Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Today my post will come from the Tightwad Gazette at random. I've opened the book to page 664 and the article is entitled: A New Way to Look at Used Things.
In this article Amy talks about the consumer mindset that has invaded our society and how in the past, not only were things made more sturdy but they were also used longer (until they wore out!) This led to a fascination with "new" stuff. There was a boom in production and a buying frenzy that followed, which has lead to an attitude change. For the frugal person, this means a great wealth of high quality used items. Yard sales, thrift stores, craigslist, and even "dump" piles are all great ways of finding used items at a reduced price when the items are sometimes no worse for the wear.
Here are the Frugal Zealots pro & cons of new vs. used items!

The Advantages of New
:: sometimes you simply can't find what you want used. This is why I buy each child a new toy for birthday or Christmas. An Erector set for example, since it comes with lots of small parts can hardly be found in a complete set. Expendable merchandise, such as lumber or fabric can be found used, but not always in the quantity or type you need
::Sometimes new technology is so superior it isn't cost effective to buy used. For instance, most refrigerators and freezers should be purchased new because their old counterparts are energy inefficient and therefore more costly in the long run.
::Sometimes the used alternative is simply overpriced, based on the life expectancy. Jim, who needs to buy tall sized clothes, found thrift store flannel shirts for $5.00, but the elbows were worn. Instead he bought new ones at Sears for $14.00.

The Advantages of used
::Sometimes you can get the identical used item for significantly less. For example, a large bucket of Lego's purchase for $1.50 at a yard sale, with all the misc. wheels, hinges & so on, a $100 value! Everyone knows this wealth of Lego's is better than any "new" $1.50 toy!
::Sometimes used things are better for the environment. Many of the things we purchase used would end up in a land fill, and new products made from virgin materials if we chose not to "re-use" them.
::Sometimes used things are more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. This is part of the reason antiques are so valuable. Some manufacturers "distress" new furniture to give it a worn lived with look. But it never really looks like an antique. No one can duplicate the honest attractiveness that an object acquires through years of actual use.
:: Sometimes, used things can give you important clues about their durability, whereas with a new item you have to guess. I know that if I buy good-looking clothes at a yard sale, they'll still look good after several washings.
:: Used items are often times made better. At yard sales I buy older kitchen utensils with wooden or metal handles. I like them better than the newer ones which often have plastic handles.
::Sometimes used things are more fun to acquire. I enjoy the "sport" of used-stuff acquisition. Anyone can grab something off the shelf at WalMart, but it is an enjoyable challenge to hunt it down and find a bargain on a used item.

So both new and used items have a place in the frugal household. The important point is that your choice between them should be determined by the actual value to you, rather than some vague idea that one or the other is better.

Tune in for more tightwad tips!

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