Second-hand doesn’t mean second best! In many cases, it can be the smarter decision to make – for your wallet and for the environment, especially when you consider that producing new items leads to a lot of pollution and wastage.
Here are fifteen items – aside from used cars and pre-loved homes – that make a better investment than buying brand new.
1. Books and Textbooks
Every year, 20 million trees are cut down to produce the books sold in the US! Buying used books – or borrowing from a library or friend – can reduce global warming and environmental impact, all while saving you money.
While this is true for any book, it is especially true when it comes to school books and college textbooks.
The College Board estimates that the average student in the United States spends almost $1,300 a year on textbooks and supplies. And, according to the National Association of College Stores, the average price of a new textbook increased by over 27% between 2007 and 2013, making the gap between new and used books even greater!
Used furniture that you find at yard sales, in thrift stores, or on re-seller sites like Craigslist can make for serious bargains, allowing you to re-decorate your bedroom, nursery or patio for a fraction of the cost of buying new.
What’s more, some older pieces of furniture tend to be better made as they are crafted by hand from solid wood rather than produced on an assembly line, giving you even more bang for your buck.
When shopping, use your imagination! Some sandpaper, a lick of paint, or a few embellishments may be all that a shabby old item needs to gain a new lease of life and take pride of place in your home.
A word of warning: approach upholstered items with caution, as they may harbor bed bugs, fleas or an inordinate amount of dust mites!
Spending hundreds of dollars buying a pet from a breeder isn’t just a financially unsound move, it’s a pretty bad decision for the lives of animals too.
Although exact figures aren’t known, it is estimated that approximately 3.7 million animals were euthanized in the nation’s shelters in 2008, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Humane Society.
Save a life and adopt from your local animal shelter. Your new cat or dog may even come sterilized and vaccinated too, saving you even more money.
Those who claim they don’t want mixed-breeds should bear in mind that 25% of all dogs in shelters are purebred!
Given that it takes an incredible 5,000 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce one t-shirt, buying gently used clothing can have a positive environmental impact.
If you’ve never tried shopping for second-hand apparel, give it a go. You’ll be surprised at some of the incredible finds, vintage buys and designer brands hiding in thrift stores, yard sales, and online retailers.
Buying used clothing is especially wise when it comes to one-time formal events, maternity-wear, or for growing kids. These items aren’t worn for long, meaning they tend to be sold in tip-top condition. In addition, many stores that rent formal wear and wedding dresses often sell pristine pre-worn items.
5. Craft Supplies
If you’re into crafting, check out the bargains to be had by buying gently used or new-but-unwanted supplies.
Many times, people will have a variety of items left over from major projects – including beads, buttons, fabrics, canvas, brushes, easels, silk flowers, ribbons, scrapbooking tools, rubber stamps, and even sewing machines.
Kids’ toys quickly fall out of favor, and are replaced regularly by new and better items. Save yourself a lot of money by searching for doll houses, toy trucks, swing sets, board games, tea sets, and more at car boot sales and thrift stores.
Less is more when it comes to toys anyway – not only have experiments shown having fewer toys improves imagination, concentration and communication, but it reduces plastic pollution.
7. Musical Instruments
As some of the most valuable possessions people own, musical instruments can be pricey! This is especially true if your children decide to change their instrument of choice every year or two.
Most true musicians know that buying instruments brand new is unnecessary, particularly as they lose their value once played. Besides, quite often vintage is best, as these older instruments are more in demand by collectors and can hold their resale value well down the line.
If you can’t get your hands on a vintage piece, buy refurbished instruments from a reputable store or reseller. The item is guaranteed to play like new!
8. Home Gym Gear
Whether you’re looking to set up a home gym, or simply invest in a few free weights to work on your biceps, consider buying used – especially if you are shopping around in the second half of the year.
This may be the best time to sniff out bargains, particularly as 69% of Americans ring in the New Year vowing to get fit or slim down, while by July, less than half of them are sticking with their goal!
Some of the best investments include free weights, benches and kettlebells which can be easily cleaned down. Bargains can also be found on machines like treadmills and exercise bikes, although you should always test them out first, and ideally buy ones still in warranty.
9. Sports Equipment
Like home gym equipment, second-hand sporting goods – from balls and nets to clubs and bats – can be bought in excellent condition for a fraction of the full price.
This is especially wise if you are buying for kids, who tend to outgrow sporting equipment quickly. It’s also a great way of finding out if a new sport is for you before you invest in expensive branded gear.
You’re also likely to find great bargains when it comes to bicycles, as older models are put up for sale once newer models come on the market.
However, consider buying helmets new to guarantee their structural integrity.
10. Home Décor
Pictures, paintings, mirrors, abstract wall art, clocks, photo frames, and other home décor items are ideal thrift store or car boot sale finds.
Not only will you help the environment and your bank balance, but your home will take on a beautifully eclectic and unique look.
Jewelry can depreciate quickly – which is great news for buyers!
Get your hands on some unique pieces at low prices (up to 50% off) by checking out reputable jewelers and pawn stores. Used jewelry will often be marked as ‘estate’ or ‘refurbished’.
Always check the condition of clasps, prongs, chain links, and ring walls before buying and be especially wary of purchasing pricey items online or from unofficial sources – be sure to get them independently valued first.
12. Refurbished Tech Gadgets
If you have a smartphone addiction, and constantly need to upgrade, consider the savings to be made by forgoing the newest release and investing in a refurbished item instead.
These refurbished tech items are restored to almost-new and usually come with a one-year warranty when bought from the official sellers. They also tend to save you around 40% to 50% of the original price!
13. Garden and Hand Tools
Gardening and handy-work can be expensive hobbies, particularly when you’re just starting out and feel the need to invest in every piece of equipment you come across.
Be patient though, and you will soon see plenty of tools for sale at hugely reduced prices at yard sales and online. Well-made items with few moving parts – like hammers, wrenches, rakes and spades – will keep for decades once properly stored and maintained.
If buying power tools, remember that safety is a priority, so choose refurbished or gently used tools and inspect them carefully.
14. Video Games
When it comes to video games, most kids (and adults) lose interest quickly. Even most of the longer games only take 40 to 50 hours to complete, making their average cost of $60 a pretty poor investment.
Find pre-played video games online, or on the used shelf of most game stores, just months after release.
15. Kitchen Appliances
Although you should approach buying appliances with caution, there’s no reason to think you won’t find some great deals out there.
For example, a full-size refrigerator or freezer can last twenty years with almost no maintenance – yet few people hold on to them that long, and will sell them off cheaply when doing remodels or renovations.
Many people also invest in smaller appliances like blenders, juicers, mixers and more, only to find these products lie idle in their cupboard for months. These are another great investment, especially in cases where the warranty is still valid.
If buying used appliances makes you nervous, go for floor models instead. These often come with cosmetic flaws such as scratches or dents, yet function perfectly, and will be backed by store or manufacturer guarantee.