How To Find Anything and Everything Used: A Compendium Of Frugal Treasure Hunting
I have a used couch and used cars. And used clothes, used tables, and almost every single thing Babywoods owns is used–from stroller to socks. Even my dog is used (sorry Frugal Hound, it’s true).
Just how did I get all of this second-hand stuff? If you’ve ever wondered how to similarly outfit yourself and your family with such illustrious things as a coat from the trash and a dining room table from Craigslist, then today is your day.
Buying and sourcing items used is one of the central tenets to frugal living, and it’s one of the key provisos outlined in my Uber Frugal Month Challenge (by the way, you can sign-up at any time to join the over 11,700 folks who’ve already taken this free Challenge and saved thousands of dollars!).
Before we get to the instructional portion of today’s event, let’s review the why of second-hand. Obviously, it saves money, but that’s just the first of many reasons to not buy new.
By a lot. Stuff depreciates as soon as its purchased and, if you’ve ever tried to sell your own stuff second-hand, you know that things do not retain their value–aside from the likes of genuine art by a genuine artiste and antiques.
It’s tempting to convince ourselves that an expensive, brand-name coat is an ‘investment,’ but it’s not. An investment–a good one anyway–yields actual returns. A coat, on the other hand? It’s something to wear in the wintertime.
Don’t imbue your stuff with power it doesn’t deserve. Material objects are not stand-ins for human emotions, they don’t bring us happiness and they don’t indicate our success or our worth. They’re just things, designed to serve a specific purpose such as to keep us warm when it’s snowing.
It’s Environmentally Friendly
Sourcing your stuff second-hand keeps it from the landfill, thus reducing the quantity of perfectly usable items polluting the waste stream. Plus, when you buy used, you’re circumventing the carbon footprint embodied in new products: the raw materials, the production, the packaging, the shipping, etc. Reusing and recycling material possessions is an easy way to reduce your impact on the planet.
You’ll Appreciate It More
The more we spend on an item, the more we expect from it–and the inverse also holds true. If we spend $8,000 on a brand new dining room table, we’re going to expect that table to be perfection incarnate. We’re also going to stress out if it gets scratched, or a dog vomits on the leg of the table, or a baby teeths on the corner with their little baby teefs. Conversely if we have, say, a $75 farmhouse table from Craigslist, all of those things can happen to it and we won’t worry because our sunk costs are substantially lower.
I find that I experience a higher level of contentment with my used things because I have lower expectations of them. My free red sideboard, for example, is one of my favorite pieces of furniture, yet it has a chunk missing from one of its legs and is in dire need of repainting. But since I spent $0 on it, I’m thrilled to have it!
Used items also encourage us to embrace imperfection. Chasing perfection is a false, futile race that we’re destined to lose every single time. You can spend thousands of dollars trying to achieve perfection–which won’t happen no matter how much you spend–or, you can embrace the human fact of imperfection and spend much, much less. For more reading on this theme, check out: Perfection Is the Enemy Of Frugality.
Used Is More Creative
As I discussed last week, second-hand stuff is often more unique than carbon copy brand new. My clothes and my stuff all has a touch of whimsy because it’s imperfect, the colors are sometimes unusual, and you wouldn’t find it in a fashion or home decor magazine. It’s my own unique assemblage of taste and style.
Fewer Choices Make Us Happier
If you shop at a garage sale, there’s probably going to be just one bread machine on offer. On the other hand, if you try to buy a bread machine on Amazon, there are no less than 288 different options you’ll have to wade through. And, contrary to what you might think, fewer choices make us happier. Research has documented that too many choices lead us to either paralysis by analysis–and a total inability to decide on anything at all–or to second-guessing our eventual decision and experiencing anxiety over our choice.
What if the bread machine we laboriously chose–after reading Amazon reviews for 11 hours–is not the ideal bread machine of 2017?!?! Conversely my free bread machine, which has to be about as old as me, works just fine and I never give it a second thought. For additional reading on this topic, please enjoy: The Sneaky Way That Frugality Fixes Paralysis By Analysis.
It Takes Less Time
Related to the boon of fewer choices, shopping used takes less time. When you go to a thrift store, they either have a dress in your size or they don’t. You don’t have to waste four hours trying on every possible dress in every conceivable size. You simply scan the racks and, if it’s not there, it just wasn’t meant to be. There’s a myth floating around that shopping used takes longer, but if done right, that’s nothing more than an anti-frugal superstition.
Used Stuff Is Gross!
True. Some used stuff is in fact gross, and you shouldn’t get that stuff–I certainly wouldn’t! But the vast majority of used things are not. I covered this topic exhaustively in the aptly named The Myth Of The Gross Used Things, so I’ll just say here that you shouldn’t reject the notion of used without first reading that post.
What Can’t I Get Used?
There are very few exceptions to the ‘buy everything used’ rule. One thing I’m forever trying to find used–but mostly failing to–are shoes. I’m of the belief that shoes must be comfortable and must fit properly. I have long narrow feet–an unusual foot form to be sure–and I own but one pair of used shoes: some rain boots I found for $5 at a garage sale. Other than that, I never find anything second-hand in my size, except ironically, for the shoes I wore on my wedding day–hand-me-downs from a great Aunt also afflicted with long, narrow foot syndrome.
Another item we have trouble finding used are men’s pants–menfolk seem to wear their pants to smithereens and, though we always check, we never can find second-hand pants for Mr. Frugalwoods. For the most part, the only reason we buy new is that we’ve been unable to find what we want via the used market. The mattress we bought on Amazon is a great illustration of our failure to find one used, and not for lack of trying!
Consumables are often tough to find used although I’ve received more than one unopened package of diapers for Babywoods from folks whose kid outgrew that size before the diapers ran out. And I once gave away three gallons of milk to my Buy Nothing Group because we were going out of town and it was going to spoil in our absence! All that to say, don’t assume you can’t find what you seek on the used market. The other main reason why I sometimes can’t find something used is because I fail to…
Unlike shopping new, the used market is a serendipitous thing. I happen to love this element of surprise–you never know what gem you’re going to find! But the dark downside is that if you desperately need something in short order, it’s not always possible to find it used. The used market is a long game and it favors those who plan ahead, as does frugality in general. My recent failure in this department was my winter muck boots, which as I shared, I had to purchase new. For more on the frugal imperative of planning ahead, please enjoy: How Planning Ahead Saves Us Serious Money.
How To Find Anything And Everything Used
Ok let’s get down to it! Over the course of my 10+ years of used procurement, I’ve identified a plethora of sources for used items, some of which are better than others. Here’s the complete rundown of my favorite sources, ordered from least to most expensive. Be aware that just because something is used doesn’t mean it’s a good deal! Shop smart even when shopping second-hand.
The Side Of The Road (aka the trash)
Mr. FW and I have taken so many things out of the trash that I have an entire section devoted to cataloging the great stuff we’ve found. I also have an exhaustive outline of tips in Our 12 Tips For Finding Roadside Treasures (aka Great Trash Finds) and by ‘exhaustive’ I mean 12 tips, apparently.
The quality of your trash finds will vary depending on where you live, but I will say that I’ve found great trash in urban, suburban, and rural areas. I’ve trash hunted on the West Coast, in the Midwest, on the East Coast, and in England (where I studied abroad in college) and there be gold everywhere, my frugal friends. So don’t be whining that there’s no trash in your town!
It’s true that cities are the bastion of excellent free trash items because people move more frequently, people live in smaller spaces necessitating they clear out their junk more often, and there’s more pedestrian traffic to peruse said trash. However, I’ve found a number of fabulous items out here in the middle of nowhere–some in heaps by the side of the road and others on the free table at our town dump. I’ve taken everything from a baby bouncer to a men’s dress shirt to a dresser from the side of the road.
Another preeminent option for free items are hand-me-downs! Most of Babywoods’ baby retinue–clothes, furniture, shoes, toys, books, car seat, high chair, stroller, and more–came to us via hand-me-down. I find this route works best for items that are seasonal in people’s lives, such as baby paraphernalia and maternity clothes. Once you’re done with your baby stuff and your maternity clothing, you want it outta the house and so I find people are thrilled to empty their basements and attics into the trunk of my car.
I know folks are sometimes hesitant to take hand-me-down baby items for fear they’ll be unsafe. But there are several tactics I recommend employing to ensure the safety of your bebe goods:
- Only take a hand-me-down car seat from a trusted friend or relative who can assure you that the seat hasn’t been in an accident. Even minor car accidents can cause imperceptible damage to car seats. But if a seat is accident free and up to date? No reason not to use used–we do!
- Look up the serial number and make/model/brand of the item in question to see if there have been any recalls or other safety notifications. Our fabulous used high chair–which I LOVE–did indeed have a recall and so we ordered the parts (free of charge) from the manufacturer and fixed the chair right up.
- Research any changes in baby safety technology. As fellow parents know, drop-side cribs are considered unsafe and have been recalled. However, there exists a conversion kit you can install on a drop-side crib to make it no longer drop-side. This is what we did to our hand-me-down crib and Babywoods has been rocking it for 15 months.
- Don’t be grossed out by heavily used baby items. Everything for kids is washable. Throw it in the washing machine, bust our your cleaning rags, and it’ll be good as new. Plus, kids are a hot mess and it’ll take yours about 15 seconds to add their own personal detritus. Also, as you can see from the below photo of Babywoods’ nursery, used stuff doesn’t have to look bad. Nothing in that photo (except for the picture frame above the dresser of her little feet-prints and the nightlight) was purchased new and yet, it looks pretty good. Yes, even the Diaper Genie was used–I washed that thing real good, let me tell you. Babies cycle through their things quite rapidly and so, used kid stuff has probably only been used for a few years.
We also have a slate of hand-me-down household items from my parents and my in-laws: bedsheets, towels, bedspreads, pots, pans, decorations, table cloths, blankets–anytime our parents upgrade to new stuff, they ask if we frugal weirdos want their old stuff and, nine times out of ten, we do!
Let family members and friends know that you’ll be the jolly recipient of their cast-offs. And for anything that Mr. FW and I don’t need? I simply pass it along to my…
Buy Nothing Group
The Buy Nothing Project harmoniously aligns the ethos of local community, reusing, anti-consumerism, and kind-heartedness. It’s an international organization with local branches that facilitate giving away items for free to one’s neighbors via Facebook. Check here to see if there’s a Buy Nothing branch in your area. If there’s not, consider starting your own.
In addition to the Buy Nothing group, I’m a member of several different email listserves and Facebook groups in my local area that facilitate trading, swapping, and selling used stuff. They’re essentially online garage sales and I’ve found quite a few free/cheap items through these groups.
Typically, people are trying to clear out their homes and just want the junk gone. Enter me, ready to cart away their wares free of charge! And I like paying it forward by giving away anything we no longer need via these outlets. It creates a virtuous system of reusing, up-cycling, and otherwise saving items from certain landfill death. I’ve also found that parents’ groups are prime locations for swapping kid stuff.
Garage and Rummage Sales
The pros of garage, tag, and rummage sales is that they’re cheaper than Craigslist or the thrift store. The con is that you might not find what you’re looking for since you never know what’s going to be on offer. Mr. FW and I have driven to plenty a sale that promised a bounty of goods only to find a few piddly items strewn on a lawn. But, we consider garage sale-ing a fun sport and outing for the whole family, so there’s no heartache if we find nothing.
To make our garage sale adventures more efficient, I keep a list of things we need that aren’t pressing, but that we’d like to acquire sometime in the next year. Having this list in mind helps me mentally sort through what I see on offer at a rummage sale without getting overwhelmed. Since I plan ahead several seasons, on my list right now are toddler ice skates and snowshoes (plus a helmet!) for Babywoods for next winter as well as a play kitchen since I think she’s just about at the age where she’d enjoy such a thing.
Craigslist is ideal when you’re in search of a specific large-ticket item, such as a couch or a car. But be careful that you’re actually getting a deal. Since sellers are free to price their stuff however they’d like, know what the item costs new and know what the going rate is for the item used.
I wouldn’t buy the first thing you see–comparison shop via Craigslist and make sure you’re paying a fair price. I generally don’t go for smaller items on Craigslist simply because I have to drive all the way to the seller’s house before I can assess the item in person. My complete guide to successful Craigslisting is: 12 Ways to Get a Steal on Craigslist and the highlights are below.
Before making the trek to buy an item, ask the seller for:
- Photos of the actual item–not a link to what the item looks like brand new.
- The exact dimensions (I once failed to do this with a couch and Mr. FW and I were holding it aloft, realizing it wouldn’t fit into the back of Frugalwoods-mobile… )
- Any technical details, if relevant, such as the mileage on a car or the brand name of a sofa.
When you go to a seller’s home to purchase an item:
- Take a friend. I never go alone to buy something from Craigslist since you are going to a stranger’s home after all.
- Be prepared to pay in full in cash.
- Don’t feel obligated to buy the item if it doesn’t quite meet your expectations in the flesh. I’ve left without buying on a number of occasions.
- Always offer less than the asking price. Craigslist is a haggling situation–the price is not set in stone and the seller wants it gone. The worst they can say is no, but I’ve never had that happen.
- Ask if they’re selling anything else. I’m a huge fan of the Craigslist package deal. More often than not, if someone is selling one thing, they’re selling other things too. I once went to buy an end table and came away with a mirror, that wheel thing that hangs on the wall of our living room, the end table in question, and a chair. Similarly, when we bought our couch, we ended up buying our leather armchair too because the sellers were clearing out their entire living room–they tried to get us to take their coffee table too, but it was too large to fit in the van. In addition to the convenience of one-stop shopping, it’s easier to bargain if you’re buying a passel of stuff–total it up in your head and then offer about half off–you’ll bargain with the seller to reach the right price.
Thrift and Consignment Stores
No used compendium would be complete without a mention of thrift stores! But I’ve listed them last because I actually don’t find them to be all that useful for anything other than clothing. Occasionally I find housewares in a thrift store, but they’re often overpriced or used to the point of being destroyed.
Consignment stores are even pricier than thrift stores, but they typically have the best clothing selections. If you need a fancy dress for a wedding or a suit for work, a consignment store is a great option. But for casual clothes or pots and pans? Usually too expensive.
For more tips on sourcing second-hand clothes, check out When To Thrift: Chic On The Cheap.
But Wait, It’s Still Shopping!
I know we just went through an exhaustive rundown of how to buy everything your heart desires for WAY cheaper than you ever thought possible–but–buying is still buying, even if it’s deeply discounted. Hence, I recommend applying the 72-hour waiting rule to used purchases wherever possible (obviously this is not feasible while at a rummage sale, so try a five-minute waiting period). Spending money on used stuff is still real money and if you don’t need it, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is.There’s no savings if you’re buying excess stuff.
I recently went with some friends to a gigantic rummage sale of kids’ stuff–this thing took over an entire hotel ballroom–and all I bought were a few footie pajamas for Babywoods in the next size up. Why? Because she didn’t need any of the other stuff there. Never mind that dresses were $2 and coats were $4–she has plenty of dresses and coats.
So don’t take this as a blank check to transfer all your impulse shopping desires over to the thrift store–it doesn’t work that way! Case in point: I put myself on a ban from buying clothing (which lasted three whole years) even though I bought exclusively used clothes. Didn’t matter how cheap the clothes were–I had too many and thus, any clothes I bought were a waste of money. One way I combat the urge to over-shop is by making a list ahead of time. I had a specific list of things I hoped to find at that baby rummage sale and, as it turned out, all they had were the footie PJ’s, so that’s all I bought.
Used For Life
The most frugal approach of all is to buy nothing and to make due with what you already own. But for the times when you legitimately do need something, sourcing it through the used market will save you money, time, and stress. Once you get into the groove of used shopping, you’ll find there are very few things you need to buy brand new. It’s sort of like cutting your own hair–once you realize how easy and cheap it is, you’ll never go back.
What are your tips for finding used treasures?
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I love to point out people’s “selective squeamishness”. It was our hero Amy D who coined that phrase! For example, folks will turn up their nose at used clothing but have no problem with sexual promiscuity. Um… yeah.
Great post! As a mom of 7, I totally agree with the idea that used or free stuff makes you happier because you don’t worry about the kids banging it up… because they will bang it up!
Carrie, I love your comparison of used clothing to . . . well . . .
What a hoot!
I love the used clothes vs. promiscuity concept! This is so true!
That is really funny and so true!
Used shoes are easy on eBay. It’s all about knowing what brands fit your feet. I have big feet (11) so I scope brands in that size with styles I love on Nordstrom online and then search eBay for used/open box versions of those shoes. Aravon (New Balance company) and Aquatalia are two brands I search for in my size. Aravon even carries narrows which is good for someone like you. I’ve gotten a gently used pair of cute, work-appropriate, black leather sandals for $20 with shipping that because they were Aravon, also had all the arch support to keep my feet happy. I wear them all summer still. 🙂 Now spending $20 on multiple pairs of shoes is not frugal (you never need an Imelda Marcos collection), but if you need a good pair for a specific purpose, I recommend eBay all the way to get your good shoes for an affordable price.
Great tip! Thank you for sharing 🙂
I also use ebay to buy shoes for my 16 year old daughter who wears size 3 children’s shoes. (She has very small feet.) Ebay makes it easy to shop used and find something she likes in her size.
I buy used shoes from eBay too, often paying very little. I know which makes fit me. On receipt, I wipe them thoroughly inside with a weak bleach solution. When dry, I wipe with anti-bac hand gel.
I was about to say the same thing! Search out brands that work for you, know your size in those brands, and search eBay.
I am so with you! Used shoes are hard for me because I have a bad back — I don’t buy shoes online either unless I have already owned a pair because I can never predict which structures will give me back spasms. But I love to buy almost everything else used. I actually prefer thrift store shopping due to the “one option” thing (plus the much lower prices!). And we totally flex the hand-me-downs with our little one. We only occasionally purchase something for her, and it’s usually to fit an interest she has. For example, we have a new baby on the way, so we’ve bought a few small gifts to give our first so she still has some attention, and we bought a Dory t-shirt since her favorite movies (read: only ones she’ll watch) are the Finding Nemo/Dory.
My favorite find ever was when my husband and I were out biking. I’d been looking at credenzas on Craigslist but didn’t want to pay $100-300 for them. We also live about 45 minutes away from the big city on our CL, and I don’t own a truck, so there were logistic difficulties. We were biking around our town and went past a garage sale with a fabulous credenza. Even better, it was only $5! And they were willing to hold it for us until later so we could finish our bike ride and borrow a truck. Score all around. The thing reeked of smoke, so it lived on our porch for awhile while I used lots of vinegar to clean it thoroughly inside and out. Took me about 3 months to air the darn thing out properly, but that was fine because we couldn’t fit it in our place until we moved anyway. I now own an actual, awesome, wonderful credenza that is a mid-century modern “antique” — a Broyhill Saga that people covet online. I’m sure I could sell it for much more.
What a great find!! Nicely done! And, many congrats on the new baby :). How exciting!
You don’t own stuff – stuff owns you.
True! You might enjoy my post on that very topic: Do You Really Need That? Don’t Be Owned By Your Stuff!
Wow, that’s crazy! I just commented on your last post about how we bought a $75 ‘temporary’ table, and now today, you post about a $75 table. Crazy! As Carrie says above, our $75 table has ended up making us happier. We can use it, hard, and without worrying. I have many daughters, and they will paint their fingernails. They do it at the table, spill some fingernail polish remover, which makes a small ‘hole’ in the finish, and We Don’t Care! Not everyone may be able to handle that, but it frees up my time to tackle the bigger issues such as raising young women in today’s world, not worrying about furniture.
It’s great that you mention: ‘But wait it’s still shopping!’ I know many people that use the ‘buying used’ thought to allow them to buy tons and tons of needless stuff. But it’s all a good deal! The first question should be: Do I really need this? Then wait the 72 hours. Ask again, do I really need this? If you really do, then decide how to get the best value. While this is buying used most of the time, it might not always be. An example: I am looking for bikes as my girls reach adult size. I have been searching Craigslist and around town for about 1 year. All I have found so far is discounted, rough shape, ‘department store bikes’. I am probably better off buying the new ‘department store bike’, with what I have seen so far. Or, I am better off spending 3-4x times that and getting them a new ‘bike store’ bike! It’s spending more, but if I am going to lead them to use their bike like a car (I sold my car, and have ridden my bike for the last 3 years), I need to get them a bike that is able to do this. Suddenly the $300-$400 doesn’t seem like so much, when it can save you that much a month in car ownership. Most of the time the answer is clear: buy used. But in every case, as you point out, thought needs to go into the purchase.
Summary: Don’t spend until you prove you need to, and then think through the process.
– The Tepid Tamale
P.S. All my pants are used men’s pants from Goodwill (new shape, $60 pants for ~$4), strange that you guys can’t find them!
I’ve been lucky enough to receive huge numbers of hand-me-downs for my son from friends and neighbors! We’ve hardly had to buy anything in 12 month, 18 month, and 24 month/2T sizes, and we already have tons of 3T clothes. It’s not all things I would have picked out, but that’s okay. And all of his toys that aren’t gifts from family are from garage sales, thrift stores, and eBay (a good place to pick up large lots of Duplo blocks and wooden train tracks).
Estate sales can also be a great place to pick up secondhand items. It can be on the pricier side of used, and there are always some that are waaaaay overpriced, but typically whatever is left gets marked way down on the last day of the sale. I’ve gotten some great furniture and decor pieces for very reasonable prices and it’s my favorite place to hunt for interesting sewing and craft supplies. Vintage sewing patterns for $.50 each? Yes please!
Estate sales can be great! I found a beautiful wooden desk at an estate sale for $90. They originally had two desks that were meant to be sold as a set for $175, but since I only needed one, I asked if it would be possible to break up the set and take the smaller of the two. A good deal on a great quality item.
I second estate sales! Always interesting to see what people’s stuff looks like. I love estate sales for one reason: they’re getting rid of good stuff that people use. For instance, when I got out of college I went to garage and rummage sales, but no one was selling the things I needed for my kitchen because they were still using them! Estate sales had all the kitchen things I needed and more.
I snagged a sweet Lay Z Boy couch at an estate sale once. They discounted it because the handle wasn’t working properly on one side. Winning!
Love free and used stuff. We also go to estate sales/auctions when we are in need of things. We got my parents a $75 newer fridge when theirs quit working. it has the freezer on bottom and us a used washing machine (which needed a good cleaning) for $30 after ours died. saved hundreds there for sure. my huge sectional was given to us by a coworker who offered it. to us.
Another advantage to buying used is not feeling like you need such a big house/so much storage space. We have several friends and relatives who saved up all of their baby gear in attics/storage for years past when their youngest was done with it, feeling like they’d put so much money into buying it new that they could only part with it for more money than others were willing to pay them for it. We have three children and have gone through two cribs, two high chairs, three swings, two or three exersaucers, three different dresser/changing tables, etc. It’s all been either hand-me-down or purchased cheaply secondhand. When we’re done with it, we are perfectly happy to pass it on to the next person since we don’t have much, if anything, to recoup. Thus our modest home is not overflowing with stuff, nor do we feel the need to upgrade to a bigger house. Works just as well with bikes, soccer gear, toys, books, clothing, etc. Sadly, orthodontia are a new-or-nothing proposition…
Our latest freebie score was a lovely red chicken coop from Freecycle a few months ago, and in two weeks we’re getting free, already-laying chickens from a neighbor who is moving cross-country. 🙂 Can’t beat secondhand serendipity!
This is so great for kids stuff! The pull to save everything for… grandkids? Is so strong. Let it go! So many other children can use the stuff rather than just storing it in your attic!
Craig’s list is usually my go to for buying used. I like to DIY various projects around the house but new tools can get expensive. Craig’s list is a great source for that. Also if your building a home gym, You can find a lot of used weights for sale on Craig’s list.
My wife and I also source used items but sometimes on a larger scale. We have about 30 rentals houses/apartments and we are always sourcing free or cheap supplies for them. This week a former nursing home is closing in our town and we are buying used toilets that were $300 new for $10 each. A toilet is only new once and then its used anyway. They also gave us all of the light fixtures that were practically new, we just had to take them down. Doors, windows, ect are all up for grabs and the price is always right as they will be demolishing the building in a few weeks.
Before I started grad school and moved into my first apartment, I spent the entire summer on Craigslist and scouring garage sales to find furniture. The area my parents live in has a really upscale area with high-turnover so there were always really great deals to be found from people who were desperate to just get rid of the stuff. I ended up furnishing my whole apartment for about $1000, which included such purchases as a five piece solid oak bedroom suit with two mirrors ($250), a wooden dining table and chairs ($100), and an entertainment cabinet ($75).
I definitely agree that you should always ask what else someone is selling. When we were moving the last pieces of the bedroom suit out of the couple’s basement, I spotted a nice couch in the den and said how much I liked it. The husband told me I could have it for $250. Turns out, it was a brand new couch, which they’d paid $1000 for a month prior, that the owners had purchased to stage their home. Completely new condition, and it was long enough even for giant me!
My husband and I also found our $40 Kitchenaid stand mixer at a moving sale in our last city. The professional baker across the courtyard from him was moving to France and desperate to get rid of his pro-grade mixer with several bowls and hooks/paddles. It was originally marked as $80, but we only had $40 in cash on us so he was willing to let it go for half the price. I’ve never been much of a haggler, but that experience taught me it never hurts to ask. The worst he could have done was say no!
Something that I have found with all of these great deals is that I do spend a bit more to move than I might if I was willing to buy new. It’s a good bit of effort to find the nice-quality deals so, instead of selling my pieces when I moved 400 miles, I ended up renting a moving truck to get everything down to the new home. I suppose that’s the trade-off though for not wanting to invest my time and money in buying and selling used again!
I’ve been finding a lot of free things for my backyard. I found a couple plants and a fake tree (although I this keeps blowing over in the wind so I might have to set it free). MOST of my apt is filled with hand-me-downs and/or frugal decor. The only thing I haven’t been as good at is clothes. I don’t seem to find much of anything at thrift stores and find they seem to be too time consuming. I may end up buying something JUST because I made the effort to go. Ya know? Or maybe in my particular area the type of stuff isn’t really trendy or useful? Still trying to figure that one out.
You need to some free bricks or rocks to put inside the pot of the fake tree. You might have to trim the foam the fake tree is sitting in, to make it all fit.
You might try weighting the tree down. Remove the tree from the pot . Put some bricks, rocks, or anything with a little weight into the bottom and replace the tree. Should keep it up in all but high winds.
We have just taken advantage of an offer of 2 incredibly gently-used, really good brand / quality couches on our local community FB group. Our old couches were truly and absolutely ancient. One urgently required work, had a hole in the seat (comfortable, but looked absolutely awful, had to be kept covered), but did we want to spend what we considered an exorbitant sum for new couches when we have 3 kids aged between 3 and 10? No. We did not. So by keeping our eyes open and being patient, we got a pair of couches that are precisely the colour and style I’d have chosen from any shop AND have the thing that I was 100% determined to get, namely, washable slip covers… for about 1/3 less than they’d be sold *on sale* new. They are really gorgeous, we’ve waited and waited, and best of all, the man who sold them to us (they came from a little rental unit he has and were being sold due to having been only barely used at all – they look and smell new) has a small logistics company… and for a very low price transported our old couches to an NGO with whom I have been long associated who were in the midst of trying to set up a counselling room / waiting lounge area and were THRILLED with both the hideous-but-completely comfortable couches AND the fact that they were delivered and set up! Apparently they’ve put blankets and throws over them and are absolutely delighted.
South Africa is different from Europe and the US I think, with a far more competitive second hand market due to high rates of poverty. I mean, you’d never just put stuff on the kerb for the taking, there would likely be a blood bath over it, but likewise, almost everything can be passed on and repurposed. It is a sad situation BUT does have the effect of making me realise regularly how privileged I am to even have options, modest though they are.
When we built our Vt house we scavenged windows, appliances, cabinets, and even used wall to wall carpeting for the loft! We sold timber to finance the wood floors and vaulted ceiling. All furniture was left over from friends and family, decking was salvaged from a remodeling job a friend was doing. I have had to replace the refrigerator 2xs, both hand me downs for free! It is amazing what people replace, discard, and give away!
I love used stuff, especially when it’s free! I’m currently working on a coffee table I found in the trash. I also frequently shop Habitat Re-stores in my area (SC). They have wonderfully priced furniture and sometimes free toys. My son loves those 😉 We just refurbished a liquor cabinet and China cabinet for half the price of the old set we sold! I also agree with Mrs. Frugalwoods on buying used clothes. I just bought an Asian inspired Jones New York dress at Goodwill for $6! It’s fully lined and in perfect condition. Now, I just need a pair of shoes 😁 by tomorrow’s date night. I hope I can find a pair on clearance because paying full price for anything is just too scary 😳
“The more we spend on an item, the more we expect from it”
Oh my gosh, so true. I just returned a $250 baby monitor to amazon that my office gave me for a baby shower. (I think we’ll use the credit to buy DH a new camera lens.) In it’s place, I got a $10 one (though no video) off facebook.
If the facebook one isn’t perfect, eh, it was $10. If the amazon one wasn’t perfect it would have made me so mad!
That said, while I am trying to do as much used as possible lately, we still mostly buy new when we buy.
Love this! We live in a small-ish town in FL and yet I find the most amazing stuff dumpster diving and curbside shopping. Yard sales fill in the rest for the most part. This country is hemorrhaging “stuff” everywhere…rural, city, rich, poor…it doesn’t matter, it’s stuff, stuff everywhere in the US. No need to buy new…your fellow countrymen already did that for you and have either thrown it out in a dumpster or will be selling it for pennies on the dollar at a yard sale. Other than groceries, I can’t recall the last time that I saw the inside of a store lol. If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere.
When I lived in Alaska we had “transfer stations” where you could dump your trash and place stuff that could be reused on a separate, covered concrete pad. When I moved into my first rental I got just about everything I owned from the transfer site – furniture, clothes, cooking stuff, etc… I sometimes wish they were more widespread – but, of course, in the lower 48 most people have their trash picked up instead of dropping it off in a communal location.
We also have a transfer station out here in rural Vermont and it’s a great place to swap stuff :)!
There was one of these when my sister lived in Nashua, NH. It was called the “give and take shed” at the dump. I took some stuff there when she moved…popular shed lol.
I love this post!
I’m on my feet all day at work so I need safe but comfortable work shoes. I found a pair at the local thrift store for $12 once and they lasted a little over a year. Best find ever! Since then I’ve had to spend anywhere from $80-$120 on my work shoes. Hopefully one day I’ll be that lucky again.
One of my friends is a huge garage saler. She has an entire room in her basement filled with stuff she picked up at garage sales on the premise that she might need it some day. I can’t help but think of all the money she wasted. Sure it was cheap, but if you don’t really need it…is it really a good deal?
My father died a couple of years ago and my mom started going to auctions. I think it feels like therapy to her because it is something she did when they were first married because they were broke and had spent every penny on their farm…which had no furniture in a big house. So, it reminds her of their beginnings and she loves old stuff. Anyway, her garage is overflowing with all of this stuff. I have been telling her we need to open a shop and sell her addiction. 😉
I have to say–I did notice that you’ve never tried trash hunting in the South (specifically the Deep South. Mississippi deep). Let me tell you–it’s a whole new world. I miss the easy days of living in upstate New York, where I was often found hoisting used couches over my head to lug back to my dorm room like a little ant carrying a giant chunk of food. Here in the South, we’ve got trash (oh the trash we have–it coats our landscape), but we also have a lot of poverty. Useable items tend to get snapped up within seconds. The biologists in our department like to tell a story about how they once filled up a suitcase with snakes and then stuck it on the side of the road and hid in the bushes with binoculars to watch the proceedings. Sure enough, almost immediately, a car stopped and grabbed the suitcase. About 20 meters down the road, snakes and suitcase came flying out of the window. You see what I mean? In all seriousness, I’ve noticed that curbside items tend to be lower quality than they were in the Northeast and Midwest (people wear them out more before getting an upgrade), and the competition is fierce for items of use.
It sounds like South Africa, or at least where I am, where high, high rates of poverty mean that stuff often gets used until it is literally in shreds, or else is sold rather than freecycled, very rarely just left for the taking on the curb.
My husband’s old, not-all-THAT-well-maintained VW Golf was, we thought, basically unsellable. We had it inspected and made a clear list of stuff that was going to need to happen in the next few months to give to any prospective buyers, and oh man, there was a clamour for the thing. It needed work, and was ancient (though economical to run, just too small for our growing family), we had a fierce bidding war over it, despite really being brutally honest (in writing, we got them to sign too…) about various incipient issues. The new owner was thrilled. Thrilled.
wow, snakes in a suitcase, what a mean trick!
for the snakes and pickers
I would like to add, before setting out anything bad, toxic, not obviously broken, etc, please attach a warning sign like “bedbugs”, “leg needs fixing”, “wiring shorted” to save others heartache and trouble
I agree with tess–it’s important to be a good neighbor when setting out items for free. It’s not a time to demean or be cruel, it’s an opportunity to share your abundance with others.
I live in an adjoining state to you, in a very poor area, and I agree with you. Stuff is used up and in poor condition. The only good thing about that is the fact that at least folks here are not being wasteful, they are actually using their stuff until it is completely broken.
Great helpful article! One thing I’d add – in addition to buying used, I scope out sales. (gasp) I know the items are new but I have, in my many years of thrifting, made a purchase only to later see it new and on sale for even less money. More than once. So while I love hand-me-downs, shopping tag sales and thrifting, I also always scan the clearance racks. Bargains are there especially for larger items like chairs and rugs; odd pieces that got left out of a set. I learn something every time I visit the Frugalwoods!
Agreed – I have found some great furniture in clearance at Homegoods. I usually buy rugs at IKEA but I wanted something bigger/nicer so I bought an amazing rug at an estate sale and it unfortunately cost $75 to have it cleaned (it was too big to DIY, though I tried in our driveway). It’s worth it though as it is a great rug and will last a long time I hope!
Agree! I try to buy mostly used clothes for my kids and unfortunately I don’t have a source for free hand me downs. A local consignment store will sell Old Navy and Carter’s items for $5 each. But I can go to those stores and buy similar items brand new for the same price or less! I still check out the consignment store for larger ticket items like jackets which seem to be a better price. And they have a great $1 rack of clearance items I’ve shopped from. But in general it’s good to compare the cost of used vs the cost of new.
I totally agree. I have a super hard time finding dresses for work at thrift stores, so sales and eBay are usually my go to for work dresses. I’ve found great deals at the Macy’s clearance rack for dresses that started well over $100 (inflated prices but still) but left the store with me for $15. I’ve worn them weekly and gotten that $15 out of them happily. And since I’ve been slowly but surely shrinking, once I’ve shrunk out of them (thank you running), I’ll sell them on eBay or thrift them. Its the circle of life…. or clothes. Whatever. 😉
What a great article…..There are few things that I have purchased used that I regret buying….but many that I regret buying when buying new.
I buy a lot of our kids clothes via Facebook buy and sell groups. People offer a “lot” of clothing for $20-30 and after my kids outgrow them I can just resell or donate. We almost break even on baby clothes.
Plato’s Closet is one of my favorite places to shop used!
Yes! I’m itching to get started on some second hand buys! We are very into conscious consumption and only buying what we need, so we don’t actually have the need for anything at the moment. However, we’ll be shortly returning to the UK after living the US for 4 years and I am excited to furnish our new home with second hand/trash finds! I see it as a challenge and like you say, it’s environmentally friendly which is important to me.
Great tips! We like to get used and try that first when we can. Side note — we can’t find decent used pants for my husband either; they are worn to pieces. But I can find shoes even though I wear a narrow shoe. There is some woman who wears 7.5 A somewhere in my vicinity, and she donates really nice shoes to Goodwill. May she never quit donating!
When my youngest daughter moved to college, she still planned on being home most weekends, as her boyfriend was still living in our town. She wanted her bedroom furniture left in place so she’d have a room when she came home, but needed bedroom furniture in the apartment she and her friends were going to share. We went to a sale room in a consignment store and spotted a huge dresser, a mirror made for a different dresser, and an old handmade record cabinet for very, very cheap. They were ugly as sin but solid wood and well built. We sanded them, painted them all in a pretty color, replaced the worn handles with attractive new ones, and created a nice dresser, attached mirror and nightstand which her daughter is now using, 10 years later. She still gets compliments on them, too. Her bed was an Ethan Allen frame I found at a yard sale.
We have picked up dying plants from the trash and revived them, got free plant pots from Freecycle, purchased antique furniture for a song from a wealthy friend who was tired of them, and my husband climbed into a dumpster near a recently closed school and rescued those pull-down wall maps all schools used to have. Used is fun — it’s like a treasure hunt.
Nicely done :)!!
I’m a huge fan of buying used stuff: used cars, used clothes, used anything. But that’s only a relatively recent development. I’ll turn 48 in a couple of days. It wasn’t until I started digging out of debt at age 35 that I began considering used an option. (Before that, I was one of those folks who turned up my nose at a thrift store.) But I think it’s important to note that just like anything else, used/cheap doesn’t necessarily lead to simplicity.
When I first discovered the world of used/free stuff, I’d take almost anything I could get — even if I didn’t need it. Cheap books at the library book sale? Stock up! Free couch by the side of the road? Take it — no matter that I have nowhere to put it. Friend giving away his old TV? I’ll take it! (Even though I don’t watch TV.) It was a problem.
It took me a long time to realize that there are two parts of the acquisition process. First, you have to decide, “Do I want/need this?” If the answer is no, then that’s the end of the thought process. And most of the time, the answer should be no. Only if the answer is yes do you proceed to, “What’s the best way to acquire this?” (Coincidentally, this is the process I advocate for deciding whether to pay with cash or credit. Decide about the purchase first, then choose the best payment method.)
Making this switch has helped me keep my house free of clutter. Mostly.
I have been going to Goodwill once a week with my mom. I have a list of things that I’m looking for/ anticipated needing. Got an almost new pair of Nautica khakis for DH yesterday for $4.99. And scored virtually new cleats for spring soccer for my son for $5.99. We are a largish family on a single income – and your articles like this inspire me to keep on the frugal path so funds are freer for other things.
I find used shoes at thrift stores are often used to the point of no return but consignment store shoes can be awesome. I sell a lot of my clothing (and family/friends clothing) at a local consignment store, then use the proceeds to buy things for myself. I got a pair of brand new Coach shoes for $40 using mostly store credit (so like $10!). I also found a pair of my favorite brand of work shoes for $30 new – I usually pay $90 for the brand (not frugal, but they last and it’s better than buying 3 pairs of $30 shoes). I look for name-brand, leather, and new soles to ensure that I’m getting a good deal. This usually only applies for work shoes but I have seen new sneakers at this store.
I’ve found some great side of the road finds and my dining room set was $0 from my aunt – we just had to drive to NJ to get it. My grandmother lives down there so we picked it up on a weekend visit. She wanted a different size but it was practically brand new.
I also wanted a new desk for my office and was looking on Craigslist and Facebook for a used wooden desk. I debated buying new (but having to buy particle board) because I couldn’t find a good size for cheap enough but buying the lumber for a corner desk was so expensive. In the meantime, I moved my old (free) wooden desk into my new office and my husband realized we could move the drawers around and make a top out of scrap wood. It will probably cost us a little bit in stain and a glass top but otherwise it is a free fix and much nicer than I could buy!
Last year I listed a teak entertainment unit on Craigslist that had been occupying our garage for the previous 5 years. We’d owned it for 20+ years and I thought of it as dated. It even had holes drilled for storing record albums! It had some scratches on the surface and a small gouge from where I’d opened the car door on it plus 5 years’ worth of dust. It sold the next day and I was pleased . . . until I saw the same item back on Craigslist, refinished and staged at five times the price. What I had thought was dated was now ‘vintage’. I guess I could have done all that–but I didn’t. After a while I felt okay about it; we really hadn’t wanted it any more.
One thing I would never buy used unless barely / never worn is shoes. A podiatrist of my acquaintance warned me that with shoes that have been worn, even somewhat lightly, the individual tread pattern and gait pattern is unique and can lead to quite notable foot, knee and back issues down the line, so unless shoes have been barely used, I steer clear.
Maybe it’s just the area where I live, but I can almost always find good deals at thrift stores. Most of ours are run by Salvation Army or St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity. SVDP regularly has sales where items (always clothing) with a specific color tag are $1.49. Even without this, the clothing is cheap. Men’s pants typically run about $4 there.
I have a slight necktie addiction, and all but two of mine came from thrift stores. The two that didn’t cost $1 each (and one of those is a bowtie).
Almost all of the furniture in my apartment is used. I got most of it for free. My coffee table was found in the garbage many years ago. It has needed refinishing since I’ve had it, but that’s not a priority. Both recliners were free from friends on Facebook (whom I knew in real life) who were getting rid of them, one is older than me. Both are comfy. The table my TV sits on has a real marble top (it’s very heavy), and is a cabinet underneath, cost $5 at a different thrift store. The only issue was that the cabinet doors were missing handles. I bought some at Wal-Mart for $1.99 and installed them. They look original to the piece, imho. I don’t have a couch. Had to throw mine out due to a bedbug infestation, and never bought another one.
Buying used items for kids makes 100% sense. Their clothes fit them for maybe 6 months… we found a great consignment store near our home where a lot of items still have their original tags on them! We always shop there for my sons clothes and have been so happy with his wardrobe because of it. We also outfitted the nursery with uses items… dresser and changing table that we bought on craigslist (we sanded and repainted), mattress from my wife’s coworker, rocker from my wife’s grandma that we threw a new slip cover on. You can find great items secondhand if you know where to look!!
I have had good luck with ebay for mens pants and dress shoes. Good mens shoes can be re-soled and last for years if they are cared for. Otherwise the rest of the house is furnished from craigslist. Our corgi thinks she is a cat and sits on the back of the couch which has kind of ruined it , I guess it is good that I bought it used 🙂
It’s true that there are some items you probably shouldn’t get used (I wouldn’t do a cloth sofa on the side of the road out of bed bug fears), but most things are fine to have used. It saves money and prevents waste, so what’s not to like? 🙂
Fwiw, I had to purchase my bike new. I’m a very large man in terms of height and weight, and it’s hard to find a bicycle to fit me. I have what’s known as a hybrid. That basically means it’s a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike.
I would also add that when something is used, it gives you a good indication of how well it will hold up for the foreseeable future. A lot of used stuff is well-made, which is why it’s not in pieces in a landfill.
As a huge fan of ‘used’ myself, I love this list of tips Mrs. FrugalWoods. We’ve been members of our local Buy Nothing group for years! It’s the best way to find used stuff!
Over the years, I’ve probably saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by being “OK” with everything being used. It’s a huge life changer.
I prefer used clothing for my kids.
There is so much toxic stuff in clothing that I prefer it outwashed well before it gets at the skin of my rugrats.
Living in the Boston area, a great way to find some gently-used items is by looking on college campuses. The college I work at has a reuse list where folks post items they have for free, items for sale, and items desired to see if anyone has one to get rid of. I’ve gotten rid of a ton of usable stuff that way, as well as outfitted my house with used but decent furniture.
It’s not just student possessions that can be scored; my best Christmas present ever was the year my husband snagged 5 very tall, very wide bookshelves of solid wood that his office was THROWING IN THE TRASH. Other businesses may junk furniture that’s perfectly good and just the desk or chair you may be looking for.
If you’ve ever been in the student area of Allston, Massachusetts, around Labor Day weekend, you’ll know why it’s called an Allston Christmas – SO. MUCH. STUFF. just tossed out and left on the curb for pickers. However, beware of bedbugs in couches and bedding!!!
For thrift shops, I’ve noticed that ones in or near upscale areas have better stuff; ditto for church sales. The Goodwill on the Boston University campus just outside of Allston has great clothes (if you’re skinny).
Yet another bonus of buying used baby/toddler clothes: they’ve been washed enough times to be soft and comfortable. My son is sensitive to that sort of thing and when he was that age, he definitely was more comfortable in used clothes. Plus if the outfit gets ruined, it’s easier to throw it out when it was free or only cost a few dollars. I once threw out a pair of pants that a bit of diarrhea in a leaky diaper in a sandbox had turned into concrete (fortunately it was the daycare provider who had to chip them off him and clean him up); so glad they were only $2. How a kid can get that much sand in his trousers remains one of life’s mysteries.
My husband and I operate this way, as well. And because we are in no rush, serendipity has time to develop.
We’ll wait years, sometimes, for just the right used item. Once in a rare while, we’ll buy something new…but it’s because we are looking for something very particular that the used world hasn’t provided.
It IS a good feeling to find what you want/need at a fraction of the price.
My trick for buying new is to be patient and get things on sale. i waited 2 years to get my Sony Bravia 60 inch TV, used to walk the dog at night and feel twinges of jealousy at how all the neighbors had bigger better TVs than me, but at around 2000€ it was way way more than I was willing to spend. Finally I found one on Amazon (promotion from the world cup that never sold) for 800€
More recently we had our eyes on a new table, ours, bought used of course, was too big, found one I liked but at 500€ was more than I wanted to pay, well found a similar, display one, for 100€, has got a few scatches but nothing serious.
Finally I really need to upgrade to an iphone 6 plus (not an android fan) but they sooooo hold their value, still north of 500€ for one in good condition, so I guess I be waiting for another year 😜
That baby-girl is adorable!!
Thank you! We think so too 🙂
I loved used stuff. We once sold used mattresses on craigslist that had been barely been used, and boy were they ever snatched up quickly. I prefer to wait for free stuff. When I was single this was my main source of anything, including furniture. I bought my first set of couches from my hairdresser at the beauty school where I got discounted haircuts, and then a college friend of mine (after college) said his dad was getting rid of their “old couches” and I requested he drop them off at my apartment. MAJOR UPGRADE. His dad stated, “why would anyone want these old (extremely comfortable and large) couches?” My response was, “have you seen my old couches?” as he hauled them away, for free. Thanks Mr. Linder. I loved the free couches and the free haul a way service you provided me. I really should write more blog articles about frugality. Perhaps the next one.
This is one of your all time greatest posts! And, “Don’t imbue your stuff with power it doesn’t deserve,” is profound! I have a favorite thrift shop which a town’s churches have joined together to run. They sell whatever you can fit in a bag for $3. Since I am retired I shop for others who hold down busy jobs. They tell me what they need and as I am a careful and canny shopper I can in this way save others a lot of money. Frugality is so fun!
You mentionned the hand-me-down bread machine. I wonder if it is a more frugal option to make Bread yourself, instead of buying bread?
Oh, and as a European resident, I’m very jealous of the garage sales, which are not common in Europe. We do have some fabulous Freecycle communities, luckily.
Yes, I find that it is cheaper to make my own bread, which is why I love my bread machine :)!
I’m not normally a fan of used shoes but last week I became a convert. About two years ago I purchased a pair of running shoes that quickly became my favorite of all time. So great that I kept an eye out for a sale pair of the exact same style until the price dropped for a backup pair.
Finally they are about to give their last mile and I ran across a pair at Poshmark (worn once). Joy!! I got my discontinued old faves at a great price near new condition in the original box. I’m a thriftster and I’m always happy to brag about my handmade $5. dollar Goodwill sweaters and great household finds. And when something isn’t right for me anymore or getting much use, I’ll donate it back so someone else can enjoy it. Lots of fun and always affordable!!
We work at a college and it is dumpster dive heaven at the end of the term. The students seem comfortable throwing out wonderful, expensive things like TVs, nicer couches, chairs, clothes, etc. You’ll see the faculty families picking over the dumpsters on the evening of move out day!
We have also found that family members tend to keep treasured items of furniture and are very pleased to give them to someone in the younger generation who will appreciate them. We’ve furnished our house with these treasures from both sides of the family and refer to our style as “Late Relative and Early Attic”.
Aaahh, that last paragraph says it all. The words “but it was only. . .” is just an excuse to let go of your money. Great post (as usual:)
My next door neighbor just moved and that excited me for many reasons. Not only is that nasty bulldog gone but they left a pile of trash on the ground. 3 trashcans, a like new broom a and a water hose are newly adopted !!! I figure thrift store finds, trash heaps and handy me downs are no different than my family and friends giving me stuff. I love soap and got water.
I’m a thrift store shopper. I have found many items at thrift stores with the tags still on them. I also have coworkers that are broke that would never consider shopping at a thrift store because “it’s gross” but yet they will buy a new shirt and not wash it before they wear it. Really? how many people tried that shirt on before you purchased it? One Sunday at church the pastor shared a story about witnessing a person use an article of clothing to wipe their nose in the store. You never know what you get when you buy new either!
As a grandma to five under four and a half I love a good garage sale. This past summer I scored a Little Tikes kitchen for $5, a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe for $5 (and my neighbor gave me one which eliminates squabbles), Bumbo with tray for $1 and I could go on on! Our church has a semi-annual toy and clothing sale which is a great source for school uniforms as well as clothes and toys. This is where I found a Melissa and Doug train table and lots of wooden train track , trains and accessories. I have also used EBTH (Everything But the House), an online estate sale site, which was originated in my city but is now in many places. Bidding starts at $1 and you can get great deals if you do t get bidding g fever!
Love buying used!! Bought 3 antique hand pieced quilts for less than $30 total at Goodwill. One received a Merit ribbon in the antique division.
Stopped at a rummage sale a few years ago and purchased a LLBean, 100% wool blanket for $5. The lady said it was too heavy for her and she used only one night. I checked on the internet and it retailed for almost $90!! Our farmhouse can be drafty in the winter so the blanket keeps us snuggly
When our kids were small I used to spend a weekend with my sister so I could go to the city wide rummage sale in her town. Bought new or nearly new clothing for all 3 and would come home with a van full. Always bought things that would fit them when school started and the next size up as they would all go through a growth spurt before the next year’s sales.
The merit award was at our county fair. The judge said it was one of the best quilts he had ever seen. It cost a whopping $9!!
That’s great :)!
I just looked around my apartment and realised that the only piece of furniture we have purchased new is a bookshelf. Even that I could have bought second-hand, but it was my first “grown-up” purchase about 8 years ago, and I think I was excited to buy it new. Everything else was either given to us second-hand by relatives or friends, or given to us new as wedding presents. I get most of my toddler’ clothes and toys off a local Facebook page, although it is addictive and tempting to just scroll through and see if there is anything he “might need”. I’m trying to stick to the list, as otherwise it’s all too easy to convince myself that he needs stuff that I happen to see on there.
Our local second-hand bookstore lets me trade in old books for credit to use in the store, and I haven’t actually paid for a book in ages.
Nice to share and return to the buy nothing group through giving the surplus milk away, but say, you don’t have time to let people know, milk can also be frozen (maybe it is just me who realizes at the last minute, hey this milk is going to be sitting). It separates a bit, so I don’t drink the milk I’ve frozen, but it works great in pancakes, Mac and cheese, and other baking. Freeze in cup increments, or whatever amount your favourite recipes tend to call for, leaving a bit of room for expansion Get out the night before it will be used. Do a final warm in the microwave if needed, or when forgeting to take it out ahead. 3 gallons would be a lot for this process, admittedly.
A family friend used to collect golf balls off a course and sell them… He marketed them as “Experienced Golf Balls”
Let’s see…looking around our apartment, we only have a handful of new furniture. And 95% of our new stuff is from Ikea. We have standards! Lol.
I’ve even (gasp) bought a bed and mattress on Craigslist. Granted, this was when I was 21 and broke, and therefore frugal by necessity…if I didn’t want to sleep on the floor, I had to get a mattress, and I sure wasn’t paying $500+ for a new one from the mattress store. I found a nice lady on Craigslist who was selling their queen bed frame, mattress, and a memory foam topper, for $200. I negotiated down to $120 – they were moving and needed it gone.
No bedbugs or other nasty things…and it’s still going strong, 5 years later. Even when we stay in hotels, we don’t usually like the bed more than our own.
Currently we’re in the process of searching for a used Honda Fit on Craigslist. My coworkers, bless their hearts, are so worried about this. “But…used cars are such a gamble! You’ll probably get scammed into buying a lemon!” Well, sure, maybe. But a) our parents all drove used cars – bought from private party sales – with no catastrophic issues, b) we have personally driven used cars with no catastrophic issues, c) if you take the car to your mechanic before buying, and you do your research, you’re pretty unlikely to buy a lemon, and d) even if you do buy a lemon, it’s highly improbable that you’ll spend more on repairing it than you would have spent to buy a new car.
Yes, yes and yes! Thank you for touting the joys of buying used. I’m wading into somewhat unknown territory by hosting a clothing swap next week. Free + clothes + socializing over (boxed) wine = my kind of social event.
Sounds like my kind of social event too ;)!
I also have a narrow foot so I get your situation. Shoes for me are new due to this. I am a minimalist so I only have 4 pairs of shoes + flip flops so. Not much. I do wear them until I simply can not. i simply do not shop unless I have to and since I have so few items if something comes in something goes out.
Appreciate the post. We need some metal trellises for our blackberry patch, and while I didn’t find any by searching out your suggestions in my local area, I did become familiar with all the possibilities to get other stuff. (And points for creativity to the person on Craigslist who listed some bedsprings as a metal trellis.)
I read this yesterday while in line at the thrift store (Savers) – how appropriate! I needed a new bag for work, recently took on a position that requires a lot of meetings and felt like I shouldn’t keep showing up using my “No Farms, No Food” tote. I looked online (ThredUp, eBay) but all were still really pricey. While at the Savers looking for leggings for my daughter, found a lovely like-new canvas and leather tote for $7.99. I scored 3 pairs of leggings and a dress for my daughter and was still under $20 so call that a win!
I love the new feature on Facebook that shows what people are selling in your area. Since moving to New Hampshire from Atlanta, Craigslist finds are a bit more iffy–especially because things tend to be an hour a way or more. The FB Marketplace is nice because I see the used stuff people are offering up right in my area. Thanks for inspiring, as always, with your thrifty home finds!!
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a recliner (free) that someone was bringing to the curb as we were driving by in our well-used but free Chevy Suburban. (After their children went on their own, our neighbors said that they didn’t need such a large vehicle and gave it to us. It needed some work, but my husband is very mechanically-oriented.) While we were loading the chair, the person asked us if we would be interested in a sectional couch. It is now in our den. I love thrift shops; I find that my luck is best when I don’t go with the need to buy anything specific.. A few years ago, I bought a beautiful Harris Tweed spring coat in perfect condition for $15; at that particular time, I really didn’t need a spring coat, but it was literally too good to pass up!
ThredUp(http://www.thredup.com/r/WJSNY3) is a great resource for used clothes shopping. Most of the prices are somewhere between thrift store and consignment store prices and they have really good search ant sort functions so you can see stuff only in your size and color. You can search for specific brands as well. For me this is more convenient than thrift store shopping and I’m much better at sticking to my list when I’m shopping online.
As I was walking my dog last night there was a perfectly good 5 drawer dresser on the curb. I thought to myself I will go back with my car after I walk the dog and pick up the dresser. As I walked around the block and back up the street there was a woman grabbing that great free find and stuffing it into the back of her car. I could see she had some young children with her. I felt good that she would treasure that free dresser. Timing is everything……….. It always seems that when there is a freebie on the curb I am going to an appointment , walking the dog etc. Although when I first moved into my old fixer upper a woman down the street was getting rid of a perfectly good solid maple bed that consisted on the headboard,foot board and railings all hardwood maple. I ran for my car and put that find in my car and into my bedroom!
That’s great! I once sat on a free desk I found while on a walk and waited for Mr. FW to come pick up me and the desk in the car :)!
We moved to a metropolitan area that is rife with thrift shops and it seems to be a culture of stuff swapping. I had been unused to this, but have grown to love it! I find I dress better than when I bought all new stuff. The one thing that wasn’t mentioned was borrowing. We don’t borrow a lot, but we did borrow a crib, changing table, infant car seat (the kind for under 15 pounds) and several other things over the years. This saves a lot of money and than upon return – storage space.
I’ve learned to buy ahead., not always when I need something, but sometimes for a future need without the major expense. For example I bought a floor length formal black sequined dress (gorgeous) for $8. Turns out my husband had a major awards dinner and gave me a two day notice, but I had the dress! So less stress.
The best deal we got was my friend’s husband gave us his Grandma’s 1940’s kitchen table and chair set. My kids finger painted on that and every other art project, meal etc. It was awesome.
A funny freebie was a free set of encyclopedias I found on the curb. When asked if Santa was real, I told my son “let’s look it up”. Right in the S volume was a picture and story of Santa. He believed for several more years, though he couldn’t read at the time.
I say Carpe Diem, not the wallet.
Ha ha! Now that you mention it, menfolk DO wear their pants to smithereens. Mine turns all of his pants into cutoff shorts once they are completely toast. Then wears those shorts until it is embarrassing to be seen with him. Oh well. He certainly gets his money’s worth from them.
Nothing wrong with buying used. There are real treasures to be found.
I can’t go by the bins without having a look what people have thrown out! Much to the dismay of my children I might add!
Ah, Estelle is so adorable. I just love seeing pictures of her and Gracie. Great post!
Finding the things in second hand is obviously a treasure hunt. But more complicated one, as we need to check things more keenly compared to the new one. The one positive thing is we can get things in less prices and it also improves our creativity in our life.
Great post, Mrs. F. But the part that resonated with me the most was “You’ll Appreciate it More.” I thought of this just the other day when I pulled into a shopping center and parked next to a Tesla. The owner of that Tesla has got to worry about it being dinged or scratched. I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less what happens to my already dinged and scratched 2004 Camry, which I bought used in 2008.
This: “Chasing perfection is a false, futile race that we’re destined to lose every single time.” I appreciated so many pieces of this post.
So glad I found your blog. Now only if I can get the other person in my house to think this way, I would be really good. But he is learning , abit very slowly. But still learning.
You have inspired me to dig deeper and take more control of my money.
Now time to clean house
We love buying stuff used and framing it like a treasure hunt makes it a lot more fun. All the furniture our kids tend to use (like tables to draw on) are used because we know kids will be kids and they will destroy stuff. When it’s inexpensive and used, those dings and scratches (and drawing marks) don’t matter and we don’t jump on them for being kids. it has really helped our sanity. 🙂
I’ve bought my first pair of used shoes! While I haven’t in the past because they say someone else’s foot imprint can mess up one’s feet and/or back, I got desperate, and ultimately it was extremely freeing! My dilemma was finding new shoes that could pass for work or casualwear and also would not be damaged in wet weather. I couldn’t find any new shoes that met all qualifications, but I did find used shoes for $5 from a good brand that don’t look too worn. I’m not positive they’re wet-weather-friendly, but for a $5 investment, I don’t have to care. It’s great!
I have a semi off topic question for those with children.
If you don’t teach your children to respect things (furniture/clothing/stuff) and just let them wreck it because it was cheap and used, doesn’t that send the wrong message? I grew up poor, and was surrounded by 2nd and 3rd hand everything, but I don’t recall my parents EVER letting us abuse any of it just because it wasn’t new.
Anyway, not being critical, just curious about the line between the two.
We do not allow our daughter to treat anything (including furniture) with disrespect and we set clear boundaries about how to interact with the things in our house. However, she’s also a toddler and plenty of accidents happen that are beyond her control at this stage of her development. It’s a question of not stressing out over the inevitable accidents that happen when you have children in your home.
Thanks for the response!
It is certainly easier to feel more comfortable with the ‘slings and arrows’ of life when you haven’t taken out loans and owe money on things only to have them accidently damaged before you’ve even paid them off.
Freeze those gallons of milk next time. They take a few days to thaw in your fridge but there’s no change in quality.
You totally inspired me with this article! Our dishwasher died this week. After several “DIY fails,” we admitted that it was time for a replacement. A year ago, I would have just ordered one from Sears, but this time I thought about a used option. We’ve had challenges with brand new appliances, so why not try a used one? So we did. We saved a ton of money! We’ll see how our great dishwasher experience goes!
My husband and I got a lot of free furniture and cookware from our friends. We also go trash hunting to find nice furniture people no longer need, but we also worry a little bit about bed bugs hiding in the trash.
If you could have any advice on watching out for bed bugs, I’d love to know here or in a separate post. Thank you!
I’m really looking forward to mid to late spring and summer when the nearby college town will have tons of stuff on the side of the road from moving students. I too make a list of things I am looking for, and share it with like minded family and friends so they can be on the lookout too. I do this with my toddler son’s clothes, too. For the past 3 years if I tell my mom or grandma to keep an eye out for pajamas in a size 2t or shoes in size 9, my son usually ends up with a plethora of both!
I was so sad recently when I had to buy a jogging stroller new 🙁 After scouring Buy/Sell groups and Craigslist in towns as far as three hours away, I had no luck finding a quality jogging stroller for my 30-50 mile/week habit and ours (bought used) was too clunky and not handling well. Alas, after months of searching and missing many runs due to not wanting to mess with our stroller, putting the stroller in my Amazon cart and leaving it there for 72 hours, I finally bought new. It still hurts my heart that I couldn’t find one used but its great quality and I am actually looking forward to handing it down to another momma in many, many years.
Don’t be sad! Sounds like you followed the perfect frugal route to buying new. Sometimes, there’s just no other option, especially when it’s something that enables so many wonderful outlets of life: exercising and being with your kiddo outside… both pretty important things in my book :). I love that you left it in your Amazon cart for 72 hours–gives you time to consider the purchase fully.
Great article on going used! I just recently did a comparison of new vs used for car buying but this puts it to shame! Going used is definitely the way to go, especially if you’re a little handy and can touch things up.
Excellent article. I live in NE Ohio, and I have a newfound appreciation for the quality of goods to be found at our rummage sales and curbs. I never realized the relative affluence of this area until I read the comments about the southern USA and South Africa.
I know this is an old post so who knows who will see this , but i wanted to chime in briefly. I have been buying stuff on craigslist since .. Maybe since craigslist first propogated itself beyond the bay area – aka a long time. I am a woman and i do not typically bother ” bringing a friend” — of course do what makes you comfortable! I just wanted to share my strategies .. I dont have a spouse and my friends are busy and far flung so its just not practical:
1. always insist on a phone call with seller first. You will find out more about the item for sale and also get a sense of the seller. If the seller seems sketchy, don’t buy! Also you will save a tremendous amount of time chasing after items you’re not going to want in the end anyway-an open ended conversation always yields more information than a series of pointed back-and-forth email exchanges. If you are afraid to share your primary cell phone number, you can get a Google voice number that forwards to your phone, and use that to give to people. For a while I use my Google voice number religiously for this purpose.… I will confess though that recently I got annoyed with it and just gave my regular number, and the world hasnt ended! I really don’t understand the paranoia about sharing phone numbers that people have-remember the 90s? Phone numbers were all in the phonebook. I think it’s just an obsession with privateness that isn’t necessary. But if you agree with me, so Google voice!
2. If the item is small, arrange to meet in a public place if you’re nervous.
I have actually made friends through craigslist transactions that I have kept up with for years, I love the spontaneity of craigslist! I don’t love how people have started inflating prices on there, but I guess prices are inclined to do that sort of thing where ever you are, even craigslist. I should add that I have even used the above craigslist strategies to buy things in big cities, not just little college towns, and I have lived to tell the tale. I think caution is important, and what degree of caution is an individual decision… But I think in this time in the 21st-century we need to be careful about how much we nope out of interactions with other human beings ..
LASTLY , and this is an important Lastly, if you are buying off of craigslist in a big city, or a town where there is a known bedbug problem, during your call with the seller please ask them about bedbugs… Yes, they could lie to you, But you might be able to since that- i usually Can because I tell them that I had them once, and it was dramatic and awful and expensive, and if I get them again and it’s because of their item that would be really really bad karma for them. Of course I don’t believe anything I having had this expense of bedbug experience for real, so if I’m in the city the item gets quarantined for a period of time after I buy it and the types of items I can buy are limited. Clothes can be put in the freezer, some other items I triple bag in contractor bags with a fumigant .. To be honest it’s a major reason I’m so glad to have left the city. Bedbugs do not discriminate, in a big city were lots of people use public transportation anyone and everyone is vulnerable, and your risk is higher when buying used things.
Old post, but I’ll add two more good sources:
Rehab stores (e.g., Habitat for Humanity) for building supplies — e.g., windows, doors, lighting fixtures.
Antique auctions — Can be surprisingly inexpensive for very high quality, solid wood furniture.
Great ideas! Thank you for sharing :)!