It is amazing what people get rid of and what some people consider junk. People are always replacing furniture, or selling it when they move, and half the time these items are in great condition! Being pretty frugal by nature, I am always hunting on Craigslist for a bargain and checking out the weekend garage sales for all of the treasures I might find; especially when I am looking for something in particular. If you sell your items back when you are done, you can almost look at it like a long term free rental program (this is great for kids clothes and toys). Also, don’t forget that you can refinish furniture to match your decor and you can re-purpose other items; be creative in your thinking. Here are some of the tips and tricks to buying used from the various sources out there.
Garage sales are great because you never know what you might find. To find garage sales in your area, check the garage sale section on Craigslist, or simply drive around until you see some signs. When you go to a garage sale, make sure you have cash, and leave your money in the car until you know how much you need (this also gives you a way out if you get pressured to buy something). Don’t ask prices on individual items, but gather up what you are interested in and suggest a price you are willing to pay for it all. As long as you are reasonable, garage sales tend to be a “name your price” venue. Don’t be afraid to talk down prices, but be respectful of an item’s value or the owner may just stop working with you. Typically a garage sale is an effort to get some money from stuff that would otherwise be donated, so you can really get a good deal, but it also means owners don’t want to put up with people who expect to get everything for free. Garage sales are great for home decor items and furniture, especially if you find a moving sale (or divorce sale) from a household with similar tastes.
Here are some of the items I have bought at garage sales:
- 12′x8′ area rug that happened to be in our colors and the perfect size for an accent under the living room sofa. We paid $20, and it was easily a $400 rug originally
- tons of toddler toys and clothes, all in great condition.
- Pendant lights for our kitchen. Each light costs about $10-$15 normally and I picked up 4 matching lights (still packaged) in our colors for $10 total.
- Hampton Bay patio dining set with 6 chairs and umbrella. Similar sets sell new for over $1000 and I purchased our set for $200 just around the block from our house
Craigslist is such a great website, and you can find almost anything on it. I have bought several furniture pieces on Craigslist at a fraction of the price I would have paid new. Craigslist prices tend to be about 50% of new, as long as items are in almost new condition. If items are slightly used, prices can drop even lower, and for some things, used condition is ok. It is important to remember some basic safety tips when buying and selling on Craigslist, because you really don’t know who you will be doing business with. I suggest using an alternate email in case you get spammed, meet in a public location during daylight hours when possible, and bring someone with you if you have to meet at a residential location. If you want to bargain on Craigslist, try to do it ahead of time so you don’t waste both party’s time in person, however, when you see the item don’t be afraid to say “no” or adjust the price if the condition is not what you were expecting.
Here are some of the items I have bought on Craigslist:
- Leather couch set that we had for several years. It needed to be cleaned when we got it, but it was genuine leather with no tears, and it cleaned up really well
- Coffee Table. I had very specific dimensions that I was looking for and I just kept watching Craigslist until one popped up that was perfect for only $20 (I sold the previous one for $50 so that was a pretty good trade)
- Solid Oak Buffet. I originally bought this to refinish as an outdoor buffet, but it ended up finding a home in my kitchen and is perfect for the space.
- Lawn roller which we used to pack the gravel before laying our pavers. You can also rent these, but we paid the same amount to buy one used, and we didn’t have to stick to a rental schedule. We will be using it again this summer, and when we finish with it, we plan to sell it for what we bought it for; now that is a pretty good deal!
- Air Hockey table back in college (I think each room mate put in about $10)
- Full size weighted keyboard for $200 in perfect condition (this same piano sells for $800 new)
I love consignment stores. A consignment store is where people bring in their gently used items to sell, and typically get about 50% of the sale price (which is typically 50% of retail), or a smaller amount when items are bought by the store up front. Some consignment stores specialize in only high-end items, while others sell whatever comes in the door. You also have furniture specific stores, children’s only stores, and general clothing stores. You never know what is going to come in the door next, so you can find some really great stuff if you keep popping in. If you are looking for a particular piece of furniture, you can usually add your name to a list and be notified the next time something comes in meeting your description. Also, don’t be afraid to sell your old items at a consignment store, it can be a great source of unexpected income on stuff you would have otherwise stored in the garage or donated.
Here are some of the items I have bought through consignment:
- Coffee table (bought it for $50 and sold it for $50 a few years later)
- patio bistro set
- children’s clothing and toys (since my daughter is growing up quickly, I sell a lot of her clothes at consignment, and I put that money right back into buying the clothes she needs)
- designer purse – I always wanted a Coach purse back in college, and one day I found the one I wanted at a high end consignment store for a fraction of the original price
You really never know what you will find at a thrift store. Many people donate items that would easily sell at consignment stores, but they don’t want to deal with the hassle, so they get donated and sold at the thrift store for pennies on the dollar. The great thing about thrift stores is that the proceeds typically go to charity, which makes you feel great about shopping. Some of the major thrift stores are Goodwill, Salvation Army, SPCA, and Habitat for Humanity; each of these organizations exist for different reasons, but they all do a lot of good. I strongly encourage you to donate your old items instead of throwing them out, because you never know what someone else needs and who you could potentially help. Many people think thrift stores are filled with junk and stuff from the past, and although some of that is true, I have found some of my best finds at thrift stores.
Here are some of the items I have bought at thrift stores:
- TV and DVD/VCR players (great for guest room or kids room, make sure to test electronics before purchasing or make sure to pay an amount you are willing to gamble in case they don’t work)
- Children’s clothes and toys – The local thrift store sells children’s clothes for $1 an item and I consistently find designer clothes in new condition. Once you run them through the wash, does it really matter where they came from?
- Picture Frames – I have a bookshelf filled with silver frames all of which I found at the local thrift store. Since each one is different, it gives a nice feel.
Don’t be afraid to buy used. It can be really smart for your wallet, and a great way to find unique items for your home. I encourage you to give it a shot, and please feel free to leave your comments or questions below.