Buy used to bulk up your financial avatar

By | February 8, 2016

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.

Don't let their smiles fool you. They have a lot of stuff, but they also have a lot of debt. And they'll be working until they die.

Don’t let their smiles fool you. They have a lot of stuff, but they also have a lot of debt. And they’ll be working until they die. Also, they have no muscle tone.

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. 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.

Operation Get Rid of My Booze Because the U.S. Has Really High Duty Taxes on Alcohol

Operation Get Rid of My Booze Because the U.S. Has Really High Duty Taxes on Alcohol

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!

14 thoughts on “Buy used to bulk up your financial avatar

  1. Adventures With Poopsie

    Poopsie and I have recently moved in together which meant we had way too much furniture. We have sold and are still selling the excess stuff on Gumtree. It is all in excellent condition, so great stuff can definitely be found on Gumtree.

    Apart from our couch and our rug (housewarming gift from my parents), our entire living room and dining room is second hand. And you know what? It looks great and it’s better quality than I could find in a shop.

    Great post!

  2. Wolf359

    Have you seen the movie “The Joneses”? The premise is that the Jones family are actually employees of a stealth marketing company designed to get you to buy their stuff.

    I now think of that movie when someone warns about keeping up with the Joneses.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Jay: Hmm, I’ll see if I can figure out how to do that. My tech skills are limited at best.
      Wolf: I’ve never even heard of that movie, but that sounds awesome!

  3. Marty

    Instead of rent-to-own (which you point out is a terribly expensive option), I practice own-to-rent. For big, durable items I need only for a short time–maybe a canoe for one week of the year, garden or construction equipment for one job, or a car while my daughter is home for the summer–I can buy a used one on Craigslist. If I buy smart, and use it gently, I can likely sell it later for close to what I paid. Almost free stuff!

  4. des

    Hmm, i am currently living and working in Melbourne (I am originally from Singapore). I didn’t really had to buy much as I tried to get an apartment which comes with furniture so that i didn’t have to deal with buying loads of furniture. (but i must add that my apartment rental is huge. i should try to cut that down…). i didnt go into thrift stores but i did buy loads of stuff from bigw (bedding /cooking appliances.) I think i am lazy. :p

    btw, thats a lot of booze! i love to drink sometimes but i slant towards being a social drinker. I love a good drink with good mates! 🙂

  5. Mortimer

    Buying used just gets better and better as time goes on. New products are orders of magnitude better than the ones they replace. If you buy quality used products, and only have to replace them every 5-7 years with another gently used item, you take giant leaps in quality on an only slightly less aggressive time scale, at a fraction of the price. You can trim inflation’s impact on you down to next to nothing. Great post!

  6. Brian

    I’d also like to add, if you do buy new for whatever personal reason it may be, take good care of it and don’t replace it until it’s broken, or it at least no longer serves a purpose that you currently need. Don’t replace things just because something newer and cooler was released.


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