“Dear Jill,

Your recent articles on the lifespan of appliances interested me. I have been researching the 'Buy It for Life' movement, which stresses quality over price, and the idea is that if you buy a quality item in the first place, you will not need to buy multiple cheap replacements. I would like to know your thoughts on this and if this is a philosophy you embrace.”

— Del H.

I can certainly appreciate the idea behind "Buy It for Life," as there are certain things I do purchase for our household that I feel are worth spending more money on to get a quality product. I do think there is a balance, though, as at times, a less expensive item may do the same (or similar) job as a more expensive item.

For example, I have a set of cast iron cookware that I’ve had for more than 20 years. I purchased this set of three skillets for less than $30 at a discount, big-box retailer when I was younger and setting up my first kitchen. While I didn’t spend much on them, those skillets have been a great investment! I use them weekly, they’re well-seasoned and I expect to have them for the rest of my life. Certainly, I could have paid more for a name-brand set, but when I was young and on a strict budget, this set is what I could afford.

That said, larger purchases like appliances are tougher, simply because few manufacturers estimate or advertise how long an appliance is expected to last. France actually has a new law requiring manufacturers to advertise the expected lifespan for appliances, as well as offering free repair or replacement for the first two years of ownership. France has also outlawed “planned obsolescence,” the practice of building products that are built with intentionally reduced lifespans so consumers have to replace them more often.

“Dear Jill,

I believe mattresses are made to wear out much sooner than they used to. When I grew up, mattresses could last 20 years or more if you turned them regularly. Two years ago, we picked out a new set that cost more than $1,400. As we were talking to the salesman in the store, he said mattresses are now built to last seven years, so by spending more on a better model, we could hopefully get more life out of it.

Around the one-year mark, we noticed the mattress really sagging in the middle. We were disappointed and inquired about the warranty. The manufacturer said the mattress actually has to sag two inches down before they will replace.

Now, two years later, we have a sagging center that is nearly three inches lower than the rest of the mattress. And, of course, it is out of warranty. I wish there was a reputable place for long-term reviews. The trouble with reviews is that they are usually written when an item is new. We trusted the store and the brand, and we will never buy this brand again. But now we start over trying to find a mattress that is actually going to last.”

— Karen and David A.

Any time we make a major purchase for our households, no matter how many reviews we read, discussions we have with friends or questions we ask a salesperson, we still take a leap of faith when we take out our wallets. We want to love and enjoy that new mattress, appliance, or television. Unfortunately, the old adage “they don’t make ’em like they used to” sadly rings true for many products.

The best advice I can offer is to purchase through a retailer that will let you return the item within a reasonable period of time after purchase if you’re not satisfied and to make sure to contact the manufacturer with any concerns or issues before the warranty expires. Extended warranty plans are popular for large items, like appliances and electronics, but you must also weigh the costs of an extended plan against the price of replacing or repairing it if something does go wrong.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Email your questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.