Buy These 14 Things Secondhand to Save Big


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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 local thrift stores are brimming with gently used items that may be your next big treasure. Before diving headlong into secondhand shopping, be sure you know the best things to look for at the local thrift store.

Related: 10 Things You Should Never Buy Secondhand

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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. Student textbooks are a smart secondhand buy, as well. Even if there is a newer update, chances are the changes are small and won't affect your studies.

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Only some types of clothing are worth buying used. Maternity clothes, baby clothes, and formalwear all make the list. A normal pregnancy runs 40 weeks, which means far less wear and tear on a maternity wardrobe than a regular one. Children and babies, in particular, outgrow their clothes so quickly that there's a good chance the outfits have been worn only a handful of times. Ditto for formalwear, which may leave the closet once or twice before appearing at the thrift store. Inspect the items carefully for stains, tears, or missing buttons.

Related: 10 Tricks to Updating Your Wardrobe at the Thrift Store

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Reselling gold or jewelry will never return to the owner anywhere close to the original price. So why invest in the first place? Instead, satisfy your need for bling with pre-owned jewels tagged at discounted prices. Do business with a reputable jeweler or have the piece inspected first.

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Furniture is a tricky category. Items such as couches, mattresses, and anything with cloth could be hard to clean or might be carrying bedbugs, so steer clear. On the other hand, pre-owned tables, chairs, shelves, and the like can be value buys. These pieces often sell for dirt-cheap prices at resale shops and garage sales and are easily refinished for little cost.

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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. Secondhand workout videos, free weights, and smaller fitness equipment also are easy to find for less than their retail cost.

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Picture frames, mirrors, vases, pictures, wall art, and so on are good items to buy used. People change decor often, and thrift stores and garage sales are ripe for plucking hidden gems from the castoff pile.

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Garage sales, thrift stores, and buy/sell/trade sites are chock full of gently used toys. In due time (sometimes weeks or days), kids discard a favorite toy and move on to the next big thing. Take some pressure off your wallet and troll others' unwanted playthings. You'll have your pick of coveted toys at bargain-basement prices.

Related: 10 Baby Items You Don't Want Secondhand

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Small DIY repairs sometimes call for a hand tool that's rarely used again. The next time you need a hammer or wrench, check the bins at local thrift shops. Chances are you'll find what you need in excellent condition, and at a price that's 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).

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Families' and kids' zeal for any particular 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.

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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.

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As long the dishes are clean and free of cracks and chips, there's no reason not to buy them used. Glassware and serving platters show up with remarkable regularity at secondhand stores and garage sales. Run the items through a cycle in the dishwasher on the sanitize setting and you'll have a fresh-looking table in no time.

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Hitting the road on a two-wheeler can be a cheap excursion, especially if you ride used equipment. 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 the bike in for a checkup and tune up before heading out. One bike accessory to always buy new: helmets. You won't be able to sanitize them properly and you never know if they've been through an accident.

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Shoppers can find terrific deals on older-model electronics through online selling groups, and eBay, Craigslist, and the like are good places to look. Tech gadgets are much cheaper when bought secondhand, but make sure the device works before forking over the cash. Like power tools, electronics (i.e., anything that gets plugged in or turned on) should be tested before purchase if possible.

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Some of the best secondhand goods are big-ticket items. Cars and houses come to mind. Other big-ticket merchandise worth buying used includes swing sets and bunk bed frames. Swing sets can cost a small fortune, but a used one might save you upward of $1,000. The only downside is you may have to disassemble, move, and reassemble it yourself. Ditto for bunk beds.