A little more than a year ago my wife and I were preparing for an extended trip to Asia which we knew would include the three-week Everest Basecamp trek in Nepal. For the trip I wanted a Suunto altimeter/compass/thermostat watch.
We are extremely frugal. Typically when contemplating a purchase like this we ask ourselves - and one another - a simple question, "Do you need it or do you want it?" Clearly the watch was a "want". So I employed another technique I've used in the past and it worked like a charm.
Most of the stuff we buy does not last very long. Nearly everything has a built-in, preplanned useful life that seems to be getting shorter and shorter. The trick, it seems, is to avoid being the guy who is left owning the item at the end of that useful life. Buying good stuff is important, but getting rid of it before it dies is even more important.
So, back to the watch.... I figured out exactly which model I wanted then bought it second-hand on ebay for $105 with shipping. I used it for a year of travel. I used the altimeter to calculate every meter on our way up to basecamp and used the compass to navigate winding alley-like streets of Northern India on a Royal Enfield. Over that time it got a few minor bumps and scratches, but nothing major. After returning home it still worked perfectly so I snapped closeup photos and listed it on ebay for a little more than I paid. After shipping and ebay/paypal fees I ended up spending $9.75 to have the exact watch I wanted for a year. In short, I created for myself a rental. I borrowed it from one person and returned it to another.
The best part, I will not be the one who owns the expensive watch when it finally stops ticking. Someone else will have it decorating the bottom of their sock drawer.
I've been using this technique for other somewhat perishable items as well. For instance, I'm an avid cyclist. I often cycle early in the morning, before sunrise. A good light is a requirement. Good lights are expensive and after a few years of use the rechargeable batteries die. So each year I purchase a brand-new NiteRider at REI during their excellent bike-light sale in October. I then sell last-years model - with pristine box and packaging material - on ebay just after Christmas when everyone has gift-card-euphoria. Of course, I make it clear that I've owned it for a year. I've done this twice and came within $10 of breaking even both times. I've always got a new light and avoid the bottom-of-the-sock-drawer experience.
So, that begs the question: What else can this technique be used for?