How Choosing to Buy Used Saves Both Money and Time

by Katy on December 30, 2015 · 14 comments

Note: This post first appeared at

Do you struggle with the feeling that you’ll never have enough hours in your day nor dollars in the bank? You’re not alone.
Enter The Compact, a worldwide buy-nothing-new movement where participants choose to abstain from buying almost anything new for one year periods. (Everyone has a few personal exceptions. Me? I allow new underwear, socks and personal care items.)
Thousands of people have joined this voluntary simplicity group, yet do so for entirely different reasons. For many, the appeal is financial, while for others it’s for environmental or humanitarian reasons.
I’ve been doing The Compact since 2007, and although it would sound more impressive to say it was for some lofty reason, my decision was straight up financial. But I quickly began to notice an odd change in my life, which was that my busy, busy life suddenly gained some much needed breathing room. This made no sense, as shouldn’t having to do the legwork of sourcing used instead of new take more time not less?
This surprising side effect continued and proved to be no anomaly. Here’s what I learned:

When you spend too much money, you have to work the hours to earn that money

Buying used and spending less money allows you to earn a smaller income. This may seem obvious, but somehow it isn’t. It’s easy to fall into the trap of night after night of pricey takeout meals, or to indulge ourselves with expensive treats as a reward for hard work. These spending rationalizations can undo the benefit of a good salary.

Less money spent = fewer hours required at work.

Recreational shopping is almost eliminated

By choosing to forgo new purchases, you’ll no longer waste your weekend hours scoping out bargains at the mall or on cybershopping.

Less time shopping = more hours available for activities that enhance your life.

Less stuff entering your home means fewer hours spent on housekeeping

If you have a tendency to pick up cool but unnecessary items or find yourself unable to resist a bargain, chances are your home has a clutter issue. All that stuff that passes your threshold needs to stored, organized and cleaned. By choosing to only buy used, less stuff comes into your house and your time at home will suddenly open up.

Less stuff in your house = fewer hours spent cleaning.


When you choose to stop buying new, you free up both your money and energy for the things that really matter. Draw that line in the sand, and you won’t be as vulnerable to Madison Avenue, as all their new stuff is off limits anyway. Annie Leonard writes about a “work-watch-spend treadmill” in The Story of Stuff, and perhaps it’s time to step off that treadmill. Who knows, you might even get to stand still for a moment or two.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugal in the Valley December 30, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Your blog is so darn good. I have spent the last week reading it from cover to cover (as it were). You are a very funny writer..thanks for all the tips…


Jenn December 30, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Although I think I’ve somewhat unintentionally been doing the compact for years now, jumping on officially for 2016 seems like a great idea. I’m actually trying to cut back on consuming in a number of different ways – even secondhand shopping – for financial, clutter, and ethical reasons, but this is an excellent reminder of priorities.


betty December 31, 2015 at 6:54 am

I have been reading/following your blog for the last 6-9 months, and have found it to be of tremendous help to me. This year has brought some life-changing events, I lost a brother, and trying to live a more meaningful life is something that I desperately want to do. Reading your blog has helped clarify some of my feelings around spending money on ‘stuff’ that no longer matters to me. So, in short, I’m also going to join the Compact, as I think it will help me get to a better place.

I want to thank you, and the other commenters, on your innovative take on what really matters in life; and it’s not more stuff.



Freda Farmer December 31, 2015 at 7:54 am

I just found your website through the Frugal Girl. Awesome insights and tips!
I “compacted” with myself three years ago when I semi-retired and relocated to be a grandmother. Best thing I ever did, and the benefits you list are right on!


Vickie December 31, 2015 at 8:34 am

I joined the compact last week. Although, I’ve been following a “buy used” and clutter busting lifestyle for a few years now, it’s nice to actually commit in a public way to it, so I hold myself more accountable.

Thanks for the the continued encouragement, Katy. I admire your style and commitment!!


Isabelle December 31, 2015 at 8:40 am

I totally agree with you about saving money, but not so sure about saving actual time… When I have to make calls/emails back and forth (Craiglist) or drive around town to pick-up stuff or keep searching at different second-hands stores for what I am looking for, I feel like I am losing a lot of time. I wish I could just buy everything new because I have so much money floating around. In and out of the store, that’s it. This I find would save me time (and having to work more to pay for those new things would not be an issue since I would already be so rich… in this fantasy of mine, of course!).
We are facing a year of having to look way more into buying used instead of new and this is an added stress. I already do look for used stuff, but don’t enjoy it as much when I am obligated to for financial reasons.

Happy New Year to you and your family!


JD December 31, 2015 at 9:18 am

Isabelle, I am sorry you are facing that kind of year. We have had that for the last five years, since my husband could no longer work but was too young for SS until this year and too “healthy” for disability. It’s a lot more fun to buy used and pinch pennies when you know you don’t have to do that just to survive, I agree.
Here’s hoping your year is less stressful than anticipated, and that you find joy and freedom in your thrifty skills, as well as success!


Isabelle December 31, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Thanks JD! And happy new year to you!


JD December 31, 2015 at 9:02 am

While I haven’t formally committed to the compact, I am informally committed to it, if that makes sense. The challenges I’ve faced so far have been:
1. Not finding a (used) item that I truly need, when it’s going to cost me not to replace it in a timely fashion, cost me a lot of time looking over and over again in thrift stores, or cost me a good bit of mileage, gas and time because I’m in a very rural area, and online sellers/freecyclers are almost exclusively 50-60 miles away from me each way.
2. I’ve had several bad experiences with a used item breaking down/dying shortly after I got it. Because of that, I shy away from motorized, moving, or electronic items which are used.
However, that ‘s the cons. The pros are much as Katy laid them out, and there are enough pros to keep me trying to go used as much as possible. I just agreed to buy a used appliance, but this is from a family member, so I’m more comfortable with the usage and care I know it’s had. And I love the creativity of making or repairing an item as much as I love getting a good bargain, so Non-Consumer is the way to go!


beth December 31, 2015 at 11:56 am

I can barely remember a time in my life where we bought new. When I was little, if we wanted new, we saved TV stamps and when we had enough books filled, we got ‘new’ at Kroger, but free with our stamps. We got at least one iron and one toaster that I remember. Buying ‘new’ would put an end to my being able to afford killer designer clothes, leather shoes and purses, wool and cashmere sweaters, Haviland and Limoge table ware. New! I don’t think it would improve my lifestyle one smidgen to buy new! Not when I can pay a quarter for a Nautica fleece pullover and a quarter for a Ralph Lauren denim shirt at our flea market. New! If I bought new, Id look as poor as I really am lol.


Mariana Cisowska December 31, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Of course I can only be responsible for my own actions but I feel like it would be so so much easier to reach all the non-consumerism goals if my friends were frugal and did not want to spend money / go out / grab drinks / see movies all the time!
Need more frugal friends 🙂


Ruby December 31, 2015 at 1:27 pm

The first year after I graduated from college, I was making a whopping $9,000 a year gross pay. This was 1983, and I didn’t owe any loans because it wasn’t much of thing back then and I had worked to put myself through school. I did owe a small car payment to my mother, but that was my only debt.

I shared an apartment with a girl I worked with, and we discovered, practically across the street, a Salvation Army thrift store. We dressed great for pennies, which was wonderful because our wardrobes were down to nothing from struggling through school. My mom was horrified and said, “Those places are for poor people.” I said, “Mom, I am poor!” 😀


Karen December 31, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Katie I have been following you about 4 years now and have slowly and surely bought less and less. I have started buying everything I can used or fixing broken things instead of throwing them out and replacing them.

I would sign the compact except for one problem. I am very tall and cannot find any clothes at the thrift shop to fit me. I have looked around years ago and finally gave up.

I guess I could sew my clothes like I did in the olden days before online shopping but frankly I don’t want to.

So I will continue to be frugal in all other areas. Thanks for all the years of good advice and support.


Carla January 7, 2016 at 5:58 am

While I understand your point that less spending =fewer hours at work, some jobs don’t have part-time options. In the industry, my field actually typically requires overtime, which you don’t get paid extra for since you are salaried. Since I like my job and I get paid well for it, I do take advantage of my good salary to pay for things like lunch in the cafeteria instead of bringing my own. I still try to be frugal so I can meet my financial goals (saving for retirement, paying off mortgage, etc.). Curious how others balance this.


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