This is a column from regular contributor Clark

Personal finance blogs discuss the advantages of buying used items and they are spot on. Besides saving money for the individual, the items get an extended life and prolong their inevitable exit to the landfill, unless one can find a way to upcycle them. So, there is a bigger picture with regard to the environment that people may or may not see, but from a self-interest stance, it provides money (difference in cost) for other needs and wants. A workplace conversation has prompted this post and a few lines from the exchange wouldn’t be out of place.

Summarized, the conversation went thus:

Clark (user): Any way this (piece of equipment) could be modified?

AB (not a user but a maintenance team member knowledgeable about the subject): I don’t see how we could change it.

Clark: Well, the existing setup needs a replacement every few months; so, anything to extend that replacement interval……

AB: I don’t know; this is what happens when you buy used equipment.

Clark: It works! (LOL)

AB: Sure, it does! My old boss was famous for this; bought used things, got us to modify them and made you guys (and the ones before) use it.

Clark: As long as he met the legal standards required for the equipment, I’d say that he saved the company a lot of money.

AB: He met standards alright but there has got to be a limit to tweaking and using old tools. When do we get to work on newer models? (LOL) Be glad that he is not around. If he was and you asked him this, he may just give you duct tape to fix things. Boy, did he hate to buy new things because they cost more money! (LOL)

I’m evidently using a casual conversation to write about something more serious – the stigma some people associate with buying used items. Moving away from that conversation, we will agree that most of us can pick one or more items in our lives that are used (pre-owned or any other fancy name you can find). My car was bought used, my future home would probably be used too (unless I decide to build one on my own) and the appliances in my rental are used. I do not buy used clothes because it is not something I’m comfortable with. But, I am positive that if I wore used clothes and said so explicitly, there will be a few sneers and condescending remarks (no offense to people that do buy used clothes) from friends, colleagues and relatives. Typical remarks would include “What has gotten into you these days?”, “Why do you have to buy used clothes?” (the “have money, will spend” school), “You’ve started skimping on clothes too?” (there is already a push to get me to buy a home since all my close friends own one), etc.

It is easy to counter the above by saying that one should do what they want and not worry about naysayers. I am not going to use that famous cliché as support but you will agree that there are certain things that we do for fear of others’ opinions. A few assets (in no specific order) worth possessing to defend against this pressure and do as one deems fit include:

Knowledge. I’m not referring to educational background, though that certainly does change people’s opinions of a person, but to personal finance basics of the “spend less than you earn” variety.

Self-confidence. Having SMART goals appropriate for one’s situation and knowing that the track chosen is the right one for them, irrespective of what the majority of the world says and does (referring to consumer debt and the like).

Ability to prioritize. One can’t have it all. Imagination is the key to creativity but there is also the matter of feasibility to consider.

Relationships and social capital (of the right kind). Having them will go some distance in securing peace and saving money (like borrowing from the neighbor instead of renting or worse buying something that will just gather dust to become a Someday Monster).

Sense of humor. It is easier to deal with verbal jabs – with regard to buying used items or being frugal – when they are taken in a lighter vein. Simply put, if you are confident of your path, then the problem lies with the mocker. Maybe, they begrudge your confidence and want to break you down to join their bandwagon.

A “prepare for the worst” mentality (financially, the emergency fund). This does not have to mean that we succumb to fear mongers but we should at least pay heed to what the alternate views are and decide for ourselves.

I’m sure that there are various other attributes that assist to resist social pressure but I’ll leave it to the readers to share a few that have helped them forge a life of their choosing, which may or may not be the one that the crowd selects.

What have you done to keep up your image? Did you go above your means, i.e., into debt, to do so? What are you proud about resisting despite peer pressure?

About the Author: Clark is a twenty-something Saskatchewan resident employed in the manufacturing sector. He repaid around $20,000 in student loans and has been working to build his investment portfolio as a DIY investor (not trader) while nurturing plans to retire early. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism.

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  1. Sustainable PF on January 12, 2011 at 11:02 am

    We buy used all the time. It is part of our sustainability philosophy. Plus we’re frugal and buying used is a great way to be frugal.
    We recently got the following items used (via an online swap/trade/sell/buy site): garden cart, home gym, wicker chair, ATARI 2600 (woot!) with 10 games, a BBQ griddle and other things that slip my mind. Also, Mrs. SPF likes to shop for clothes at the local thrift store on a regular basis.

    It is not that we can’t afford to buy new.
    We don’t want to have perfectly fine used stuff filling land fills.
    We don’t want companies polluting by producing new goods.
    We don’t want companies taking more resources from the earth than necessary to produce new goods.
    We don’t want to see more plastic packaging.
    We are frugal and PROUD OF IT!

    Thanks for this post, it will be in my weekend round up for sure.

  2. FrugalTrader on January 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Very true indeed. We often buy second hand clothes for the toddler as they grow so damn fast! However, very rarely will we announce that we got that gap shirt second hand.

  3. nobleea on January 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Whenever we need something, kijiji is the first place I look. I’m old enough now that there isn’t any social pressure and my friends have gotten used to it. Some of them are somewhat proud of buying things new, even though they complain that it was a lot of money. My wife likes highlighting that we bought half our house of kijiji and I like to bring up that my $6K car (a salvage write off in fact) gets 40 mpg on the hwy and hasnt cost us more than oil changes. I would have no problem buying used kids clothes when that time comes.

  4. Sustainable PF on January 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    @FT. Mrs. SPF finds some REALLY nice stuff.
    Myself, I tend to get shirts for work and leisure as gifts, and I find mens pants @ thrift stores aren’t in great shape + my jeans seem to last forever (although sometimes holey!)
    @noblea – us too! kijiji was the site I was referring to. Check there, then wait for a sale. I don’t remember the last time I paid for any non-food/gasoline item for full price

  5. Rachelle on January 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    My favourite buy was a one year old iMac with 20 inch screen..with receipt for $850 store price was $1700 plus tax.

    That’s a deal I can live with.

    Also bought Ikea Couches with removable couches used 2 for $225 store price $1300. Boy was I glad, the first thing that happened within an hour of them arriving…the dog threw up on it.

    I don’t do used clothes, but I shop my ass off and use coupons. This Christmas I went to Marks Work Wearhouse and they had really good quality sweaters, from $7.50 Merry Christmas everybody!

  6. Clark on January 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks for the comments.

    Would you lie if asked explicitly by someone who despises used items (despite having bought used) to keep up the image or for fear of being judged?

  7. FrugalTrader on January 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    @Clark, although I wouldn’t probably initiate the conversation about having used items, when I’m asked, I always tell!

  8. nobleea on January 12, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    If someone brings it up, yes I will mention how much we saved by buying new and casually mention what we did with the savings (paid for our ski trip this weekend, takes care of our flight to japan, etc)

  9. captainhobs on January 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    I am the most frugal person I know and am constantly looking online for used items (sometimes for weeks/months) before ever breaking down and buying new. Our cars are both used, bedroom furniture is used (and is actually real wood and better quality than a lot of the new stuff out there), used toys, and lots of kids clothes and maternity clothes have been purchased used.

    I am not ashamed of it and generally don’t lie about buying used. It’s not like we are buying crappy stuff, it’s just stuff that other people bought before us and looked after for a while.

  10. Sustainable PF on January 13, 2011 at 1:03 am

    @clark – no, we wouldn’t lie. We are proud of the sweet deals we get. We don’t want the latest toys, heck, we have pay as you go really old cell phones and don’t know how to make or receive texts. Making a call is a chore.
    Perhaps my handle should be ProudToBeFrugal :D

  11. Sarlock on January 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    I suspect that the majority of readers here will be of the same ilk and not have an issue with purchasing or admitting to having purchased used goods. There is a certain mentality to whom buying new and fancy is an important social image, but those are also the types who are living high on credit and are not likely to be as focused on increasing their financial well-being as they are on accumulating flashy items worth social status. He who dies with the most toys wins? I prefer to retire early and more comfortably, thank you!
    There are certain items I will generally buy new only because their overall value (maintenance costs, etc, taken in to account) is higher as a new item, but otherwise used does just fine! With many of our friends, there is a friendly competition between us to see who can get the best used deals!

  12. Hangul on January 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    I won’t buy following used items
    1) Mattress
    2) Clothes (New clothes are so cheap anyway)
    3) Car seats
    4) Kitchen utensils
    5) Some type of furniture
    6) Automotive parts

    I am ok buying following used items
    1) Cars
    2) Tools
    3) House
    4) Electronics
    5) Books

  13. Jungle on January 14, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Hey clark, great way to engage conversation.

    To answer your question, I would not be ashamed to tell someone we bought an item used.

    This also includes gift cards or airline credit bought online at a lower price than face value. I am always careful of fraud and ensure everything is legit.

  14. youngandthrifty on January 15, 2011 at 3:27 am

    I wouldn’t lie about buying something used either.. in fact, I think I would be proud of it because I would be promoting sustainability.

    My friends thrift store shop all the time and frankly, they always have really nice clothes (for a fraction of the price).

    Sometimes you can find really designer type clothes in consignment/ thrift stores.

  15. JFG on January 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    The biggest problem I see with this, is that most people that “judge” you don’t know the difference between frugal and cheap.

  16. twentysomethingmoney on January 17, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Even outside of used items, looking at returned/refurbished is always good too — they provide value, and usually come with some sort of warantee.

  17. WittyArtist on June 2, 2011 at 7:18 am

    It’s sad that people judge if you wear a second hand T-shirt and they give you that humiliating look. I think the most important “ingredient” among those you mentioned above is self-confidence and high self-esteem and love. This one does not only help you resist peer pressure, but also helps you build your life and succeed.

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