Black Belt Shopper
Tips for Buying Used Merchandise at a Great Price
"I would give my left arm for what others cast off when they are remodeling their kitchens." These are the words of an antiques dealer I know describing what she sees when she makes her buys from people cleaning out or remodeling their houses.
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Fortunately, black belt shoppers donít have to give their left arm or even a hangnail to acquire good quality used merchandise at a great price. Instead, you can get really good items used for prices that may surprise you. Our increasingly mobile and changing lifestyles and the growing number of ways to advertise used merchandise make buying used a more viable alternative for many purchases.
You may be skeptical about buying someone elseís castoffs. Maybe if youíre old like me you remember the old Burton Lane/Alan Lerner song "Second Hand Rose" (see lyrics at www.rienzihills.com/SING/secondhandrose.htm) in which the singer bemoans that all she gets is castoffs and never gets anything new. You may think that buying used cars means buying someone elseís problems. Maybe, you think, used merchandise means tired looking items that no one really wants. If this is the case, read on and youíll be surprised.
Here are some tips on buying used.
Books and articles abound on the value of new vs. used cars, how to buy a used car, etc. Kyle Busch has a column on our site and has written a book on buying a used car.
Experts say that you can save as much as 40% on lifetime car costs if you buy a two or three year old car and buy it until it is no longer efficient as opposed to buying a new car and keeping it a long time.
Used cars especially make sense if you drive fewer than 12,000 miles a year.
You can buy good used cars at new car dealers. Often lease returns are available at a good price. Rental car agencies sell off their used cars on a regular basis and some people find these to be good sources of used cars.
I have bought my last four cars from private parties. You get no warranty when you buy from private parties, but you do get to interview the person who actually owned and drove the car.
It is also best to stick with highly rated models if you buy used, especially from private parties.
My current car, a Honda Civic came from an engineer who needed a larger car for his growing family. He appeared very responsible. I have had it for three years and have not had one repair. I call the car my freedom machine because it allows me to be free from car payments.
A nationally known academic and his wife moved into a new home and decided that they wanted a new look for their living area. After experiencing sticker shock at the upscale furniture stores, they decided to educate themselves on buying quality furniture and decided to buy used.
They spent several months combing the classifieds and other media for good deals on exactly what they wanted. It took awhile, the results were astounding and they actually found the process to be a lot of fun.
Their home now is beautifully furnished with high quality furniture and accessorised with pictures, bric-a-brac, and other items from their international travel. The home has character and warmth. The only new furniture in their living room is a sofa set that was deeply discounted from a moderately upscale mall anchoring department store because it had a stain on it. A little cleaner and elbow grease eliminated that stain.
Our highly mobile lifestyle has resulted in the availability of used furniture ranging from designer on down. Particularly if you are in a metropolitan area, you can furnish your house with high end furniture on a moderate budget. Even if your budget is limited, you can do surprisingly well if you shop around.
People are moving now more than ever and some donít want to take their furniture across the country. Baby boomers are redecorating while empty nesters are downsizing. All these trends provide a large supply of attractive, quality furniture for the budget conscious buyer.
A look at the online version of The Recycler (www.recycler.com), a classified ad newspaper popular in California and Nevada reveals the variety of used furniture available. A search for a sofabed revealed the following ads, among 114 others:
Private party is usually the least expensive way to buy used furniture. Of course you probably will have to pay with cash or money order and will have to make your own arrangements to pick it up.
You can also buy used furniture from consignment stores, thrift stores, used furniture dealers, and a host of other sources. Sometimes asking at model homes will yield a source for used furniture.
She came to buy my motherís 15 year old refrigerator for $40. Because we had to wait awhile for her friendís truck, we had a lot of time to talk. I found out she and her husband had had financial problems, were living with her mom, and did not want to get into financial problems again as they were moving into an apartment. She certainly didnít feel that a new refrigerator was worth getting into financial trouble again. I made her promise to put money away each month in a refrigerator fund because you never know with a 15 year old refrigerator.
For people in some stages of life, used appliances make sense. If you are just working your way out of debt and the washing machine blows, you donít want to saddle yourself with yet more debt. Better to get a used machine to use for a stopgap and then eventually save for something better. If you are just setting up housekeeping and are on a budget, buying all of your appliances new can be prohibitively expensive. Better to buy used for cash and then save for new appliances as your older ones wear out.
You can get used appliances from the same sources as used furniture. Some thrift stores are even giving warranties on reconditioned appliances.
Used appliances may not be the way to go for those of us who are in control of our finances and able to afford newer appliances. Prices have come down on many appliances and they have become more energy efficient as well. In the long run, it may make more sense to buy new in the longrun. Still, it may make sense to buy used even if you can afford new if you can find a good enough deal on a near new item.
While cars, furniture, and appliances make up the largest purchases that most of us make, you can sometimes save on other items buying used. Here are a few tips:
Second Hand Rose had an attitude toward used merchandise molded by years of buying not only second hand, but second rate as well.
Quality used, however, can be a lot more satisfying than low-end new. My $250 solid oak dining/game set which would go new for well over $1500 does a lot more for me than a new particleboard set that might cost me $400. My used Honda allows me to have financial freedom, and the dolly I just bought for $12 out of the classifieds will make moving things around a lot easier.
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Copyright © 2003 by Larry Wiener
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