To be clear, we are not saying to stop buying stuff. Contrary to popular belief, Financial Independence does not mean you have to stop spending entirely or even allocate every penny toward retirement. Instead, we believe in becoming more intentional about our purchases, spending on things that will bring true value to our life. As a general rule, my wife and I make an effort to avoid impulsive purchases, sitting on an item of interest for days, weeks, or even months before taking the plunge. Most of our “new to us” acquisitions are all used items that are high quality, well-maintained, and listed way below their new retail price.
One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure
We have all learned the hard way spending a little more up front on quality goods, that will stand the test of time, tends to save you money in the long haul. I have certainly bought my fair share of “cheap” stuff over the years trying to save few bucks… just to have it quickly fall apart and have to spend more money for a replacement. I believe that many people confuse “used” goods with “cheap” or “poor quality”, but that could not be farther from the truth. A few things I have learned over the years:
- As soon as you open/use a new item it is now used and its value diminished (in most cases).
- Most people (myself included historically) do not actually want or end up using the stuff they buy, at least not long-term. We buy stuff and then life gets in the way or we were really just not as interested as we thought we were… then we end up getting rid of it, generally losing money in the process.
- If you are patient you will find someone that needs/wants money more than you “need” the item you’re trying to purchase. Leverage is a powerful negotiating tool (that may sound insensitive, but it is true).
- The reverse is true when selling items. If you are patient enough and asking a fair price, someone that is impatient or impulsive will buy it.
- Example: I sold my iPhone 7 November 2018 for $350 cash when the verizon/apple stores were only offering me around $150 trade-in value. It took me a couple months to find an impulsive enough buyer, but the additional $200 was worth the wait.
- Selling an item for what you paid, or near what you paid for it, is far easier and more realistic if you bought it used to begin with. I have sold many items over the years for equal or even more than what I paid for them at the time used.
You have most certainly heard the idiom, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The reality is we live in a world of consumerism. People like stuff, and most people prefer to buy their stuff new. Don’t let that be you. Use that truth to make your life better and wallet thicker.
Where to shop and/or sell?
There are several free websites, apps, etc. to shop around for used goods. My first stops (in order from top to bottom) are the following:
- Local Buy/Sell/Trade Groups
- Just search your city “buy sell trade” and request to join your local group.
- They do not only sell new stuff. Be sure to look through their used options as well (especially for books).
Tips when buying used…
- DO YOUR RESEARCH: Believe it or not, taking advantage of the ignorant or desperate is a profitable industry. Make sure you know how to inspect what you’re buying for damage, flaws, etc. OR require to meet with a local professional to get it inspected before following through with the transaction.
- When selling my iPhone, I actually met the person at the verizon store to get it inspected before we completed the transaction.
- BE PATIENT: Patience is critical. Buying/selling used goods is all about negotiating and one of your most valuable negotiating tools is time. If you are not in a rush to buy you’ll eventually land a great deal. If you aren’t in a rush to sell you’ll eventually walk away with more money.
- CASH ONLY: No checks and especially no Western Union. If they ask/offer to mail payment just move on. Some people prefer to use venmo/PayPal, and I will not try to disuade those individuals. Just make sure to read the fine print and protect yourself (its far easier for someone to scam you via electronic payments than with cash). If you are dealing with larger transactions, I would recommend spending a few dollars on a counterfeit pen. It’s okay to buy the pen new, haha.
- MEET IN PUBLIC: And preferably during the daytime.
- Don’t do business with people not willing to get out of their car (speaking from experience here) or meet publicly.
- ALWAYS NEGOTIATE: When deciding to sell your item do some research on what a fair asking price is and then list your item just a bit higher. This way when a buyer makes an offer (very rarely will it ever be asking price) you will be at or close to your desired amount. Likewise, if you are wanting to buy something always offer lower and always say you have cash in hand.
What have we bought used?
The truth is several things over the years, but to name a few (and including prices where I can remember or reference back):
- 2013 Hyundai Elantra (Paid: $13,000 in 2017 / New: $21,000+)
- 2015 Macbook Pro 15″ (Paid: $1250 / New: $2200)
- Pro Tip: You can private message sellers on eBay and offer to purchase directly through PayPal if they come off the price (most sellers will because they can avoid eBay fees that way), and you still get the buyer protection through PayPal itself.
- Fiskar’s 18″ Reel Mower (Paid: $100 / New: $200)
- This was our newest acquisition in preparation for the house we are closing on soon. I just bought it today (the day before this post goes live). It was listed for $150 on LetGo. I offered $100 cash and said I could meet now and they bit – it doesn’t hurt to ask!
- Nintendo Switch (Paid: $300 / New: $450+)
- Came with 2 games and extra controllers
- I bought an additional game (Mario Odyssey) for $30 used. Held onto it for 5-6 months and then resold it recently for $40.
- Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker (Paid: $100 / New: $200)
- This was actually never used and came from someone on facebook marketplace who gets large quantities at wholesales.
- DWALT Power Tools Set (Paid: $200 / New: $400+)
- Included a drill, hammer drill, impact driver, sawzall, flashlight, two batteries, and a bag to carry it all in. I sold the hammer drill and impact driver for $150 and kept the rest (costing me $50 in total).
- 16′ Telescoping Ladder (Paid: $50 / New: $200)
- Trek Hybrid Bicycle (Paid: $400 / New: $1300)
- Massage Table (Paid: $200 / New: $500)
- I bought this as a surprise for us just over two years ago. This particular model would’ve cost ~$500 new and included some CDs, sheets, as well as the leg and face cushions. For the cost of less than two couple’s massages (or even one in some places) we bought this folding massage table. My wife and I exchange massages every 1-2 weeks or so while watching a show, listening to a podcast/music, or just talking. It’s been a great tool for spending quality time together.
- Couches (Paid: $200)
- Computer Desk (Paid: $20)
- Entertainment Stand (Paid: $50)
- Lawn Mower (Paid: $75)
- Sold it for the same amount before moving.
All of the above items have added value to our lives through entertainment or sheer utility; furthermore, we have not had a single issue with any of them – I’m on my computer pretty much daily, driven over 40,000 miles on the car, used and lended out my drill dozens of times, and we could easily foresee the massage table outlasting us, haha. A great side-effect of buying used is we really don’t care if my car gets a door ding or our dog hangs out on the couch. We are not sacrificing quality to save a penny in the moment… we just prefer to buy quality at a discount.
Have you experimented with buying/selling used goods? What are some of your favorite used purchases? Comment below!