With the Christmas shopping season upon us, there is increasing pressure to buy, buy, buy. The gifts! The outfits! The decorations! The parties! The travel! It’s no wonder so many people go broke around the holidays. But, there’s one solution you may not have considered that could save you serious dough and maybe even a bit of sanity. Ready for it?
Have you ever heard the phrase “the thrill of the hunt”? Well, that’s how I feel about buying used. I get an actual high from finding exactly the item I have been searching for at a fraction of the retail price. This high is compounded when I find an item in its original packaging or with the tag still attached. When given a compliment on a thrifted item, I’ve been known to reply with nothing other than what I paid for it.
Stranger on the street: “Hey, great shirt!”
Me: “Girrrlllll, fifty cents!”
I pounce on a thrifty find with the zeal of a lioness stalking a gazelle. Co-shoppers beware. I kid you not, it’s a source of real enjoyment for me. But, for those of you who may need a bit more encouragement, here are some of the merits of buying used over new.
1. Perhaps the most alluring reason for buying used is that it saves you money. Plain and simple. Depending on the item, the savings could be hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Sure, there are the obvious and widely accepted forms of buying used, such as purchasing a preowned vehicle with low mileage. Yet, the everyday, small purchases can add up too. Clothes, purses, jewelry, shoes, toys, sports equipment, home decor, kitchen supplies, furniture, you name it – it’s all good!
2. It’s easier than ever. In our consumer society, people are constantly replacing and upgrading their belongings. Although this practice has its own negative implications, the undeniable silver lining is that there is always an abundance of high quality products entering the used goods market. From brick and mortar thrift shops to online consignment stores like thredUP, there are no shortage of places to purchase used items. And to make it even more simple, you can often search for exactly what you need by typing a few key words into your browser’s search bar. Some sites even allow you to narrow your search criteria by size, style, or color. Piece. Of. Cake.
3. Buying used no longer has to mean buying grimy/broken/torn/faded/stained/outdated/ugly items. As I mentioned in my second point, there is a constant stream of gently used, on trend items being donated or sold. Most consignment stores will scrutinize the items that are brought in and turn down anything that is soiled, torn, or faded. Certain outdated styles are not even accepted in trendier shops. What this means for you, the shopper, is that you don’t have to sift through mountains of ‘90s era sweater vests. To be sure, there remain a great deal of used merchandise stores that do not scrutinize their donations, and therefore do not provide the same shopping experience as a higher end consignment store. Just know that, whatever your preferred shopping style is, there is a used goods store out there for you.
4. Your purchases support worthy causes. For instance, Schoola, a site that sells gently used clothing, provides a venue that enables schools to fund programs impacted by strict budget cuts. Goodwill helps hundreds of thousands of individuals get the help and training they need to find good jobs. Now those are things to feel good about.
5. Buying used gives new life to something that may no longer be useful for someone else. As a result, less waste is sent to landfills, where it may ultimately contribute to contaminated drinking water, polluted oceans, and wasting of natural resources. Americans are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the world’s garbage. According to a recent article published by Frontier Group regarding garbage composition in the United States, a disturbing 29.7% of garbage sent to landfills in 2014 consisted of “containers and packaging”, 20.2% consisted of “non-durable goods”, including clothing, and 20.4% consisted of “durable goods”, such as furniture and appliances. The remaining percentage was split between mainly compostable materials. Guys! That means that the majority of trash sitting in landfills is the packaging that we rip off of brand new merchandise and immediately throw away! If Americans made a concerted effort to buy fewer new items and, instead, reused, repurposed, or repaired items that were just as easily accessible, the positive implications would be truly significant.
Sounds simple, right? Not always. Many people find it challenging to adjust to the mindset that buying used requires. Buying used forces people to be patient, rather than impulsive shoppers, a novel experience for many people in a culture of instant gratification. It challenges people to confront deep seated notions about what types of things are acceptable to give as gifts, and what types of purchases should be reserved only for oneself. For many people, buying used carries a stigma – they may fear being judged by others or missing out on the latest technology or fashion.
I get it. I used to have the same mindset. In fact, at times, I still struggle with the idea of purchasing something used to give as a gift, not because of my own reservations about the item, but because of the uncertainty surrounding how it will be received. While giving gifts is one of my favorite things to do, the gift itself is intended to bless the recipient. If the recipient is not on board with owning used items, then the gift may be unappreciated and, therefore, potentially wasted. However, in my experience, most gifts (if given from the heart and with the recipient in mind) are received with appreciation and, if I’m lucky, genuine pleasure. When in doubt, I always refer to the timeless adage, “It’s the thought that counts.”
So, here’s a challenge. Choose one item on your shopping list this Christmas and buy it used. Search eBay for that American Girl doll your daughter has been begging for. Browse like-new, refurbished iPhones for your tech-conscious teenager. Check out an online consignment store to find festive outfits for the whole family.
We don’t have to go broke over Christmas. Or any time of year for that matter.