On Consumerism: A Tale of Two Malting Machines | Weekend magazine

Once in a while, you can save money by spending more.

It sounds strange, but it’s true.

In 1951, my aunt Estelle got married. She and her husband moved into a two-story house (with her parents on the second floor) and quickly raised a family. One of the kitchen gadgets she received in the early 1950s was made by Hamilton Beach. We have always called it “the malting machine” because it was used to make malted milkshakes. We used to see identical patterns in glaciers. The ingredients go into a cylindrical chromed metal box, which is hooked to the metal mixer.

In any case, his malting machine was made of metal, and in the 1980s it saw frequent use. I remember my grandmother (who died in 1969) pressuring my mother and aunt to slip raw eggs into whatever malt was made for me. But if I saw an egg go in, I wouldn’t drink it.

As an adult, I would continue to notice the malting machine. I last saw him in 2007 or 2008 when my aunt, recently widowed and with the children married and gone, moved out of that two story house. Living alone away from her family was not for her. She moved to a house a block away from one of her sons.

Compare that to when my family moved into a house in 1969. We too acquired a malting machine. But at that time, the plastic revolution had begun. The machine cartridge was rectangular and made of cheap plastic, and hooked onto a cheap plastic mixing device with metal blades. We used ours much less than my aunt used hers. Nevertheless, within a decade, cracks had developed in the plastic. Before he was 15, the machine, mostly made of plastic, became unusable and was ransacked.

Because my aunt’s machine was metal (and therefore probably more expensive), it didn’t wear out. My aunt’s malting days are now behind her, but I asked her this week what happened to that machine. Turns out she eventually gave it to one of her sons.

Although it has been in the family for 70 years, this malting machine still works.

At the end of 1985, I bought a coffee grinder. I was on a tight budget (still am) so I didn’t splurge on the biggest and most expensive. But I didn’t settle for the cheapest. I chose a machine made by Krups, a manufacturer in Germany. It is a quality machine. The only “flaw” is its small size, which makes it affordable but limits me to only grinding a small portion of beans at a time. But that’s fine with me.

Here we are 36 years later, and the Krups grinder is still performing as well as it did on day one. By spending a little more in 1985, I saved myself from having to buy more coffee grinders over the decades.

Then there is my wallet. As a young man, I felt like I was buying a new – but cheap – wallet every two or three years. The last straw came in 1990 when I cut my finger on a sharp vinyl edge protruding from the wallet I was using. I had enough of it. More cheap wallets than possible for me.

I researched the market and found a wallet from J. Peterman. Yes, it costs a lot more. But boy, did this wallet last. No vinyl. No plastic. It is made from the same leather as baseball mitts. That’s what I liked. So, just like an old baseball glove, as it ages, the wallet becomes more comfortable.

This wallet is now over 30 years old, and it’s gotten a little shabby but still fully functional. However, because I plan ahead, in 1990 I bought two of these wallets, thinking that two would last the rest of my life.

Later this year I will be returning my well-worn wallet to the identical but unused wallet I bought with it in 1990. And that one I’m sure will last as long as I have it left.

Overall, I saved money by buying a quality, durable wallet rather than new cheap wallets every few years.

In 1993, I bought a desk for the first and only time. Made of solid oak. He will survive me. Two years later, a friend buys a desk on which to put his first personal computer. He chose to save money by buying the cheapest desk available. It was made of particle board. Or at least some parts were. Other parts appeared to be cardboard. It didn’t last a decade. (The computer either.)

Likewise, my tuxedo is about 30 years old. Also my raincoat.

Also, when my widowed aunt with the malting machine left her house, she gave me my uncle’s winter coat. It is lined with fur and possibly 50 years old. And well done. (My aunt’s kids and grandsons are too big to wear it.)

Some cities are obliged (by municipal statute or lack of funds) to award all contracts to the lowest bidder; so, say, a pothole repair may only last a year or two. Whereas a contractor with a higher bid might provide a fix that lasts eight years. So in the long run, spending more now could save a city money in the long run.

Of course, not all services or products that are priced higher are better quality. As in all the adventures of consumerism, let the buyer beware.

Remember that well-made products generally last longer.

And never buy a plastic malting machine.

Arthur Vidro is one of Eagle Times’ recurring financial columnists.

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