10 Things You Should Be Buying Secondhand

By | Friday, June 12, 2015


I was introduced to thrift (or secondhand) shopping at a young age. My mom and I loved to scout out yard sales, purposefully avoiding the houses of people we knew, and sift through all the great stuff. Sometimes we’d come home empty-handed, and other times we’d return with complete sets of bedroom furniture. Over the years, I’ve come to prefer thrift shopping to mall shopping. I started perusing Craigslist and other online retailers because I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt more and going to traditional retail stores less. Thrift shopping appeals to me more than just hitting the mall — I love the search, the surprises and, most importantly, all the savings.

Unfortunately, many people have come to believe that “used” is synonymous with “soiled,” “inferior,” or “broken,” and turn their noses up at secondhand shopping. In the majority of cases however, that notion is simply untrue. Buying used goods is a great way to acquire quality items for a fraction of the original cost, reduce your consumerism, and save $$$. After acquiring extensive experience with secondhand shopping over the years, I’ve been able to create a list of 10 different items/categories that are worth buying (or at the very least, browsing) secondhand. Just think of the money you’ll save by buying used the next time you’re shopping for any of the items below:

Most thrift outlets have shelves upon shelves of books – everything from novels to cookbooks – that cost less than a dollar. The same is often true of yard sales which usually offer extensive collections of old books. However, if you’re in search of something specific like a textbook, don’t forget about Amazon, Half.com, and other online secondhand book shops.

There’s no risk at all associated with buying trinkets, picture frames, planters, vases, artwork, etc. secondhand. Consignment shops, yard sales and online outlets have an overflow of these items because, more often than not, people get rid of them because they want to change up the look of their living space and not because the item is broken. Generally, the function of décor is for it to simply look nice and add a little ~spice~ to your living space so as long as you can see the item before you buy it, that’s all you really need to make a purchase with confidence.

Hard-Surfaced Furnishings
Head to your local antique shop for stuff like tables, chairs, dressers, shelving, etc. I bought my current kitchen table and the four matching chairs at a yard sale, and the entire set cost just $15. The hard surfaces make cleaning (and painting) easy, and act as neutral items around which you can explore your interior design creativity. However, when it comes to furniture, I would avoid mattresses and items with fabric cushions since there’s a risk of lingering bugs and bacteria in them (not to mention throughly cleaning these pieces is nearly impossible).

Craft Supplies
See a really neat DIY project on Pinterest? Looking to make your own Halloween costume? Want to fashion your own curtains? Scope out your local secondhand store first for the items you’ll need. You can find fabric, buttons, glassware, etc. – a whole slew of things to creatively repurpose, and you won’t have to break the bank to purchase them.

When I say “used car” I’m not referring to some rusty old clunker that bareley functions. Cars that have been used to any degree – if only for a few weeks or months – will cost you way less than something that’s brand new. In fact, it’s estimated that in the few seconds it takes to drive a new car off the lot the car’s value drops 20%. Buying a new car will leave you with higher insurance payments as well, so there’s savings to be accrued from paying lower monthly insurance.

Pet Supplies
Stay away from used bedding, but everything else is fair game. I even encourage adopting vs. buying pets, as going for the “used” option will cost less, (often) include more shots/treatments in the price and, of course, saves an animal’s life. I adopted a dog this year (from a shelter in North Carolina, and the total fees were $95), and I proceeded to purchase an extra-large crate on Craigslist. The same crate cost more than $150 in the store but online I snagged it for only $50. There is a ton of stuff you can buy online for your pet — everything from small animal cages, fish tanks, toys, collars, etc. – just make sure you wash or boil these items to keep bacteria in check!

Wedding Supplies
To immensely cut down on costs for a wedding, consider buying props and other items secondhand. You can get pretty creative when it comes to the décor, and pick up items such as chalkboards, mason jars, tablecloths, etc. Don’t forget about the dress too! Remember, you’re only going to wear the dress once and, according to The Knot, a bride on average spends over $1,200 which is a lot of money for some people. Consider practicality, and put the savings you make on purchasing a wedding dress secondhand toward something else like a honeymoon or a fun weekend trip.

When it comes to thrifting for clothes, you have to know where to draw the line. Obviously avoid items that are stained, torn or “smell like R. Kelly’s sheets.” There is no shame in buying used shirts, jackets, dresses, jeans, etc. These are items that, when new, can cost you over 1000% more (designer brands especially) and are worth shopping for secondhand. Your closet will house a wider variety of clothes for less money — I call that a win-win!

Smaller Appliances
The next time you think about heading to Sears for that new microwave or coffee maker, think again. You’ll find that people are often selling these items used for a variety of reasons. I know a lot of people who need to unload extra things for many different reasons such as they are moving in with a partner and don’t need two of something, were recently gifted with a new model and are trying to get rid of the old one, or are selling an item they never really used. If these items are perfectly functioning, you can scoop them up for just a fraction of the original cost. However, when buying a large-scale appliance such as a dryer or washing machine, it can sometimes be beneficial to purchase true item new at the store because it will come with warranties that might save you money over the long-term if something inside breaks.

Exercise Equipment
Although there are a ton of ways to exercise for free such as running outside, taking the stairs or simply getting a good sweat while cleaning your apartment or rearranging furniture, sometimes you do need to invest in basic workout gear for your home. When doing so, I would advise you to buy used equipment where you can. Items like free weights, mats, and workout balls can be purchased online. Don’t forget things that you’ll use for outdoor recreational activities as well like skis, kayaks, bicycles, etc. Buying these items used can save you a lot of money! Just make sure that you thoroughly research the company, make, model and product specifications before making a purchase.

Happy thrifting!

Marie is a writer living in Philadelphia. She is on Twitter and Instagram.

Image via Flickr

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