Easy Tips For Buying Used and Saving Tons of Money

Enjoy this guest post from Ashlyn. I’m all about shopping at thrift stores and buying used, so I definitely love this post! Below are her top tips and strategies. Hello there lovely readers of Making Sense of Cents! I’m Ashlyn, the writer behind Loves the Find, a DIY and budget living blog. My husband and I…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 29, 2023

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Buying used clothing and other items can be a great way to save money. Next time you have something on your list to purchase, try finding it used first!Enjoy this guest post from Ashlyn. I’m all about shopping at thrift stores and buying used, so I definitely love this post! Below are her top tips and strategies.

Hello there lovely readers of Making Sense of Cents! I’m Ashlyn, the writer behind Loves the Find, a DIY and budget living blog. My husband and I share a great love story along with a strong passion for budget friendly shopping. Our time together has taught us that money doesn’t buy happiness.

Savvy tricks, unique pieces and imagination really make a house a home and your closet designer. To say the least, we both love the find!

Not only are you benefitting your own budget by shopping used but you are also supporting local businesses, families, charities, and reducing your impact on the environment by recycling. I’m so honored that Michelle has let me share some of my favorite budget tips by buying used. Hope you enjoy my advice!

Shopping secondhand can save you a ton of money.

If you’re willing to invest some planning and patience, shopping secondhand can save you a ton of money.  Secondhand markets include flea markets, yard/garage sales, consignment sales, and thrift stores.

Flea markets/antique stores specialize in booth rentals to multiple vendors that are selling crafts, pottery, antiques, collectibles, furniture, etc. These can either be indoor shops or outdoor markets with tents and are easy to navigate in how they are normally arranged in aisles with vendors on either side. I do not normally shop these markets unless in smaller/rural towns as vendors can severely markup items in the city.

Yard/garage sales are very hit or miss, however, these are definitely the best bang for your buck when looking for items.

Consignment shops or consignment sales sell secondhand goods for owners, most having some sort of fee kickback for the sale. Most consigned goods are normally priced higher than thrift stores but most always lower than the original purchase price. The higher price point is sometimes warranted by items being in fantastic condition. A lot of consignment stores do specialize in name brand or luxury clothing, jewelry and accessories, making it more appealing and more current with fashion trends than a thrift store. Another appealing fact about consignment stores/sales is that they are set-up like a boutique and smaller so they are very easy to navigate through and find what you like. 

Lastly, the thrift store, clothes in thrift stores are donated by the community.  They do not have a strict inspection policy like consignment stores, which deters some people off since you do have to dig for treasure. The first thing you want to do before you even plan to shop is to find a good thrift store. Here are my tips for thrift store shopping:

  • The secret to finding a good thrift store is to find one which is in an affluent-neighborhood.
  • Know what you are looking for and what items are missing from your wardrobe.
  • You will want to think of shopping at a thrift store the same way you do a grocery store. Start in the sections and be patient and methodical. Instead of going through clothing racks article by article, I look for prints and cuts that jump out at me before digging in.
  • Once you focus in on a clothing item, make sure you look at the tag. There are tons of lower quality items being sold for about the same about you can get in-store with a coupon or clearance rack.
  • If it passes price vs. label, review the fabric for quality and any noticeable flaw and if it’s good to go, grab it!
  • Many stores have special days throughout the month where they discount specific items, as cheap as I am I normally only buy on sale days unless something is specifically a great deal.

Being able to incorporate your budget finds into your wardrobe or home just takes a creative mind and effort. Most of my home items were second-hand and with all the creative furniture transformation ideas now all over Pinterest, it is amazing what a little paint or stain can do to a piece.

I find homeowners who include pieces that they put time and effort into really are the most beautiful homes because they poured themselves into making their home theirs, unique, and super special. One of my favorite finds was my dining room table. For a beautifully detailed wood table and 6 chairs, it was a steal for $200. With the help of chalk paint and new chair fabric, it was a totally transformed piece!

Before & After Dining Table

Or what about transforming an inherited family treasure that you attained for free? That is the best…FREE! This wooden table was a friend’s grandparents and she transformed it with some stain and chalk paint to be one of the most treasured things in her home that her family will make tons more memories around. Isn’t it gorgeous?

dining set

For your closet inspiration here are some of my favorite thrifted outfits. Being able to use items already in your closet is a huge help when making your look super polished! 

Perfect Fall Look

Fall Look:

  • $9.00 – Fur sweater from local thrift store in almost BRAND NEW condition 🙂
  • $20.00 –  Hat from an antique store

Professional Look

Professional Look:

  • $19.90 – White House Black Market Suit (Blazer and Skirt)
  • Shirt –  Can be just a basic cotton (like this black one which go for about $4 at the thrift store) or make it extra professional with a nice blouse or button-down (about $7 from the thrift store)
  • Jessica Simpson heels and Michael Kors purse

One of the reasons I LOVE thrifting is because you can experiment with your style. I would not normally pick out high-waist jeans or a short high neck dress at a retail store, but I thought what the heck, if they look horrible it was only the price of a morning latte. It is just so exciting to be able to pick out styles that you would not normally try for extremely low risk in spending too much money. Hope this look inspires you to go for something WAY outside your norm and have fun with fashion!

boho chic

  • $4.45 – Jeans
  • $3.00 – White Top
  • $10 – Earrings on sale
  • $30 – Heels on sale

You can save money on children’s items as well!

As a mother, the best savings tip I have ever learned is never buy retail or spend tons of money on children’s clothing or toys.

Your little darling will look adorable in anything, so save your money on expensive looks and put into their savings or educational plans. Your baby grows way too fast to splurge on new. Hand-me downs are also the greatest thing! If you don’t have family or friends with children yet, try researching mom play groups and see if they have any advice or extras that they are willing to get rid of, but if not, yard sales will be your BEST friend.

Yard sales are plentiful during spring, so spend a few hours on the weekend gathering items to round out your child’s wardrobe or play room. My daughter and I go at least once a month and buy new books. She is only 2 but loves books so much and she gets really excited being able to dig the ones out of piles or boxes that she wants.

Oh, and did I mention, children clothing and books are normally priced around a quarter an item! What a steal! I’ve also had really good luck with toys to include a music activity play table for a $1 which retails for $30. Or a battery powered ride-on quad and helmet I got together for $15 which would have retailed for around $70! I’ve also seen some great bargains at yard sales for baby gates, play’n’packs, and cribs. Just remember to do a full inspection and check Google search on product rating on anything safety related.

Child Consignment

How to get your biggest bang for your buck for children?

  • Jackets
  • Items still with tags or in original packaging
  • Full outfits
  • Pajamas
  • Shoes
  • Swim diapers/swim suits
  • Books and toys in great shape

Some things to look out for in shopping used:

Clothing:

  • Shoes are extremely hard to find in good condition
  • Stains, rips, tears, pulled fabric, missing buttons, and any imperfection that would make you unhappy with your purchase
  • Always do a quick search if you are unfamiliar with brand
  • Try on EVERYTHING! If you love the piece it is worth a try on even not in your size or you may love it on the hanger but hate it on, always try!

Furniture or décor:

  • Do a quick search if you are unfamiliar with brand or item
  • Research is key when evaluating the worth of an item, so have your phone handy
  • Look for good bones – items can be easily transformed with stain and paint

And with that…these are my best budget tips by saving buying used. The thrill of buying used is addictive, so beware, once you realize the extreme savings of shopping smartly, you will never want to buy retail again!

Do you tend to buy items used? Why or why not?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. I like a lot visit antique markets and I visit thrifty store because I’ve sold a lot of books here, but I’m going to try to sell also clothes…yes you must to be able to find real good deals but sometimes are nice discover, your table is amazing!!!

    1. That’s great Giulia!! Thank you for compliment on the table!!

  2. Facebook buy/sell pages are my frugal-self’s best friend these days! I’m a little surprised you didn’t give them a mention here. It can be difficult to get some good pieces in our thrift stores where I live – a lot more people are taking to Gumtree (Australia’s Craigslist) and buy/sell pages instead of donating, plus those little old ladies are browsing the thrift shops all week and get the few bargains on offer! I went on a thrift shop run in an affluent area the other week and was really shocked at the slim pickings.

    Buy/sell pages are also fantastic for children’s items and there are often entire groups dedicated just to kids stuff.

    By the way, I adore your dining setting, it is stunning (the whole room looks stunning), you have great style Ashlyn ๐Ÿ™‚

    Jasmin

    1. Thank you so much Jasmin! You are right about the great FaceBook pages now, but what can I say I’m a little old school ๐Ÿ™‚ I also find them frustrating because items sell so fast I normally don’t have a chance.

  3. I shop at thrift stores all the time. Why pay full price for something you can get for so much less. It is especially helpful for your budget if you have small children, the clothing is so expensive and they grow out of them so fast, it not worth the cost.

    I too LOVE that dining room table, great job on restoring it!!

    1. YAY fellow thrift shopper! Thank you so much Lisa!!

  4. We do a lot of second hand shopping for our 2 year old. Why not?! He’s going to get dirty in them and probably put holes in the knees anyways. We found a really good second hand store near our house so most of the clothes look brand new anyway!

    1. I totally agree!! That’s wonderful you found a great store to shop at!

  5. I’ll start by saying I absolutely love those dining table makeovers! I love buying used, especially kids clothes. I find that my son grows out of things so quickly that it’d cost a fortune if I constantly bought him new clothes. I’ve purchased designer clothing items for him, in perfect condition for as little as a quarter. Love it!

    1. Thank you so much Ashli ๐Ÿ™‚ Wow!! A quarter?!? That is awesome!

  6. These are some super helpful tips! Especially checking that tag against the quality. I’ve found some items in consignment stores for used items were a lot higher than some of Target’s or Children’s Place sales. I’m glad you pointed this out because sometimes its not necessarily better to buy something because it’s at a thrift or consignment store.

    1. Thank you so much Latoya! So true!

  7. Very helpful tips Michelle, thanks for sharing them. I’ll be passing this on to my daughter. She’s in college and has to stretch every penny – I think this post will definitely help her.

    P.S. The table looks great!

    Have a great day and weekend.

    Cori

    1. Yes, college were the best years to create frugal habits! Thank you Cori!

  8. Melissa

    I’m glad I ran across this article because it reminded me to start checking out consignment and thrift stores again…something I used to do a lot many years ago!

    When I was a teenager, I used to go to thrift stores and buy tuxedo jackets. I would then paint the backs of them with cool designs and sell them to my friends. However that was back in the 80’s! hehe.

    I have many home furnishings that I got at a particular thrift store on the main line outside of Philadelphia (the main line if you’re not familiar with it, is a more affluent area of the Philadelphia suburbs). I’ve also purchased items at the Goodwill and transformed them with a little paint such as sconces and picture frames. I’ve kept some and sold some on eBay.

    Thanks once again for the article. I don’t normally look for clothing at thrift stores but now I will!

    1. That’s great Melissa!! Thank you for reading and shopping used ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I do love Facebook Yard Sales, however nothing like the good old fashioned ‘hunt’ for a bargain. When you see it, you know it! Some of the pieces I’ve had the longest and I hold most dear are the flea market, yard sale or thrift store finds and let’s not forget the Church fairs! They were the ones that spoke to me to be brought home, cleaned up and live their next life with my family. This post may not have intended to, but it’s brought back fond memories of how I these precious finds arrived into my life.

    1. Awww Kim, that’s great!! I agree. When you see it, you know it, and will always treasure it!

  10. Amanda-LivingFullyandFree

    Such a fun post! I am a huge fan of thrifting and can’t wait to share future finds with others! That dining room table set!!! I’m dying I love it so much!!!

    Thank you for the inspirational post!

    Amanda

    1. Thank you so much Amanda!!

  11. Amanda

    Whenever I need something, I turn to thrift stores first, particularly for clothing or furniture. I used to frequent yard sales when my kids were younger to buy them clothes I knew they would grow out of quickly. Shopping second hand is fun and saves a ton of money too! Thanks for sharing you pics, Ashlyn – love the table!

    1. Thank you so much Amanda!!

  12. Terri L Jennings

    My husband and I love to antique shops. We are ready doing our home in vintage. You can find some great deals at antique stores.
    We have also used vargesale for selling items when we recently moved. We wanted to get rid of a bunch of furniture that we didn’t want to move so someone got some great pieces at a great price.
    Thanks for the blog, I highly recommend thrift stores for clothing too!

    1. That’s great Terri!! Thank you for reading!

  13. Love this post! I love second-hand shopping! I agree though you do have to be careful. There are some places around where I live that is stingy and aren’t that cheap. I recently went to a childrens consignment sale here in town and got all of my son’s school clothes for 17 bucks!! I was super happy about that. You have some great tips here ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you so much Tanya!!

  14. J.D. and I have gotten all of our furniture from Craigslist, Facebook furniture groups, and Walmart. We’ve probably spent a total of $350 for all of our furniture items in our new apartment, and all we brought with us was a desk and TV!

    1. WOW!! That’s fantastic Alexis!!

  15. Lindsey

    I have bought many sundresses and shirts from thrift stores. There are a number of them located in my city and more often than not, the pieces look brand new!

    1. Love sundresses!! That’s fabulous! Thanks Lindsey!

  16. Great Post and so true!

    We starting shopping more at thrift stores and I am amazed at the savings. You are so right when saying they are priced way different than consignment. When buying for my kids, I can find name brand clothes at Salvation Army for $1.00. Now at the consignment store, where I used to shop for my kids would up the cost of that item due to the brand name.

    This is such a handy post for people trying to save money and not just on their kid’s clothes. You put together some great outfits for yourself as well.

    1. Thank you so much Addi!! Keep on saving!

  17. Thanks for not mentioning ways other than Craigslist. My wife bargain hunts all the time. We recently found a warehouse that sells the excess from our local thrifts stores and you can buy everything for $1. Nothing is sorted so you have to look through mounds of clothes but can find some good stuff. My wife found some Land’s End clothes that still had tags on them.

    Also, great look with the table. We recently bought some old kitchen cabinets and repainted them and put on some headboard wallpaper. You would never guess!

    1. Wow Josh!! I would go crazy if we had a warehouse like that. That is amazing!

  18. I agree that buying used is a great way to save money and double your money simultaneously simply because you can buy low and sell high on sites like AngiesList.com, uBid.com, eBaY.com, Grailed.com, Etsy.com and others. In fact, that alone can be a lucrative side hustle that’ll not only help anyone save money in the process of starting up their “buying and selling side hustle,” but also put themselves in the deserving position to be a future “side hustle millionaire.”