Shopping Second Hand-How To Get The Good Stuff Used

I once joked on this blog that I had all my needs and would never need anything else ever again.  While that’s obviously an exaggeration, it’s not a huge leap to say that most of the items that I will need in the future are so called replacement items Sure,there are some exceptions-new fabric and quilting supplies, new things for the patio, as well as other items enter into the equation as well. 

Whenever its possible, feasible or reasonable, I first look to the used market for these replacement items. Before you change the proverbial page, or say “Not me!”, hear me out.  I shop the used market for three reasons.  I shop to save money, help the environment and eliminate waste, and to get the best quality item.  That’s right, I often get better quality by buying used.

At one point I considered joining The Compact, a group that agrees to buy nothing new for the year (with obvious exceptions such as food and personal products, underwear and the like).  While I like the idea, I haven’t taken that large leap yet. However, I always do look at the used market first, with generally great results. My slow cooker and most of my serving dishes were bought used.  Almost all of the decorative ceramic pots on my patio were used. I have a Land’s End really heavy sweater that I only wear in Denver that is on it’s fifth year……….and cost me 98 cents. It’s my favorite and EVERYONE compliments me when I wear it. The floor lamp next to my sewing machine was purchased for a dollar or so at my church garage sale. The list could go on and on.

The most important part of getting these kinds of deals has nothing to with skill. First and foremost in order to get good stuff used, you need to be being willing to shop on a regular basic. That’s right, if you love to shop, you’ll get better good used stuff.  This is true whether you are shopping online (eBay or Craigslist) or in the neighborhood (thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales, and ReStores). If you LIKE to shop and do it regularly, two things will happen.  You’ll recognize a deal when you see it, and you’ll find deals more often.  Now, I’m not saying shop all the time.  Nor am I saying shop till you drop.  Most of the readers of this blog are retirees or those heading this way. Although time is important, many of us are willing to trade time for money. In my case, I hit a couple thrift stores a week, and during yard sale season I venture in the neighborhood. I make a quick hit of eBay and Dallas Craigslist when I am reading emails and checking blogs.  I simply make these things part of the routine of life.

The second important part of getting used stuff is to be willing to walk (literally or figuratively) away.  Again, I’m talking to folks late in life who are looking to replace items.  Rarely do we need an item now, today.  We can afford to wait until we see what we like at the price we want. (On the other hand, shopping used allows for a little bit of attrition. If I buy a silk blouse at an estate sale and hate it later, I’ve lost two dollars-perhaps I’ve even resold the item).

The last part of my good deal strategy is to be organized-at least as organized as this free spirit can be.  In my case that means I have a list of “wants” that is in a small journal (like one finds at Barnes and Noble) that goes wherever I go. This list contains items such as a new ceiling fan/light (a story in and of itself), replacement table cloths and cloth napkins (I don’t use paper), more ceramic patio pots and an outdoor dining set (not a replacement).  Also on my list are cast iron pans, and replacements for my Paula Deen Cookware, washcloths for my bathroom and socks. I need to add more summer clothing to my wardrobe-it’s still not truly Dallas worthy. Obviously some of these things will be purchased new. My list is brief. Since most of my items are so called replacement items I already know what they are, where they will go, the color and sometimes the make.  Except of course for my Keurig for one wish, which is certainly not a replacement item.

Everyone has their own comfort level. Still, if you’re not at least considering the used market for some items in your life, I expect you’re losing out and don’t even know it. Oh, and the ceiling fan?  The bulbs hang down and have what are basically teeny regular lampshades (two of which are damaged).  Without a picture. it’s difficult to explain. Basically these shades have a ring and the three radiating “thingies” that any normal shade would have-it’s just that they are chandelier sized.  Every single shade I have found in the last three months is the kind that has the wire that goes around the actual bulb-and that will not work for me.  Bummer!

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