One of the best ways to stretch your budget is to buy things used. You’ll find some great bargains, and you’ll be helping the planet by giving gently used items a new life.
I’ve done a lot of shopping for secondhand goods over the years and I can tell you that there are some great buys and some things you should leave behind. Here’s my list of things to buy:
The 10 Best Things to Buy Used
Children’s clothing and baby gear. Babies and kids grow so fast that most of the items aren’t even really used by the time they end up at garage sales and thrift shops. You can easily save 50% or more to outfit your kids by buying secondhand. Shop garage sales, consignment shops, or keep an on on Craigslist and Facebook selling groups for the best deals. Be sure to put the word out to families you know with kids just slightly older than yours. They may be willing to cut you a great deal.
Sign up for safety updates from the Consumer Product Safety Commission to learn of any recalls on kids’ gear like strollers or cribs. Skip used car seats unless you know the owner and the seat’s history and check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make sure there have been no recalls.
Vehicles. Most vehicles start depreciating the second you drive off the car lot, so save yourself thousands of dollars and buy gently used vehicles with low mileage and a little bit of warranty left.
Books. You read a book and then it just sits on a shelf until you get rid of it. Why pay full price for that? Buy used and save 70 percent or more off the cover price. You’ll get to enjoy the book and keep money in your wallet. Of course, finding free books online or visiting your library is still the best bet for the thrifty reader!
Wood furniture. Solid wood furniture such as a tables, chairs, end tables, and book cases are excellent things to buy used. Look for quality construction and remember that if it is solid wood, you will probably be able to take out water spots or refinish it to match your own decor while saving a ton of money off retail.
Bicycles. If you’re not sure that you’ll be a regular cyclist or the kids seem to outgrow their bikes every year, buying bicycles second hand is a great money-saving solution. Make sure the bike is in good working condition (check those tires, brakes and gears) before you buy. Watch Craigslist or see if your community has an annual used bike sale.
Video games. There’s nothing worse than dropping $40 to $60 on a video game and then discovering you hate it. Shop pawn shops and stores like GameStop or even Walmart for pre-owned video games. You’ll spend at least 50% less on most games, so you can play without guilt.
Exercise gear and sporting equipment. Most people start exercise routines and outdoor hobbies with a great deal of enthusiasm. And when that enthusiasm fades, you’lll be able to score some great deals on some gear. Look for great deals on Craigslist or Facebook for treadmills, exercise bikes, and weight sets. And keep an eye out for secondhand skates, skateboards, baseball gloves, skis, and kayaks.
Kitchen gadgets and dishes. One of the best ways to save money is by thrift shopping for your kitchen. Find great deals on dishes, glassware, bakeware, and gadgets like bread machines for a fraction of the price of new at thrift shops and estate sales.
Clothing. Look like a million bucks on a cheapskate’s budget by shopping for designer clothing at thrift shops and consignment shops. You’ll find some especially big savings on denim jeans, suits, formal wear and maternity clothing. Just skip the undergarments!
Tools. If you love to DIY, you already know that tools are expensive. If you’re not lucky enough to have a tool lending library nearby and want to own instead of rent, check out thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales for deals on a wide variety of hand tools.
A Few Tips for Buying Used
Know the prices of the items new. When you know what things cost brand new, you’ll be able to determine whether a used item is good deal or not.
Look for quality construction. Take a close look at the item you want to buy. For example, when looking at wood furniture, look for screws instead of nails, and dovetailing on drawers. If you’re shopping for clothing, look for quality stitching, working zippers and no missing buttons. If an item seems chintzy, it most likely isn’t worth buying used.
Never buy anything that needs significant work. We always have the best of intentions when it comes to sprucing up a secondhand find, but sometimes the repairs or upcycling process can end up costing us more than the item is worth. Make sure the item is worth your time and money.
Don’t buy what you don’t need. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the great bargains. But if you don’t really need the items, you’re just wasting your money. Make a list of what you need to buy before you shop and you’ll make your money go further.
What things do you buy used? What things do you avoid?
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