How to Buy Used

by Katy on October 30, 2012 · 16 comments

I just finished filming a local news segment at the house about the best ways to buy used stuff. (Their title will most likely be more eloquent.) And, as I always do before an interview, I wrote up a chicken-scratchy page of notes. (It helps to focus my thoughts past the cloud of mascara and eyeliner fumes.) Points I want to make, swear words to avoid and an overall theme to my message.

I always end up forgetting the main point, yet can be counted on to babble on about weird and random tangents.

I do like what I wrote out this morning, so I thought I would share the main points with you.

How to Buy Used:

  • Be patient. You will not be able to run into a store and find exactly the thing you were looking for. However, this lag time will help you figure out alternate solutions to the initial need.

  • Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to put the word out. A friend or family member might have an unused whatevermacallit to lend or give you.

  • Peruse Craigslist for specific and bigger items. Just be sure to be safe and employ your street smarts.

  • Think beyond thrift shops. Different consignment shops specialize in teens, women’s wear, men’s wear, baby stuff and household items. Even better, bring unwanted stuff from home and get store credit for your purchases!

  • You can both buy used and give great gifts. Consider giving things you already own to friends and family. Books you’ve loved, family keepsakes and a previously admired item all make great gifts!

  • Consider sharing ownership of rarely used items. My mother and I share a rug shampooer, which works great for us. (Of course, I bought it from Craigslist!)

  • Still squeamish about used stuff? Consider these used things that you use without a second thought. Restaurant napkins, silver wear and dishes; hotel sheets and towels; bowling shoes, your hairstylist’s drape. Then, get over yourself.

  • Simply don’t get that thing you think you wanted in the first place. When you give that purchase some breathing room, you may likely lose interest.

See? And I didn’t even swear!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

joan October 30, 2012 at 11:51 am

Add GoodWill and my favorite: Yard Sales! to your excellent list 🙂


Stephanie October 30, 2012 at 11:58 am

Great list and all so true. I would add plan a little in advance so those new to buying used. You may need to hunt for snow boots a size or two ahead so that you’re not unprepared when that first snow hits and your kids want to go sledding. When you’re used to being able to run out to target for every little want you have your think ahead planning skills become pretty lax.


marie October 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Oh I love it ! (get over yourself)
It is so true, even the New clothes that are purchased should be washed before wearing.


Naomi October 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm

That’s so true. I have friends who are squeamish about “second hand clothes”, but the statistics on how often clothes in “New” shops are tried on is huge – I think it was something like an average of 12 times per item.


Diane October 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm

And because I am paranoid for very good reason….besides washing clothing and drying on high, clean all wooden furniture…especially cracks and crevices (spray with alcohol) and check extremely carefully for bed bugs. Upholstered items can be steam cleaned to kill any potential critters…but you’re still taking a chance on them.


John Benton October 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I am a tool nut and craftsman. I purchase most of my tools used from sources that Katy mentioned. I also make extra income by reselling stuff on eBay. The market is not as strong as it was before the recession, but I still make a few bucks. I have expertise in certain areas and only buy stuff I am familiar with for resale. One of my interests is with vintage electronics and lab gear. I do have a radiation monitor that I check out esoteric lab equipment and electronic purchases. I have found some hot stuff and turned it over to the proper state agencies. I have an anecdotal story. I was with a friend of mine rummaging through and estate sale. The gentleman was a scientist of some kind. My friend found this cigar box with some cruddy looking metal stuff in it. He bought it for fifty cents. It contained platinum crucibles use in labs and sold the lot to a precious metals dealer for $15,000.


Michelle H. October 31, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Wow! And I thought Katy’s antique marbles were an awesome haul.


Another Rebecca October 30, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Two more good tips: keep a list, and shop prepared.

I keep a running list of things I am on the lookout for, like a tv table, and the dimensions I need it to be. Also a list of current kid sizes, including shoes, or arm and leg measurements, as second hand items have often shrunk or become misshapen.

I also always have a small tape measure in my purse to check dimensions, nothing like getting the perfect bookcase home to find its five inches too big, and this keeps me from constantly calling my husband to check measurements at home while I am shopping.


patti October 30, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Good tips!!! I especially like the one about giving used gifts. I have started doing this more and more. We have a book that has made the rounds in our family because each person who has read it has enjoyed it so much that another one wants to read it (it happens to be a second hand book I bought that is written about the joys of each month of the year). I also attended a wedding this year where the couple registered for a very expensive Irish cut crystal pattern. I happened to have a piece that had been given to me but I had never enjoyed it due to it being so formal and expensive (it was just sitting in my china cabinet). I felt like giving this to them was a win-win situation!! It has me thinking of looking around to see what else I have that I don’t appreciate or need but someone else would. I sure wish my parents and in-laws would do this instead of waiting until they die to bestow their treasures on us. It would be nice to receive a gift from the heart vs. any new thing from the store.


dusty October 31, 2012 at 4:19 am

you may want to mention this to them, I did with my in-laws and they started giving away various things out of their home to people in the family. They seem to enjoy doing it now and in fact everytime I go there I end up with something that they want to “get rid of”. Also, we no longer give Christmas gifts of any kind. We donate to charity and either go out to dinner or have dinner at someone’s home. The only people who get gifts at Christmas are the kids, usually gift cards.


Adrienne October 31, 2012 at 4:42 am

What is the name of the book???


Renee CA October 30, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I have had very positive experiences with craigslist. Met the nicest people, both buying and selling.


Shelly October 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm

We had great luck with Craig’s list, we found a wonderful solid maple table with matching chairs and it was in perfect condition. We also share ownership of a pressure washer with the neighbor. There are a few items we don’t own because we can borrow them from ours neighbors and there are a few things we own that they borrow from us. It works out great to share tools you don’t need very often.


Jan October 31, 2012 at 3:41 am

Ha! I love this. Especially writing out swear words to avoid. 🙂 And the idea of waiting. So many wrong purchases are made so quickly. Even ten minutes of cooling-off time would save a bundle!


jennifer November 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I love your ‘squeamish’ suggestion – perfect and so well said. I will definitely be quoting you to anyone who looks at me strangely when I say, ‘yes, I picked that up from the dump.’ Even though where I pick items up is not really a dump, it’s the ‘freebie barn/swap shop’ located at my local transfer station – I just call it that, as that’s where I take my trash and ‘go shopping’.
You rock!


LaNell October 29, 2022 at 5:49 am

Great repeat….thanks. My two favorites:
1. Don’t buy the thing you wanted in the first place.
2. Get over yourself!
Haha……ain’t that the truth! Enjoy your weekend!


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