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10 Things You Should Never Buy New (plus 5 that you probably should)

Updated on February 11, 2014

It's Technically Not a Depression

Technically... But for those who are unemployed, underemployed, or otherwise forced to pinch pennies, it's kind of hard to tell the difference sometimes. One of the lessons that we could definitely glean from the Great Depression era is thrift and creativity. This is a list for those looking for ways to make ends meet, while keeping themselves and their family comfortable and happy.

1) Clothes

If you go to a retail store and pull a full priced item off the rack, the price you see on the tag is 100% more than the garment costed them at wholesale prices.This is called keystone pricing. Typically speaking, clothing that is not fair trade was most likely made in a sweat shop in a country where workers (oftentimes women and children) got pennies a day for grueling work. The garment only cost a few dollars to make, but fresh off the shelf it can run $30 and up. Every time a person purchases items from these shops, they tell these retailers that what they are doing is okay. Even if you're not watching your money, it's a good idea to only buy fair trade clothing at full price.

For those on a budget, new clothing should be the first thing you cross out of your expenditure. Thrift stores and garage sales will allow you to clothe yourself and your family for a few dollars a month. If you have friends who wear the same size as you, think about forming a clothing co-op, where you share clothes that aren't worn often. My friends and I circulate maternity clothes rather than buying new ones.

More than any other type of clothes, kids' clothes are the most futile to buy new. Babies and children grow fast, and as hard as they can be on their clothes, they usually outgrow them way before they wear them out. "Hand-me-downs" are a cliche of poor and middle-class families, but that's because they work. If you don't have other kids to hand-down to, then look for other families to swap with. As a rule of thumb, the less often an item will be worn, the less money should be spent on it. Again, clothing co-ops are your friend.

2) Vehicles

Okay, forget what you've heard about buying another person's problems, there are tons of reasons people will sell they're vehicles and very few of them are because it's a lemon. If you've got a friend who is a mechanic, it's still wise to bring them along so they can once-over the car for you. If you don't have a friend who is a mechanic, either hire one to do that, or learn the skills yourself.

Like clothes, brand new cars and trucks are marked up to ridiculous prices. The old saying that a car loses half it's value when it drives off the lot is true.

If you can, save up your money before you buy it. If you're going through a dealership, you'll save interest by avoiding month payments, and if you're going through an individual, most people want to be paid in one or two lump sums.

3) Toys

I admit, my life is a lot easier because my kids are home schooled. Even at home, though, kids will be tempted by toy companies to spend, spend, spend. Kids are particularly susceptible to advertising, and toy companies know it. That's why every month there's a new fad toy that they fool kids into believing they just HAVE to have. Here are my rules for reducing the "gimmes":

1) No kids' shows on commercial TV- We're big fans of PBS kids, which (for the most part) is commercial free; at least it doesn't have the kid targeted, loud, obnoxious ads you see on cable stations.

2) Avoiding the toy section stores- When we must go into a store with a toy section, I avoid going through it. Before we go in, though, I make it very clear that we're going in for X,Y, and Z, and that we will not be buying anything besides those items. If I must bribe them, it is with a trip to the park on the way home rather than with toys or candy.

3) Talk to kids about the way commercials work- My daughter is one of those kids who believes she absolutely NEEDS everything that the TV tells her she does. Part of my solution for this was rule #1, but part of it was sitting down with both my older kids and telling them about how businesses sell things, and the difference between "wants" and "needs".

If you go to garage sales, you'll soon find that toys are very easy to come by, and that they are much cheaper second hand. Now, a very important rule about second-hand toys is that they MUST be cleaned before you give them to kids. Stuffed animals should be washed in warm water, at least once. (I like to wash them twice.) Hard toys should either be washed with Lysol or put through a dish washer (if they don't have stickers and won't melt).

Although kids need to play, they don't really need toys. I know this sounds shocking, but watch any kid with a cardboard box and you'll believe it. Children will play with whatever is on hand. It's nice for kids to have their own special toys, but kids rarely know the difference between carefully cleaned second-hand toys and brand new toys. (This is especially true if you rarely or never buy brand new toys.)

4) Books

I'm a bibliographic, but when I'm living on a budget, I know that new books are just out of the question. Especially when there are so many places to find free or bargain second hand books.

The first place to look is the library. Especially if you have never read a particular book before, it's a good idea to borrow it and read before you commit money to it.

Our library has semi-annual book sales, where you can buy books for $.25-.50 a piece. This is when I do most of my book purchasing. Goodwill and the Salvation Army also have periodic book sales, and garage sales are great places to pick up almost new books and magazines for almost nothing.

5) Houses

Like cars, lots of people have misgivings about second-hand houses, but really it's a matter of proper inspection before you invest. If you know carpenters, electricians, or plumbers ask them to go with you and inspect, or hire a professional house inspector. One key to successfully buying a second-hand house is to avoid real estate agents. They can be helpful, and are a nice luxury for those who can afford it; for those watching their wallets, though, paying for commission is just not an option. Good places to look for houses are sale ads or the internet.

Although some people are squimish about buying repo homes, they are real money savers; especially if you need affordable housing.

If you haven't thought about it, and are a flexible person, a good way to cut housing cost is to live with relatives or friends. In large houses, people who can get along well, can share housing costs and everyone saves. This is a wonderful environment for children to grow up in; although, it is important that adults have clear-cut boundaries about who is responsible for what.

6) Computers

Opps- I'm sure the techies will be peeved with this one, but seriously computers become outdated so quickly that it's always easy to find mildly used computers at a fraction of the cost. So long as your computer does what you need it to do, don't worry about it not being "cutting edge," or you'll be playing a constant game of "keeping up with the Jones's".

If you need a computer for your children to use, going with something older is a really good idea. Put only the programs you need on your computer to maximize speed. While we're talking about computer programs, rather than buying programs full price, check out Amazon, Ebay, and Craigslist for bargains, and don't forget to keep an eye out at Outlet malls.

7) Furniture

I saw an ad the other day for a sale at a furniture store; they were boasting about bedroom sets (excluding mattresses) for $800. With a little creativity and elbow grease, there is no reason a person should have to spend more than $400 to redo a room.

The key to redoing a room on a dime is flexibility. Give up the idea that everything must match. (That's so last century, anyway!) Instead, go with a color scheme you and use it on the pieces you find. Two buckets of paint (or a few cans of spray paint) are a cheap and easy way to make your bedroom set seem like it belongs together.

Figure out what you have and what you need. If you're getting your first home or apartment, that may be close to everything. Write out a list, then hit the sales ads and internet. Don't forget to check out garage sales and thrift stores. You may wind up sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor, or eating around the coffee table Japanese style for a few weeks, but the time you spend searching for the right things at the right price will ultimately save you loads of money.

8) Bread

Okay, I hear people gagging over the thought of second-hand bread, but when I say "not new" here I mean, not technically "fresh." If you live within driving distance of a bread store, you ought to stop by. "Day old" bread is not stale or moldy, it's only been on the shelf a few days, then is brought back to be sold at least 1/2 off what you find in a grocery store. The one I shop at sells a loaf of bread that normally runs $3 for $..99. When I go, I by at least 3 loaves (they have a buy 2 get 1 free special), and store the extra loaves in the freezer until we're ready for them. To defrost the bread, just put the loaf, in the wrapper, on the shelf and give it a couple hours. It comes out fluffy and fresh tasting.

While we're talking about food, you should really check out the damaged package/ discontinued aisle at the grocery store if they have one where shop. There are wonderful deals there, too!

9) Movies

If you're on a tight budget, you should scratch out the movie theater. $7+ an adult ticket, $3+ for popcorn, and $5+ for drinks make for an expensive night out, especially if you're bringing a family. If you have friends or family members who are also into thrifty living, why not form a movie night. A host family can rent a new release, another family can bring food, and another drinks. You'll be watching it a month later than the blockbuster crowd, but you'll be saving a bundle and watching in the comfort of your home (or a friend's home) where you can get comfortable.

We rarely buy movies; but when we do, they're at garage sales or thrift stores. More often than not, we'll borrow movies from the library, because who wants to be stuck watching the same movies over and over or having to find space for a massive DVD collection. Some of my friends swear by Netflix

10) Pets

Pets are hardly economical, but they sure are wonderful to have around. If you do decide to get a pet, you should never go to a pet store to buy one. There are plenty of pets of all variety that are looking for homes at shelters. Many of the dogs in shelters are there because they are old, and their previous owners wanted a puppy or kitten. Older dogs and cats are wonderful pets because, for the most part, they've gotten over the desire to gnaw and claw everything around them.

If you like animals, but don't necessarily care if your pet is a cat or dog, and you live somewhere without rules against them, I would suggest getting chickens, ducks, or goats. These animals make wonderful pets and also provide food in the form of eggs and milk.

Great Stuff on Amazon

5 Things You Should Probably Buy New

1) Car Seats- When you buy car seats at garage sales or thrift stores, you never know their history. Now, I've used car seats from one kid to another within my family, but I will not buy a second hand car seat.

2) Drugs and Personal Hygiene Products- I know this sounds weird, but I've actually found these things: sinus medicine, toothbrushes, soap, and lotion at garage sales and thrift stores. It doesn't matter how nice the person behind the counter looks, this is one of those things I just don't trust.

3) Mattresses- These are tough to clean, and potentially full of all kinds of yuck.

4) Shoes- I'll get these at garage sales or thrift stores only if they don't appear to have been worn before. Everyone walks differently, and well-worn shoes can make you twist and ankle.

5) Christmas Lights- Okay, I'm hesitant about these, even brand new, but old ones seem like a house fire waiting to happen.

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is really a good reminder to offset the impact of a highly consumeristic society.


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