13 Things You Should Always Buy Second Hand

crock potAh, the smell of dusty silk flowers, mauve floral sheets, neon 80's track suits, and VHS tapes. Most likely brings you back to any memory you have of yard sales and thrift stores, right? Believe it or not, buying things second hand is not what you think it is, and certainly is not like it used to be. Heck, it's not even limited to your stereotypical yard sale or thrift shop! (Though I am a fan of popping some tags...)


Buying second-hand is a great way to get quality, vintage OR modern, used AND new (yes you read that right) items at a fabulous price!

Today I'll teach you the 10 things you should be buying second-hand, but probably aren't. I'll also cover my top 3 things that you should always buy new, since life is about balance right?

Between eBayCraigslist, classifieds, hand-me-downs, consignment stores, yard sales, Amazon, and good ol' thrift stores, there's an endless trove of treasures waiting for you. If nothing else, here are my top 13 things to buy second-hand: 

1) Bikes

Kid bikes, adult bikes, bicycles built for two, you name it. The nicer the bike, the better the deal. My husband sold some old items (such as his guitar amp from college) to pay for an incredible $3,200 mountain bike that he scored off the classifieds for $1,500 -- simply because the original owner wanted to upgrade after one season of riding on it. Classifieds and yard sales are great places to buy kid bikes since kids grow out of them so quickly. (Psst ... learn how to become a Yard Sale ninja and save hundreds!)

2) iPads

I'm a bit anxious that I'm giving away one of my best kept secrets, and that is the world of refurbishment. You can buy a refurbished iPad for quite a bit less than a brand new one, straight from Apple's website. And yes, they work every bit as well (trust me, that's how we bought ours!). The secret is that this isn't limited to just iPads! Any form of technology can be bought refurbished, and often times still includes a warranty of some kind (our Dyson vacuum is proof!). Check your local electronics repair shops, they often have liquidation sales of refurbished items. 

3) Clothes

Aside from quality yard sales (my favorite way to get used clothes!), consignment stores are great places to get quality items. Not to mention, shop virtually for free! You can take in your unwanted clothes to a store like Plato's Closet or Kid-to-Kid, sell your items on the spot, then use that cash to then buy an updated wardrobe for a great price. Look for gently used clothes that aren't faded or stained. Check sweaters for snags, check pants and dresses for buttons and snaps, and make sure everything is easily washable (and wash it before you wear it!).

Each year we create our costumes mostly from second hand items

4) Halloween costumes

Let me ask you ... how many times have your kids worn the same Halloween costume two years in a row? Exactly. Yet, as parents we continue to mortgage our house to afford a new fancy costume every year! Take advantage of all those "worn once or twice" Halloween costumes that especially go in abundance in the fall. And hey, if it never makes it to the trick-or-treat streets, it will be a great addition to the dress up box. My family likes to create a theme of costumes from second hand items, just like we did when we dressed up as Finding Nemo.

5) Snow suits & boots

Kids grow so fast, most people end up replacing kid snow gear each season if they live in a snowy climate. Their loss is your gain! Shop around winter time as people clear out their seasonal closets. We bought an entire professional ski suit (including gloves, goggles, boots, jacket, and pants) for our 5-year-old at a neighborhood yard sale for $5. It was only worn for one season and was worth over $200 retail. Our other kids got fabulous winter coats and boots this year from a thrift store.

6) Breast pumps

Ew. Twenty bucks says that was your first reaction. Believe it or not, this is one of the few baby items I recommend buying second-hand! Electric breast pumps cost hundreds of dollars, but you typically only use one for a few months. You don't have to reuse someone's suction cups (though, they can easily be sterilized in the dish washer). All the pieces and parts (suction cups, tubes, and membranes) can be bought -- brand new and sterile -- at stores like Babies-R-Us. The motor is what you pay an arm and a leg for, which never comes in contact with body or milk. I bought my $250 Medela breast pump system for $100 from Craigslist and have used it for all four of my kids, and will probably be able to sell it for as much as I bought it for when I'm through with it. For safety reasons, be sure to do your research! Medela explains which pumps are good for second-hand use, and which ones are single use. 

Hot curlers aren't just for Grandma any more!

7) Hot curlers 

They just don't make them like they used to. If you see any of those off-white gems with the little brown dot on top, nab 'em! Just disinfect them with rubbing alcohol and you're good to go. (Then check out my post about how to use hot rollers to make you look like a hottie.)

8) Little girl shoes

Why girl shoes? First of all, good luck finding boy shoes that haven't looked like they lost a fight with a lawn mower. Girls are not only gentler on their clothes (for the most part), but parents are more likely to spend more money on girl clothes (they're just so darn CUTE!), which makes for more second-hand options for girls. I know for my daughters they have summer shoes, church shoes, play shoes, warm shoes, boots for rain, boots for style, walking shoes, running shoes, dress-up shoes ...

My boys? Spider Man sneakers. 


Most of the accessories in our home were bought second hand.

9) Picture frames & home decor

Before running to target, try finding decor second-hand! This includes furniture, picture frames, mirrors, baskets, vases, even an occasional lamp or two. My personal rule is: If it's made of wood, it never goes out of style! Wood can be sanded, painted, spackled, decaled, and upholstered to give it an updated look. The majority of the decor accessories in my house are second-hand, and I love the uniqueness of each piece. 

10) Toys

Last year our Christmas gifts to our kids were all thrifted. Around Christmas time donations pour in to thrift stores, as people clean out their toy boxes to make room for Santa's bounty. We found so many nearly new (or literally new!) toys at our local Savers, we decided we didn't need anything new for our kids (especially with how much they got from Grandma and Grandpa!).

Instruments are wonderful items to buy second hand

11) Pianos

Or any other musical instrument, to be exact. Think about it ... what happened to that old clarinet, drum set, or flute your mom encouraged you to try in band class, that you no longer play? It most likely got donated, sold, traded, or given away. Check your classifieds and even music stores for quality, used instruments before buying ANYTHING full-price. We found our piano for $600 on Craigslist, hardly used since it was placed as decoration in a vacation rental home.

12) Books

Many of us buy books, read them once, then recycle or give them away. Take advantage by buying perfectly good books for incredible prices at yard sales, Amazon, and even book sales at your local library. This especially goes for kid books! 

13) Small kitchen appliances you don't use every day

I'm talking about rice cookers, bread machines, ice cream makers, slow cookers, electric skillets.

I do recommend investing in a new item when it's an appliance you use every day, such as a toaster, blender, or coffee maker. But for those smaller, rarely used items, there's no problem buying them used! My mom bought me a $4 bread machine when I was first married. I still use to knead and rise dough, and it does a fabulous job.

things to always buy used

And here are my top 3 things to always buy brand new:

1) Crib mattresses.

Crib Death (SIDS) is said to be caused by toxins released in crib mattresses. According to Healthy Child, "The risk of death increases when mattresses are re-used from one baby to the next because the fungus has already had a chance to establish itself in the used mattress," even if it's between your own children. So while you certainly don't have to buy a luxury mattress for your baby, it is recommended that it at least be a brand new one.

2) Bras, Socks, & Underwear

I'm pretty sure you can buy a new bra at Walmart for cheaper than a bag of dog food. In my humble opinion, there is no need to buy any form of under anything from anyone else. 

3) Makeup

As tempting as it might be to buy a "barely used" makeup palette off of eBay, you don't know what kind of fungi and germs might be lingering in the makeup. Play it safe and buy new. If you aren't ready to commit to an expensive, full-sized makeup item, contact the maker and ask for a sample size to try first! Many times they have some available and are happy to share.

What items do you love to buy used? What items do you insist on buying brand new?

Jordan's advice from her FunCheapOrFree blog has been featured on TLCThe Today ShowInside EditionToday Australia, and the DailyMail. Be sure to check out more of her frugal living and lifestyle tips.

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