The stuff I try never to buy new
I don't like buying new. It's not that I consider myself to be some kind of Scrooge. I just have a hard time paying more for something than I need to, and often we take that extra hit when we pay for a brand new item. So, I buy second-hand things a lot of the time. Here's my guide to the main items you should always consider buying used.
DVDs and CDs
Why bother paying $21.99 for a new DVD or $14.99 for a new CD, when you can pick up a barely used copy of the same title for at least half the price? The improvements in modern DVD and CD players also mean that scratches and smudges don’t really matter - the technology can deal with them. It’s the only way to get your home entertainment, and even places like Amazon offer avenues to get the titles used. No more excuses, stop buying new DVDs and CDs.
This is just like DVDs and CDs, only the deals often come quicker and with greater discounts. I recently picked up a used copy of an Xbox game for $1.99 that was still selling for $19.99 in the store. It played perfectly, it still had the manual, and for an extra $1 I got insurance so if the disc did malfunction I could get a replacement or refund. Sweet! On some occasions, a store like Target will knock 75% - 90% off a game. In that case, it’s even cheaper new than it is in the used section of a store like GameStop, so in that case I’ll pick it up. However, those times are few and far between.
Car experts and sites like Edmunds and KBB will tell you that brand new cars lose around 12%-15% of their value the second you drive them off the lot. That’s thousands of dollars up in smoke for your average mid-sized sedan. Why should you take that financial loss? Instead, buy a car that’s a year or two old. It will usually have low mileage, a good chunk of the factory warranty left on it, and the depreciation isn’t anywhere near as bad for you. That’s smart spending.
I encourage my kids to play in the garden, and there are toys and games for them out there. But why buy new one when they’ll get scuffed up and worn out in days? Once again, places like Craigslist and Freecycle are a good place to find some excellent yard toys for the kids. The slide in our back yard was free and has so far lasted 3 years. It still looks as good as the day we got it (very good in fact), from someone who had previously had it for 5 years. They’re built to withstand all weather and all kids…they are tough.
This is an area where you can monopolize on impulse buying and laziness. People will buy a big treadmill, a health rider, an exercise bike or a weight bench in the hopes of getting super fit and ultra trim. The problem is, it takes hard work and dedication. And most of the time, it’s easier to let the new purchase rot in the basement or garage after a few weeks of use. That’s when the garage sale comes around, and you can go pick up an almost brand new piece of equipment at a fraction of the price you’d normally pay. Many people offer them free if you’ll just haul it away and stop them feeling guilty about their over-optimistic purchase.
Have you ever seen the Antiques Road show? Desks, chairs, shelves, bed frames, sofas, tables, they last a long time. Well, they do if they’re built well anyway. I scour Craigslist when I’m looking for furniture. You can often find a solid oak desk with great craftsmanship a lot cheaper than you can get one of those nasty MDF things that you put together yourself. Sure, you’ll need a way to get it home. If you don’t have a big truck, just rent one from UHaul for a few hours for $20. You’ll end up with a great piece of furniture you can hand down to your grandchildren, rather than something that ends up in the garbage after 2 years.
Footballs, tennis rackets, bicycles, soccer balls, badminton nets, you name it, you can find it all used. They’re usually in excellent shape and a whole lot cheaper than store prices.
There’s a huge caveat on this one; make sure it’s been checked out by an inspector and has the green light. You don’t want to take on major plumbing problems, damp basements or termites. But, if the house is sound, the current economy makes a used home very, very desirable. Sometimes it’s just a few years old; there are homes in my area that have decreased in value by $70k in just a few years. Ouch. But not for you. Of course, the used home sales market is also affecting new home sales. If you insist on buying new, make sure you battle hard with the realtor and look for inventory houses. They just want them sold, you can often negotiate serious discounts and tons of free upgrades.
I do not have green fingers. No-one in my family does. So, I like to let someone else do the hard work of establishing a plant and giving it healthy roots. Then I’ll pick one up cheap at a garage sale or off Craigslist.
Stores like Goodwill are perfect hiding places for gems like these. There was a story recently about a woman who found an old painting in Gooodwill, got it valued and it was worth over $1 million. That’s not the point though, most of the time you can pick up beautiful framed works of art, often original, and much cheaper than in stores like J C Penney or Kohl’s. The same goes for figurines, mirrors and other home embellishments. Buy them used, no-one will even know.
And FYI, things I would NEVER buy used...
Infant/booster seats – they could have been in a crash and weakened. Don’t do it.
Shoes/sneakers – Once they have conformed to a foot, they’ll never fit your foot the way they should. Buy your shoes and sneakers new, just look for sales.
Mattresses – Yikes. Who knows what action they’ve seen, and they could be filthy inside.
Major electronics/appliances – TVs could be ready to expire, CD players could skip constantly, washing machines could have a cruddy motor. Nah.