Thrifty Saving

Photo by chrissie kremer on Unsplash

Hello everyone.

Way back in the ‘Doing More with Our Money’ post ‘Just Ask’, we talked about honing our ‘Just Asking’ (for a discount) skills by starting where it’s more common to receive discounts. This included garage sales, online marketplaces, flea markets, etc.

Besides being able to improve our negotiation skills, buying second-hand items is a really great way to save money, not to mention the environmental benefits.

Call it second-hand, used, pre-owned, thrift or consignment, it really doesn’t matter.

What’s important is there are huge savings when not buying things brand new.

I regularly buy second-hand items.

But it wasn’t always that way. For a long time I had it in my head that buying something used was for people that couldn’t afford buying new items.

And that’s an odd idea to have when I grew up in a home where my parents were regularly bringing my sister and I on hunts for antiques at auctions, markets and stores.

Photo by Leora Dowling on Unsplash

I also collected comic books and sports cards, some of which were new, but many were previously owned.

And yet as I started my career, I had a mind-shift away from buying used items to only new.


Part of it is linked to the Marketing Placebo Effect that we talked about in ‘Don’t Trust Your Brain’.

We often think an item is better simply because it’s more expensive.

Couple that with the idea that product marketers (and frankly much of Western society attitudes) have been hammering into us since we first watched Saturday morning cartoons – we must have the newest, greatest, bestest toy, shirt, sunglasses, thing!!

Then we grew up into good little consumers, and good little consumers don’t buy dirty used products.

Somewhere along the way, an idea plants that when we’re successful and/or have money, we should buy everything new.

Buying used items is only for people that can’t afford new.

Yeah, those marketers and society really did a job on us.

Fortunately, those attitudes have been changing, and not just because of cost savings. A lot of it is because of technology and the environment.

Technology like Kijiji, eBay and other websites that make it easy to buy (and sell) used goods plus people’s growing awareness of the environmental impact of buying new items.

There’s been an attitude shift amongst many people, although not nearly enough.

The funny thing is anyone’s view that buying used items is distasteful is kind of hypocritical.

Everyone, even the wealthiest people often make use of second-hand items regularly.

My home was built in 1927 – I’m clearly not the first owner. It came with ‘used’ major appliances that I’ve still got – a fridge, stove, washer/dryer, microwave and dishwasher.

When we buy ‘new’ clothes at a clothing store, often other people have already tried them on.

And the retailer isn’t washing them before we try them on…

How many people have slept (and done other things) in that hotel bed you enjoyed on your last vacation?

When we go to a restaurant, we are using plates, utensils, tables, chairs, etc. that hundreds if not thousands have used before.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Ok now that we’re all grossed out by the thought of putting a fork into our mouths that has already been in thousands of other people’s mouths, let’s recognize that they were (presumably) well washed prior to our use.

Why are we ok with all of that, but not always ok buying an item that someone may have owned prior?

It’s all in our heads, and it’s important that we fully recognize that as we try to change our consumption habits.

When buying second-hand items, my top spots are Kijiji, eBay, my local Value Village thrift store, and a few local independent thrift shops.

There are tons of others especially online like VarageSale, LetGo, swap sites, etc, etc.

There are also not-for-profit stores like The Salvation Army.

Even some retailers that mainly sell new products have a limited selection of used items, like previously viewed movies or previously played video games.

I also regularly sell items on Kijiji and eBay when I no longer need or want them, or I will donate them.

Besides the cost savings when purchasing, and (some) cost recouping when selling, I really do feel good about purposely NOT buying something brand new.

Why is that?

I am very aware of the environmental impact that goes into producing new items.

Pollution pic

Photo by Ella Ivanescu on Unsplash

Value Village’s parent company publishes a document called the ‘State of Reuse Report’ that speaks about “how and why consumers donate items they no longer need or want [and] why they choose to purchase, or not purchase, reused clothing and household goods.”1

A few interesting facts caught my eye in the latest report:

  • Survey participants responded to the question ‘How often do you buy used items’:
    • 44% rarely or never
    • 28% once every few months
    • 16% once a year
    • 9% once a month
    • 3% weekly
  • Only 7% of people think they should be buying pre-owned clothing and household goods
    • This compares to 28% who think they should be donating used items instead of throwing them away
  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make 1 cotton T-shirt
  • It takes 1800 gallons of water, 400 mega joules of energy and produces 71 pounds of carbon dioxide to make 1 pair of jeans!

These stats indicate to me that a ton of people could be saving a lot more money AND helping the environment by purchasing used goods, especially clothing and household items.

How much can we save?

Photo by Celyn Kang on Unsplash

That is dependant on how much we are willing to embrace the idea of buying second-hand goods.

I have a couple of friends that buy the majority of their clothes second-hand, and others that wouldn’t dream of it.

This Globe and Mail article references a Kijiji report: “the average Canadian family of four saves about $1,150 each year buying second-hand items”.2

And if you are also selling items you no longer need or want, the savings (earnings?) add up that much more.

What can we buy second hand?

Pretty well anything! Some of the more common items include clothing, small electronics, homewares, shoes, accessories, DVD’s, books, records, toys, etc.

Also really anything kid related. While not a parent myself, I am very aware of how important buying and selling second-hand goods is to keep a family’s finances in check.

Sure, kids often wear out their favourite clothes and certainly shoes, but as they grow so quickly, they will outgrow many clothing items and toys that are still in great shape!

Buying second-hand sports equipment is pretty important, especially for good Canadian kids that play hockey or other sports that require a lot of equipment.

The cost of buying things new every-time the child outgrows something adds up significantly.

What Not to Buy

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

This article gives some good suggestions of what may not be a good idea to buy second-hand. The most notable on the list include children’s safety equipment, helmets and underwear.

Dammit, where am I going to buy my boxers now?!

If you aren’t a regular purchaser or used goods, I would encourage you to at least go check out a few local thrift shops, consignment or second-hand shops. It can’t hurt to have a look around and see what the options are.

I think you will be surprised as to what is available especially the amount of things that look like they’ve never been used!

Just make sure to clean everything thoroughly when you get it home, especially during the pandemic!

Thanks for reading everyone!



6 Replies to “Thrifty Saving”

  1. Don’t forget you grew up sleeping in a bed built in the 1850’s and your 9 year old niece is using it now and loving it.
    50 years later we are still more interested in antiques rather than new items not built to last .
    Good blog Mike.

    1. Thanks Mom! Great reminder about the bed and the longevity of things made long ago compared to anything made today!

  2. Great article! I realized now I would never dream to buy a second-hand plate, yet I have no problem eating at restaurants, though those plates are used by thousands while the plate from the second-hand store might’ve served only one family for a decade. Interesting shift of perspective!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Louisa! That’s exactly right, somehow we get it in our heads that buying a second hand plate is weird, and yet…

  3. Some of the biggest savings can be found in the used car market. There’re a common assumption that a new car loses $5000 to $10,000 in value the moment you drive it off the lot. Buying a car second-hand may deprive you of the enjoyment of the “new car smell” (mostly poisonous chemicals!) but for $10,000 you can buy many more lasting (and healthier) pleasures.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Gerd! I agree 100%, and we’ll talk more about buying used cars in a future post!

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