How much of your lifestyle contains used items?

We all know that we can save a bit of money by buying used items. The prospects of preowned material wealth is good for the environment and is good for your wallet. However, it’s not for everyone. Up until I finished college, I wasn’t truly aware that you could actually buy anything used other than informally through your friends. Call me a lucky kid, but my parents never bought me anything used. Then again, America is the land of incredible wealth and cheap items. A new top at Walmart, whether you believe in foreign labor, was less than $10. Why would anyone ever spring for second-hand clothing for $5 if you could have a new one for marginally more?

As I’ve gotten more savvy with money, it’s slowly dawned on me that second-hand doesn’t necessarily connote being “cheap”. Buying used is actually cool.

Used car = financially smart.

Aside from your home, the vehicle we drive is considered a big ticket item. Sure, if you’re like Mr. Money Mustache and bike everywhere for transportation, you might not ever need a car. But a car is pretty much necessary for most people who commute to work.

Cars can be expensive. The sticker price of a 2017 AMG SL63 (Surgeon Moe’s weekend car), is close to $150,000! However, a four-year old 2013 AMG SL63 can be had for about $65,000!

 

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That’s right. After 4 years, this monstrosity is worth less than half its original value! Most cars lose significant value after 4 years regardless of mileage and wear. You can save quite a bit of money by buying a used car, even if you buy a certified preowned vehicle from the dealer.

Conversely if you sell your new car after 4 years, you will have lost quite a bit of money.

Used furniture, can it be a good idea? 

I first purchased used furniture when I was a medical student. Most of it was second hand IKEA furniture. Some of it was actually stylish. Boy, was that furniture cheap. I remember buying a desk for $20 that would have retailed for $150. Were there mites and bedbugs? Not that I could recall. After I graduated, I sold that desk for $20 (I probably could have sold it for more, but you gotta pass along the good karma).

I have since moved on from second-hand furniture, but have wondered whether it is a venue that I should reconsider in the form of estate sales. I once had a coworker who stated that she bought a $10,000 dining set for “only” $1000. Sounds like she got a great deal, if the dining set is worth that much to her. I haven’t actually seen her dining table, but I sometimes wonder if one would derive as much happiness in buying a “new” dining table at a furniture store for $1000. Who knows.

Miscellaneous items in the used market

There are various items that I’ve seen in the used markets that are simply expensive when purchased new. Sporting equipment like golf clubs, hockey gear, ski gear, and scuba gear are some of the items that come to mind. These are items that I actually don’t feel cheap by buying used. Scuba gear is EXPENSIVE. Most of the time this gear is hardly used. More importantly, you might not use it frequently either. I have a coworker who owns her own snowboard, but only hits the slopes once or twice a year. Someone eventually buying her snowboarding gear would get a great deal on equipment that is rarely used.

Who wants to buy a used watch pitcher? J/k, but not really…

Used clothing = bad idea? 

This is a topic that I have mixed feelings about. Justin at Rootofgood purchases used clothing for the family, which is a practical idea for kids who will outgrow their clothing within a few years anyway. Our markets are filled with used clothing. The last time I made a Goodwill drop-off, I was shocked to see department store-sized aisles of used clothing for sale. Some of the used clothing was practically free (<$2), which some of it was overpriced ($19.99 for a Banana Republic top).

I’d imagine that you can get huge savings on used clothing, but is it worth your time to sift through the mix to find something that suits you while saving a few dollars? Would you ever buy used shoes? What about socks? What should one’s threshold even be?

Should an early retiree doctor with $5 million in the bank buy a used shirt for $5 or just spring $15 for a new one?

What is your threshold for buying used items?

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  • In my opinion, certain types of furniture really lend themselves to buying used. Coffee tables, end tables, TV stands. and bar stools, in my opinion, should be bought used. The great thing is that, when you’re done with them, you can sell it right back for what you bought it for.

    I remember when I bought some bar stools off Craigslist for an apartment I lived in. When I moved out of there, I ended up selling those bar stools for $5 more than I purchased them for! It was like I got paid to borrow those stools.

    • Smart Money MD

      Absolutely! If you live in a college environment (like you do), or in mega cities with major craigslist supplies, you can really find great deals on used furniture.