It’s funny how attitudes change over time. I once thought that I was above shopping at thrift stores. Under my juvenile logic, such places were for those who needed charity. People with jobs went to retail stores. But as years passed I changed my mind. Nowadays, I never shop for anything without first considering whether to buy it used. So instead of automatically visiting a mall, I often find myself at Goodwill stores, garage sales, used book fairs, eBay listings, and estate sales.
In this post, I list the main reasons for buying from secondhand sellers. If you don’t shop this way—or do it only rarely—this list might help change your habits. And even if you already buy used stuff on a regular basis, this list might help you persuade those of your friends who don’t.
1. Lower Prices
You already know this, of course. But let me give three examples. If you can convince yourself to buy used, a $30,000 car might cost you a mere $12,000, an $8,000 bedroom set might go for only $900, and $500 in books might be picked up for just $40. In each case, the practical usefulness of each item stays the same as if you had bought it brand new. After all, that’s the magic of buying used—the auto still gets you from point A to point B, the furniture works every bit as well, and the books contain the same old text. The big difference in these three examples: you’ve just saved $25,560.
2. Lower Sales Taxes
The savings don’t stop at $25,560—you also avoid the sales tax you would have paid on retail pricing. This is nothing to sniff at. At a rate of eight percent, you pocket an extra $2,045 ($25,560 x 8% = $2,045).
3. Lower Ownership Costs
Big ticket items like cars come with the extra baggage of annual ownership taxes and insurance premiums. The amounts you pay vary depending upon where you live. In my neck of the woods, buying the used car mentioned above sidesteps about $1,700 in taxes and insurance over the first five years of ownership. This boosts the overall savings to $29,305—not too shabby for three measly purchases.
4. A Planet Saved
Buying secondhand is recycling at its best. When you buy a used set of dishes, you not only save the plates themselves from the landfill, but also the bulky packaging you would have tossed out had you bought at retail. And get this: one less set of plates gets manufactured overseas, shipped to a North American port, railroaded to a warehouse, and trucked to a local store. Instead, a neighbor drives the plates a few miles to the thrift shop and you cart them back from there. Used items boast smaller carbon footprints.
5. Local Economies Supported
Whenever you buy at a thrift store or garage sale, you buy local. The money doesn’t fly immediately offshore; it stays—for now, at least—in your own community.
6. Good Causes Advanced
Buy from non-profit stores operated by the likes of Goodwill Industries, and the money you spend meets a good end by funding beneficial services.
7. Ownership Anxieties Lowered
I don’t know about you, but whenever I buy something new, I expend enormous energy trying to protect my precious acquisition. Despite my best efforts, the harsh realities of a cruel world crash in. The first few scratches and dents prompt much loud wailing and gnashing of teeth. But when these same inevitabilities inflict themselves upon my used stuff, life goes on with nary a hitch. It’s like this: a Riedel wine glass shatters and all is tragedy; its thrift shop counterpart meets with the same sorry fate, and one simply grabs another glass and keeps on drinking. If possessions are like chains around our necks, then we all might as well don lighter chains. Used stuff weighs on us less.
8. Walmart Gets Beat at Its Own Game
If you dislike Walmart, perhaps you express your disdain with visits to more expensive stores. Instead, take a stand by buying secondhand. This costs you less than Walmart (and far less than the higher-priced competitors you’ve been using), gets you better quality goods (anything used is tough enough to have survived at least one prior owner), and doesn’t drain dollars away from your local economy (one reason many don’t like Walmart in the first place). If, on the other hand, you love Walmart, then probably what you love best are its low prices. Resellers are even more loveable, because they undercut Walmart in the same way Walmart once undercut all those mom-and-pop stores that used to line Main Street. Isn’t sub-retail karma great?
9. Recreational Shopping Improved
When you switch from retail to resale, you still get much of the same consumer high, but it harms you less because you pay less. Secondhand purchases are the shopping addict’s equivalent of nicotine patches.
10. Novelty Added
Used boutiques change their inventories daily. And whenever you buy, you take some of that novelty home to roost. Let others overfill their lives with whatever ho-hum the box stores are hawking this season. You march to the beat of a different drummer. With each secondhand piece you acquire, your home, your clothing, and your accessories become all the more unique—just like you.
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And now I have a confession to make. The above list was adapted from pages 29-30 of Spend Less Now!—A Checklist Program for the Decidedly Unfrugal. So I’ve just submitted a post about buying secondhand stuff made up almost completely of secondhand content. A case of meta-recycling perhaps?
Anyway, if you can forgive me for all this and still like the list as much as I do, you might discover that you like the rest of the book as well. For a limited time, you can buy the Kindle formatted version for $0.99 at Amazon.com. Just click here. And if you know of any good reasons for buying used that I’ve failed to mention, please leave a comment below.