Things to always buy secondhand - never new
Try this: whenever you are about to buy something other than a consumable like food, ask yourself what you could turn around and sell it for if you had no receipt. With many items you'd only get pennies on the dollar, that is if you could find anyone interested at all. There are already oceans of unwanted things out there, in perfectly good condition. Nobody wants yours. It's a sign there might be savvier ways to get what you want. Here are a few categories to consider.
New furniture today looks nice but is complete garbage. It's crappy veneer glued onto cheap particle board. Solid wood furniture just isn't made anymore, unless you're going upscale and shopping at Room & Board or Ethan Allen. We live in a disposable culture where you trek to IKEA and self-assemble a coffee table, only to throw it in the trash when it falls apart a year later. All that stuff is just filling dumps and emptying our wallets, while giving incentives to retailers to go take more of the earth's raw materials and turn them into manufactured crap.
Due to the large bulky nature of furniture, dealing locally is best. Nobody wants to pay FedEx shipping on eBay for a credenza. Since we moved from tiny condos into our house we've bought no furniture from stores. Instead, We've gotten amazing pieces used on Craigslist, such as when we wanted a couple desks and with a little browsing found two guys who look out for deals at estate sales and other places and store their acquisitions in a storage unit to sell later.
They had several desks from which to choose, and we picked two, getting them for $200 each, with free delivery. The guys even lugged one of those gargantuan desks up a flight of stairs into our den. Had we bought new retail, with tax and delivery the price tag would have been five times higher.
You buy books, read them once, and then they gather dust on a bookshelf until you're moving to a new place. Suddenly it's a conundrum: you don't want to pack it but feel bad throwing it away, because books have this revered quality in our culture. The best you can hope for is giving away that $24.95 hardcover and taking a $4 tax deduction (although with the tax reform bill signed into law December 2017, good luck with that).
There is no excuse to buy books new. News flash: in this age of Amazon same-day shipping, libraries still exist. When you need a book, try this free option first. Well, it's sort of free since you pay for it via property taxes, and even if you rent, your landlord is charging your rent to cover their costs, which include property taxes. Save yourself the hassle of navigating stacks of poorly sorted books and put a hold on whatever you need and pick it up when it's ready.
If you aren't looking for something particular, people who run garage sales are typically advised to price hardcovers at $1 and softcovers at 50 cents.
Failing that, eBay has hundreds of people willing to part with exactly the book you're looking for, shipped to you via cheap USPS media mail.
The exception is college textbooks, whose seasonal demand creates arbitrage opportunities, which this guy has seized and turned into a profitable business.
One more exception is reference books used frequently. If you use that Jacque Pépin cook book or Instant Pot cook book or Spanish dictionary once a week, go ahead and buy it. However, in this age of free internet recipes and Google Translate, consider whether you need that paper bound book at all.
Drive a new car off the lot and try to sell it. You'll find 20 percent of its value has just been erased. With an average new car costing $31,400 in 2017, few can pay cash and instead choose to finance with not great interest rates, which makes the whole thing even more expensive.
Instead try CarMax, which sells used cars with a 30-day warranty and a five day return policy. Buy one and immediately take it to a mechanic for a full look-over. Don't forget to check accessories that aren't part of anyone's inspection, like stereos and aux connections and speakers. We've bought three cars there over the years and are glad we did. The best part is no-haggle pricing, which gets you out the door with a price below blue book without having to negotiate.
New parents have no idea how expensive baby stuff is, and often don't believe other parents, thinking they're exaggerating. They aren't.
Baby gear absolutely doesn't need to be new. It gets so much abuse in everyday life.
Instead, ask around. Post on Facebook. Find a family whose kitchen is closed and won't be putting any more in the oven. You have a golden opportunity to get everything you need in one shot. Clothes, swings, high chairs, bottles, baby spoons, cribs, pack and plays, nursing chairs, spit up cloths, toys, diaper genies, baby gates, car seats, strollers, swaddles. It goes on and on and on. They'll be thrilled to offload it all to someone who'll put it to good use. I'd practically pay somebody to make all our baby stuff disappear.
What? The clothes have stains all over them? Won't be their last. Welcome to parenthood.
With all this stuff taken care of, for the baby shower you can ask for things you'll really need, like wine. Money for overnight nurses so you can get some precious sleep. And coffee for when you don't.
What do you skip the store for? Leave a comment below and let us know!