Yesterday was a special day in my household. My one-year-old daughter put her first dish in the dishwasher. My three-month-old smiled and made her first coo sound. And I bought my last work shirts.
Up until this point, I’ve had a tense relationship with my work shirts. I’m not a stylish person and I don’t ask much from my garments. Sell for a reasonable price, help me blend into my white-collar workplace, and last a long time. Do these three things and you’ll hear no complaints from me. But on the third point my shirts consistently failed. I must have retractable razor blades in my elbows, because shirts rarely last more than six months before I rip them lengthwise down the arm. I’ve taken to obsessively touching my elbows when I dress in the morning so that I won’t ever go to work with a ripped shirt (which has happened, many times).
I tried buying higher-quality brands. I even got a few shirts tailored, thinking that maybe mine was a sizing issue. But neither fixed my problem; in fact a beautiful shirt, monogrammed and tailored to my exact measurements just blew out last month. It tore so severely that the pieces of fabric peeled back like a banana peel. I was worried I was going to have to have plastic surgery done to round off my elbows.
Then my wife suggested I buy some shirts from L.L. Bean. She has family in Freeport, Maine, their headquarters, and had heard about their astounding return policies. Some quick research confirmed this: you can essentially return any L.L. Bean item of any age for any reason and get a brand new replacement. That ripped backpack in your closet from 1985? Send it in and they’ll send you a new one. I’m serious.
So I hopped onto their website and ordered a set of generic button-up work shirts. These beauties came in the other day. And while they don’t make me look as ruggedly handsome as the guy in the catalogue, they do fulfill all of my requirements: they were reasonably priced and they look like normal work shirts. And as for the third requirement, they look like they’re made of quality materials. But it doesn’t really matter. If they rip, I’ll get them replaced for free.
This isn’t a sleazy lawyer’s reading of the L.L. Bean guarantee, nor am I operating in an ethical gray area. L.L. Bean proudly spells it out: they will replace any shirt I rip, no matter how long I’ve had it, no questions asked.
During my L.L. Bean research, I stumbled onto the concept of BIFL. It stands for “Buy it for Life.” There is a large community of these people sharing products you can buy once and own forever, either because of superlative quality or generous product guarantees. Google “buy it for life BIFL” and you’ll quickly fall down a rabbit hole of invincible saucepans and un-tearable socks, backpacks handed down through generations. It’s such an obvious and valuable idea, I can’t believe it took me this long to discover it.
Being able to “buy it for life” is one of the underrated benefits of being secure in your finances. Now that my wife and I have some money saved up, we can choose to spend a little more money for quality, and I think it will save us money in the long run. I plan on doing more research and BIFL-ing up my life as much as possible. In an ideal world, I would BIFL every item I owned, content that I would never have to buy another product again.
I realize this is a fantasy, but I’m going to give it my best shot. At the least, I know my elbows aren’t going to do any more damage to my wallet.