Don’t Be Squeamish Over “Gently Used”

There are treasures to be found at yard sales. If the thought of buying anything from a yard sale or thrift store gives you the heebie-jeebies, think of this: EVERYTHING is ‘used’ from the moment you buy it. And if you’ve ever stayed in a hotel – even the finest 5 star resort – you have slept on used sheets, toweled off with used towels, and sat on very used furniture!

My nephew turned up his nose at a used t-shirt my grandmother bought for him at a thrift store. When she explained that the brand new t-shirt that cost $25 (for a t-shirt!) was worth $1 at a yard sale after being worn only once and put through the wash, he began to see the logic. (It had the latest logo on it that he and his friends were wild for! He is now grown and has small children – he can really see the value of ‘used’ in a whole new light!)

So, here are a few tips to get the most out of buying ‘used’. First, make a list of what you want. That’s right! I said it! I have made a list of some items I could have gone to Wal-Mart and bought for a fair price, like a large bulletin board, one of those soaking foot baths, a set of bathroom rugs, a bed skirt, etc. You can find just about anything used, but in new, or like new, condition – if you are patient. I have been amazed at the things on my written or mental list that I find in my travels to yard sales and thrift store. Also, consider Craigslist and the local newspaper want ads. Don’t be put off by bad photography – go look at items to see for sure. You will often be surprised. And yes, sometimes it is junk. Just keep looking.

Another way to have fun with buying this way is if you want to redecorate a room. Look through magazines and pick out a room you’d really like to copy. Then try to find items close to the look of the items in the picture! Use your imagination. If it’s not exactly the same, can you paint it or stain it or glue something to it to recreate the look? Then paint your room the color in the picture and decorate away! Amaze your friends and family who thought you couldn’t decorate even a hamster cage! (This idea, by the way, was at one time a show featured on HGTV. That’s another way to get great ideas. One show on the HGTV network is called “Design on a Dime”.)

Go early to yard sales, but not earlier than the time posted by the sellers. The time and effort put into having a yard sale is often exhausting. It’s no day at the beach. So give the sellers some sympathy. You can still offer less than the price they have on items. They’ll simply say yes or no. And they usually say yes if you offer just a little less.

If I’m really gung ho, I get the Friday paper and mark as many yard sales as I can close to my house on a copy of a city map. This way I can go in a straight line closest to my house; using less time and gas. It only take a couple of hours on a Saturday morning.

And by all means have fun in your hunt for new treasures! Get over being squeamish. Everything you already have is ‘used’!

Lisa Malwitz

Tallahassee, FL

A note from Lynnae: I love buying gently used items! In fact, we just found a great deal on a lawnmower on Craigslist! What are some of your favorite “gently used” buys?

Photo by Cosmic Kitty.



{24 Comments}

  1. Lynn:

    Excellent Article! I read on another blog that Target gives away their clothes after the red tag items do not sell to the Goodwill. I have a grand Shin Dig coming up and am going to check them out.

  2. There is a Goodwill in Sta. Paula, CA that seems to get A LOT of new stuff from Target – but more decorative items – altho they have shoes from time to time! Various thrift shops seem to have similar pipelines to after sale stuff – after a while you get to recognize the pattern(s). For really gala stuff go to a Cancer Thrift shop or an upscale resale store!!

  3. Anny:

    I love hosting and visiting garage sales! I love seeing what people are selling and picturing it in my home. When its time to redecorate I don’t have a hard time selling cheaply because I pay so little up front.

    Another great time to visit garage sales is close to closing time. People will sometimes even give away stuff just so they don’t have to carry it back inside!

  4. I rarely go into regular stores nowadays! The prices appall me! There are so many thrift shops/yard sales and so on that we find that we can manage to meet most of our needs that way (other than prescriptions and food, etc.)

    As an actress/performer, I have to have a large and varied wardrobe. Shopping this way allows me to have many options on hand rather than running out and paying full price! I have also gotten music, and instruments and amps 2nd hand!

    Something has to be special or rare for me to resort to retail!

    But when I was a child, my favorite clothes were hand-me-downs from older cousins – so I got started on this EARLY.

    Check my frugal journey at http://www.myfrugallife.com/_blog.pamphila.html

  5. Mayet:

    I really like going to yard sale and second hand shop! My list for next month’s yard sale is ready.

  6. My favorite garage sale finds recently have been an ice cream maker for $3, food dehydrator for $5, a bread machine for $10, and a beautiful vintage Singer sewing machine (from the very early 1900′s) for $8. :) Gotta love garage sales!!

  7. Honestly nearly every item of our children’s clothing is from garage sales. We make a list every Friday night then use mapquest to make a good route and spend a few hours looking for great deals on Saturday morning.

  8. Jonathan Thomas:

    When my wife and moved from an apartment to a large house, most of the rooms were empty. It was easy to populate it with stuff garage sales and craigslist. We did it cheaply and found some nice stuff.

  9. Lisa:

    My son’s school had a rummage sale that just happened to be scheduled the same week as the general trash pick up. I went around town picking up picture frames, small pieces of furniture and fake plants to take to the sale. Some of the people at the sale were shocked I had brought in “trash” to the sale. Every piece of that “trash” sold within the first 2 hours.

    On another note, if you are planning on buying furniture at yard sales be sure that you have taken measurements of your room before hand. Having a list has kept me from buying furniture that was too big for the space more than once.

  10. We do not buy much new, either. Socks, underwear, bras, and shoes are about it. My husband did need a suit for an interview, and as he is an unusual size (tall with long arms), we did buy it new but at Value City, so it wasn’t “full price”. Toys, games, books, puzzles- all freecycle, dumpster dive, or rummage/yard sale. Even hobby supplies.

  11. About four hours ago I picked up a microwave off of Craig’s List! Only a year old, looks flawless, works perfectly, for $30!

  12. Ruth:

    Freecycle is great for getting used bargains. We have so many kitchen items and clothes and furniture that we have got off it. My daughter 3 is so used to having used things that the other day I said we were going to get her a coat and she said “from freecycle mum” I said “not this time” and she said “oh, the op shop then”. I love that she doesn’t expect the latest new thing. I hope we can keep her thinking like this for a long time!

  13. Marci:

    Yes – on the list :)
    I find the list keeps me focused on whether I really need the item also – if I don’t find it used or free in a year, I will then buy it new. Rarely has that ever happened. Also tell friends and family what you are looking for – you’d be surprised how many times they have one to give away free, or find one at a garage sale for you.

    Most everything in my house was free or bought ‘gently used’ at garage sales or ebay.

    My fav items lately were my two dehydrators for drying my garden surplus, canning jars and rings, and I usually buy my Lee Jeans on ebay – used. As the jeans are $36 in the store, the last bunch of 4 were $12 including shipping, or $3/pair. One pair was new with tags still :)

  14. Shay Jansen:

    I have furnished my whole home with second hand finds. I dress second hand and I have not had any negative comments, I have more compliments then anything else. I usually pay around $2 (AUD$) for my clothes occasionaly if it is a really good peice i pay more. I brought a Fire Engine Red Overcoast for winter this year from an op shop I paid $8 for it. I have had so many complimants and people wanting to know where i got it from.

    I tell them it is from ST Vincents Botique it normally takes them a minute to realise I mean one of our op shops here in Australia.

  15. Most of what we have is used, most given to us for free. When my husband left me and my two small children we had nothing!!! Now we have a nice house fully furnished and everything else we need. Friends gave us tv’s, furniture, everything! Even my couch and chair in the living room (both used and from two different people) match. Most of my boys clothes are hand me downs as well. I get nicer used clothes than I could even afford to buy. I just buy new socks, shoes, underwear, and undershirts for my boys. For myself I buy all new shoes, and under garments.

    I love used toys because they are already put together. Same goes for used furniture and such.

    Once a friend’s aunt died and she gave me all the used cleaners from her house. There was nothing wrong with any of it, just used. It would have been a waste to throw it all away, it still worked fine.

    One thing I do not like is when people give us used stuff that should be in the trash (stained, ripped, etc.) If you wouldn’t buy it at a grage sale, I don’t want it. We may be frugal but we like to look and feel clean.

    I constantly buy new items at yard sales and thrift shops to use as gifts as well, the receipients never know where I got item (unless I tell them because I was so excited about the bargain.)

    -Becky in NJ

  16. Lisa:

    You will often find brand new clothes with the tag still attached or clothes that are in like new condition. I wouldn’t buy a piece of clothing that looked like it needed to go in the rag bag either! But for a myriad of reasons, people will need to part with something that doesn’t work for them any longer or never did! Shoes too – often never worn. And we’re talking big priced items! I know someone who found two pair of expensive hiking boots never worn, still in the box, for $2!

  17. AngelSong:

    We bought “new to us” furniture for our new home via Craigslist. It really is amazing the treasures one can find at yard sales and thrift stores. I am from a large-ish family, so I grew up knowing how to shop for items this way. As for used clothing, just toss it into the wash, and it’s as clean as if you owned it.

  18. Some of the best stuff we have ever gotten was gently used – there is no need to buy some stuff new when you can get it for pennies on the dollar.

    Besides, this keeps stuff out of the landfill, which is a double-positive!

  19. Denise E.:

    When you try on clothes in a clothing store, remember that others have been trying on the same item too. So, in essence, many store items are
    ‘used” too.

  20. Bob:

    Yardsales are great however I won’t buy used underwear or socks and shoes.

  21. I hope my children recognize the benefits of gently used over new. We are big yard salers here! Even auctions. It just made me laugh because I have a niece that was absolutely disgusted by the idea of buying someone else’s used stuff. That is exactly what an “antique” is, she just didn’t get it!

  22. Tallahassee is definitely a garage saling town!! I’ve not lived in a more gung-ho garage sale area before.

    Love the tips!

  23. Bellen:

    With Faye coming to SW Florida we needed hurricane shutters for our lanai – about $1500 new. We found 34 running feet of 88″ panels on Craigslist for just $400. Husband even had time to put them up on the long unprotected side (driveway side will be put up in the next 2 weeks).

    About 5 years ago, at a yard sale, I found a beautiful 3 color gold pendant with chain – never worn, in a presentation box with the chain in the little paper envelope on the back. It cost $5.00!! Gave it to my niece for Christmas and she gushed over it. Never told anyone, until now.

  24. James:

    I have to admit I have a little bit of a problem with used clothes. I don’t know about where people have been or if the clothes were washed or not. Also I am a little squeemish about wearing something that other people have been sweating all over. I know it is usually just fine but I am a little worried about it.

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