What if you could buy much of what your family needs and wants at a huge discount? Seriously huge. Much cheaper than discount store prices. Is that something you’d be interesting in?
Consider buying more used stuff. You’ll get all the utility at a fraction of the cost. The only thing missing is that new product smell and the original box.
But be careful when deciding whether to buy new or used. The wrong used product can end up costing you money – or worse. Here are some ideas to inform your decision-making, inspired by legendary tightwad Dave Ramsey.
Stuff you should TRY to buy used:
Cars. The classic buy-used item. Look for a car that’s at least two years old. Save even more by selecting a used car that’s cheap enough that you can pay cash for it.
Exercise equipment. It’s bought with the best intentions, but so much exercise equipment ends up in the basement storeroom. Let’s be honest. The same thing might happen to the stuff you buy – so, buy it used.
Video games. You might save up to $20 on a $60 new game release if you can wait a few months until the original owners get bored and sell it back to the video store or put it on eBay.
Baby clothes. Play your cards right and you should never have to buy new clothes for the little one. Family members can do that while you scour church bazaars and yard sales for adorable little outfits at $3 a piece.
Books. Kind of a no-brainer. The words don’t change between owners. Looking for an even better deal? Renew your library card. You might have to wait a few days for that hot new romance novel, but it will be… free.
Hand tools. You can’t go wrong stocking your toolbox with used gear. Tools are simple, tough and it’s easy to judge their condition. A $2 used hammer works just as well as the $17 model from Home Depot.
Furniture. Instead of buy short-lifespan bookshelves and dressers from IKEA, look for quality pieces at very affordable prices on Craiglist.com. They might be cheaper, and they will definitely look better and last longer.
Stuff you should ALWAYS buy new:
Sports safety gear. Many pieces of protective equipment, including bike helmets, are designed to protect you against one impact. After that, they should be replaced. Since you can’t know a safety item’s true history, always buy new. The risk/reward calculus just doesn’t work out when you buy a motorcycle helmet at a yard sale.
Tires. See above. Tires are crucial to the safe operation of your car. This is another place where the risk to your family isn’t worth buying used. Safety aside, you probably have no way of knowing how much life is left in a used tire. You haven’t saved anything if a used tire goes flat in two weeks – especially if that leaves you stranded on the side of the Interstate.
Computer software. It’s one thing to buy a used program from a trusted buddy, who provides all the documentation and license. It’s quite another to score software from some random seller on the Internet. Software piracy and stolen licenses are serious problems. In addition to possibly supporting intellectual theft, you may also fall victim to glitches in your “bargain” software.
Underwear. Yep, we did have to mention this one. People actually buy used underwear – and swimsuits. You. Should. Not.
Wedding Rings. Again, hard to believe, but we do indeed have to offer some clarification here. A family heirloom or cool vintage piece is OK. But surely, you know better than to buy a “diamond” ring from some dude on the Internet. As for those wedding bands, your fiancée will not swoon with love when she finds out you guys are wearing a set you bought from a bitter divorcee in Des Moines.
Humidifiers. If you just looked at that yard sale or Goodwill humidifier, we’d be done here. Mold and bacteria are drawn to old humidifiers like kittens to milk. New humidifiers are cheap. Buy one new-in-the-box.
Not a very comprehensive list, but hopefully it serves as a reminder that there’s more to a bargain than a cheap upfront price. But with a bit of common sense, you can save a ton of dough buying “pre-owned.”