Shit’s expensive. If you need to buy shit, you should try to make it less expensive. Spend less on the shit you need to buy, and you’ll have more money to spend on your other financial goals. A great way to do this is by buying your shit secondhand.
Gently used, pre-owned shit is often just as good as brand-spanking-new shit, and can always be purchased less expensively than new shit. It can even be free! To really drive this point home, I’m going to start with a by-no-means comprehensive list of shit you can (and should!) get secondhand.
A by-no-means comprehensive list of shit you can get secondhand
Furniture. Sturdy wooden furniture is super easy to get secondhand because people are sometimes desperate to get rid of it. Their cross-country move or extravagant remodel is your good fortune.
Cars. Unless your job is dependent on owning a particular vehicle, then you’re going to save yourself a metric fuckton of money by buying a pre-owned car, even if it’s only a year old.
Clothes. I love that getting-away-with-theft feeling that comes from buying a pair of barely-worn designer shoes at a secondhand boutique for a fifth of their retail price. For those of us who grew up wearing our siblings’ hand-me-downs, secondhand clothes feel perfectly natural.
Video games/books/movies. Let go of the idea of needing to play a game, read a book, or see a movie as soon as it is released. It’ll be just as entertaining a year later when you can buy it used for a pittance… or borrow it from the library.
Sporting equipment. There’s a staggering amount of barely used treadmills, weight benches, skis, and other expensive and bulky gear available on Craigslist for pennies. People make overly ambitious fitness goals, buy the accompanying equipment, and are then desperate to unload it when they get lazy again.
Musical instruments. See above. Everyone who bought their kid a guitar for Christmas only to find it gathering dust six months later would gladly get it out of their house for as little as you’re willing to pay.
How to find stuff secondhand
If you’re on the Internet right now and you’ve never heard of Craigslist, you are operating inside of a truly impressive state of oblivion. Craigslist, you dear, sweet, clueless child, is the website that put a multi-million dollar classifieds industry out of business. You can buy, sell, trade, and give away just about anything on Craigslist, anywhere, anytime.
Facebook, NextDoor, Freecycle, and a number of other sites also facilitate neighbor-to-neighbor secondhand sales and give-aways. Check these sites before resigning yourself to paying top dollar for just about anything.
And if you’re the kind of shopper who prefers an offline experience, secondhand stores, antique dealers, and chains like Goodwill and ARC specialize in turning other people’s trash into your treasure at staggeringly low prices.
Some things should definitely not be bought secondhand
Anyone who has ever felt their tender, creepy caress can tell you that bedbugs are no fucking joke. And one horrible way bedbugs spread is through the sale of bedbug infested items like mattresses, couches, and clothes.
To keep your home (and the homes of everyone you know) bedbug-free, make sure to buy things like mattresses, plush furniture, and clothing from reputable secondhand dealers (or not at all, as with mattresses). Goodwill, secondhand clothing boutiques, and most antique dealers take pains to avoid taking in bedbugs, and you can generally count on them for clean, pest-free products.
And this should go without saying, but… don’t buy food secondhand, ok? I just, I don’t even…
But if I can afford it, why bother?
Even if you’ve reached a comfortable financial situation, I still encourage you to buy secondhand. The days in which you were a recent college grad sharing a two-bedroom apartment with six roommates and using a stack of empty pizza boxes for a desk may be behind you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have ambitious financial goals more important than assembling an Ikea coffee table straight from the package.
If you’re saving up for a down payment on a house, or an emergency fund, or your retirement fund, then buying secondhand can still save you a lot of money and help you achieve those goals faster.
On top of that, think of the planet.
We live in a wasteful society. Americans throw away billions of pounds of trash every year, and all of that waste doesn’t just disappear. It accumulates. When you buy a secondhand item that might otherwise have been thrown away, you’re helping to reduce waste and keep our planet healthy and beautiful.