No one wants to waste their hard-earned money, but many of us do it every day by buying new. We could do our pocketbooks, and the environment, a big favor by opting to be the second owner of some of the stuff we buy.
“Obviously, some things are best purchased new; lingerie pops to mind.” says Liz Puliam Weston, author of “Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Improve and Protect the 3-digit Number that Shapes your Financial Future. “But lots of other stuff depreciates quickly while still having plenty of useable life left.”
Here are 5 items where the cost vs. use equation strongly tilts toward buying used.”
- Books, books, books. The reality is that most books don’t get read more than once, if that, and they’re astonishingly easy to find used at steep discounts — if not absolutely free. I love James Patterson and found an entire collection of hardbacks at my local library being sold for $1 each during their First Monday Book Sale. That’s about a $400 savings according to my calculation, had I paid full price.
My local library also allows us to reserve titles from several area libraries online and then deliver them to our nearest branch for pick-up. Used book stores abound, both in your town and online. If you’re looking for a potboiler to get you through your next cross-country flight, just stop by almost any yard sale and pick up four for $1.
Exception: Reference books you’ll use again and again. For example, I bought a deeply-discounted copy of Cheryl Mendelson’s excellent “Home Comforts.” That was after checking the book out at the library and running up a small fortune in fines because I couldn’t bear to part with it.
- DVDs and CDs. Some online retailers, like MSN Shopping and Amazon.com, now surface used versions of many of the DVD movies they sell new. You can find similar deals for online CDs (yes, Virginia, some of us dinosaurs still buy CDs). Other good hunting grounds for purchase of used items: movie rental chains like Blockbuster, used record stores and yard sales.
Exception: When you simply must have the latest release by your favorite singer/director/actor, right now. It can take a few days or weeks for the used versions to show up, and perhaps a few months for the price to get discounted enough to compensate for the greater hassle you might face trying to return a defective or unsatisfactory purchase.
- Little kids’ toys. Parents know: it’s all but impossible to predict which toy will be a hit and which will lie forlorn at the bottom of the toy box. So rather than gamble at full price, cruise consignment shops and yard sales for bargains. Better than cheap, though, is free. Some parents set up regular toy-swapping meets, or you might be lucky enough to score hand-me-downs from friends and relatives.
Exception: Some parents get away with giving used toys for birthdays and holidays, but most of us (and our kids) have been fairly well brainwashed into believing that gifts should be purchased new. Try to opt, though, for classics, like sturdy wooden toys.
- Jewelry. Fat markups on most gems (100% or more is fairly common) means that you’d be lucky to get one-third of what you paid at a retail store, should you ever need to sell.
So let somebody else get socked with that depreciation. Find a pawn shop that’s been in business for awhile, get to know the owner and ask him or her for recommendations. Some readers have had good results buying via newspaper ads, but I’d want to take the piece to a jeweler for an appraisal first.
Exception: You want something custom-made. Even then, consider buying used stones and getting them reset.
Well, maybe not THIS used!
- Cars. The average new car loses 12.2% of its value in the first year, according to Edmunds.com; on a $20,000 car, that’s $2,440, or more than $200 a month. Some cars depreciate even faster, depending on demand, incentives offered and other factors.
Why not let someone else take that hit? Not only will you be able to save money (or buy more car), but you’ll pay less for insurance. Cars are better-built and last longer than ever before, which means you’re less likely to get a lemon. Companies like CarFax allow you to trace a car’s history. Many late-model used cars are still under warranty, and a trusted mechanic can give your potential purchase the once-over to spot any problems. Take a look at the Used Car Research section of MSN Autos for a lot of great information.
Exception: You can pay cash and you really, really want that new-car smell, but you’ll take a hit in the wallet.