Making Money

Five Great Reasons to Buy Things Used

August 22, 2011

Yesterday afternoon I did some shopping. The “store” was only open for two days, and at 12:30 on the second day everything was marked down to half price.

A garage sale picture frame.

I bought a set of three white serving bowls and a pair of decorative plate hangers.

A woman in front of me — who was shopping with her two adorable granddaughters — walked out with a mink stole.

Another woman – in what seemed like a scene from one of those Liberty Mutual commercials – gave a silk plant she was holding to another shopper who had been eyeing it.

A smartly dressed couple on their way home from church was packing up a set of dishes to take to the checkout.

Outside, a man inquired if a lawn mower for sale was in working order.

Of course I was at an estate sale. And everything that my fellow shoppers and I were buying was used.

Today’s shopping trip reminded me of all the reasons I enjoy buying used things when I get the chance.

1. It saves money. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course, but generally speaking, buying used saves money. And it holds true whether you’re buying a used car, a dining room table, or a pair of overalls for your toddler. Even when the item requires a little TLC on your end – like replacing appliance parts in otherwise functioning machines — it can make financial sense.

2. The items are often unique. I buy lots of home décor, dishes, etc. at garage and estate sales and it means I often find unique items that aren’t in all the big box stores around me. Many of my favorite things have been bought this way.

A Craigslist library table.

3. It’s easy on the environment. I always get a special satisfaction when I buy something used because I’m repurposing an item that someone else was done with. It feels very green. I get the same feeling when I see someone carry off something that’s served its purpose for me. I love letting things go as much as I love acquiring them.

4. It’s an adventure. The biggest adventure I’ve had buying used was when my husband and I rented a conversion van and drove three hours to pick up our pine hutch from a Craigslist seller in a small, Missouri town. But every used shopping trip – no matter how small – takes on a feel of adventure because it’s like a mini treasure hunt.

5. It’s a connection to the community. I usually remember where the items in my house have come from. And I regularly pass houses in my community and remember a sale that I attended there. I remember that a pair of wooden wall sconces I have came from a guy who had moved back to the area after closing up his home décor shop in Austin, TX. And the oak library table in my family room came from a house that was on the historic register. I like the local feel of it.

Things we buy used.

I don’t buy everything – or even most things – used. But there are certain categories of items where buying used seems to fit our lifestyle.

  • Furniture. I consider my dining room the “Craigslist dining room” because all of the items —  a pine hutch, pine table, and eight Queen Anne chairs that have been painted black and recovered — came from Craigslist sellers. I have several other pieces of furniture – tables mostly – that I’ve bought used on Craigslist or at garage sales.
The Craigslist dining room.
  • Home décor items. This is my favorite category to shop for used. I’ve bought picture frames, candle holders, planters, mirrors, books, and much more. When Carla @ My Half Dozen Daily featured The Family CEO, she asked me what my favorite used items was and I told her it was a $1 wreath hanger on my front door. I love that thing!
  • Dishes and serving pieces. I like to entertain and also have something of a “thing” for dishes, so sales with these items are a goldmine for me. The day I stumbled on a garage sale being held by a caterer was a verrrry good day.
  • Cars. I drive my cars a long time, so they are generally purchased new. But my husband likes updating his car more often so he seeks out good, late model used cars. We also bought a used car for my daughter and plan to for my son soon as well.

Do you buy used? What kind of stuff do you buy? Where is your favorite place to shop for used items?

This post is part of Thrifty Treasures.
















  1. Love your craigslist finds! My best thing I ever scored at a yard sale is a very sturdy oak counter height stool. It still looks brand new, not a scratch on it. The seller was packing up and marked it down from $20 To $5. I keep it in the corner of my kitchen and pull it out when we need an extra seat for company. Wish I had more just like it!

  2. Cars. We have not purchased a new car yet. Our truck we purchased in 2006 was a 2004 Chevy with 8K miles on it. Great condition, just cracked 100K miles a few weeks ago and there is a lot left in the truck. I love it and will probably never buy new, but slightly used like we got this one.

    1. I’ve heard that there is a shortage of good, used cars these days because of the economic conditions. Have you found that to be the case, Freddie?

  3. I’ll buy *most* things used if I can find good quality. I won’t buy undergarments used, and electronics I’d be iffy on unless they were dirt cheap ad I could try them out first. I am trying to shift over to buying used as much as I can though! It helps keep my line in budget!

  4. Used furniture is great fun to buy used, and you are quite correct, it gives you a connection with the local resellers in the community. Used furniture is generally better made than most of the mass-produced junk on the market today, Generally, if it has survived to be sold again, you know the quality is ok.

    1. Hunter, good point about the quality. My dining room chairs are of average quality, but the hutch is handmade and the table is Ethan Allen. Love that quality.

  5. I have found some of my best accessories from thrift shops! I got some gorgeous brooches for a few dollars a piece and people love to ask me where I got them!

    Another great find is furniture- especially as a grad student who loves vintage, buying used is a smart move! I got a gorgeous end table for my room for $5 because it was damaged on the top, but I think it adds charm to an old piece!

    I love bright, shiny new things- but sometimes, there is some magnificent about finding something unique *and* cheap at a consignment or thrift store, it’s such a thrill!

  6. I love to shop garage sales, craigslist and family for furniture. My dressers in my bedroom were hand-me-downs, but i love the unique styles, which I made more cohesive by staining them the same color.

  7. I really enjoyed your take on the estate sale, not just that it saves money but also that it connects to the community and offers unique items. Thanks for sharing!

  8. My wife and I went into an antique shop just this week and plan to buy some old chair to use for photo shoots. I think helping the environment by not letting things like that hit a landfill are a big plus.

      1. My wife did some family shoots at a park and the chair added a great unique touch to the photos. They turned out great! We did some of our baby boy too, the chair looked a lot better than I expected (I argued about her getting it :)

  9. I just got a few pretty hat boxes for my daughters’ room today for 50 cents at a garage sale. They remind me of my grandmother and I haven’t seen anything like them in a regular store.

    I buy almost all of my clothes and my children’s clothes used. We have some great rummage sales around our area which help us do this. We also buy glasses, kids stuff, shoes…almost everything we can used!

    1. Sounds like a great find, Dana. I love the name of your site. I’m going to have to check it out. Thanks for commenting.

  10. My brother completely turned me on to estate sales…and the ever more common garage sale! They’re amazing!
    My best find was not necessarily at my favorite venue. But I found a dining room table with chairs at Goodwill. (Good when you can find stuff that’s not trashed.) It was still in the box…I guess someone just decided they didn’t want it after all. $200 new. $75 for me.

  11. We have saved money by “re-doing” furniture we already own. We were sick and very tired of our honey finished country styled pine bedroom furniture and re-finished it with a dark stain to look like the current Pottery Barn selections. We also re-painted our family room end tables. They were the 90’s standard hunter green base with the “asian hardwood” top. Now they are repainted with leftover cream paint with a oak stain glazing (stain left over from another project) and distressed. The tops were stained dark. I am now haunting craigslist looking for a similar coffee table.

    My husband had to be talked into the bedroom project, but is now so happy with the results and is glad we stayed out of the furniture store and did not pay $3000 and up for a new set.

    1. Jen, I know exactly the kind of coffee tables you’re talking about. I have painted furniture, including my dining room chairs, but refinishing is something else altogether. Good work!

  12. I just found your site from Moneysavingmom.com. I absolutely love this post, b/c I just returned from my Saturday morning yard sales. I love all things home decor, including furniture for me to refinish or paint, from yard sales, junk shops, etc. In fact, my husband is out right now, picking up the storage bench for our front entryway that wouldn’t fit in my car earlier. We also replaced a TV in our house that was hit by lightning for only $10 this morning. (We were able to try it out, and it’s a newer style than the one we had!) One of my favorite finds was a cast iron bean pot from the 1950’s. I was expecting her to say she wanted $20-30 for it, but when she quoted me a price of $5, I had a hard time keeping my bargaining face on! :)
    I absolutely LOVE buying used! One, because it allows us to make purchases that we couldn’t afford otherwise. Two, because the items we find are more unique. Three, because most of the furniture we buy is solid wood, dovetailed, etc. And Four, because I love to think about the history that some of these items have. It’s a very productive hobby!

    1. Lara, awesome finds! And I’m laughing about your husband out picking up furniture, because my husband and my dad and have had to do that for my mom and me so many times. I’m off to check out your blog. I love the title.

  13. I am tall (5’10”) and love clothing. Found a great designer consignment shop near me. Never bought used clothing before because I thought I was so hard to fit. Surprise, one of the regular consigners there is just my size! I have purchased jeans (best score – three pairs for a total of $18) blazers (great grey wool and cashmere – $20) and wonderful fancy dresses for weddings and such for $20 – $40. I splurged on a hardly used classic black leather Coach bag for $100, but I will carry it daily for twenty years.

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