Save bundles of cash buying used: Your guide to the most commonly purchased used items

your-guide-toLast week we sold a home gym on Craigslist for $150 that we purchased used 3 ½ years ago for $175. Total cost of use? $25 over three years – not bad!

We’ve done this numerous times, re-selling bikes, furniture, and other items, sometimes for the exact same price we paid.

Though the primary reason for buying used is to save a heap of money, buying used also helps keep items out of landfills and saves on resources to manufacture and package new products. It’s a win for your pocketbook and the planet.

Buying used typically saves 50-80% off of retail cost and you can find anything used – cars*, clothes, appliances, tools, and books.

The trick is to get a good price, but decent quality items that are functional and in good condition.

What to buy used?

  • Things you won’t need/use for any length of time (children’s clothes, shoes)
  • Items that will get well used – a minor scratch or dent from previous owner doesn’t matter (toys, bikes, cars, tools)
  • Anything you need that has seen little to no use from previous owner (shoes, small appliances, furniture, electronics)

Where to buy?

Consignment stores, thrift stores, garage/yard sales, craigslist, and ebay are great places to find quality used items at a good price.

Your guide to buying used


Buy clothing off-season at thrift or consignment stores (or even garage sales). Most people are buying clothing for the current season, leaving a better selection of off-season clothing, sometimes at a discounted price.

Designer clothes can be found at a fraction of retail price. Consignment stores, ebay and craigslist all have designer clothing at a decent price. But, if you’re willing to search at thrift stores and garage sales, you can find high end clothing even cheaper. Last year, I picked up two pair of designer jeans (retail=$150/each) for $10/each at Goodwill.

Baby and children’s clothes are the perfect items to purchase used. Kids grow like weeds, meaning you can find clothes that are next to new and don’t have to worry about spending too much on clothes they’ll outgrow in 3 months.

Formal wear is generally only worn one time and, in my opinion, should not warrant spending new prices. I recently read that prom dresses can run upward of $1000 these days (that’s more than I spent on my wedding dress)!

As I was perusing a consignment store last weekend, I noticed they had a huge rack of formal dresses that could be worn to prom or a wedding. One young lady tried on a nice dress that her mother was going to have altered for a better fit; even with the alteration, she probably spent way less what she would have spent on a brand new dress.


chair 3
I bought four chairs on craigslist cheap, painted and distressed them to get the rustic farmhouse look

Lightly used furniture can be found at yard sales and on craigslist. Most of the furniture I’ve come across at thrift stores is very well used, but if you are handy with sandpaper and a paintbrush, you could pick up a scratched piece and make it look new again with a little paint or stain.

Check furniture for nicks, scratches, tears and stains. Flaws are easy to overlook, so take your time and look under the piece and behind it as well.

Sit on it. Try out furniture prior to purchase. That chair may look perfect in your living room, but if it’s hard as a rock, no one will be sitting in it.

Know your dimensions. Measure the space the furniture will be placed in prior to heading out to shop. Consider the distance around the piece as well: Is there ample room to walk around it? Are you allowing necessary space in front of and behind a chair?

Take measurements and a tape measure with you to check pieces you are considering. The thing about buying used is there are no returns, so if you get a piece of furniture home and it doesn’t fit, you’re stuck with it!

NOTE: mattresses and children’s furniture should not be purchased used

Sports equipment

Kids, and even adults, tend to try out different sports/activities, sometimes only to quit soon after starting. We should all try new activities, but the equipment necessary to participate in these activities can be expensive.

My daughter recently started Tae Kwon Do and we were on the hook for the uniform and sparring gear ($100) – since we were in a hurry, we didn’t purchase used. We may have been able to get these for half the price if we had devoted more time and energy to finding them.

Check consignment stores or second hand sporting goods stores, as well as craigslist and ebay when searching for sporting equipment.

Be cautious when purchasing sporting goods used. Items such as baseball bats or tennis racquets are fine, but check functionality and condition of items such as sparring equipment and padding, as well as the functionality of machines, such as weight sets or treadmills.

Never buy used helmets or other pertinent safety equipment.


Research brands and associated quality, along with desired features of the tools you need. When shopping for any tool, it’s best to start off knowing what brands tend to last longer, along with typical issues the particular tool is known to have.

Inspect tools well – look for visible flaws, rust, and check electrical cords (don’t buy items with cracked or frayed cords). If you’re looking at a  power tool, plug it in and check for functionality.

Tools that are very old are likely to have seen a ton of use and are more likely to be missing screws or other necessary parts. Look for tools that aren’t more than a few years old.


Textbooks are very expensive. If you are enrolling in college classes, consider purchasing used – it could save you hundreds of dollars each semester.

Amazon is a good place to buy all types of used books, but also check thrift stores, consignment bookstores, such as Half-Price Books, and other online resources like

What have you purchased used that saved you a ton of cash? What important tips would you give for buying used?


*Purchasing used cars saves a ton of money and I decided this deserves a post of it’s own.

26 thoughts on “Save bundles of cash buying used: Your guide to the most commonly purchased used items

  1. A great list. Text books are on our list as our children head off to college soon. I’m a big fan of the used car. A new car depreciates so much in the first 1-3 years. You can save a ton of cash buying a gently used car.

    1. Thanks, Brian! Yes, used car was definitely on my list, but I decided it deserved a post of it’s own – making a note of that in the post. Coming soon!

  2. Clothing is always an interesting treasure hunt. A former teacher of mine used to shop for bowling shirts at thrift stores and was very successful at it. Lots of good stuff to choose from.

    1. I have to say I’ve never noticed any bowling shirts, but then I wasn’t looking?. You really can find just about anything used and part of the fun is the hunt! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I sold used books for years. “Best Seller” to me is the same as “Future Overstocked Item” and I learned pretty quickly that any big selling DVD, book, CD or video game was easy to pick up 2 or 3 years later. That may be less true now that so many people pick up digital copies instead of physical ones.

    1. I do think people are tending to use the digital readers more frequently now, but there are still those of us that love the feeling of a real book in our hands. But, textbooks are still being used, so that is an area that is still popular for selling and buying used.

  4. I know a guy who left the high-end fashion sales world to live a more relaxed life in South Florida. He makes a full-time living by going to Goodwill and other thrift stores and purchasing high end clothing left there by the ridiculously wealthy in the Fort Lauderdale area. Then he sells it on eBay! He says he can make a few grand a month doing that and enjoys the flexibility it brings.

    So great list for saving money – and also maybe a list for making a few extra bucks here and there as well. 🙂

    1. I love that idea, Rob! I knew there were some people out there who have been able to make some money flipping thrift store buys, but hadn’t heard any real stories of people making a living doing it. I recently bought some shoes at Goodwill and flipped them for a nice profit on ebay. It could be a great side hustle!

  5. Nice list of cost saving tips. One thing I organized at my last job was a clothing swap. It’s great because it’s free. We had over 100 people bring in their clothes once a year and trade. I got some seriously slick dress clothes this way :-).

    1. Thank you! A clothing swap is a great idea – a way to de-clutter and get new clothes with no money exchanging hands. Perfect.

  6. I’m very impressed by the before and after photos of that chair. I lack the courage to take on that sort of DIY project. But one step at a time, right? We buy very few things used. There is a lot to consider on this list. I think I’ll start with what you have to say about used clothing. Good tips here, Amanda!

    1. Thanks!!! The key not to be afraid to try the DIY projects and remember you can always repaint if you mess up, so no big deal. Plus I usually start with something that is dirt cheap or free, so no loss there. We buy almost all of our clothes used and always have, but it is getting harder to please the teenagers.

  7. This is a great list. I always try to find furniture (wood ones). Sometimes, I keep the furniture and, most of the time, I re-finish and re-sell them. Cha-ching money for me.

    I generally stay away from clothes or anything that have close contact with skin. Though furniture is something that comes in contact with skin, it is not the same as the shirts, shoes, shorts, etc.

    1. Thanks, Allan! I’ve considered refinishing furniture to resell – I am never sure which pieces would bring a profit, but I’ll have to try it sometime. I understand that many people are uncomfortable buying used clothes. I typically buy is as close to new as you can get (in fact some of them still have tags on them), plus I wash them well and haven’t ever had any issues. We do buy most of our shoes new though. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I bought a bike off of CL for $40. Used it for four years, commuting and everything then sold it for $20. It wasn’t a great bike, but it got me from point A to B.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Melanie! Great deal on the bike – $20 for 4 years of use is a bargain. I love calculating my cost of use on items such as this and think about how much I saved over buying new.

  9. I love taking advantage of used baby clothes or kids clothes because you’re right, they grow to dag on fast! Only time I don’t shop used is when Target or Children’s Place is having a ridiculously good sale and it would be more expensive to shop used or consignment. I’m sometimes able to get new clothes so cheap and sell at a profit.

    1. Thanks, Latoya! I love that you shop the good sales for new stuff and make a profit when you resell. That’s a win-win in my book!

  10. I actually enjoy buying used clothes because I never know what I’m going to find and often walk out empty handed since I’m picky. When I do find something good, I feel even better that I didn’t spend much. Savers is my favorite thrift shop and I always wait until they have a 50% off sale to save even more.

    1. Same here, Nicole! I like hunting for good quality clothes. We don’t have a Saver’s where I’m at, but we have Goodwill and Salvation Army. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Great post and one I can easily identify with. The first place I go when I need to get anything that has a biggish price tag is Gumtree (Australian version of Craigslist). And then when I don’t need something any more, back on it goes, often as you pointed out, at a similar price to what I bought it for. It’s almost as though I’m renting the item and then sending it back out to be reused once I’m done with it.

    1. Thanks, Martin! That’s exactly the way I think of it too. I love the savings and it’s a great way to keep perfectly decent items out of the garbage. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Lots of good ways to save money there. We have bought lots of our furniture second hand and it has saved us a heap of money. The biggest thing we have saved 2nd hand is of course our car.

    As soon as we have our baby, I’m looking forward to the amount of 2nd hand baby things we can pick up too.


    1. Oh yes, buying a used car is a great way to save a ton of money (post coming soon)! You will be amazed at how fast your baby grows and how short a time they can wear their clothes. The nice thing about this is you can easily find good, quality baby items used. Thanks, Tristan!

  13. Good advice for what sells better used and what doesn’t work. This will definitely come in handy for any newbies.

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