trend , or at least, it doesn’t have to be a trend. Because it’s a movement that relies on a mindset and the building of habits, it is never too early or too late to begin your BIFL journey. 

Does Buy it For Life save me money?

In the long run, Buy it for Life will save you money. It is much cheaper to buy a $300 pair of boots once, that will last you 30 years than to spend $30 on a pair of boots you have to replace every two years. Specifically, it is $150 cheaper to do so, trust me I did the math 🙂

Similar Posts