Buying Used Stuff

What would you buy used and what do you absolutely want to buy new?

Many people think there is a certain ‘ick’ factor in buying things other people have used. On the other hand, being a good steward means managing your money wisely and not wasting it. In many cases, buying used stuff is a great way to avoid unnecessary costs.

Some top name retailers such as Nordstrom, Walmart, Macy’s, Eileen Fisher, Patagonia and REI have recently started selling used clothing. It can be a great way to get high-end fashions at a bargain price. And about the ‘ick’ factor—how clean are those NEW clothes that have been shipped all over the country, handled by how many people, and tried on by how many more people before you buy them? Used clothing can always be put through the washer or taken to the dry cleaner.

Expensive, classically styled clothing is a good target for secondhand buys. If you can get a great pair of slacks that are high quality, in a timeless style, at half the retail price, why not take advantage of the savings?

Used clothing for kids works wonders on the budget.  Little ones grow so quickly that spending a lot of money on expensive name-brand baby clothing is a waste of money. In the first few months, babies outgrow their clothes so quickly that you hardly get the clothes through the laundry before it’s time to move up to the next size.

Used clothes for the older children also works well. A fancy party dress for a four-year-old will probably get limited wear before it’s outgrown. Used is also a good idea for items that are infrequently worn–think prom dresses here.  And those Catholic school uniforms certainly have limited use. I have never met a kid who would wear their school uniform after they graduated.  So be a good steward and buy used or give your used school uniforms to a deserving family.

Games and toys are another thing the kids grow out of quickly. Our parish does a flea market every year. We call it the time of year we all make donations to the parish by swapping our junk for the junk of other parishioners. It’s a great place to get used everything, including toys and games. A game that is too young for one parishioner’s children is the perfect fit for another parishioner’s children. I have a friend whose children love to go to the pawn shop with dad to search for used video games.

An obvious place to buy used instead of new is automobiles. A new car may smell great, but that new car smell comes at a high price. When you drive a car off the lot, even if you only drive it to the first red light, the car has depreciated. It is worth less than it was just a few minutes ago, because the car is used and is only worth the wholesale value. The wholesale value is always less than the original retail value of the car. For a brand-new car this initial depreciation can be in the thousands. Buying a new car and taking the hit on depreciation sucks the money right out of your bank account. Same idea applies for other modes of transportation such as motorcycles, RV’s, trucks and even trailers.

If your child has musical aspirations, hold on to your wallet. New musical instruments can run into the thousands. You are much better off renting or buying used. That passion for music may fade as fast as an ice cream cone in Florida in July. Or they may find another instrument that they like better, or decide sports, not music is their thing. Don’t buy a new instrument unless your child exhibits prodigy like talent verified by an expert.

Books are a great used buy. Even though most of us use an e-reader or app, there is nothing like page turning a good book.  And it’s sometimes hard to use an e-reader if you like to read on the beach or at the kid’s soccer game. There are always used books offered on Amazon and many communities have a locally owned used bookstore that may offer you a discount when you return books for them to resell. Plus, it’s good to support small local businesses.

Used furniture can be a money saver. If you’re moving to a new location or a larger home, or simply updating your home, you may need to purchase a few pieces of furniture to complete your décor. Oftentimes, finding a unique vintage piece or a used quality item is a fun way to buy those accent pieces and keep the budget under control.

Sporting equipment can be bought with all good intentions but get seldomly used. You can buy inexpensive used workout equipment (with no moving parts) such as dumbbells, benches, etc. at a bargain price. Those don’t really wear out and the secondhand ones are usually barely used at all. Or if you are thinking about a new sport such as golf or skiing, try to find used equipment before committing significant sums of money to new paraphernalia

One caveat – never, never, never buy a used car seat for an infant. Manufacturers suggest replacement in accidents above 5 mph because they can’t guarantee the integrity of the plastic after an accident. You never know the history of a used car seat. On this item a little more money is worth it to protect those precious babies.

If you are going to sell/buy something used, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website

You may agree with buying used goods for all, some, or none of the items listed above. If you are trying to get your budget under control, save for retirement or college, or pay off debt, seriously consider buying used rather than new.

Sirach 32:19: Do nothing without deliberation; then once you have acted, have no regrets.

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