Bargain Hunting: When Secondhand Should Be Your First Choice

Most of us love a bargain and are constantly looking for ways to save money. In many cases one of the most obvious ways to save is to buy secondhand. Depending upon what you’re buying, you can save tens, hundreds or even thousands of pounds on your purchases if you’re willing to haunt the charity shops, jumble sales, auctions (online and off) and other sources for good used stuff.

Some moneysaving experts even advise that there are items you should almost always buy used in order to avoid throwing good money away on something that really doesn’t have to be new. Perhaps some of the first things that come to mind are big-ticket items such as houses or cars (although a used car purchase is something that should be approached with all due caution). But there are plenty of smaller treasures to be found on the secondhand market as well. Here are a few.

1.Basic tools: Since many types of tools are durable and almost impossible to wear out, there’s no reason to spend a lot of extra money on shiny new ones. However since motors and engines can wear out, don’t buy power tools secondhand unless you really trust the buyer and have thoroughly examined and tested the tool.

2.Wooden furniture: There are lots of good bargains to be found on items such as tables, chairs, desks and bookshelves if you shop around. Be more cautious about anything with upholstery, though. If you’re considering a secondhand couch or comfy chair, for instance, lift all the cushions and look under them. And a good sniff test wouldn’t hurt either, particularly if you suspect the previous owner had pets. Bed frames are okay to purchase secondhand but pass on the mattresses and box springs.

3. Some sports and exercise equipment: If your kids are just getting into a sport and you’re not certain how long their passion will last, consider buying used equipment. As well, weights and basic exercise equipment are built to last, and you can generally gauge their condition just by looking at them. Be more cautious with high-end electronic exercise equipment such as treadmills, though.

4. Books, movies and video games: We have just two words: Amazon Marketplace. Okay, more than two words: other online stores, buy-sell-trade sites, auctions, resale and charity shops, jumble sales… you get the idea. Why spend more money than you need to when you can get a perfectly lovely used book or DVD or video game?

5. Musical instruments: If you’re just now getting into music, or your child is, it really doesn’t make sense to splurge for a brand new fancy instrument when a used one will do just fine until you (or your child) settles into the new hobby. You can always upgrade later if the passion becomes a calling.

6. Kid stuff: You can also buy some baby and kid stuff (such as some clothing and toys) secondhand. Your baby or toddler will never know the difference. We recommend against purchasing used cots or child car seats however.

7. Pets: We almost hate to include these, as growing numbers of people think of their pets as children or at least as family members rather than “things.” And indeed, pets are living beings with feelings, rather than consumer goods. But as long as it remains legal to buy and sell animals, it’s appropriate to suggest that instead of spending hundreds or possibly thousands of pounds on a purebred “status” dog or other companion animal from a breeder, you should shop for your new best friend at a shelter or rescue organisation. One caveat: Do be cautious about animals who were owner surrenders. Try to find out why they were surrendered; was it due to unfortunate circumstances faced by the owner or was it because the animal had some serious behavioural issue? We are not suggesting that you pass on an animal that has challenges, but if you cannot handle those challenges you’ll both be worse off. In any case there are thousands of homeless dogs and cats in the UK and choosing yours from a shelter may very well be saving its life. And many pet parents who live with rescue dogs and cats will tell you that the “rescue” works both ways.

Some people are obsessed with having the “latest thing” or the newest make or model of every item they buy, but they’re missing out on some great chances to save money. Certainly there are cases where, for health, safety or simply aesthetic reasons, only brand- new will do. But don’t overlook the hundreds of opportunities to grab a real bargain on something that is simply “new for you.”

Paul graduated in 2001 with a degree in Finance. Since then he has gone on to work for several of the UK's most well-known financial institutions.

An avid blogger and a huge football fan, Paul is here to guide you through the ins and outs of personal finance and perhaps save you some money in the process!

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