USED GOODS ARE GOOD
People are starting to feel the urge to get organized for the new school year, and many have embraced decluttering guru Marie Kondo's "Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." That means garage sales are popping up and thrift stores are brimming with gently used items that may be your next big treasure. Before diving headlong into secondhand shopping, be sure to know the best things to look for.
The book section of a secondhand store is a bookworm's delight. People often read books once or twice and get rid of them. Many are handed over in excellent condition and sold for a fraction of the cover price.
Even if there have been updates to student textbooks, chances are the changes are small -- sometimes just enough so publishers can claim there's a "new edition" -- and won't affect studies.
Only some types of clothing are worth buying used, but maternity clothes make the list. A normal pregnancy runs 40 weeks, which means far less wear and tear on a maternity wardrobe than a regular one.
Just like maternity wear, formalwear doesn't get worn as often as everyday clothing items -- it may leave the closet only once or twice before heading to a thrift store. Inspect items carefully for stains, tears, or missing buttons, though.
Children and babies, in particular, outgrow clothes so quickly that there's a good chance outfits have been worn only a handful of times.
Babies especially outgrow their gear quickly. It's worth it to scour thrift stores and garage sales for things such as carriers, swings, and high chairs, and even bottle warmers, bottles, and more. This is especially useful for things that didn't get filled from a baby registry, or for a second, third, or fourth kid when parents' original items have seen better days. Just be sure to search for recalls before buying -- and don't buy car seats secondhand. One might have been in an accident.
Reselling gold or jewelry never brings the owner anywhere close to the original price. So why invest in the first place? Instead, satisfy the need for bling with pre-owned jewels at discounted prices. Do business with a reputable jeweler, or have a piece inspected first.
Furniture is a tricky category. Items such as couches, mattresses, and anything with cloth could be hard to clean and might carry bedbugs, so steer clear. On the other hand, pre-owned tables, chairs, shelves, and the like can be value buys. These pieces often sell dirt cheap at resale shops and garage sales and are easily refinished for little cost.
Are you in the market for a stationary bike, elliptical machine, or treadmill? Garage sales, buy/sell/trade groups, and Craigslist are good sources of barely used, mint-condition fitness equipment.
SMALL WORKOUT EQUIPMENT
Secondhand workout videos, free weights, and smaller fitness equipment also are easy to find for less than retail cost at the usual bargain spots.
Picture frames, mirrors, vases, pictures, wall art, and so on are good items to buy used. People change décor often, and thrift stores and garage sales are ripe for plucking hidden gems from the castoff pile.
Garage sales, thrift stores, and buy/sell/trade sites are chock full of gently used toys. Kids discard favorite toys and move on to the next big thing sometime in only weeks or days. Take some pressure off your wallet and troll others' unwanted playthings for coveted toys at bargain-basement prices.
Small DIY repairs sometimes call for a hand tool that's rarely used again. The next time a hammer or wrench is needed, check the bins at local thrift shops. Chances are there will be some in excellent condition at a price far below retail.
Power tools are also good secondhand buys, but should be tested first to be sure they're in working order (or need just a small fix).
Families' and kids' zeal for even a great board game is bound to dissipate over time. Many find their way to garage sales and resale shops. Here's a chance to liven up the home scene without spending a lot. Just be sure all the pieces are accounted for and there are no torn or worn parts.
It costs a lot to buy and maintain a new instrument, especially for a student musician, so buy a pre-owned instrument and save. It's likely someone else has lost interest and given up the instrument. If your child does the same, you aren't out as much silver.
Similar to musical instruments, it costs a lot to get started in a sport. Hockey and horseback riding are two that are particularly pricey. It's best to search for used equipment through buy/sell/trade sports-specific groups, or secondhand sporting stores such as Play It Again Sports.
As long as dishes are clean and free of cracks and chips, there's no reason not to buy them used. Glassware and serving platters show up regularly at secondhand stores and garage sales. Run the items through a cycle in the dishwasher on the sanitize setting to get a fresh-looking table in no time.
Adult bikes, kids' bikes, and bike trailers are all available for little more than a song through buy/sell/trade sites, garage sales, and sometimes Craigslist. Be sure to take a bike in for a checkup and tuneup before heading out. One bike accessory to always buy new: helmets. You won't be able to sanitize a used one properly and never know if they've already been weakened in an accident.
Shoppers can find terrific deals on older-model electronics through online selling groups; eBay, Craigslist, and the like are also good places to look. But anything that gets plugged in or turned on should be tested before purchase if possible.
DVDs and Blu-rays can be found secondhand for increasingly less as people stream their video. There is always a new gaming system and video games coming out, so older versions or played video games can be picked up at bargain rates -- sometimes only months after release.
While it sounds funny to buy a gift card secondhand, there is a niche for used (or unused) gift cards. Often people get them as gifts to places they won't go, prompting them to resell the card for less than face value. Find secondhand gift cards on local buy/sell/trade sites, or gift card-specific sites such as Carpool.com, where they can be found at low prices or exchanged for others you have no use for. Word to the wise: Before forking over cash, call the number on the card to check the expiration date and balance.
Some of the best secondhand goods are big-ticket items. (Cars, for instance.) Swing sets and bunk bed frames count too -- swing sets can cost a small fortune, and a used one might save upward of $1,000. The downside may be having to disassemble, move, and reassemble the item.