Buying Duplicate Items

3 minute read

People today need a lot of items to go about their daily life, and sometimes dealing with them can get annoying. I’ve rarely seen this discussed anywhere, but buying multiple copies of certain items can help us avoid some of these annoyances.

I first discovered this technique in college. I would dock my laptop at my desk in my dorm room, where I had a full keyboard, external hard drive, wired network connection, and so on, but every day I’d also need to drag the laptop with me to class or to the computer science lab. The battery life wasn’t great, so I would need to bring a power cord most of the time lest I end up out for longer than I expected. But disconnecting and reconnecting the power cord soon became infuriating. The way the desk was set up, I would have to carefully thread the cord through a slot at the back of the desk every time (if I went up the side of the desk, the cord was too short and the transformer brick would hover in the air).

Then I realized I could buy a second power cord. That way, I could keep the first cord plugged in and wired through the desk and the second cord in my backpack, and I would never have to deal with leaning behind the desk. Even better, I wouldn’t have to do anything at all if I didn’t need the power cord while I was out. It cost all of $20 and lasted the remaining three years I was at college: some of the best $20 I’ve ever spent. (Although there was the time I lost one of the cords for a month. I eventually found it when I went to plug in my computer in the lab and went, “Hey, someone left their power cord in this outlet!” “Someone” was me, a month prior.)

Anything small and cheap is a great candidate for the duplication treatment. The treatment gets even more attractive if the item gets a lot of use: the more often you have to deal with the annoyance, the more trouble you save for the price of buying a second copy. Many use cases have to do with keeping something in multiple locations and not having to move it back and forth, but not all of them do.

As a side benefit, your stuff will effectively last longer when duplicated. For the most part, each individual item won’t last longer (though, for example, shoes might, since shoes last longer when given time to air out and relax between wears). But if each item gets half the use and so lasts roughly twice as long, you can go twice as long before you have to deal with finding a replacement! And if you have to pack something in a bag every day to move it from place to place, you’re almost certainly decreasing its life a bit that way too, so you might save even more.

Here are a few more applications I’ve made:

  • I have two tea infusers in my kitchen, which allows me to brew loose tea both in the thermos I bring to work and in another cup at the same time.
  • I have three nail clippers, three combs, and three umbrellas: one at home, one at work, and one in my car. I almost never end up without one of these items which have no real substitutes if you need them. (I labeled the umbrellas so I don’t lose track of which one needs to be returned where after it rains and I bring one with me.)
  • I just bought a second water pitcher for my refrigerator (I’m not fancy enough to have the automatic dispenser kind). Before I was always having to carefully decide when to refill the pitcher so the water would have time to chill before I wanted cold water again. Now I just empty one, refill it, shove it to the back, and switch to the other one.

Silly annoyances, sure – but when you can eradicate them by spending $10, that’s a pretty good deal! This week, pay attention as you’re going about your life and see if you have items you can duplicate and save yourself some trouble.