Before you buy something new, do you consider buying it used instead?
It’s no secret that a great way to save money and become more frugal is to get things second-hand instead of buying them new. Anything you can buy new, you can also buy used. You just need to know where to look and how to look effectively.
Keep a List
The first key to effectively buying used is to keep a list of things that you need to buy. When you’re looking to find things secondhand, it may take longer to find exactly what you want, so in addition to the current things I’m looking for, I keep a running list of the things that I will need in the foreseeable future.
It might be June and I’ve got my eyes peeled for a winter coat, but thinking ahead about upcoming needs means I’m not forced into a tight time frame. Then, whenever I’m at a thrift store or yard sale, I can focus on (and remember) my family’s upcoming needs.
Even ifyou end up buying something new instead of used, putting the item on the list gives you time to think through the purchase and find the best deal instead of making an impulse purchase that you might end up regretting.
Do Some Research
Before you buy something used (or new for that matter), you’ll want to do some research. Check out the various brands and options available. Read reviews.
Make note of what the new price of the item is. Just because something is at a thrift store or yard sale doesn’t mean the price is a great deal. Knowing the regular price will help you recognizea good deal.
Before you go shopping decide what you want (or at least what the options are) and how much you are willing to spend for the item.
Here are some great places to shop for used things:
Of all the options for buying used items, yard sales and garage sales are often the cheapest. People who regularly shop yard sales find amazing deals. The trouble with yard sales is that they really are hit and miss. Some days you’ll find lots of treasures and other days you won’t find a single thing. Depending on where you live, yard sales may be seasonal. They’re also typically held on weekends, but don’t have a set schedule.
When you think of buying used items, the thrift store might be the first place that comes to mind. The great thing about thrift stores is they do have a set schedule, so you can shop them with more flexibility than yard sales. They have an ever-changing inventory, so you always have a chance of finding something great. They even usually have discount days, making the price even cheaper. Still, they are hit and miss.
Ebay is the most well-known place to look online for second-hand treasures. Because you’ll either have to pay for shipping or shipping costs will be figured into the price, you won’t always get as low a price as you would at a yard sale or thrift store. The tradeoff is that you will easily be able to search from the comfort of your own home—no sifting through shelves and boxes, no driving from store to store.
Some people don’t realize that you can buy used items on Amazon too. When you search for books (and many other items) on Amazon, you have the option to see used
items from other sellers. Amazon will show the available items listed in order of total price (price plus shipping) so it’s easy to compare prices.
Online Consignment Shops
When it comes to clothing and accessories, there are many online consignment and boutique options. If you’re looking for a specific item (say a black skirt or a certain brand of jeans), it’s really nice to use their search features to find what you’re looking for rather than sift through racks at a thrift store. The place I most often buy used clothing online is ThredUp. While the prices are cheaper than the same items new, you’ll only find high quality top brands, so the cost is more than what you’d find at a thrift store.
Craigslist.org is a great place to find used items locally. Craigslist has been around for along time. The look of the site hasn’t changed, so it looks really outdated,but it’sstill used by a wide variety of people. You can find everything from cars tofurniture to baby clothes. It’s convenient to be able to search for and browse items you’re looking for without leaving home. You can email or call sellers to ask questions, negotiate prices, and plan a time and place to meet up. Use caution when meeting to look at or buy an item from someone you don’t know. Meet in a public place and don’t give out personal information.
Facebook Marketplace makes it super easy to search for what you’re looking for. In addition to searching for a specific item, you can filter by price and a location mileage radius. Like Craigslist, you have the benefit of searching from the comfort of home without having to factor in the price of shipping. Facebook has the added perk of having a name and face to go with the person you’re going to be meeting up with, so there is a little more social pressure to maintain a good reputation than on Craigslist which is faceless.
What to Buy and What NOT to Buy
Let’s talk about the what kinds of things you should be looking to buy used, things you shouldn’t buy used, and then a few things to beware of.
So what sort of things can you buy at the used? Well, pretty much anything. You name it— you can get it used.
Although most things can be purchased second-hand without a problem, there are some things you’ll want to avoid buying used or at least be extra cautious about. Of course it’s all personal opinion. Here’s mine:
I’m squeamish when it comes to used mattresses. Between the normal sweat, skin cells, and dust mites, the mattress has collected bodily fluids (from people and pets) and maybe even bed bugs. Ewww.
When we got married, we bought a new queen mattress and box spring from a college student who had a business selling them wholesale from a storage unit. It cost us $300 and ten years later we are still sleeping on it.
When we needed three twin mattresses for the triple bunk beds that my husband built for Christmas, we were thrilled to find very affordable new ones on Amazon that work perfectly for the kids.
I’m actually fine buying kids underwear used and cloth diapers used, but I draw the line at adult underwear. Thrift stores sell them, so I know some people buy them; I just don’t.
While some pillows can go in the washing machine, I generally have the same concerns with pillows that I have with mattresses.
A car seat is probably the number one baby item that people will insist you should buy new so that you know it isn’t expired and has never been in a collision. If you get a car seat from someone you know and trust, then I wouldn’t hesitate to get a used one.
Things From a Smoker’s Home
It’s not just clothing and upholstery that absorb the tobacco smell. Wood, plastic, and other materials also soak up the smoke smell and are nearly impossible to freshen up.
I bought a beautiful kitchen island from a yard sale during our law school years. Since the sale was outside, I didn’t notice that it came from a smoker’s home. As soon as I got it in my home, the smell was very apparent. I tried everything to get rid of the smoke smell–leaving it for days in the sun, scrubbing with vinegar, scrubbing with bleach, even repainting. I learned to give everything I buy the sniff test before making a purchase. If I’m buying online, I always ask the seller ahead of time.
When you’re buying used, you’ll need to carefully inspect the items before making your purchaseas there usually aren’t returns at yard sales and thrift stores. Check clothing for wear in the places you would expect wear. Make sure zippers work well and do a general look-over for stains or rips. Plug in electronics to make sure they work as expected. For games or other items with multiple pieces, make sure everything is there.
While itay not be as convenient as buying new, finding things secondhand is well worth the effort. Buying used instead of new has easily saved us thousands of dollars over the years. Plus, it’s more environmentally friendly practice.
How have you saved money by buying used instead of new? Feel free to brag down in the comments! Mike’s sharing his recent awesome score in today’s video!
Day 22 Challenge
Think of some items that you’ll be buying in the near future. Make a plan for how you will shop used items first. Will you look at thrift stores, on Facebook Marketplace or check ebay? How much will buying used save you?