Why spend more than you have to?
- Buying some items used can be a great way to save money.
- Used books and kids’ clothing/toys are far cheaper than their new counterparts.
- You can also save on big ticket items like electronics and cars by buying used.
Life just keeps on getting more expensive. We’ve seen record inflation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the most recent report from the Consumer Price Index showing average prices up 7.1% between November 2021 and November 2022. We’ve all watched our grocery and utility bills spike over this period, and if you’re struggling with money, you are certainly not alone.
The good news is that there’s a way to save money on purchases that you may not have considered too deeply: buying some items used. There are some things you should only buy new, for health and safety reasons. These items, however? Look for used versions to keep more money in your checking account and help keep more items out of landfills.
Used bookstores are magical. The smell of the books, the feeling that you’ll discover something amazing on every shelf — it’s just wonderful. One of the best parts of the experience is walking up to the cash register with an armload of treasure and walking out with a much lower credit card tab than you might be fearing. The price for a new hardcover book might be $30, but you can likely find that same book for $5-$10 (maybe less) at your local used bookstore or even a yard sale.
If you’re a student or financially supporting a student, don’t overlook used textbooks, either. If you can get a book list ahead of the semester starting, you’ll have plenty of time to order them from online retailers and can save yourself a bundle on books.
2. Kids’ clothes and toys
While kids’ furniture and safety gear like car seats should only be bought new, when it comes to clothing and toys, buying used is definitely the financially smarter choice. Kids outgrow clothes so almost, and let’s face it: Your toddler doesn’t have any fashion sense yet. And I have many parent friends who lament the number of toys their kids have and yet have stopped playing with. Raising a child is expensive, so it’s a good idea to try and save where you can. Try looking at used toys and clothes to cut your costs.
Buying a used bike is an excellent idea. That is not to say you should hop right on and ride away if you find a good deal at a yard sale. You can find bikes that have already been vetted and repaired by checking a local bike maintenance shop. Or, if you find a diamond in the rough in a local buy-sell-trade group, take it to that same maintenance shop. Chances are, they’ll have a basic tune-up package for around $100, and can check the bike over and advise you of what it might need (like a new chain, for example). You can also spend a little on customizing it (new seat, new bell), and still come out ahead financially.
4. Some furniture
While I surely wouldn’t buy a used couch or other used upholstered furniture (unless I knew the former owners incredibly well and trusted them), buying other used pieces can be a great move. Look to your local thrift shop for sturdy pieces like dining tables, chairs, and dresses.
Cars are the used purchase most people have experience with. New cars lose a ton of value when they’re purchased, and the average monthly payment for one spiked in 2022 thanks to chip shortages and supply chain issues. A car is a major purchase, though, so you’ll want to avoid certain mistakes when you’re shopping for a used car. You may find that in addition to costing less initially, a used car may result in saving money on auto insurance too.
You can save big on consumer electronics if you buy them used. This is another instance where it pays to do your homework and not just buy any old TV you spot at a yard sale. At the very least, you should ensure it works and comes with all its parts. Another route to finding the best pre-loved electronics is to buy a certified refurbished model from the manufacturer. I bought my desktop computer this way, and the money I saved by not buying new meant that I could buy an even nicer model than I could have gotten otherwise.
While physical possessions cost money and take up space in our homes, they can often make life easier, more comfortable, or more productive. If you need to buy books for school, a dining room table, or a new computer, looking at used versions of these things can really save you a lot of money, and also help you do your part for the planet. What’s not to like?
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