Here on From Pennies to Plenty, I’m all about saving money and making the dollars that you do spend go further. So it’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of buying and using second-hand items. In fact, I buy and sell second-hand items as a side hustle, and I recommend buying second-hand to friends and family all the time. If you’re wondering what to buy, whether it’s clean, or if you’re safe doing it, read on to learn more.
Buying used clothes in one of the easiest ways to save money. I’ve found thrift and second-hand stores to be great for finding casual weekend wear and business casual clothes. I can’t tell you how many Banana Republic and J. Crew items I see every time I browse the racks.
Some people might think that only old, worn, unfashionable clothes are found second-hand but that’s not true. Take a look at my spring 2017 fashion finds to see the stylish and even new clothing I found. Shop curated second-hand stores like Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads, Plato’s Closet, and consignment shops for a better selection.
Related items worth buying second-hand:
- Designer clothes and purses – Designer clothes are expensive. Let someone else pay the bulk of the cost by buying them retail first. Then you can save by buying second-hand. Just be sure to read up on the difference between counterfeit and authentic products to ensure you get the real thing.
- School uniforms – Some schools that require uniforms (e.g., Catholic schools with plaid skirts), have programs for parents to sell their children’s old uniforms. Many children will outgrow their clothes while they’re still in good condition.
If you’re interested in checking out online sites, I use and recommend eBay, Poshmark, and Mercari. You can receive a free $5 bonus on Poshmark when you sign up with my code SFGIRL2015. Mercari is running a promotion currently (as of 12/1/17). You can get $10 off when you sign up with the code JENMHM. I don't know how long the promotion will last. The typical credit is $2. Thank you for supporting my blog.
2) Wedding dresses
Most women wear their wedding dress for one day and maybe only a few hours at that, so it might not make sense to spend a few thousand on a dress. You can get one for much less than retail if you’re open to wearing a used one. Most sellers are willing to negotiate too because they really want to sell, so negotiations favor the buyer.
On sites like Preownedweddingdresses and Tradesy, you can find dresses from a variety of designers and even some from this year’s lines. Some dresses have never been worn due to broken engagements or dress regret. Take a good look at the website’s and seller’s return policies before purchasing. Many times there are no refunds. Ask lots of questions and ask for more pictures if needed. If you can, try on the style in a store first to be sure it’s the one and then buy it second-hand.
Fine jewelry is another area where resale prices are often much lower than retail. You can even buy an affordable engagement ring second-hand. If you’re a fan of vintage or antique pieces, you can find beautiful pieces in styles that aren’t even made anymore. Shop at local jewelers, estate sales, and online for the best finds.
4) Baby items
Babies grow quickly and often outgrow their clothes and toys before they’ve gotten much or any use. I’ve seen lots of children and baby clothes still with tags on them at the thrift stores. And it’s not just clothes too. Toys like play mats are quickly outgrown too. Check out online parent groups for listings.
5) Toys & Games
Having stepped into the houses of friends and family with young children recently, I’ve been blown away by the number of toys they have. Livings rooms and bedrooms full of toys, more than the children can reasonably play with. Those toys and games end up as donations to the thrift store or offered at garage sales.
My favorite thing to buy is puzzles, but I’ve seen plenty of games like Operation and Chutes and Ladders on shelves too. I avoid plush animals because goodness knows what’s on them. Anything that looks in good condition and can be wiped down with sanitizer wipes is fair game.
6) Books & Textbooks
Anyone who has been in school and had to buy their own books knows that textbooks are expensive. I remember having to budget several hundred dollars each semester in college just to be sure I bought all the books I needed. I bought second-hand where I could, rented, and even borrowed a few. I didn’t matter if a book was a slightly older version as long as I could get the same information and do the homework. If you need the book in your profession, it might be worth buying a new copy to keep. Otherwise, go second-hand and sell it when you’re done using it.
For other books, try the public library. You can borrow books for free or buy used books there for cheap. I borrow everything and only buy a book when I know I’m going to read it over and over again.
If you’ve tried to furnish a home with furniture bought at retail, you know how expensive it can be. Thankfully, some people barely use the furniture they buy. Maybe they decide to redecorate or they are moving and have to sell. I once came across computer chairs from an office that was closing.
Another easy way to get second-hand furniture is to ask friends and family for whatever extra they have. I’ve always tried to get furniture with fabric like sofas from people I know. If you’re getting furniture from strangers, take a look at the item and make sure the person’s place is clean. You can’t be too careful about bedbugs and pet dander.
Like with many of the other items on this list, bikes are expensive new and depreciate in value once out the door. Many people buy bikes with the intention to ride them for exercise or fun and don’t use them much at all. My partner got his used bike on Craigslist and loves it. I got mine as a hand-me-down from family. Unless you’re a serious bike enthusiast, a used one may work just fine for you.
As sad as this sounds, bikes are a major target for thieves in San Francisco. Save yourself the headache of being a more obvious target and having a new bike stolen by getting one that’s second-hand. If you want to save even more money, try biking instead of driving to work or for running errands.
We’ve all heard that cars depreciate significantly once off the lot and most of all in their first year. Buying a used car makes sense then, especially one that’s been well-maintained. Just make sure to do your research by checking a car’s value and having it inspected before purchasing.
10) Kitchen items
There are a lot of kitchen gadgets out there that people don’t use. The mixer that was a wedding gift but now sits at the back of the cabinet. Or the blender or crock pot that goes unused. My nearby Goodwill is full of plates and cups. Sometimes are pretty and come in full sets too.
11) Seasonal decorations
Seasonal decorations are just that, seasonal. How much do you want to spend on things that are on display for about 4 months of the year (or packed away for the other 8)? And while decorations are pretty, they don’t do much but sit around the house and look pretty.
So when I want to decorate my place, I shop thrift stores or ask family for items they’ve collected but don’t use anymore. It’s easy to replace decorations yearly too when they cost only a few dollars.
12) Athletic gear & workout equipment
My brother and I had plenty of sports gear when we growing up. We had tennis rackets, hockey sticks, baseball bats and gloves, and weights. Many of those items were still in good condition by the time we stopped playing a sport or outgrew the equipment. We’ve also known people with treadmills and stationary bikes that went unused.
Some final tips:
- Do your research before purchasing. Sometimes second-hand isn’t cheaper than new.
- Negotiate on price. Buying second-hand usually favors the buyer unless it’s a hot item. A potential buyer can always walk away if the price is not right, but a lot of sellers will agree to a lower price because they want to get rid of an item.
- If you’re meeting someone in person off Craigslist or a similar site, meet in the daytime in a public place.
- The more specific you are about something that you want, the longer you’ll have to wait for it. There may be a lot of black dresses out there, but you’ll have to wait or search more to find a fit-and-flare black dress with a waist tie and lace detail in your exact size.
- If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
Nowadays, when I come across something I want, my first thought is whether or not it’s available and worth it to buy second-hand. I’m always happy when I do buy something used and it perfectly fits my needs. I’ve saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years by buying second-hand items. I can’t wait to save thousands more in the future by doing the same!
Do you like to shop second-hand goods? What has your experience been and what do you like it buy? If you don’t buy second-hand, why not?