My Frugal Life: A Love Affair With Used Goods

I came from a home where everything was bought new. My parents would never buy "someone else's junk". They were frugal, but we did without many things because there wasn't enough money for everything. My Frugal LifeWhen I got married 30 years ago, we paid top dollar for our bedroom set, but lived with empty rooms so we could save for new furniture.

About 11 years ago, I wanted to buy a dining room set, which would have set us back about $6000, so I decided to investigate the used furniture market. I looked in the classified ads every week, and after 11 months found exactly what I was looking for, a barely used Thomasville dining room set for $1800. The couple was divorcing, selling their home, and selling the set because it was too big to fit into an apartment. A few months later, I bought a beautiful white Formica bedroom set for my daughter. The owners were moving across the country and it was too expensive to move it. I realized that people sell perfectly good things for various reasons, and I would be crazy to buy new if I could get it used. This started off a love affair with the used goods market

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I started going to garage sales, which was a lot of fun. One of my best finds was a brand new anniversary clock for $8 that was $45 in a local department store. The woman's mother worked for the clock company and brought home many clocks. She had three of the same anniversary clocks, so she sold two of them. I joined Freecycle, where I gave and received plenty of items with a lot of life left in them. It made me feel good that I was doing something good for the planet, as well as for my wallet.

Speaking of wallets, I listened to my co-workers and neighbors complain about how hard it was to make ends meet. I tried to tell them about how we saved money, but they looked at us as if we were crazy. They still were under the impression that new was better.

Sometimes circumstances can change a person. My sister went through a divorce, and had to downsize. She was the one who ended up selling items for a fraction of what she had paid. A lot of the items still had the tags on them. It was a very humbling experience for her. A few weeks ago she called me and told me that she bought a rug that looks great in her new apartment. It was a good thing that I was sitting down when she told me that she got it at a thrift shop! She now goes to this thrift shop on a weekly basis, and has picked up some lovely things.

I believe that my spending habits, in addition to cooking from scratch, bringing lunch to work, and comparison shopping when buying new, have afforded me a lifestyle that is stress-free. Our home is almost paid for, and we managed to pay cash for our daughter's college education, leaving her debt-free. I am hoping that she will inherit our values and avoid the massive debt that many Americans think is normal.

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Judy from Syosset, NY

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April 2, 20080 found this helpful

What a great article! We have bought many things "pre-owned" and, in the process, have saved much money. The trick is knowing what you are looking for and taking the time and making the effort to look for it. We bought a wonderful dining set and hutch for $250 from a couple who were moving out of town. When my mom was looking for a new dining set, I suggested buying used, but she made the excuse that she didn't know where to look and/or didn't believe there was much of a selection of used furniture in the city where she lives. As a result, she paid a lot more for her set than we did and discovered a large crack in her NEW table when it was delivered.

As I said, it does take a bit more effort to find what you want when you buy used, but it's well worth it in the end. Thanks again for sharing your story!

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April 2, 20080 found this helpful

Thanks for sharing. I have found that with a little patience it is very possible to find 'as new' used home furnishings in excellent condition, as you mentioned people sell things for a variety of reasons. After you've owned something for a few weeks (days even) it's classed as used anyway. I have found ebay to be a great resource for this too and you can see photos, ask questions and some sellers let you view before bidding or purchasing.In the past I have purchased from used furniture dealers but they can tend to overprice items.

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April 2, 20080 found this helpful

My mom grew up very poor, and HAD to use all used things. She was teased a lot by her cousins, etc. Consequently, she refuses to even entertain the thought of buying used items. She usually makes fun of me when I try to tell her about the value of "new" used item shopping. Who has to know, anyhow? My parents are having financial trouble, but still refuse to go to resale shops. I guess I'll just keep trying to get her to go.

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April 2, 20080 found this helpful

Loved your story.I can save for new but I choose someone elses treasure.I find hitting the thrift stores is like a game.If I"need"something I put it on my list or if a friend needs something it's on my list.I carry a lil note book.I have my room measurements,window measurements and other info handy when at a yard sale or sale store.I especially look for gently used sneakers or shoes for my youngest grand baby.A new pr.of sneakers bought new!I could buy food for myself for a week.I live buy"Do I want it? or Do I need it?"

Happy hunting,Keeper

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April 2, 20080 found this helpful

Thanks for your story.

I grew up thinking our family was poor because we went to a lot of trouble to buy things cheaply. My mother and I used to take the bus way across the city to a canned food outlet store, and hauled the heavy loads home. But our furniture and clothes were new (though on sale).

After being married awhile, we did buy our chairs and sofa new, but all of our other things are either hand me down, DIY, or used. I'm now checking used clothing stores first whenever I need something specific, and I buy good brand name shoes on eBay for a fraction of their new price. I'm getting there, as well as being satisfied with less.

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April 2, 20080 found this helpful

Thrifting is the best entertainment. Many good buys can be found at thrifty stores and yard sales. Many items look like new.

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April 2, 20080 found this helpful

When I was young, I hated that I would wear clothes from thrifts shops, yard sales etc., because I was terrified I would (God forbid) run into the previous owner at school. However, when my own babies started coming, I learned very early that for just a fraction of the cost, you could dress them head to toe. Babies will 'grow out' before they 'wear out'. You could pick something up, use it for all your babies, sell it, and find it again at another yard sale or thrift shop some wear down the road. My youngest is 19 now, and learned very early of the expensive 'designer brands' you can pick up for a fraction of the original price. She says second hand stores are one of the 1st things she scopes out in each area she happens to be in. (Has anyone else noticed tho, that it almost isn't worth hitting good will or the sal. army anymore?)

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April 3, 20080 found this helpful

Glad to see a transformed shopper! I, too, was raised with "all new items". On one of my visits home, several years ago, my Mom complimented me on my sweater I was wearing & asked where I got it. I said, honestly, "The Salvation Army Thrift Store." My Mom almost passed out, she said, "don't you know you're supposed to GIVE to them, NOT BUY from them!!" She'll go to estate sales, tag sales, yard & garage sales, auctions, but she will not go into a thrift store or used furniture store, for anything!!

I have a sister in law who's raised her daughter. my niece, to not know anything about any of the above. They wear only brand new clothes, they buy only brand new everything. My niece is an only child. My sister in law is a teacher, who won't even use any gifts given to her by her students. She gives them away. I don't feel this is fair, as I remember what it was like as a child wanting to get my teacher & the school bus driver each, "just the perfect gift". I know sometimes parents have to do without some money to pay bills with, etc. just to purchase a gift for a teacher, etc. for their child. Hardships that some people don't take into consideration.

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April 4, 20080 found this helpful

Glad I'm not the only one out there! Part of my weekly errands is to swing by the 2nd hand stores, to drop off and browse. When my son was born my husband and I decided I will stay home and take care of him instead of work, so this is the best way to save money - and I like finding one of a kind, unique and retro items you see at thrift stores!

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April 5, 20080 found this helpful

Hi Doodles,

This is in response of Doodle's question, yes! I have notice how the prices are too high. The Fairbanks Resource Agency (FRA) calls me every other month when they are gonna be here in Fort Wainwright. I always have a box in my basement & what ever I don't use or need anymore I put it in the box so by the time FRA calls me I usually have boxes for them. They fix it, clean it, etc. & then you see it @ Value Village. I have found a couple of my things for $10 and up! I couldn't believe it. I was so upset, but what can I do? But you know what? People still buy it!

I know because it so happen that my youngest son saw a student in his High School with one of his Hawaiian shirt & asked him if he could see the tag in his shirt & sure enough his name was there (I used to do this because between my youngest son & my oldest son, they're only 19 months apart. As a matter of fact my youngest son is taller than my oldest. I was so upset when my son told me this because he should have NEVER done that because it wasn't his shirt anymore. If anybody out there knows of a place that I can give our stuff & for them to either sell it for a dollar or give it free, PLEASE let me know. My husband BELIEVES that what we have had & have it has been a blessing from the LORD so he would NEVER have a Yard sale or would accept any kind of money for it. GOD blesses you all!

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April 7, 20080 found this helpful

Hi Juliet,

Look for the local freecycle org. in your area. Everything is that is offered or asked for is for free. The upside is that you know what you have to offer is needed and will be used; the down side is if you see something you want/need posted, you might not be the first to get to it. Best part is that you really feel good either giving or getting!

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April 7, 20080 found this helpful

Great post! So many people I know are so caught up in having this brand and that brand and everything NEW that it gets hard to make ends meet.I love being frugal and consider it a hobby. Furniture, clothing, and books are my favorite things to buy used. I can afford to read hardcover books in perfect shape until my heart is content for $1.99 at goodwill and even less at yard sales. I used to hate shopping for clothing with my small budget until i discovered thrift stores! Now I love to buy clothes and feel rich when I can buy a whole outfit or several for what it costs to buy one shirt at the mall.

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June 26, 20080 found this helpful

In my neighborhood, we have a "freecycle" listserve on yahoogroups.com. (The email can be delivered to your inbox as an index.) People post 'offers', 'wanteds', and 'received' representing the craziest mix of things you can imagine. It is a great way to get something you need, but which you do not need to have in new condition. I have asked for several things that came my way by using freecycle. I offer things regularly, as well. It is a great moneysaver, and it is easy to set up.

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