Spring is that peculiar time of year when we clean out our garages and attics so we can rush out to yard sales, garage sales and thrift stores to land bargains on stuff that others are cleaning out of their own garages and attics.
There’s one savvy way to win this cycle: by purchasing only those items you can feel confident buying secondhand. But how can you tell what’s a really smart used purchase? We’ve got you covered. AARP reached out to four thrift-shopping gurus, who say these 10 items are the very best to buy used.
Books always have been and always will be just about the best thing to buy used. “They are the ultimate good-to-buy-used category,” says Kate Holmes, a resale industry consultant and author of Too Good to Be Threw: The Complete Operations Manual for Resale and Consignment Shops. Even if you don’t plan to read the books, she says, “a little bundle of similar books, tied with a burlap bow or a satin ribbon, makes a wonderful accessory on your bookshelf.”
For shopping expert Trae Bodge, reading a used book can be the most pleasurable of experiences. “There’s something lovely about reading something that you can see was also read by someone else who left a little dog-ear,” she says. In fact, she bought most of her own book collection secondhand from the semiannual college scholarship fundraising book sale at which her husband volunteers. Speaking of college, she strongly recommends that virtually all college textbooks be purchased used, which can save hundreds of dollars.
Children’s books in particular are terrific to purchase used, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer money-saving expert. At a farmers market, her kids recently picked out brand-new “used” editions of Disney’s Bambi for $4 each, which she figures is about a two-thirds discount. And when it comes to coffee-table books, which are meant more for display than reading, she says buying used is by far the most cost-conscious route.
2. Pet items
There may be no savvier way to pick up basic items for your pet than secondhand, says Kathy Ozzard Chism, author of Garage Sale Success Secrets: The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Turn Your Trash Into CA$H! She’s still smarting a bit from the $150 dog crate she had for many years that ultimately sold on Craig’s List for $60. Few things sell more quickly at garage and yard sales than pet crates, because they are very costly when purchased new.
Ozzard Chism also encourages folks to buy feeding bowls, leashes and even collars secondhand, since they can be pricey at the pet store. But she advises against purchasing a used pet bed unless there is a tag still on it that assures you it was never used. Otherwise, it could be an invitation for fleas, ticks and dust mites, she warns.