Think Twice and Maybe Even a Third Time Before Buying New

by Katy on January 6, 2014 · 20 comments


Because consumer goods have become so unbelievably cheap, it’s easy to just buy new stuff whenever a want or need strikes. When The Dollar Tree sells multipacks of socks for a buck and Old Navy sells flip-flops for the same price, where’s the incentive to buy used, fix what’s broken or hold off on a new purchase?

But I follow The Compact and I try to buy nothing new. It’s something I’ve been doing since 2007.

Need an example?

My fifteen-year-old son collects international soccer jerseys, (which he finds at Goodwill) and carefully hangs them all in his closet. However, some recent good scores means he currently has more jerseys than hangers. I really like an organized closet and have scored enough wooden hangers through thrifting to supply both our coat closet, (no door, so it needs to look tidy) and our bedroom closet. However, my son’s closet is a mish-mash of random tubular hangers. I looked at his closet and had a flash thought that maybe I should start fresh and buy him a few packs of brand new white hangers.

After all, the hanger packs are only a buck apiece.

But I feel strongly about not supporting unnecessary manufacture of new goods, especially plastic ones with a limited life span. I realized that I had plenty of mismatched hangers on the mostly-shut-down-for-winter outdoor clothesline. Yes, they were kind of grubby, but I put them through the dishwasher with the next load and now my son has everything he needs. They’re neither austere wood, nor does he have a single color scheme, but he now has enough hangers.

My son asked for more hangers, not matching hangers!

By following The Compact and only buying used, I have a buffer zone between myself and the buying of new or even used items. I have to think twice before I make a purchase, and because it’s a pain in the tuchus to find specific used things, it sparks my make it do creativity.

And to think twice before buying new stuff will never be regretted. And anyway, the last thing this planet needs are more plastic hangers.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Krystal January 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I have found that anytime I think I need to buy something like hangers, I can find the solution at home already if I think about it for a couple hours or days, rather than rush out to make a single trip to buy that one. cheap. plastic. thing. I thought I needed. I’m a minimalist as well, so it’s not like I have a ton of extra stuff/projects just hanging around.

I do have a limited wardrobe, and when I have a “new” (read: generally thrifted, clothing swap find, or consignment store purchase), I have to let something go. However, because both my husband I love soccer, we’ve been a little leniently with our jerseys 🙂 I found him a vintage jersey on eBay of one of his favorite players far less than would have been for new or unworn–it’s not hard to find used jerseys!


Megyn January 6, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I actually just found a HUGE lot of wood hangers (100+) off of Craigslist for $30. I waited over 3 years to find them used! Of course, this came after I had just purchased two packs of cheap, plastic ones brand new since our boys had broken so many that we just didn’t have enough to hang our clothes on, and we were getting desperate. My problem with buying used is that it now seems things are MORE expensive to buy used than to buy new. Like with hangers, I’ve seen a pack of 5 at Savers for $2 when I could get a pack of 12, all the same color, for $1 at Target. I actually got replacement Ikea glasses at Goodwill for more than it would have been to just buy a new 6 pack. I see this far too much that it’s making me feel a little jaded with buying second hand for cheaper items. I mean, when I routinely see obvious Dollar Tree brand items at Goodwill for $2+, I cringe. How do you remedy this when your conscience tells you to buy used, but your pocket book can’t afford it?!


NMPatricia January 6, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I have encountered the same thing – stuff being more at Goodwill than new. I try to remember (and yes, I do remember the posts about the dubious nature of Goodwill) that they are helping disabled. I also just try to not buy. But I don’t have any children at home right now.


Lynda January 10, 2014 at 10:03 am

I’ve noticed the same thing and find it aggravating. Particularly because we have several thrift stores near us that are privately owned businesses and rather than supporting non-profit organizations. But, really, I am just not happy about spending more on a used item from a Thrift store than I would be spending on that same item at a retail store. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The primary purpose, for me, of buying at thrift stores is to save money followed by the added environmentally sound bonus of cutting back on all the stuff being made and thrown into landfills. Why are so many thrift stores doing this now? Should we let them know how we feel? Would they change their pricing practices?


laurie matzko January 6, 2014 at 3:14 pm

I’ve read your blog for a couple of years now, and I love all of the great information that I have learned from it. Here is my question/situation…I would love to buy used items to replace those items that are broken/need to be replaced. I have gone to my local Goodwill stores, and I’ve never found a single thing. I have taken time to look through, and I end up feeling like I wasted my time. I keep trying because I think that it is important, but it’s really frustrating to never find anything. Any tips?


PoppyEcho January 6, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Hear Hear, Katy!

Giving up the tyranny of having matching things is one way to set yourself free. TYRANNY!
Towels, glasses, hangers, plates etc. bah humbug to matching!

The family who have the blog “This sorta old life” have the most beautiful set of mismatching 1970s seemingly garish plates that look FABULOUS together. So inspiring.

Megyn I know what you mean about seeing dollar store stuff priced higher at the thrifts. Try to laugh at the absurdity of life maybe?

Socks are hard though.


Katie January 10, 2014 at 3:59 pm

I dream of mismatched white-on-white dishes, but I LOVE that 70’s plate collection! Pretty neat how clearly she laid out the principles that makes them all work together, too.


Katie January 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm

This post was super inspiring. Your blog always gets me excited about finding satisfying ways to make things work without buying more crap. Thanks, Katy!


Patti January 6, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Maybe a freecycle notice? I often have way too many hangers and I am sure others do, too. But I am like you, Katy, and try to wait a day or two to find a solution. Sometimes the solution comes to me out of nowhere and it is always such a surprise. One way I recently saved $$ was when I cooked 2 lbs. of dried beans. I wanted to freeze them but I was out of freezer baggies. Usually I would go to the store but I didn’t want to waste my gas on one item so I looked around and found a roll of plastic to make bags from my Food Saver. I had bought it at a yard sale for $10 and it came with two rolls of plastic to make your own bags. I was “saving” them because the plastic is so expensive (kind of like saving your good china to use “someday”). I made the bags, froze the beans, and the new ones are so much thicker than the baggies that I am sure I can wash and reuse many times over. And Megyn, I agree: our thrift stores are becoming ridiculous with their prices on things. They say it is because people are buying stuff to put on eBay but who cares? I am sure the stores are selling a lot less than before due to their crazy pricing policies. I just hope they are putting more in the landfill when it doesn’t sell.


Tna January 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Funny, I’ve needed some hangers for about three years and finally bought a pack of 12 for a buck. Now I have twenty hangers that will last me for years. I never buy much of anything new or used so it really doesn’t shame me that I enjoy the esthetic design pleasure of having all my clothes hanging on matching white wire hangers instead of folded on shelves. I do like thrift stores but I’m tired of wasting time searching for something I need. I’ve been considering moving and my brother said well at least it won’t be hard for you to move your one box of stuff. Ya, but now the box will have some white wire hangers on top.


cathy January 6, 2014 at 10:36 pm

It seems to me that one of the real benefits of trying to not buy new is that it forces you to think about whether you really need another thing anyway. I mean, how often have you seen something (for your house, or an article of clothing or whatever) that struck you as so perfect, but you couldn’t get it right then, and when you could get it, you found you didn’t really like it as much as you thought you did–so you passed on it?
I agree that it’s annoying to see used merchandise priced higher than the same thing new. We’re on a super tight budget, but I’m finding the best solution is just to buy less–especially from places that carry cheap stuff like Dollar Tree, Walmart, Target, etc. Too often, that cheap stuff comes at a high price to the planet–even if you buy it second-hand. And as much as I love thrifting–and generally have the patience to wait until I find what I need–plenty of people hate shopping at thrift stores. I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I know that when I do buy new, I challenge myself to get the best quality I can afford so whatever it is rarely needs replacing. The amazing thing to me is that the less I shop, the less we seem to “need.” And I like Katy’s example, because it’s a good reminder to “make it do.”


Maureen January 6, 2014 at 11:00 pm

I think the greatest impact of Katy’s blog is not that we make all of the same decisions she makes, but how it’s obvious from the other comments, we are thinking about our choices. It helps me with each post, to pause before I buy new hangers. Or don’t. And I appreciate a voice that is very frugal for her and her families sake but also has a global vision of the impact of those choices. I really appreciate in all the comments, that so many care to make better choices. When we think, rather than mindlessly buy, we are impacting ourselves, our children and our world. I’ve stopped stressing about every single purchase, but I am mindful of every purchase. That gives me more peace on many different levels. I guess I’m trying to say, if I mindfully decide to buy new hangers, I can and I don’t have to feel bad about it. But, theres a good chance I will make a different choice because I’ve been helped to become aware of different options and choices. Which shows to me, the value of this blog and the comments made on the posts. Cause it’s not just hangers and it’s not just money.


Katy January 7, 2014 at 9:21 am

Even I occasionally buy something new, but it’s never without really weighing the purchase. And then when I do buy new I try to buy local.

I call it conscious consumerism.



Diane January 7, 2014 at 5:24 am

I needed to rearrange my kitchen to find more storage space for large utensils, measuring cups and spoons and other items I use daily. In a burst of inspiration I realized I could hang a metal shower rack that was headed for Goodwill to hold some of the items. It was brilliant!. Now all my items are at my fingertips and my drawers are free from clutter.

Always good to shop at home before heading out to the store. Especially when the temperatures hover at 20 degrees in Texas!


Katy January 7, 2014 at 9:17 am

I love those kind of epiphanies!



betsey January 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

Katie, I am losing weight! I have been making do with safety pins abd belts. So I do not have a problem with consumerism right now. And I am putting a few bucks aside every week to get a new (to me) wardrobe.


Diane C January 7, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I have never been a fan of the tubular plastic hangers. When I married, DH’s home (he was a widower with two grown kids) had hundreds of them. When we bought a new house together, I sorted all the hangers by color and condition. I kept three colors (for DH, college student bonus kid, and his Mom, who has Alzheimer’s). All the rest have been “colorized” and will be sold at our upcoming garage sale. Speaking of such, garage sales are the way to avoid the “more-expensive-at-Goodwill” conundrum. The short-ish answer is that Goodwill has higher overhead than a garage sale or the box stores. GW has to pay folks to sort, organize , package and price everything before it’s good to go. The box store just has to open the boxes and stock the shelves. Also, GW gets a lot of crap, which costs them money to get rid of, so there’s another hidden cost.

Can’t wait for garage sale season to start. Last year, I forced myself to stay away, as I was in the process of moving and didn’t know exactly what I’d need. I admit, I miss the thrill of the hunt.


WilliamB January 8, 2014 at 1:50 am

My solution works on a frugal front but not the nothing-new front. About 10 years ago I bought a box of white tubular hangers from the Container Store, for something less than $.50 each. I’ve found they last a very long time and my tidy soul is soothed by always having matching hangers.

I never would have thought to wash them in the dishwasher – excellent tip.

“And anyway, the last thing this planet needs are more plastic hangers.” This reminds me of a quip: someone needs to cross ball point pens with wire hangers so they multiply rather than disappear mysteriously.


Rebecca B. A. R. January 10, 2014 at 12:03 pm

You could always rough the hangers up a little bit with sandpaper, and spray paint them all the same color if your “really” want them to match. Of course, that is going to the extreme, though.


OnGreenCarpet January 13, 2014 at 6:13 am

If you want those hangers to look all the same, you can try some nice tehniques- painting them or this (just more boy-ish fabric):


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