Steve’s birthday is a little over a week away and I know what he would really like for his birthday is a flat panel TV. In fact, he’s wanted one for at least the last five birthdays and Christmases. The only TV we have in the house is more than 10 years old and for someone like him who loves movies, being able to watch them on a 40” LCD HDTV with a picture so crisp that you can count the follicles on Bruce Willis’ scalp would certainly enhance the movie-watching experience.

But how do I know that the recession has really had an impact on the way we see the life span of our stuff?

Because this year, Steve hasn’t even asked for the flat panel TV. Steve, like many Americans, has changed his attitude about replacing something that still works perfectly well just to get an incremental improvement in quality.

Once again, we saw ourselves reflected in an article about this in Sunday’s Press Democrat with the headline “Frugal has become a way of life for many.”  The article talked about how we are not such a disposable society and people are hanging onto cars, computers and cell phones that still have value instead of upgrading just for vanity’s sake. The article cites research that the average length of car ownership is at a record 52.5 months.

Wow. That’s means that even in the recession people are still only keeping their cars on average for less than a year and a half. If our family is an indication of future trends, I think that number will continue increasing.

You see, even though I was always more frugal (that means cheaper) than Steve, I too have taken a longer term view on the life span of our stuff. It used to be that I dreaded our cars creeping up to the 100,000 mile mark because I thought that once they had reached that milestone, we should replace them even if they were still running fine.

Now, both our cars are will probably reach 100k in 2011. A hundred thousand miles? That’s no big deal. My attitude now is that they still have a third of their life left.

The cars are just one example of possessions that we’re making last longer. There is Steve’s five year old computer that turns temperamental whenever he edits video on it, the washing machine that vibrates so much on the spin cycle that the light fixtures shake, and even the jeans that are stretched out and droopy in the butt. Would it be nice to replace these things? Sure, but would it make a huge difference in our lives? Nope.

And while a birthday card is nice, I do hope the economy turns around so Steve doesn’t have to wait too many more years to get that flat panel TV.