We live in an incredibly and, dare I say, shamefully wasteful society. Each year, the world throws away an astonishing 33% of all food produced. Consumerism and constantly buying new crap is how we measure the growth of our economy. We throw away instead of fixing what’s broken. We upgrade to the newest electronic gadget the day it’s out. We are always trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Screw the Joneses.
You’ll never get rich spending your money on depreciating assets. I know that occasionally, you still need (or more likely just want) those assets to live your life. If you take advantage of the cavalier attitude most people have towards consumption, you can strengthen your financial avatar and help the environment at the same time. Buy used goods. Peruse Craigslist, Gumtree, garage sales, thrift stores, the salvation army. All of these places are overflowing with the various accouterments of your life at prices that would surprise you.
When I moved to Australia from the United States, I needed to buy all new electronics and some other miscellaneous items for my apartment. I bought a washing machine, a microwave, an iron, a flat iron for straightening my hair, a blender, a heater, a fan, a modem, a vacuum, a double bed for the guest room including a blanket, an electric blanket, four pillows and sheets, extra sheets for the bed (brand new and still in the bag!), mesh bags, wine glasses, a stepping stool, and a bike.
As you know, I like making lists, and after consulting my “Crap I Bought for Sydney” list, I know exactly how much I paid for all of this stuff. I bought all the items listed above except for the flat iron, the electric blanket and the blender off Gumtree used. Excluding those three items, I paid a grand total of $330 for everything. I didn’t buy my items all at once, but rather over the course of a couple of months. I know that requires some patience, but as I would make an excellent grasshopper, I possess an appropriate amount of patience. I did look in real stores out of curiosity. If I could not delay my gratification and instead bought everything new, I would have shelled out $1300.
When I left Sydney almost two years later, I threw myself a going-away party which I dubbed “Operation Get Rid of My Booze” and made every item listed above available to friends for free. Whatever was left over, I sold on Gumtree. Taking my profit from the sold items into account, I only spent $190, but I am confident I could have recouped the entire $330 were it not for my incredibly generous (and modest) soul.
To give you a little glimpse into my life and because this picture makes me happy, here’s the makeshift bar I created for that party. You can see some of the wine glasses I bought.
Anyway, the moral of my story is to buy used, my darlings. Not only did I save a substantial sum of money, I also felt like I was helping the environment by rescuing these items from an early landfill grave. And I prevented the making, packaging and transportation of new products, guarding Mama Earth once again.
Oh, and a caveat. I had a list drawn up of things that I knew would make my life better. I don’t hunt through these sites for random good deals when I don’t need anything specific because I hate shopping. I do know that some people can make a pretty penny off reselling items they find second hand, but I am not one of those people. If you are not one of those people either, I do not recommend scanning sites just for the sake of scratching your shopping itch. Buy only what you need and not because you find something cheap.
One final note on this topic. Rent-to-own places are a terrible idea. Sure, they may offer flexible payment plans and you can return the product at any time for any reason without hurting your credit, but the interest rates you pay will make you gag. Buy used instead. You will have no monthly payments and I can pretty much guarantee it will be cheaper that way. I plan to write more on this topic later. Stay tuned!