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Does Buying Secondhand Leave You Out of Touch with Real Prices?

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secondhand, used, for sale, discountPRICING MONSTER ON YOUR SHOULDER


Over the years as a couple, we have come up with ways to save money in our budget by buying things we need secondhand.

More Canadians are finding bargains and are realizing that they too can save money without having to go broke.

We buy clothing secondhand when we need to although we are picky with what we buy because not all secondhand prices are equal these days.

Some thrift type stores are taking advantage of the secondhand pricing wars of used items and prices are becoming over the top. They see more people buying so they boost the prices to the point of craziness, considering they got it free.

Pretty soon they may find some people will head back to buying new because it’s worth it if you know your prices. It’s always hit or miss but it’s not just clothes on our secondhand hit list.

Clothing only scratches the secondhand surface as we tend to look for everything we need that is new to us or never been used. Why? It saves us money and it’s not just us, many people do it.

You only have to look at the hordes of people out at garage sales on the weekend. There are however some items that you should always buy secondhand if you can because there really is savings behind the idea.


Secondhand pricing


The question that came to both of us at roughly the same time was, “Does buying secondhand all the time leave you out of touch with real prices?” If you can buy items super cheap, why would you ever pay retail again?

We’ve talked about buying used many times on CBB but not about how buying used affects our ability to spend money on new items because the frugal in us says, “no we can find it used or cheaper somewhere else”. Has that happened to you?

There are two ways of looking at this question depending on how you look at it from a personal standpoint. Sure we may be out of touch a little but how much have we saved by not buying brand-new trendy products every year? Lots!

It’s not just poor people who shop secondhand either. It really bothers me when people put that stigma on others. If you worry about that kind of stuff then you definitely have to come down to earth a bit.

It’s not always about how much money you have in the bank or in many cases how much money your credit card will let you swipe. It’s about being smart with your money so it goes further.

We credit paying our mortgage in full in under 5 years in part to our secondhand shopping and I’m sure many others who are debt free or are conscious about spending money agree it’s worth it.


Over the years


My old house in the UK was fully renovated and I managed to enjoy the luxury of a completely renovated house for about 3 months until I sold it to move to Canada.

At that time I probably owned the most new stuff I’ve ever had in my life. Since that time we have lived in rented rooms in the UK and Canada before purchasing our own house together.

Most times the homeowners we lived with bought new items and in no time ready for the garbage because of abuse or ready to sell because of no-use. We came to the conclusion that furnishing a house would be cheaper if we bought good second-hand items.

As time went by within the first year of us owning a home we managed to fully furnish it with a leather living room suite, complete bedroom sets and much, much more. It’s not just furniture either. All the items other than some electrically related items we’re bought secondhand or negotiated at garage sales and needless to say we’ve found some pretty cool stuff.

It was always easier to live with “that’ll do” items that got us through rather than purchase over the top priced goods that we wanted instead of the things we needed. After all, it took us nearly 3 years to save and buy a flat screen television that we wanted. The 3 years earlier we entertained ourselves with an old Cathode Ray Tube television that was passed along to us for free from a friend.

We have bought new stuff, but it’s for house renovations, including materials for the deck, the landscaping in the front of the house, the central vacuum, the flooring and bathroom vanities. Of course with that frugal mindset everything we tend to buy has some sort of sale or discount involved.

I’m pretty sure this list will grow as I continue to renovate the house. This is because you don’t generally get those sorts of items secondhand unless they are getting towards the end of their useful life or someone over-purchases and needs to sell the products that are taking up space in the home.


Know what you need


If you know what you are looking for you can even find new renovation items at garage sales or online like CBB fan Jen has as they are currently renovating their basement. You can follow Jen’s garage sale finds as I post them in my Saturday Weekend Review blog posts each week. It’s amazing what she finds.

After re-vamping her family budget with me back two years ago Jen has made amazing improvements to their budget and shops smarter now rather than rushing out to buy everything they need new because she knows now that she may be able to find it cheaper used.

That’s not to say that we don’t shop the sales either because we do and so does Jen we just aren’t in a rush to get it all at once. Just this past week we waited to get our bathroom medicine cabinet and storage shelf while the store had a No-tax Day.

We could have bought them at full-price when we bought the vanities that were on sale but we waited because we knew an opportunity would come where we would be able to save something on them. You just don’t want to wait too long and risk that they discontinue the product also if you are in a rush to get the job done you might have to suck up the costs and pay full-price if it’s not on sale.

Fashion items such as furniture tend to be different as people want the up-to-date look so furniture tends to be easier to purchase secondhand. The reason it’s easier is because these fashion trendy people always want to update the look of their surrounding where people like us aren’t so bothered.

It’s easier to update accessories around the house rather than buying new in-trend furniture every season or year. How many decor items do you see on tables at garage sales? Loads! This does not mean that our house is furnished with black melamine furniture held together with wood glue in hopes that the IKEA A-B Slot doesn’t give way again either.

It means we just take our time to purchase items and furnish our surroundings according to our taste, budget and what other people want to get rid of for less. We tend to find younger families spend the big money on new trendy items and sell it off rather than older couples, at least from garage sales that is what we see. As we get older it’s less about showing off to our friends how big our house is, how the furnishings are top of the line etc. It’s about living the good life without stress of paying for crap we can’t afford.

We spent a lot of time looking at what type of furniture we wanted and went to plenty of houses to find bargains because they wanted to update. By picking out more of a classical style we tried to keep away from fashion fads and flat pack furniture in order that it will last longer both in terms of looks and build quality.

We even managed to buy appliances secondhand with a plan in mind that we would eventually re-model the kitchen as well as other rooms in the house. So far these appliances have kept working with no problems for the past 4-5 years.

We didn’t want to buy new and then change the appliances for no reason later down the road just because they didn’t look right in the new kitchen, it would be a waste. Not every home you buy has the appliances included so if you know you want to do a renovation it might be cheaper to go the used route until you know exactly what your design will be.


Buying new


Last Christmas we started looking at a brand new washer and dryer pair and we’re astounded by the cost, some laundry pairs we’re into the $2,000 range and that wasn’t even the most expensive. Trying to justify spending that kind of money didn’t sit well with us and after much thinking we decided that kind of purchase will be better suited to when the washer and dryer die.

If you look online there are loads of people getting rid of sets for cheap or free. Our set is not trendy looking but it’s still running smooth. Sometimes I find the older stuff lasts longer than the new stuff that is produced these days.

For many it’s more about the trendy look rather than just worrying that the machines will get the job done. No one cares what your laundry set looks like, at least I don’t if I come to your house. How much have we saved by not buying the latest and greatest washer and dryer?

Judging by the model number on the washer we currently wash our clothes in a 25-year-old washing machine but it still works every time with no hassle and it cost us virtually nothing. We’ve decided to keep the washer and dryer going until the day it dies because there is no reason to get rid of it.

We are not the type of people who are convinced by steam machine, flashing lights, beeping alarms and digital readouts. If we have clothes that need special attention we will take them to get professionally cleaned but I don’t wear a suit to work so not much need in that service.

The wife will get a laundry room all done up to the nines, eventually, just not at the minute and I’ll do it being price conscious as always but by finding the best deals.


Top of our spending list


I will admit that we do need a new mattress and now that we have the extra money we can afford a set without too many worries about how it will affect the budget. A mattress is something we would never buy secondhand but that’s personal opinion and yours may differ. This turn of fortune in the form of more disposable income every month does not mean that we’ll just upgrade everything from second-hand to brand new though.

We still need to keep our frugal ways going but now and again we can afford to upgrade and go new. Even then we’ll still be looking for deals whether it’s sales, coupons or end of line discounts. We may be a little better off but we’re not ready to pay full price for anything just yet.

Just lately we’ve managed to pick up some great items at secondhand shops like the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores including housewares and clothes (especially at 50% off sales). It may sound like we’re snobs of the secondhand market but we only buy items that are in mint condition and have all the parts that work. Sounds like quite a challenge but you’d be surprised at the some of the stuff that is available.

All in all we can honestly say that although we may not have had the stuff that people dream of we’ve never gone without but more importantly we’ve had everything we would need for a lot less than most people would normally pay for.

We admit it’s tough to shop in regular stores because we know we can find many of the items used or new by going the secondhand route or via online new and used for a fraction of the cost. It may hinder us getting what we need right away but in the long run it helps us cut back on items we don’t need or by spending more than we have to.

How does buying secondhand products affect the way you look at everyday prices in stores? i.e: the mall, big box stores, clothing stores, furniture stores etc.


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  1. We recently furnished our new apartment with a mix of brand new items and things found on Craigslist that were in amazing condition at really low prices. One thing that I refused to buy second hand was our bedroom set and mattress. We bought a set that we really wanted and knew that it would last a long time. I’m not one to re-decorate every couple of years nor am I swayed by the designer trends.

    1. I think it’s hard for us to spend the money on new items in the shops especially if we know we can find it second-hand. That’s what keeps us out of touch with real prices. Not necessarily that we don’t know the difference in prices or what the best price is it’s more that we simply won’t pay the prices in the shops because we always seem to find what we are looking for used.

  2. Like most people, I think, we buy a mix of second hand and new. I will, for example, buy new appliances because they are often more energy efficient but even then I weigh the purchase carefully. Does the higher price outweigh the amount of money I’ll save on the electrical or water bill? If I do buy new, I always compare prices on line and in the papers before making a purchase.

    Often with furniture, I buy second hand because I like it better. i enjoy a mix of Edwardian, mid-century modern, and modern industrial and, without shopping second hand, couldn’t afford to indulge my tastes. Besides, I enjoy refinishing and reupholstering pieces. It’s fun to make them my own.

    I buy most of my clothing second hand but that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the prices of new clothing. I compare before I shop and, when thrifting, take care to buy good quality. Even if the price difference between thrifted and new is smaller than it used to be, if you shop with care you’ll still get better quality for your dollar buying second hand.

    I will probably always shop second hand first because I enjoy the quest for suitable items and because I am at heart a creative person. A thrift store is a treasure trove of inspiration and, because second hand items are usually less expensive, I can experiment with them fearlessly.

  3. Great post, Mr. CBB, and I think it absolutely affects what one buys. Even when we buy new stuff, we buy on clearance, and so paying full price really doesn’t happen much these days, unless we absolutely need something right now. I buy the kids’ clothes for next summer at the end of this summer off of the clearance racks, and I’ll often get prices comparable to garage sale prices. In spring, I bought next year’s winter boots for my son. You just have to keep your eyes open. It’s very difficult for us these days, emotionally, to pay full price for anything if we know there’s a deal out there somewhere.

  4. I just can’t buy anything unless it’s used or on huge sale. Since I started buying stuff (around age 16) I’ve been using Craigslist. I’m always shocked when I go into stores.

  5. Generally I buy most of my clothing second hand. However a week or so ago, Giant Tiger had ladies tank tops on for $5 each or 2/$8. That was pretty good, so I bought two.
    This week my husband signed up with Giant Tiger to receive their online coupon deals. They gave us a $5 coupon, for any clothing purchase.
    I needed more tank tops, so we went back, and the price said $5 for the same style. I picked up 3 of them, and headed off to the cashier. She started ringing them up, then realised the sale 2/$8 was still on..so I ran and got another top.
    I got 4 tank tops for $16-$5 coupon for a total of $11+tax…..I was happy with that.

  6. When he was still working we bought hubby’s t-shirts at the Thrift store as he worked in plant sanitation and the chemicals involved were brutal on the shirts, especially around the neck. He has always tended to be very hard on clothes to begin with and I refuse to spend much on his stuff at all. My boys head there to get jeans cheap too. Our daughter has friends with kids that are older than the grandson and so she gets hand me downs for him. He is all boy and takes after his grandfather for being hard on clothes. About the only things I won’t buy in clothes second hand are the undies and shoes. Hubby has got himself some boxers there but they get washed before wearing. Second hand places can be great for kids clothes, especially the smallest ones as they outgrow things at a speed that can blow your mind. Some of the stuff has been worn once or twice if that.If I go shopping for clothes in a regular store I head for the clearance rack first,then the sale racks.
    We need a few things around the house here that I’m watching the sales for. The kitchen taps need to be replaced but I haven’t found a set I like well enough to pay the price, on sale or not. I will keep looking. Our appliances are working fine for now so nothing will be replaced unless I need to. What I did when I replaced the washer and dryer the last few times(I’ve worn out them out!!!) was to look over the specs and pick out the cheapest that had the features I wanted. Nothing more and nothing less. I have a large tub, adjustable water levels, enough settings for all I wash and so on. The dryer isn’t a match to the washer but it’s close enough for me and it’s gas. I’m not a fan of the stainless steel stuff. If you like it fine but I don’t care for it. I have found that it can be more expensive than a plain white unit. Not always but usually. I like the look of the white so it looks like I might be able to get some nice deals on the white should I need to replace something.
    We have refinished things around here. I have a plant stand and a dry sink cupboard that I did a faux marble look on. Paint is cheap, and a small piece of furniture like these needs so little paint I just grab a bottle or two of craft paint for the job. A couple of coats of urathane and it looks great. I have a sea sponge that works great for this kind of thing. Just rinse it out and let it dry until the next job.
    I can’t see having any problems getting a good price for a new mattress set, given all the sales out there. Sleep Country advertises to beat anyone else’s price by a percentage. Plus they have sales where the mattress and box spring don’t match for nice prices.
    I find the older i get the less inclined I am to care for the latest fashion in what ever, be it clothes or furniture or houses. So much stuff today just seems to be so poorly made it’s not worth the money or the bother. It’s my home and if some one doesn’t like it , there’s the door. Don’t let it hit you on the way out. I live my life my way, for better or worse

  7. I’m with you on the mattress thing. I like to buy things second hand as well, but the mattress is where I draw the line. I’m not saying you should get the most expensive mattress in the world, but it should be unused and if it’s used it should at least be from somebody you know and trust. I’m sure you can put a cover on it and have zero problems but it’s still weird.

    But that’s just me.

  8. It all depends what I’m looking for. Some things I can find new cheaper than the thrift stores now since their prices have skyrocketed on some things in the last two years or so. My son’s clothing, we stick mostly to brand new due to allergies with the clothes being washed in harmful-to-him products or pets. What he puts on his little body is pretty critical. But that being said, we often buy his stuff on huge clearance prices and generally outfit him for less than thrift stores. For me, I buy clothing at the thrift store, but only on 50% off day, then it actually feels like a deal. Am I jaded to regular prices? Maybe, but I find that I am always waiting on the clearance pricing and always start there first. I don’t care about whether it’s last season’s style, or just out of season stock. But, my biggest thrift store purchases are always books on 50% off day. There are always awesome books there and it’s nice to have a variety of kids books for my book worm child. That way if we can’t get to the library any given week, there is plenty on his shelf. I dread buying at the book stores, and I love Scholastic for kids since we have a warehouse locally and I love their sales twice a year to the public, phenomenal pricing and great to give for birthdays and Christmas. I too would never buy a mattress used and I do prefer my major appliances to be new as long as they have a great energy star rating. We bought a new washer and dryer almost 9 years ago and I didn’t think twice as long as it could do what I needed. Large capacity (ours is a double-triple load size), front load and energy efficient. Granted we waited for our deal to come rather than pay full price and have done our best to maintain it over the years. We have repaired it rather than replace it, computer components just don’t last, but that could be said for just about anything with a chip in it. But overall a great deal over the years. Will I buy our next tv new? Doubt it, unless hubby has a bigger say. So many people are just giving their sets away that work perfectly fine just to get the latest model. I personally would be satisfied with free 🙂 I don’t need all the latest gizmos and gadgets the newer tvs have. And, I still manage to find a vcr someone is giving away when ours has konked out in the past. If it happens again, I hope to find it that way again. We have plenty of VHS tapes that work just fine, why replace them on DVD when I don’t have to. However, I must say I prefer to always buy shoes brand new, clearance, but new. Only exception is when my mom hands me down a pair. I’m just particular about that one.

  9. Great question! I think buying second-hand or heavily discounted items has definitely affected my view of retail prices. When I see an athletic tank at Sports Authority for $35, I balk. Same goes with a $80 dress from The Limited. While the items themselves are attractive to me, their inflated costs are incredibly off-putting. I always think “I could get something similar at TJMaxx for less than $10.” It’s really tough for me to pay even sale prices at department stores when I know I can find something similar for less.

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