The Benefits of Buying Virtually Everything Used

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Most folks understand that buying a new car is — on paper at least — a poor financial decision. Buying a used car generally provides substantial long-term savings. But did you know there’s a growing number of folks who try to buy everything used? Or if not everything, then at least as much as possible.

Take Katy Wolk-Stanley, for instance, who bills herself as The Non-Consumer Advocate. Wolk-Stanley takes her motto from a Depression-era saying: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” On her blog, she’s posted a list of the things she lets herself by new, which basically boils down to underwear and perishables.

(LIST: 12 Things You Should Stop Buying Now)

I had a chance to meet Wolk-Stanley recently, and she proudly gave me a tour of her home, pointing out the used furniture she’s acquired and telling me the story behind each piece. Her dining room chairs, for instance, are from a 1920s Carnegie library and are solid oak with a very classic “craftsman” style.

“I had gone for a walk in my neighborhood and spied a big pile of unwanted stuff on someone’s porch,” Wolk-Stanley said. “That included a grouping of antique chairs. I knocked on the door and asked if they’d sell them to me, which the owner was all too pleased to do. I bought 11 chairs for a grand total of $75. They look perfect in my 1914 Portland bungalow!”

Or there’s Ryan Finlay, who scours Craigslist for good deals. “When I started buying on Craigslist, I had to get past the stigma of buying things used,” Finlay says. “Friends would laugh when they learned that I’d purchased certain items secondhand instead of new. I have much more confidence now, having become very skilled at finding good deals. I usually buy things on average for 10% of the new price.”

Finlay saves big bucks by buying used furniture, appliances, and technology. But more than that, he’s discovered he can make a living buying and selling used stuff on Craigslist. You can read about Finlay’s adventures at ReCraigslist.com.

(MORE: 5 Weird Things People Are Stealing While the Economy’s in Bad Shape)

Even I get in on the act in my own way. My last car was a used Mini Cooper, which may be the best car I’ve ever owned. My next car will also be a used Mini Cooper. And while much of what I buy is new — no question — my wife and I have discovered the frugal siren call of gently used goods. Much of my wardrobe was built from thrift stores or the used gear sales at REI. I buy used books. I buy used tools. I buy refurbished computers.

But maybe the King of Used is my neighbor across the street. John (as we’ll call him) is a retired shop teacher, whom I’ve dubbed the real millionaire next door. Through a passionate devotion to thrift (and some savvy investing), John managed to build wealth on a modest income. After living next door to him for seven years, I’ve come to appreciate his frugal habits: He re-uses kitchen bags, is parsimonious with paper towels, and cuts up old garden hoses for other purposes. Maybe that sounds like a miserable life, but these thrifty habits haven’t cut into his quality of life. Instead, they allow John to spend our winters in New Zealand and our summers on his boat in Alaska.

Buying used isn’t just for weirdos or the working poor. Buying used is for anyone who’d rather pinch pennies on keeping up appearances so they can spend the big bucks on things that matter more.

2 comments
NinaStarusev
NinaStarusev

you can buy used stuff here:


www.goods4all.com

Ai-LingLogan
Ai-LingLogan

Pinch a heck of a lot more than pennies by buying secondhand - If you are in the market for a nice leather jacket, for instance (which will look nearly the same used as new anyway).  I bought mine for more than $300 used, and my mom considers hers a bargain from a sale at $150, but I saw several similar styles on a Goodwill rack going for $25, $15, or even $10!  My partner works in construction and goes through jeans like tissue paper, so I think its a better idea for him to pay $2-$5 a pair rather than $40-$50 since they always end up ripped and covered in paint anyway.