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Planned Obsolescence: 5 Products That Have It and What to Do About It

Isn’t it funny when you come across a product your Grandpa used? Just picture the way stoves looked back in the day or vacuum cleaners. These items are like fossils of a long ago time.

Here’s the thing though, you’re eventually going to be Grandpa. No, you’re not going to start screaming at parked cars and wearing woolly sweaters. Rather, the things you like and use now are eventually going to be outdated. Think of that new Apple phone that’s released every year. It’s not uncommon for cooler tech products to come along and make the old stuff obsolete at the speed of light.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by the idea of keeping up with the latest and greatest thing, then you aren’t alone. The idea of planned obsolescence isn’t a new one, it’s about deliberately outdating an item only to turn around and release a new and better one.

Here are 5 products exemplary of planned obsolescence:

College Textbooks


Do you remember having to go to the bookstore and paying an outrageous amount for a history textbook? Aside from student loans and smelly dorm rooms, that was the worst part about college! Every year, a new book comes along, even though the information typically isn’t any different. That’s because publishers like to live on the edge by switching chapters around, adding or removing diagrams, including useless CDs, and maybe changing the cover.

  • What you can do about it: Don’t fall for these evil tricks. If you’re still a student, or are paying your kid’s way through college, you can find plenty of used options on Craigslist, Amazon, or There are also some bookstores, typically near campus, that give you the option to rent a textbook. After all, you’re probably never going to look at that book again when the class is over.


Light Bulbslight-bulbs

Thomas Edison had a serious light bulb moment when he developed the first light bulbs in 1879. After more than 100 years, they’re still going strong in some museums. Today, bulbs have to be changed at least once a year, sometimes more. Manufacturers realized that tweaking the technology in Edison’s original design was a good way for them to increase their profit margins.

  • What you can do about it: The cost of buying fluorescent or LED light bulbs is more expensive upfront, but the amount of energy being saved down the line is worth the extra cost. Another option is to simply remember to turn your lights off when you’re not in the room. Your energy bill, and the environment, will thank you for the effort!


Ink Cartridge

ink-cartridgesSure, we’re moving to a more digital world, but that doesn’t stop us from needing to print things from time to time. Every printer has a “smart chip” that sends an alert when your ink is running low. You can thank this chip for making it impossible to refill the ink yourself or use a third-party instead. The chip needs a specific kind of ink in order for the cartridge to function, which is why it has to be replaced so frequently. 

  • What you can do about it: If you’re tired of spending $50 on name brand cartridges, then do some research for a cheaper, generic option. It works just as well as the name brand, but costs significantly less. You can also use grayscale settings and optimize your internet content to avoid printing unnecessary headers, footers, and useless advertisements.


Video Gamesvideo-games

Back in the day, we had an Atari or Sega Genesis and we were happy. Now it seems like there’s a new video game console every year! With a few exceptions, a lot of these systems are designed to prevent backwards compatibility. This increases sales for the new consoles, the games associated with them, and classic games that make us feel nostalgic.

  • What you can do about it: Sharing is caring in this case. Swap games with friends and play on their systems instead. There are also stores like Disc Replay and GameStop where you can buy used games, systems, and controllers. It doesn’t hurt to have more than one console, and certain games stand the test of time. That’s why we still challenge our friends on Rainbow Road on Mario Kart 64.


MP3 Players

mp3-playersThe days of iPods may be long over, especially since Bluetooth and Spotify make it possible to stream music directly from your phone. During the heyday of MP3 players, though, the space was often limited with song capacity. This meant that as soon as your iPod was full, you had to replace it with one with more memory. Not to mention, the lithium-ion batteries were sometimes impossible to replace. The only option was a trip to the service department and crazy charges to get it fixed!

What you can do about it: Get with the times! Most smartphones and Apple phones allow you to play music right from your phone. If you’re an old soul, and want to squeeze the most life out of your MP3 player, check YouTube or other online videos to learn how to change the batteries. There’s no guarantee how long it will last before sputtering out completely, but at least this way you can enjoy it while it lasts.


Many companies release new products every six months, but rest assured, you don’t have to keep up with the times if you don’t want to. Sometimes the old-fashioned items work just as well as anything newer and sleeker. Go ahead and be a creature of habit. Your wallet will thank you in the long run!


Is there another product that you can think of that also has a planned lifespan? Do you do anything to combat it? Sound off below!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa loves food. A LOT. Particularly pizza and popcorn, but she knows beggars can’t be choosers. When she’s not stuffing her face (which is rare), she loves watching movies, playing volleyball and softball, and engaging in any number of interesting shenanigans. If she had to pick a spirit animal, she’d be an otter because they are playful and love to laugh. Most of the time she’s laughing at herself, whether other people are laughing with or at her is to be determined.


  1. JPorretto

    Gamefly FTW!

    This current generation of game consoles is actually projected to be the longest running…um… generation ever. Almost 7 years already, and still going strong!

    College Textbooks are the biggest rip-offs ever…. That’s why I never bought them hahahaha! Thank you for the PowerPoint slides all you professors out there!!!

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    I’m 100% in agreement with you for all of these things except for the print cartridges. Even though the price hurts, the quality is unmatched. The generic are junk. I’ve never run into a generic print cartridge that does a good job. I’ll buy generic almost everything else, but I won’t buy a non-brand name ink cartridges.

    Planned obsolescence makes me sad, but I guess that I’ve just grown to accept it. I’m just glad I switched to compact florescent bulbs. Also didn’t they discontinue some of the incandescent bulbs?

    • Chris

      I decided to just ditch the printer alltogether, as using a print shop turns out to be cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) in the long run anyway.

    • titus santelli

      I use Sophia Global replacements for my HP printer….Seem to work out well for me.

    • John...South Australia

      David…I’ve only recently heard about this ‘stop printing’ lark, and that my C5380 H.P. will cut out at 10,000 printed sheets. What can I do about it when and if it does happen? Regards, John.

      • John, South Australia.

        Is this David Goodwin who says that he knows how to overcome this printer problem, a REAL person? Why doesn’t he answer his emails so that I can fix up my HP printer which will soon go ballistic by the sounds of it. Come on, mate…answer my emails!. Thanks, John. OR…does anyone else know how to make a C5380 HP printer work again like it used to?

    • Jeff

      I have had the opposite of luck with 3rd party inks. I get great results and pay so little that I don’t mind if the printer uses a lot of ink during a cleaning cycle or even if a cartridge doesn’t work. Instead of paying approx $80 for 1 set of inks (5 total) for my Epson XP-820 I pay $30 for 5 sets of 5 inks (25 total). I have learned how to clean and service the printer so that it is fast and easy and even if a 3rd party ink dries and clogs an inkjet I can get it working again with little trouble. I like to be able to print anything that appeals to me and keeping my ink costs low allows me to do that. You have obviously had bad experiences but I would encourage you to try again because the savings can be dramatic if you are able to master the processes. Good luck!

  3. Cybernetic SAM

    Wow! This was a great post! All of these were amazing suggestions and I am definitely going to commit them to memory. I am a huge fan, I guess you could say! 😉

  4. Mandy Kilinskis

    Actually, it was like 16 months between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S…


  5. david k waltz

    The craiglist and amazon and others options for college textbooks only is good until the edition changes, right? Sometimes you can get away with an older version, but if the prof really wants you to use the new one, they’ll work it in somehow – for example, the final exam is all on that one additional chapter in v4 from v3!

    Why are folks anti-LED? I am opposed to flourescent for reasons but am not aware of any LED issues.

  6. amy

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Lois! 🙂 and I become best friends during my last two years of college, looking back I wish I could’ve saved some of my textbooks to go back and refresh with. However, the money I saved then outweighs this desire by a long shot, haha!

    I really like your idea of waiting until the hype dies down before buying the ‘latest and greatest’. Especially with kids, you want to make sure their interest won’t deplete after playing with it a few times. Great idea, Lois!

    I’m so glad you found my “commentary” helpful, I’m so glad you found it 🙂 Best of luck with your upcoming blog, feel free to shoot me a tweet when you finish it, I’d love to read it!

  7. Caitlyn Clarke

    Yes, those all have planned obsolescence. Sadly 🙁

  8. Mark Longridge

    Hi, you’ve made some interesting comments. But this is a relatively recent phenomenon. I can give some counter-examples:

    For starters I am still using a computer I put together in 1998 as a server and it still works fine. About once a week I fire up my Amiga 500 which was made in 1987 and the monitor is an original Amiga 1000 monitor which was made in Nov. 1985.

    But on the other hand I’ve experienced the opposite: slippers that had the black ink bleed into my socks and the covering as frayed away almost to nothing.

    I don’t use tablets or cell phones. I don’t use cheap laser printers or ink jet printers, I have a 20 year old dot matrix printer 🙂

    I think with some careful research one can find repairable items. There’s absolutely no reason a computer can’t last 20 years or longer with good maintenance. All chip fabrication requires the use of some very caustic chemicals so it makes good sense to make a computer last as long as possible.


  9. tony

    For the INK cartridges purchase a corresponding CISS (Continuous Ink Supply System) from eBay for the model of printer you have. These are FANTASTIC and last years. They are a set of large ink storage containers that sit behind your printer (that are easy to refill) and they have TUBES that run to and replace the ink CARTRIDGES in your printer… Voila – about 2 years worth of heavy printing for a little more than $100…

  10. Reg

    To the guy that said current generation video game consoles are “projected” to last the longest ever: That is completely false.

    SNES and N64’s from the 1990s have proven to be extremely durable. PS2s, Gamecubes and original Xboxes have been less reliable and are increasingly rare to find still functioning. PS3s still work I think but are pretty much useless. Xbox360s had problems stemming from its launch. Nintendo Wiis are actually the worst of the bunch – very faulty after five years, nobody seems to have them fully functional anymore. Most Wiis fail to read discs, most of the games became worthless after Nintendo shut down their Wifi servers in 2012. I remember talking to an employee in WalMart earlier this year, I was asking him if they sold 2GB SD cards. He asked what for, and I told him that SSBB for my Wii only reads 2GB cards, and he promptly responded “How did you manage to find a Wii that still works?” Indeed, even my Wii is constantly failing despite taking good care of it and even cleaning all the parts and fan. My friends old Wiis too. Those are dying, fast. Awful consoles.

    Meanwhile, my decades-old SNES and N64 still work perfectly with no faults whatsoever. I think the advantage here is that those old consoles have no moving parts, as opposed to today’s consoles with disc-readers and fans and scanners and junk. They are far more prone to mechanical and hardware failure than older consoles, except for maybe those terrible PS1’s (which are practically extinct now). In a few years, Many of the consoles of the last few years will likely meet the same fate. Especially with these Wi-Fi dependent consoles. Eventually they will be shut down as those companies promote their newer generation of consoles, and the current stuff will become worthless and die.

  11. Onkarr

    Watch the Light Bulb Conspiracy movie and you will get the answer! it was to stop economic downfall but this still didn’t help as in 2008 we had a recession!

  12. samsung belows

    Sasmsung absolutely abuses planned obsolescence. Every TV and computer monitor they make is designed to fail within a few years of the warranty expiring. Ask anyone who’s had and used one fairly regularly for 3-5 years. They’ve either fixed it or replaced it.

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