5 Tips for Discovering Second Hand Bargains

by Gina Blitstein · 1 comment

A growing affordable alternative for buying things you need and want is shopping at resale and second-hand shops. Your first reaction may be that you don’t want to waste money on other people’s ‘junk;’ that you’d rather spend more and get items that are in new condition, without damage or wear. Upon shopping at a resale or second-hand shop, however, you may discover that, not only are the prices unbelievably low but that the quality and condition of the merchandise is surprisingly good.

After all – many items bought new are only used for a short period of time. When we’re finished using them, there’s still plenty of ‘life’ left in them. Take sports equipment, for instance. Outfitting a child for a sport can be a bank-breaking proposition. Add to that the fact that children grow – and grow tired – rapidly. That in itself is a perfectly good reason for purchasing sports equipment at a second-hand shop. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with the equipment; the child has simply outgrown or grown bored of it or he or she would still be using it. Note that helmets should always be purchased new as they are built to sustain only one impact and you would have no guarantee as to the history of a helmet purchased second-hand.

There’s a plethora of items for sale worth your consideration at resale shops.

Smart items to purchase at resale/second-hand shops

  • Toys and video games (another case of children outgrowing perfectly functional items)
  • Exercise equipment (one person’s abandoned best intentions can help you get into shape)
  • Clothing (an inexpensive way to add something new to your wardrobe)
  • Accessories (costume jewelry, scarves, belts, shoes/boots, hats…)
  • Furniture (find interesting pieces for your home or inexpensively procure the basics when just starting out)
  • Kitchenware (dishes, flatware, pots and pans to equip a first home or augment your kitchen)
  • Household accessories (lamps, mirrors, framed pictures, empty frames, figurines, vases…)
  • Books (fortunately, reading it doesn’t use up a book)
  • Musical instruments (many people purchase instruments, then abandon their intention of learning to play)
  • Costumes (find vintage or distinctive items to create and accessorize do-it-yourself costumes for parties or performances)

Since shopping resale/second-hand shops is a bit like a treasure hunt, it’s important that you approach shopping them as an educated consumer.

Tips for wise resale/second-hand shopping

  1. Know prices – When you know what items cost at retail stores, you’ll be better able to identify a bargain.
  2. Shop on sale days – Even resale shops have bargain days and sales. Take advantage of those opportunities to save even more.
  3. Buy out of season – Unlike many retail stores, out-of-season merchandise is often still available. Find off-season bargains when you purchase, for example, patio furniture, in November.
  4. Time is on your side – Resale shops like fast turnover, which works to your advantage. The longer something is on the shelf, the more it will be discounted. Watch for price reductions on items you’ve had your eye on but don’t wait too long, or another frugal shopper may snatch up your bargain.
  5. Early birds find especially good loot – There’s often a particular day when the new merchandise is put on display. Shop early on that day when you have the greatest chance of finding the best items the store has to offer.

Rather than offering other people’s ‘junk,’ resale shops present the opportunity for you to shop for quality merchandise with plenty of use left in it at considerable savings. It’s a good way to round out a household or meet short-term needs.

What bargains have you discovered at a resale or second-hand shop?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Abigail October 18, 2012 at 11:43 am

I love poking my head into Goodwill on the 50% off everything days. It’s crowded, but you’ll often find something you never would have found on your own. Or, worst case scenario, you leave without spending anything. Kind of a win/win.

I have gotten some deals through garage sales and Craigslist. A $90 display case from Ikea was $20 on CL. It’s also a great place to get affordable lighting because lamps are expensive, but people moving long distances would rather not risk them getting broken.

At a garage sale, my mom found a Lane cedar wood chest for $50. And I found our current coffee table for $20.

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