Monday, April 15, 2013

The Art of Buying Second-Hand

I have made no secret of my love for buying second-hand. When you strive to live debt-free like me, buying new is usually not a realistic option. This last weekend I found a "mother load" kind of second-hand purchase: a Kong full-size keyboard

I bought this at the thrift store this last weekend. The retail price for this keyboard and stand new was $1200, and I purchased it for..... $79.

Of course with any purchase like this you can expect that a little elbow grease is required, and that is where my husband came in. 6 of the keys didn't work and when my husband pulled it apart, he noticed someone had spilled something on the keyboard. So some rubbing alcohol, brasso, and q-tips later, my keyboard was working perfectly and ready for my not-so-talented fingers to play it. 

 Many people in the past have asked me how I manage to buy so many things second-hand, especially things that don't look thrifted. They often tell me that they are aren't good are shopping second-hand, don't have the patience for it, don't have the time, etc.

I want to take this opportunity to share with you all some of my best tricks and tips for buying second-hand. Nearly every item in my home was previously owned, and I am not ashamed of that! In fact, I am so happy that I have been able to create a loving and attractive atmosphere in my home and a wardrobe that I like for very little money.

Tip #1: Pray First
I believe this is the most skipped step in buying anything. For any need, whether big or small, pray first about it and wait for God to move. Take a look at THIS POST which talks about this in greater detail. God cares about how we use HIS money, and he will often help us to use it wisely if we ask for guidance. If you see something you want, pray first and wait a few days before you go back and buy it. I've saved so much money by God providing me with what I need in unexpected ways.

Tip #2: Know where to go
If you haven't found a good thrift store in your area, ask around or look on the internet. By scoping out all the thrift stores in your area, you will be able to find the best few to frequent. Some thrift stores can be pricey, so make sure you are going to one where you can get good deals.

Tip #3: Schedule time to go
My trips to the thrift store are well planned. When people say that don't have the time or patience to go to thrift stores, it is because they have not made the time for it. I usually go once or twice a month on thrift store trips (mostly to find modest skirts for you all!). I always plan these trips ahead of time and make sure I have enough time to make a thorough search of the store. When I know "this is thrift store time", I am more inclined to take my time.

Tip #4: Search thoroughly
This is the part where most people hiccup. Shopping at the thrift store is very different from shopping at a regular store. You need to take the time to sort through things, and yes, that can be frustrating. The way I see it is I am getting paid for my time with the money I am saving. If I need shirts, I will park myself in front of the shirts and quickly go through them one at a time. Yes it takes a little time, but you will be so surprised at what you are able to find when you are patient and go through everything in the section you need.

Tip #5: Go for Quality
Always look for quality items over stylish items. I try to go for more classic items which will not go out of date easily. When going through clothing, sort through one at a time, and when you find something which is of good quality, pull it out and look it over. Does the fabric "pill" at all? Are the seams tight? Does it look used? Can the stains or marks on it be removed? Only if it passes those tests will I decide if it has a place in my home or closet. You don't want your closet or your home to look used

Tip #6: Go through the cart again at the end
Before you check-out at the store be sure to look over each item in your cart one more time. Be sure that everything you picked up is something you should spend money on. Every time I do this I end up putting a few things back. Yes they are thrifted items, and therefore usually inexpensive, but they still cost money. A quote I often say is "We lose our money in pennies".

Tip #7: Broken doesn't mean worthless
Many people will not buy certain things second hand because they fear that the item is broken. Or perhaps you pass something over because it is obviously broken. The best way to save money is when a little effort is required, because many people are quick to throw things away which need simple repairs they aren't willing to take the time to do. Like my new keyboard, which just needed the circuit-board cleaned. Sure sometimes you won't be able to fix the issue, but more often than not you will be able to, and you'll save even more money as a result.

Tip #8: Have fun and Bring a friend
Thrifting can be fun if you bring a friend along. My mom is my thrifting buddy, and we love going "treasure hunting". It is always good to have a second pair of eyes to judge if something is worth the price

Tip #9: Sometimes the best thrifting is free
Always keep your eyes and ears out for free items. Craigslist has a "Free" section, where you can sometimes find a good deal or two. Friends and family will often have things they want to get rid of, and they will be happy to give it to you. I was ready to throw our old couch out next to the dumpster when a friend mentioned she was looking for a couch for her sunroom. We gave it to her and were as happy to see it go as they were to receive it. Many items in my home are things people I know were getting rid of, and I was able to repurpose them. When people know you are willing and happy to take second-hand items, they will be happy to tell you when they have things for your consideration.

Tip #10: Be judicious and say no
When people offer second-hand things to you, really be judicious. Picture where you will put the item, how you will use it. Don't just bring things home because they are free and/or you like them. Your house will fill up very quickly with junk if you are not judicious and if you don't say no sometimes. If someone offers you something you really can't use or you don't like, don't feel bad kindly declining. 

As I come to the end of this post I can't help thinking that so much of what I wrote is common knowledge, but it must not be if so many people continue to ignore the second-hand world in favor of buying new for convenience sake. So enjoy and save your pennies!


  1. I thrift a lot and always go through my stuff before purchasing. I usually end up putting a lot of it back. I love the "We lose our money in pennies" quote. It's so true!

  2. What an amazing find! My piano teacher saved up for YEARS to purchase a Kong. Granted hers was a top of the line one, but to find one for such a great price at a thrift store is truly a blessing from God!

    I need to take time to head to our thrift stores for clothing for my children. It is so easy to run to the store and buy new clothing, but this is one place where I can really save money and I need to focus on it more! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Great post!

    I've also learned over the last year or two that I don't need to be totally limited by things that don't fit me exactly the way I want them to. Often times I'll find a skirt or shirt that is good quality, but to big....a few simple alterations go a long way!

    I have to admit though that I'm often more intimidated buying larger items (like a keyboard) from a thrift store. Did you have a chance to figure out what was wrong with it beforehand or did you take a risk with your husband's ability to fix it?

    1. You are right, I have also learned I can wear a wide variety of sizes.

      I asked the clerk if the keyboard worked and he confirmed that it did but that a few of the keys didn't work. I knew I was buying it for a fraction of what it would cost normally, so I took a chance and got it. I figured even if it cost me $100 to get it fixed, it would still be a fraction of the cost of a used one on craigslist. Luckily my husband was able to fix it for free.

      Sometimes with bigger purchases I will research how much it would normally cost (i.e. how much of a deal I'm getting) as well as how much it would cost to fix.

  4. Good tips! I do get about 40% of my clothes from thrift stores. I once got a really pretty long flowy "hippie" type skirt for only 50 cents because it had a rip along the seam. I fixed it with a needle and thread in about 5 minutes and now I wear it all the time!


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