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Save the Environment and Your Wallet by Buying Used

The following post is from Emily of Live Renewed:

garage sale

This post was first published in September of 2010, but it’s a topic worth revisiting. I’m all for finding ways to live both green and frugally!

Shopping is a favorite pastime for many women. Whether it’s high-end designer shopping or bargain hunting, most of us women love to shop, myself included.

But as my family has been moving toward living a more green and simple lifestyle, I have found that where and how I shop has significantly changed over the past few years. I now purposely seek to buy things used before I purchase them new, and my favorite places to shop have become garage sales and thrift stores rather than Target and the mall. We can all make a difference in our world, and on the environment, by changing our shopping habits.

Here are a few reasons to buy used and tips for making the best purchases:

Save Money

  • In almost all cases, things that you buy used will cost much less than purchasing the same item new.
  • When you keep yourself from running to store every time you “need” something, and wait to find it used, you may discover that you didn’t really need it all. Not buying something saves the most money of all!

Save the Planet.

  • Buying used means fewer items end up discarded in our landfills.
  • It also saves the raw materials that would have been used to make that item brand new.
  • When you buy used, it saves the energy used, and pollution created, in the production, manufacturing, and transportation of the new item.
  • It saves on the packaging of the new item, both the production of the packaging, and the waste that it creates.
stack of books
source: Wonderlane

Tips for Buying Things Used

If you’re just starting out with buying second-hand, there are a few basic things that will help to make your shopping trips more productive and fun!

1. Keep a running list. I have a list of things I would like to buy if I come across a good quality used one for a good price. Whether it’s a salad spinner, a wagon for my kids, or a nice brown cardigan sweater, I know to be on the lookout for these things at garage sales or thrift store. These are usually things that it would be really nice to have, but are not absolute necessities, that I can do without until I find a good used one.

2. Be on the lookout for great finds. I have a friend who is always finding amazing things at garage sales who said, “Some things I needed, some things I wanted, and some things I never knew I needed until I found them!”

You can find some really great second hand stuff if you keep your mind open as you shop. Look for things that you wouldn’t be able to find in stores, things that are vintage or one of a kind, or things that you can come up with a new or interesting use for. But, you do have to be careful in this area because you don’t want to just end up buying more stuff that will clutter up your home, and be a waste of money.

3. Shop without kids (if possible). Kids can really put a damper on your productivity while shopping at rummage sales or thrift stores. It often takes a lot of sifting or sorting through things to find the good stuff, and if your attention is divided between that and keeping your kiddos from breaking something, you won’t be able to focus as well on the things you are shopping for.

4. Shop online. If there is an item you are looking for that is more of a necessity, you may have a better chance of finding it used by shopping online sites like Craigslist, Amazon, or especially E-bay. You can search for specific items that you need and still usually find them at a deep discount off of the same item new.

When purchasing something used, it’s important to make sure that you are getting a good quality item. Spending money on something that you will not really use, or that will wear out or break quickly, is not a great deal, no matter how cheap it was.

Need some inspiration to get started?

My Top 5 Things to Buy Used:

  1. Books, DVDs and other media.
  2. Clothing, especially kids clothing
  3. Children’s Toys and Gear
  4. Household/Kitchen Items
  5. Furniture

Do you try to buy items used before purchasing them new? What tips do you have for garage sale and thrift store shopping?

Emily McClements is passionate about caring for God’s creation while saving money at the same time. She is a blessed wife and mama to two young children, and blogs about her family’s journey toward natural and simple living at Live Renewed.