I grew up frequenting thrift stores and shopping at yard sales or garage sales. It’s a hobby that both of my parents enjoy. I enjoy the hunt for something unique as well as the savings that can be gathered by finding a used, cheap version of something you were going to otherwise buy new. While I enjoy buying used, I make a point of buying some new and others used. I tend to buy new when I think an item doesn’t have a long life, where buying used is likely to result in the item not working for very long after the purchase. Here are my top 10 items to buy used. Some of these are based on how affordable they are vs buying new, and some factor in the “life” of the item after the used purchase.
1. Furniture. I’ve had really good luck buying basic furniture (bookshelves, couches, etc) used for under $50 and getting years of use out of them. I have family members who we went to the store with while they purchased new furniture (A chair once, and a couch another time) and they both were damaged within 18 months. In both cases they had purchased from the clearance area of Art Van, in the $500-ish range in both cases. There was nothing wrong with the furniture at the time of purchase. I was really shocked to see a $500 recliner have visible damage (it was leaning sideways due to damage to the footrest) in less than 2 years when we had purchased a $10 reclining chair from a yard sale that lasted about that long. Our tall bookshelf was purchased for $5 and has lasted us about 3 years already.
2. Small kitchen appliances. My local goodwill has an entire aisle of shelves full of small kitchen appliances. In particular, rare or special use items such as waffle makers, blenders, panini makers, omelet makers, etc are overflowing on Goodwill shelves for maybe $3 a piece.
3. Books. I love to read, but I hate spending $15+ for a new book. It’s rare to find new releases on thrift store shelves, but Goodwill stores have huge selections of books. I can always find at least half a dozen books that I would love to read if I scan the shelves at my local Goodwill. They are priced at 4 for $.99 or .59 each if you buy just one. Plus they occasionally get too many donated at once and then they will do 12 for $1 to help reduce inventory quickly.
4. Clothes. Used clothes is always an interesting topic. I grew up wearing used clothing all the time and it never bothered me. In middle school and high school I was able to keep up with trends enough to feel up to date. I was never picked on for my clothing. A lot of people have horror stories about being the ‘goodwill kid’ and being picked on for their clothing. In my opinion, it’s important to be really picky about what clothing you purchase used. If you choose the clothing that is really old, or that is a couple sizes too big then it makes the child stand out. However, if you can search their size on the rack for the few pieces that are more modern, or are cool brands, and that fit well it can work out great. I actually prefer yard sales for clothing purchases because they tend to be VERY cheap ($.25-$1 per item in most cases, vs $3-4 per item at Goodwill in my area). The key is finding a yard sale that has your size and brands you like all in one place. When I do city wide yard sales I often find one or two sales that are my size and style and then I buy a lot from one person because they have a lot that I like.
5. Fitness gear. Treadmills, weight benches and exercise bikes are not cheap to buy new. However, a lot of people buy them for new years resolutions and then never use them so they end up selling them used for a fraction of the price they paid new.
6. DVDs and VHS tapes. Thrift stores and yard sales are often filled to the brim with old movies. In my household we rely on the internet to access movies now so keeping physical versions just doesn’t serve a purpose. However, I know many parents like letting their children use physical movies to avoid commercials, ads or the risk that comes with letting their children access online content. It could also be a great opportunity for senior citizens or older people who don’t have (or want to use) the internet.
7. Bags and handbags. I needed a suitcase for a last-minute business trip I took last summer. I found a suitcase in the checked bag size for $1.99! Luggage is SO expensive new, that saved me probably $75. Backpacks, computer bags, handbags, etc are all around $3 or so at my local Goodwill making them a great price vs new. Handbags are another item at my local Goodwill that often gets overflowing so they occasionally mark them all down to $.99 to reduce inventory.
8. Toys. Back in February (two months after Christmas!) my local Goodwill had a Hatchimal new in the box for $12. Now, $12 is expensive for a toy at Goodwill but two months prior people were paying $150+ in local buy/sell/trade groups in my area. The downside of used toys is that sets are often missing pieces. However, for toys that are just a single piece (Such as dolls, vehicle toys, and so on) it’s a great way to save money. I rarely see good complete sets at Goodwill but yard sales or slightly higher end thrift stores (like mom and pop consignment stores) often have sets at great prices vs new.
9. Office equipment. Many of us have stopped using computer desks and computer chairs due to the popularity of laptops and tablets. However, if you have a home office or just choose to use certain office equipment – buying used is a great choice. We use a file cabinet for our important paper documents (taxes, insurance and the like). We got our file cabinet for $1.99 at goodwill. Thrift stores almost always have computer desks, printers (check to make sure the ink required is affordable, first!), computer monitors, keyboards, and so on.
10. Kitchenware. This is one where you are likely to have to sacrifice appearance for the savings, so I understand why some are unwilling to buy used kitchenware. However, after buying a few cheap (but new) kitchen tableware sets and having the glasses, cups and bowls all break the first time they were dropped even half an inch, I realized I needed to either invest in a high-end new kitchen set or buy used. We got a set of 10 or 12 glass plates and matching bowls for under $5 at Goodwill about 3 years ago. Two or three of the owls have broken but the plates are all in great shape. They are ugly and clearly outdated, but they are very well made. If you see a large dinner set at a thrift store keep in mind that if its 30 years old that means the set has managed to avoid breaking that long which speaks to the quality.