Tips for buying used goods

You’re convinced of the advantages of buying used.  You’re chomping at the bit to get started.  But where to look?

In this pick-your-own-adventure book, my friends, you have the following options:

-To spread the word to friends for free gifts, to hear about swaps, or to start wandering the streets looking for Free! Signs on sidewalks, turn to p. 17
-To start devoting weekends to garage sales, turn to p. 143
-To seek out neighborhood thrift shops within walking distance of home, turn to p. 31
-To develop a friendly relationship with the owner of your town’s consignment store for business clothing, turn to p. 59
-To spend your time in the office scouring online listing sites like eBay or Craigslist instead of working on the report for your boss, turn to p. 101

For the most part the prices, variety and quality all increase as you go down the list.  There are still some great deals to be found on the online listing sites but they require more sifting and time to stay on top of bargains.  Do note that those sites also list thousands of new items daily, often at a discounted price.

A couple thoughts on adventures into land of the used purchase:

·    You may not always find what you’re looking for at that moment, but you may walk out without something unexpected instead.  Most of my favorite purchases were unexpected ones.

·    Examine all items carefully for rips, stains, tears, and discolorations.  If something is really cheap it may be worth tinkering with or compromising on.  If a couch has a couple dirt marks it is still cheaper to replace the pillows, turn the cushions around, or drape a blanket over the couch, than it is to buy a new one.

·    Clothing sizes vary widely between manufacturers and through the decades, so don’t just pay attention to sizing.  Learn to eyeball which clothes will fit, bring a tape measure, or don’t be afraid to hold items up to your body to gauge fit.

·    If you prefer certain brands keep an eye out for them!  Banana Republic clothing fits my body really well and breaks my budget every time I purchase something from their store, but is quite affordable on the used market.

·    Used is a great source of high quality classics at a reasonable price.

·    It is also a great source of outlandish, funky, bold accessories for the home and body.  If you turn these over frequently there is less guilt over the price paid.

Of course, buying used has its pitfalls too.  A wool sweater for $5?  Never mind that it is slightly too long and too boxy, and so it just sits in the closet for months on end, maybe worn once or twice.  That still isn’t a good investment because it creates clutter.

Tempting as the low prices may be, it is important to stop and think if the item is really worth the money spent.  A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself the following questions when making a purchase:

·    Would I pay twice as much for this object? This helps ward off the “but it was a bargain!” purchases that you may regret later

·    Do I have an immediate use for this? Can I see exactly where it will go, how I will use it, what clothing I will pair it with?  If you cannot answer this question within 10 seconds, chances are the purchase will create clutter and is therefore not a bargain.

·    How much do I really need this? Have I been getting along without it, or will it regularly save me time, money, convenience?  My $5 used blender saves me time and money by making it much easier to make winter squash soups that I cook up in large quantities and freeze; without one I wouldn’t make these cheap meals nearly as often.  A food processor would also save me time, but the monetary investment is so great that the tradeoff isn’t worthwhile.

So start exploring your neighborhood for sources of new-to-you items!  You never know what you’ll come across.  It isn’t every day that the opportunity for a treasure hunt AND a bargain show up in the same place.

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3 Responses to “Tips for buying used goods”

  1. Liara Covert Says:

    When you believe everyone is sharing everything on some level, then negative vibrations you may feel about idea of ‘used’ goods dissolves. It is not how much you pay for something that determines its usefulness or value in your mind. Rather, it is your perception and value judgments.

  2. ayearofgames Says:

    Both excellent points. I think there is so much associated with ‘used’ goods that I didn’t adequately address all of them in this series of posts, thanks for keeping me honest!

  3. Liara Covert Says:

    Jessica, each person has been conditioned to view the world based on their role models and developed sensitivities. Some people actually fear going to used clothing stores because they are convinced they will catch some illness or disease there. I have friends who absolutely adore flea markets and the unexpected discoveries they can make passing through. I have also known older people who turn flea market visits into regular social affairs, not necessarily for buying, although they tend to buy a few “odds and sods.” They go moreso for the socializing side.

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