5 Items You Should Buy Secondhand

As the daughter of a small business owner, you will not hear me say that you should never pay retail. I’m a big believer that there are goods and services that you should buy retail to ensure quality, customer service, and a perfect fit for your needs. However, that does not mean that you should always pay full price or even a discounted online price. In fact, I’d say there are some items that you should (almost) always buy second hand.


What Items Should You Buy Used?

There are some things that just aren’t worth full price. Here are five that might surprise you.

1. Jewelry

Despite what every jewelry heist movie might lead you to believe, expensive diamonds have a very low resale value. That means that you can pick up beautiful pieces at estate sales and reputable pawnshops for a great deal less than the name brand jewelry store at the mall. Even if you are uncomfortable with diamonds, you can still find unique, antique, and beautiful jewelry with precious and semi-precious stones for a lot less when you buy them secondhand. If you’re lucky, your new-to-you jewelry will come with a beautiful history, as well.

2. Musical Instruments

If you have a budding Wynton Marsalis begging you for trumpet lessons, the price of new musical instruments can come as a nasty shock. Renting or buying a used instrument will be the sensible course of action before you know if this is a lifelong passion or a passing interest. There will be plenty of time to buy a great-quality instrument later; junior can be practicing on a used horn now.

3. Formal Clothing

If your cousin’s wedding, your high school reunion, or an awards banquet for your industry is looming and you have nothing to wear, that doesn’t mean you need to pay retail for a dress you’ll only wear once. Since most people only wear these kinds of formal-occasion dresses once, they are an excellent item to buy secondhand. Shopping at the consignment shops in the swanky area of town will often get you clothes that are only a season behind and barely worn. This is a great idea for prom-goers on limited budgets, as well.

4. Tools

Hand tools are not a technology that changes from year to year. A screwdriver is a screwdriver, whether it was built last week or in the last decade. There is no need to buy new tools when gently used ones are available. Check Craigslist for estate sales or for local shops going out of business.

5. Furniture

Considering the markup on new furniture from retail stores, it hardly makes sense to rent to own or even buy new. In terms of office furniture, the sad fact is that most companies go belly up within the first year and they will often sell their professional grade desks, chairs, and filing cabinets for a song. For home furnishings, both furniture consignment shops and Craigslist offer great deals on beautiful pieces you might not be able to afford new. Just remember that you will probably have to do your own hauling — but even adding the cost of a pickup rental into the price still beats retail by a healthy margin.

Remember that durable goods often depreciate quickly. It makes sense to let someone else take that financial hit and still be able surround yourself with quality.

Photo by pixeljones.


By , on Jun 3, 2013
Emily Guy Birken Emily Guy Birken is a freelance writer, recovering English teacher, and stay-at-home-mom. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana, with her mechanical engineer husband and infant son. Her musings on life and parenting can be found at The SAHMnambulist.


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  1. These are great tips! Used furniture can also be re-done for fairly cheap. There are a lot of tutorials online on how to re-do furniture.

    Wedding dresses are also a steal if you can find a used one you really like.

  2. Grenacia:

    For tools, if you can find used Craftsman tools, that is the best. Because they have an incredible warranty – you can basically take any broken Craftsman tool into any Sear’s store and they will fix or replace it, no questions asked.

    Used furniture is great, but be careful of your source – it can have bedbugs in it and that really sucks!

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