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22 Things You’re Better Off Buying New (And 16 Things You’re NOT)

I am an avid thrift store shopper! As a matter of fact, over the years, the local thrift store in our town has been a real lifesaver! I have bought furniture, clothing, dishes, home decor, etc. But there are a few things I won’t buy used, mostly because doing so would put mine or my family’s health and/or safety at risk. Saving a few bucks isn’t worth that.

Of course this is a very personal decision and I would never presume to tell anyone what they can and can’t buy new or used. So I offer the following lists as mere suggestions and “food for thought”. :-)

22 Things You’re Better Off Buying New

Cribs and Children’s Furniture
There are some things you should never buy your newborn second-hand. Cribs are the most dangerous thing to buy used, but, in general, don’t get any baby furniture second-hand. You can never tell what’s safe and what has been the subject of a recall since it was first manufactured. Multiple crib recalls as well as changing safety standards make it hard to verify the safety of used products.


Car Seats
Even if a used car seat looks OK, damaged car seats aren’t uncommon. Considering that safety technology improves every year—and the fact that car seats can go for as little as $50—buying new is usually the better option.

Plastic-baby-bottles

Baby Bottles
While sanitation and cracks can be an issue, the real culprit is the chemical BPA that’s present in most older bottles—and as of June 2012, the FDA no longer accepts that as safe. Go with new bottles to make sure you’re getting the safest, most up-to-date bottles.

stuffed animal

Stuffed Animals
Stuffed animals can be hard to send through the extra-hot cycle on a washing machine, and like mattresses and upholstered furniture, they can be full of creepy crawlies and other unsavory finds.

mattress

Mattresses
According to a recent ABC News report, mattresses should be replaced about every 7-10 years or so. So chances are, if somebody is selling their old mattress, it is probably because it has passed its’ “expiration date”.
An equally compelling reason: bedbugs. It’s significantly cheaper and less stressful to just buy a new mattress, rather than trying to rid your home of bedbugs. Be careful about any couches or upholstery you buy for the same reason.

Sheets and Pillowcases
Sure, you can wash them in hot water, but that might not protect against bed bugs.

Upholstered Furniture
Just like mattresses and sheets, any upholstered furniture can be home to bed bugs, fleas, and spiders, as well as unknown odors and stains.

Blenders
Blenders are subject to loads of abuse. Blades and mechanisms can become dull and wear down over time, even if the machine looks fine on the surface. Not to mention most blenders have old bits of food stuck to the underside of the blades and in the blending bowl. Since you can buy a new blender pretty cheap the savings isn’t worth it for used ones.

Bicycle Helmets
Never buy any kind of helmet second-hand. Since helmets are meant to protect against one accident only, buying new would be a safer bet. Damage isn’t always visible. Whether you’re buying for a bicycle or a motorcycle, don’t skimp. Get something new and the best you can afford.

tires

Tires
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if used tires were part of a totaled wreck, and if they have been in an accident, chances are they’re unstable and unreliable. Tires may be a bit expensive, but there are plenty of discount tire options out there. Just like baby furniture, the savings here don’t outweigh the risk.

laptop

Laptops
Because of their portability, laptops are prone to all sorts of abuse and problems. When you buy a used laptop, you have no idea what it’s been through or when important parts will die on you. You also don’t get the warranties and tech support that come with buying new.

Software
Most software comes with a serial number that you register with the company when you activate the software on your computer. If the serial number on your used software has already been registered, you can’t use it again.

Plasma and HDTVs
The cost for fixing or replacing the parts on plasma or HDTVs is high. Sometimes it costs as much as buying a new TV. Considering the repair costs, you’d want to get an extended warranty, but that isn’t an option if you buy your TV used.

DVD / Blu Ray Players & Streaming Devices
While it’s smart to buy used DVDs, this doesn’t apply to DVD players, which have lasers that will eventually wear out. The cost to repair or replace it may cost more than the player is worth.

Digital and Video cameras
Like laptops, used digital and video cameras are likely to have been dropped and banged around. It may not be obvious, but once the damage kicks in, it’ll be expensive to repair. If you know what to look for in a digital camera, you can get a great new camera without breaking the bank.

Swimsuits and Undergarments
This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Don’t buy used swimsuits or undergarments! They’re worn too close to the body to consider buying used.

shoes

Shoes
If you buy used shoes, it’s likely they’re already molded to the last owner’s feet. Poor-fitting shoes are not only uncomfortable but can cause all sorts of health problems, as well.

hat

Hats
Hats are likely not cleaned before they’re resold or donated. If you buy a used hat, you don’t know if you’re also getting skin infections, old sweat stains, hair products, and other icky stuff.

Makeup
Used makeup, and the cases it comes in, are often breeding grounds for infectious disease and bacteria. The great deal you found may come with pinkeye and cold sores. If you want to save on cosmetics, consider making your own instead of buying them new.

Pet Supplies
Old stains and odors continue to ferment even if used pet supplies are sitting around in storage. If cleanliness is ever an issue, just say no.

Vacuum Cleaners
Vacuums are among the heavy-duty household appliances that tend to get a lot of use and abuse. They can also cost more to fix than if you bought them new right from the start.

Costume Jewelry
Children and adult’s costume jewelry can contain poisonous substances like nickel, cadmium, and lead. The problem was so prevalent that testing and subsequent legal action by the Center for Environmental Health in 2004 led to the recall of more than 150 million pieces of jewelry for kids. While lead testing is stricter now for new products, the used costume pieces you’re buying may have lead or other chemicals.

After I finished with the above list…the “frugalista” inside me couldn’t just leave it at that. I realize there are compelling reasons to SPEND more money on certain things…but I think MOST people are doing everything they can and still need to SAVE more money.

So here are a few MORE things that you’re NOT better off buying new:


16 Things You’re Better Off Buying Used

DVDs and CDs
Used DVDs and CDs will play like new if they were well taken care of. Even if you wind up with a scratched disc, there are ways to remove the scratches and make the DVD or CD playable again, such as rubbing it with toothpaste or even a banana. Sites like deepdiscount.com or dvdplanet.com sell new DVDs for much cheaper prices, some as low as $5, with free shipping.

Books
You can buy like-new books at a significant discount from online sellers and used book stores. And, of course, check out your local library for FREE reading material. Your librarian misses you!

Video Games
I am appalled at how much new video games cost nowadays! With a 13 year old and a 17 year old, you can bet we buy a lot of them! But if you can wait a month or two for gamers to trade the game in – you can save a LOT of $$.

formal wear

Special Occasion Clothing
Most people take good care of formal clothing but will only wear it once or twice. Their closet castouts are your savings: Thrift stores, yard sales, online sellers, and even some dress shops offer fantastic buys on used formalwear.

Fine Jewelry
Depreciation hits hard when you try to sell used jewelry, but as a buyer you can take advantage! This is especially true for diamonds, which have ridiculously low resale values. Check out estate sales and reputable pawn shops.

Games and Toys
How long do games and toys remain your child’s favorite before they’re left forgotten under the bed or in the closet? You can find used children’s toys in great condition at moving sales or on Craigslist, or you can ask your neighbors, friends, and family to trade used toys.

Maternity and Baby Clothes
Both of these types of clothing don’t get much wear before they are outgrown or no longer needed. Instead of wasting money on these, opt to buy clothes from sites like gently-used.com or babyloot.com, and encourage family members to do the same. Then, invest the difference in a college savings account for your child. It will last a LOT longer.

Musical Instruments
Purchasing new musical instruments for a beginner musician is rarely a good idea. For your child who wants to learn to play an instrument, you should see how long his or her interest lasts by acquiring a rented or used instrument to practice with first. For example, you might not want to get him a Gibson guitar from the get-go, but maybe one day if your child develops a passion for playing.

clock

Home Decor
Home decorating items are rarely handled on a day-to-day basis, so they’re generally still in good condition even after being resold multiple times. And the thrill of finding a gem at a garage sale or thrift store can’t be beat! :-)

Houses
You’re typically able to get better and more features for your dollar when you purchase an older home rather than building a new one. Older houses were often constructed on bigger corner lots, and you also get architectural variety in your neighborhood if the houses were built or remodeled in different eras.

Cars
New cars depreciate drastically. As soon as the tires hit the pavement, the care is only worth the wholesale value. Then it drops 15-20% per year for the first three years. By buying a used car, you save money on both the initial cost and the insurance.

hand tools

Hand Tools
Simple tools with few moving parts, like hammers, hoes, and wrenches, will keep for decades so long as they are well-made and well-maintained. These are fairly easy to find at neighborhood garage sales.

Sports Equipment
When sports equipment ends up on the resale market, it tends to still be in excellent condition. Look into buying used sporting gear through Craigslist and at yard sales or sports equipment stores.

Gardening Supplies
You can often pick up gardening materials such as mulch, wood chippings and concrete hardcore very cheaply secondhand. Used garden equipment and tools are also common goods at yard sales.

timeshare

Timeshares
Buying a timeshare isn’t for everyone, but if it suits your lifestyle, purchasing the property as a resale would be a better deal than buying it new. On average, you’ll save 67 percent on the price for a comparable new timeshare.

Recreational Items
It’s fairly easy to find big-ticket recreational items like campers, boats, and jet skis being resold. Oftentimes, they’re barely used.

There…now I feel better! Hopefully there’s something in one of these lists that you didn’t know before. Now go forth and “buy” wisely!

How do YOU decide what to buy new and what to buy used?

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • I think I love you. No one in my life understands my total phobia of used stuffed animals. DH is always bringing them home because he collects vintage Sesame Street stuff, and it makes my skin crawl. Even my own from when I was a kid kind of freaks me out.

    • Put the stuffed animals in the freezer for 48 hours. I have done that with feather pillows and a FABULOUS queen sized feather duvet that I snagged. It never went home but straight to the freezer. Been using it for 2 years now with no problems.

    • Get some heavy duty huge zip-loc bags. Quarantine the stuffed animals for at least a month in an airtight space. If you have a deep freeze, stash the bag in there. Add a dryer sheet and you will find they are fresh and bug free. 1 month of no air and freezing temps will kill pretty much anything. Alternatively, if it won’t damage the items, a commercial dryer at a laundromat usually gets hot enough to kills most crawlies too. I still wouldn’t use this for plush toys that a Child will play with or sleep with but, for display only you should be good to go. Especially if the hubs is a confirmed collector. I mean, he’s going to bring them home no matter what, at least this way you know they aren’t coming in with bedbugs or lice. Both of these cannot survive without a human host for long. A month is overkill just because it’s reassuring that there isn’t any way even a Rambo bed bug will last a month, away from a human, without air, in freezing temps. The freezer is actually for dust mites.

  • I have to disagree with the blender… after being disappointed in the poor quality of my new blender, probably made in China, and mostly plastic… I purposed to scour estate auctions to buy an old blender, made back when quality mattered… it’s heavy duty, made of metal with a glass pitcher… one of my best finds ever!

  • I have to say my favorite find are mason jars. My mom opened my eyes to estate auctions, and I LOVE them! Mason jars can be quite expensive in the store, so when I can go to an auction and get 20 or 30 for around $5, I love it! And while I do a lot with mason jars-nope, I don’t can, there’s just a million uses for them- that usually stocks me for quite a while. But I have found other great buys at estate auctions, a beautiful dresser… Now I’m looking for a table and chairs I can refinish -if I ever find the time to actually do it!

  • We LOVE our local used book store! They carry books, VHS, DVD, CD, and video games, and have a wonderful swap kind of deal. We can trade in any of our old books (etc) and get a credit worth a certain percent of what they will be able to sell it for. I’ve definitely saved a ton on children’s books already since they are all less than $2. (usually 75 cents!)

  • I would also add in there, that car seats are also meant to only be used in ONE accident. You never know if they’ve been in an accident if you buy them used. Car seats are meant to be replaced after EVERY accident.

  • If you live in a colder area (we’ve been getting down to zero or below at night right now) you can leave upholstered furniture outside in an unheated protected area for a couple of days/nights. This should kill most of the ‘bugs’ that like a warm, moist environment!

    I also agree on looking for the older, well-built appliances. You just need to clean them well. And as for the mason jars – we always look at garage sales, etc.! If using for canning just check the rims carefully for nicks. Separate those and use for dry storage/decorating, etc.

  • Dr. Oz did a segment on this awhile back. You are right about the blender! He said creepy crawlers like COCKROACHES can be living inside and then you end up with an infestation in your home! Thanks for sharing this Jillee! By the way I LOVE your blog. I start my day with you every single day. :) Blessings.

    • I totally agree about the roaches in the appliances. I have seen this first hand. My former MIL had a bad infestation of roaches. We (former husband and I) did not. He wanted to swap refrigerators with her. I did not because of the bugs. He swapped anyway and sure enough we got roaches so then he had to pay an exterminator to get rid of them.

  • For electronics, I’d say weigh the cost against the benefit. For example, I still have a VCR for the kids to use. It cost $5 at Goodwill and $.50 for the tapes. Goodwill accepts them back if they don’t work. If it quits working or the kids break it, it costs $5 for another one. I think the DVD players are $10. Sometimes things don’t last, but often they do. I’ve only returned one VCR and the other has lasted a couple years so far. What really surprises me are the tapes. We had one or two bad tapes, but I have most of the Disney animation, and paid no more than $20 for all of it. I was thinking how amazing that was as my daughter popped in Beauty and the Beast last night and a preview said “Coming in 1992…”!!!

    • The VCR in our bedroom is a GW fine…several years now. It plays our old tapes (some of them 20 years old now) and the ones I grab at GW…only had 1 that didn’t work and for $.50…not worth returning as a special trip was involved.

  • Great lists and I agree with the comments so far too. I disagree to a point on the jewelry, though. While I agree about the lead and would not buy children’s jewelry or jewelry for a child, vintage costume jewelry is so much fun and can be repurposed into new creations, including embellishments on your own handmade items, like adding broaches to cloth or hand knit purses and bags or refashioned into necklaces. Beaded necklaces can be taken apart and made into new necklaces or bracelets, or the beads can be added as embellishments like the broaches.

  • All I can say is, must be nice to have money. I have bought nearly everything on your DO Not Buy Used list and, maybe I was lucky, but NEVER had a problem. Many people don’t have the luxury of buying new, but I guess your blog doesn’t really address them.

    • We lived just above the poverty line our first 7 years of marriage. You know–earn too much for assistance, but not enough to live off. Most times money was not be the deciding factor for me. Putting safety at risk or possible infestations was always the bottom line for me. We slept on an air mattress for over 3 years (had several patches) before we could afford new. You infant is better off sleeping in a laundry basket than a crib of unknown origin.
      Also very few of Jillee’s items are can’t live without.

    • I agree. People are afraid of so many things today, especially the younger people (I’m a boomer). I look back on the things we did and didn’t do and never got sick. The media has us afraid of everything.

      Because of the bedbug thing, I would definitely thing more than twice about a used mattress unless it was from a friend. Heck, I’m even cautious about BPA’s now. Go figure. But, I get most all of my clothes and shoes at second hand stores. Most everything else, too. They are clean and in good shape. I’ve never had a foot problem because of someone else’s imprint.

      I love most of the advice on this blog and Jillee is a wonderful person. Just a little bit too much caution or fear this time around. Not here to argue about the safety of helmets and cribs and carseats. I get it. But the other stuff? I’ll get off my high horse. I do love it here. I was just stunned at this one. :)

    • Kathy, hope your day improves. Jillie routinely helps people save money re-purpose ing things and making things homemade that you pay a lot for in the store. THIS BLOG ROCKS>! Life can send us things that rock us to our foundations, and it is helpful to know that well off or near poverty, your value as a person is not shaken. Jillie is incredible and helpful to those struggling to make ends meet. I have been there and am re visiting that once again now and I can testify that Jillie helps those on very strict budget. I hope your day improves and that things in life improve for us both.
      THANK YOU JILLIE for your lovely, most helpful blog.

      • I love your blog… and the choices of what people consume…. or not….. are up to them!
        why can’t we just talk about thing as if we are all in one living room… sharing a glass of iced tea lol
        From Canada… with hugs

  • Why pay for software when there is quality freeware available? I believe that the freeware alternative is often better than the software one buys.
    Every year PC Magazine lists the top freeware titles of the year; here is 2012 – http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2381528,00.asp. I often use http://www.snapfiles.com to recommend titles for friends.
    A list of some must have freeware titles:
    VLC, multimedia player – http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html
    Scribus, desktop publishing (Adobe PageMaker $80) – http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus
    Audacity, audio recording and editing – http://audacity.sourceforge.net
    GIMP, image retouching and editing tool (Photoshop $700) – http://www.gimp.org
    LibreOffice, Office suite (Microsoft Office $150) – http://www.libreoffice.org
    Once you start using freeware you will never go back to buying software. One can go full freeware and upgrade their operation system to the free Linux Mint – http://www.linuxmint.com. Not only is it free but it is also faster and more secure than any Windows based PC.

    • I agree Bob, freeware is a great option!

      There are also tons of browser-based apps that are almost always free or at least really cheap. Anyone with a Google account can use Google Drive for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Google also has apps for basic photo and video editing. And since it’s all cloud-based, you can access any of your Google files from any computer! You get 5GB of cloud storage for free with Google Drive, but you can pay for more.

  • I agree with most of what you recommend, especially where safety and sanitation are concerned. There are some vintage items that are appliances that I would buy but sometimes there is a quality difference between vintage and just used. Vintage items like blenders/mixers etc.. are of such better quality than the garbage available today that it is a worthy risk. I try to do a thorough inspection to verify the safety of items. Some jewelry I would never touch but I have re-purposed a lot of beads over the years. You can find high end gemstone beads at a fraction of the value at estate sales and the like. As for homes and timeshares I would be extra cautious. We bought an older home and while there had been a lot of modernization the plumbing was terrible and that is not something easily spotted on an inspection. We still got a great deal but it will cost us to make those repairs.

  • For most of the fabric items there are ways for homeowners to check and to get rid of the possible bugs. There are several good sources on line to tell you HOW to do this. IF you are worried–you will never leave your home due to the “shock value” of people claiming that you can get bed bugs and roaches from virtually ANYWHERE and ANYTHING. Lice too for that matter.

    If you discover a problem in your home WITHOUT having brought something “new” in there are ways to treat items–these same treatment methods hold true for items you WANT to bring in but care for beforehand. Freezing items; heating items and various chemical treatments are available. If you travel there are pre-cautions to take to avoid bringing them home.

    I used to work for an eye doctor who had an office in an older building. I had never seen a roach. One day I moved a plastic tray that held a new pair of glasses out from a stack and something MOVED. I screamed—from just being scared of some thing moving where no moving thing should BE!!!—and of course I dropped the tray. The MD was NOT pleased and then tried to blame ME for bringing in BAG LUNCHES from local places–I lived in a rented room at the time and didn’t have kitchen access. I didn’t work there long after this but I was always spooked by the “Hiding” factor of bugs after that. Do I think I brought the roach–or any of his friends n family—in my LUNCH? Well no. But now I live in the deep country with all SORTS of creatures of the animal and insect variety and I can tell you–they get IN no matter WHAT you do. Seal your house for heat conservation by sealing EVERY crack; have it tested with one of those blowers–and they STILL manage to find their way IN. We bought lumber from a IN DOOR lumber yard–where my husband WORKS BTW—and I got bitten by a Brown Recluse that came in with the wood. We had a SKUNK that tried to walk IN the front door –up the porch steps; across the deck; into a house with THREE DOGS—when we had it propped open one evening to bring things in. When we moved in to this house we had salamanders living in a puddle from a leaky pipe—they were very cute and we re-located them. We have had gorgeous green katy-dids the size of paperback books find their way in.

    You can be safe—or you can be paranoid. Just use common sense for YOUR situation and you will be OK.

    • I grew up in the country and we dealt with all kinds of critters and bugs, however I never really worried about such things until I moved to the city. I now live in LA and I’m always seeing perfectly good furniture left on the curb but I won’t dare pick it up. Behind our condo is an ally people use to discard their “old” furniture and to be honest some of this furniture looks better than my own and I have been tempted to pick it up, but then fear of infestation brings me to my senses. Bedbugs and roaches are at the top of my list. I have witnessed the horrors of bedbugs and would not wish this on anyone. Bedbugs can also hide in clothes, rugs or carpets and even the bindings of books, so beware especially if you bring home books that you bought at places that sell items such as mattresses, rugs and other furniture.

  • Another thing to consider is renting, especially equipement and seldom used items. For example, we cut our own fire wood, so once a year I rent a gas powered log splitter. It costs <$50 for the weekend. To purchase would be about $1500 last time I checked. It would take us years to pay for it. Plus we would have to store and repair, maintain it. Better to just rent! Same for extra long ladder, etc. This would also apply if you are hosting a large event, better to rent tables, chairs, etc. than to buy and store.

  • I have to respectfully disagree with you, on your recommendation for used bed linens. Run ANYTHING on a high temperature in your dryer, and you don’t have to worry about creepy-crawlies- dust mites, bed bugs, etc. cannot withstand the low humidity, eggs included. Plus, used bedsheets are FANTASTIC for everything from making clothing (not just pillowcase dresses, either!) to home decor items such as curtains- it’s the cheapest way to get some quality cotton yardage, for the sewist! (Of course, if people do take your advice on that, I guess that leaves more great thrifting finds for me! LOL)

    • Respectful disagreements are always welcome here. :-) I have to admit…I’m torn on this one. I have bought plenty of fabrics at thrift stores in the past with no problems. And let’s face it, when we’re in a bind financially we do what we have to do. That’s why at the beginning of this post I said this list was “food for thought”. :-)

  • You gotta watch freebies from people you too–they can have all the same problems. The way a determine new or used is every item on an individual basis. Safety, sanitation, price, amount of use we need to get from the item. I may be picky but there are a number of items I would rather not have at all than by used. For years we did not have a blender, food processor, mixer, toaster, toaster oven, microwave, TV (still no TV when the boys were in high school), bed. Somehow we managed to buy new a refrigerator, washer. Life was not hard–we still took vacations– in fact we could do many things because of how we spent our money.

  • The only caveat I would add about car seats is that, if you know the provenance of the seat, it might be OK to give (not sell) For example, we had a super, high-end Britax car seat as my son was just a big kid (it went to 40 lbs.. No abuse, no wrecks, only 2 years old. He outgrew it (height) right at the same time a co-workers son outgrew (weight) his smaller infant seat. She was able to get another year and a half out of a perfectly good, extremely expensive, car seat. Now, once we hit the 5 year mark, it went into the garbage because plastic ages and that’s pretty much the life span of a car seat. But just because it’s previously used doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been abused. You just have to know who you are getting the seat from, it’s history and exact age. Check the recall lists, and enjoy the benefit of using something for it’s full lifespan.

  • Oh so gross- you said to buy used musical instruments- oh- disgusting- maybe a piano- but not a trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, flute, tuba, etc. Depends on the instrument- even just buying a new mouthpiece wouldn’t be sanitary enough- ew

    • I played several instruments in high school – flute, piccolo, alto saxophone – and we bought them all used. They were all in perfect condition. We cleaned them with a bit of rubbing alcohol and had all the key pads replaced as well as new reeds for the sax. Good as new. I don’t know why that is gross and unsanitary. Think about this, when you go to the doctor or dentist, their metal instruments are used over and over and over. But they’re always cleaned properly and sterilized. The point is, as long as you can properly clean something it’s ok if it’s been on someone’s mouth before! :)

    • Of course there is a way to clean the mouthpiece. There is a thriving instrument rental business out there. Most parents rent the instruments that their children want play as they are much too expensive to purchase if you don’t know if your child will stick with the instrument.

      • I played clarinet when I was in school. My father bought my clarinet from a very nice older lady that lived in our town. He got a good price for a nice, used instrument that just needed someone to love and take care of it.

        My niece is now using the clarinet. She took it to have it overhauled (restored). The instrument repairer said the market value of the clarinet now is $1500.00. It was definitely worth my father’s $150.00 since it’s now worth 10 times what he paid used.

        Both my niece and I bought new mouthpieces to use. A worthy investment!

    • Most musical instruments are very-very easy to clean well enough to be more than sanitary, they can be completely sterile. That includes trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, flute, tuba, etc… but NOT harmonicas and some other few that aren’t easily disassembled. Thing is, this isn’t a job for the home repairman if you’d like it to work when you get done. “Playing condition” or “set-up” is a pretty cheap repair job at most music stores – pay and get it done right.

      The HUGE problem with used musical instruments, especially for beginners, is that a beginner can’t tell if it’s broken or if he/she just can’t play. Making your kid try to learn to play on a broken instrument is about like trying to cook dinner on a stovetop that only has “off” and “high” – sure, it gets hot so “it works” but it’s gonna make a mess. Our kids (and selves) deserve a little better from the musical experience than that sort of frustration.

      Almost every single beginner I see who doesn’t know music whose folks “saved money” by buying a used instrument ultimately either quit trying or ended up spending WAY more to get it fixed than it’s worth. Deals are available to people who know what they’re looking at and can do basic repairs, not for those who have no clues whether that clarinet is really an oboe or how many reeds it’s supposed to have.

      Also, even if you buy it brand spanking new direct from the factory – musical instruments use consumable parts you also have to buy. Clarinets and saxes need reeds, brasses need mouthpieces and oils, stringed instruments need strings… Anyone at the thrift store able to tell you what else it needs to be usable?

      If you don’t know what you’re looking at and don’t have someone to help, pass on it. Would you buy a car if you didn’t know how to drive and had nobody to test drive it. If so, I have the perfect car for you…

      That said, I DO know musical instruments and have purchased some worth thousands of dollars for under $100. There are amazing deals to be had. The most valuable and expensive musical instruments in the world aren’t new from the factory. Mostly though, if you don’t know what you’re looking at, you’ll get ripped badly. For example: a basic 15 year old student clarinet (ie: Bundy) will cost more to repad and regulate in order to play it than it’s worth once repaired. Anything you pay for it is wasted money in that case.

      Don’t pass on the used instruments because of the yuk factor, they’re easy to clean – pass on them because you want the kids to have a positive and successful learning experience. Unless, of course, you are knowledgeable or have an expert to examine it.

      [professional musician, director of bands, music teacher, former military band instrument repair technician, and collector of musical instruments; for what it’s worth.]

    • It’s not like you can’t clean them. Instruments are expensive! I played trumpet and baritone in high school and while we bought the trumpet new I had to use the school’s baritone because those things cost upward of $1500. The band director would actually take it to the music shop every summer for maintenance and cleaning and would clean any instrument that was being given to another student. Why do you think this is unsanitary?

  • I bought a vacuum cleaner at a garage sale YEARS ago for $3 – I even left the little price tag dot on it as a joke to tease my husband. It is the kind that uses the bags to catch the dirt and then you throw out the bag. IMO, these just seem to CLEAN better than the bagless ones. I have to say it’s been at LEAST 10 years since I bought that vacuum and it’s still cleaning like brand new. For $3, if it broke after a week, I think I would have gotten my money’s worth out of it. :)

    • I would have to agree Trixie. Several years ago I purchase a used high end vacuum cleaner from a website similar to freecycle for less than $100, (retail price was over $1500). I went to a store location of vacuum cleaner company and paid the $50 for them to overhaul and clean the vacuum. Sometimes it is worth it to purchase a higher quality item at a lower cost and then do the repairs. Its just a good idea to be informed consumer and maybe to be a little picky too.

  • Does anyone have any tips for cleaning older books? I often find very cheap thrift store books I would love to read, but the minute I crack them open I’m itching and sneezing. I’m allergic to dust and mold so I assume that is what is causing the reaction. Wiping the dust off isn’t enough, the pages seem to ooze allergens.

    • Use a foodsaver and seal it in a bag. Then freeze it at least a week. Month is better. Take it out of the bag and put it in a large garbage bag. Attach the vacuum hose to the garbage bag and suck up the debris.

      Don’t do this with valuable or antique books. This is for standard bookshelf types or the romance novel collection.

  • Really, we should not buy used sheets? Guess we should never stay at a hotel again. Their beds are covered in used sheets. Visiting friends is out also. Same problem with their guest bed.

    C’mon. That point was quite alarmist. Can’t we assume that people have some common sense.

    Jillee, I love your blog and read it everyday, but this post was the least useful post you have ever posted. Please go back to the practical posts you are known for.

      • No Jenny, neither post was rude. They simply expressed a thought out opinion which was formed after reading the entire post.

        Jillee is one of my favorite bloggers and I took the time to comment in the hope that this is not a new direction for her blog. Like Crystin, I found this post to be neither practical or useful. This is in sharp contrast to almost all of her other posts.

      • I think you ladies missed the point. The point is that in this economic climate people are trying to stretch a dollar. One way to do that is to buy used. Jillee just gave her take on buying used and gave reasons for her choices. For people who never bought anything used, this post gives them solid things to consider before buying used.
        Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! Many of posts don’t hit home with me, and that’s OK, because I have gleaned enough gems to keep me coming back.

  • I’d love to find out about the banana or toothpaste fix for scratched DVDs – any preferred way to wipe, or quantity to use? That’s a new one for me! Please ?

  • Personally how I choose how to purchase used items are determinate on several factors. First and foremost I want products that will last a very very long time. So I look for quality, (both in brand names and in construction). So over the years I have gotten Ashley Furniture, a Kirby Vacuum, and Princess house dishes all used and all at very low prices. Also I look for cleanliness, wear, tear, and most important will I actually use this item. I personally have a few “never gonna purchase used items” including: undergarments, mattresses, bath towels, and most small kitchen appliances. I have my own ewww factor for each of them… but its different for each person. I think the most important things to remember is to look at each individual item and determine its value based on your own set of criteria ex: cleanliness, wear, tear, or brand name etc. Also remember its ok to be picky because chances are that the item that you are looking at is not the only one on the market. Example: Kitchen table, you can find several at any given thrift store, you can also check out yardsales, craigslist, classified adds, and even consignment stores. Explore your options and try and get the best quality for the specified budget. Jillie, thank you for a good list of things to watch out for when buying things used. :D Happy Hunting!

  • OK I am going to disagree on you with baby furniture . New baby furniture off gasses for several months. SO you either have to put it together early or have the fumes around baby. Second hand store would be the way to go(or get one from a friend). You can always look it up on a recall list. JMHO
    Never get a used mattress is right! You never know who has had a accident on it and that can cause toxins in your household too!

    • Agreed. Just check out recalls.gov to figure out if something has been recalled. It makes no sense to buy new baby furniture, if the used is in good shape, follows the safety guidelines one can find anywhere on the web, and it isn’t recalled. If you have more than one child, is that considered second hand? I respectfully disagree, but still LOVE your blog.

  • I think the whole point of this list is that these are things you may want to be wary of purchasing in a thrift store, with no prior knowledge of the usage or owner. I have given baby furniture and car seats to others to use, and they knew full well that we took care of our stuff. I have purchased barely used, or even new-with-tags shoes from others, and have sold shoes that my kids never wore, and don’t see any issue with that. But in a thrift store, you know nothing, you won’t be able to talk to the previous owner and learn if that mattress was a guest mattress that one person slept on for two nights and was only kept for a year or if it was a kid’s mattress from age 3-15, who wet the bed every week for 2 years and jumped on the bed constantly. You may be able to tell, but with a lot of those items, you don’t know if it has problems until it is too late.

    It certainly isn’t “wrong” to purchase those items used, but take your time and really exam and test them out as much as possible before leaving the store. A $5 TV is great, but if it doesn’t work, it’s still a waste of $5 (unless you need it for a prop or something and it doesn’t matter if it works).

  • A note about buying used tools – Craftsman tools (from Sears) are guaranteed for life; even if you buy them at a garage sale they will replace them if broken.

  • I work as a processor for a local Goodwill store. The amount of clothing donated is unbelievable. Some items are brand new with store tags still attached. Our local Target store donates their clearance items, bedding too! One can save a lot of money shopping at your local Goodwill.We as employees shop there too. Happy hunting!

  • Sorry totally disagree on not buying used electronics. Computers are like cars.. They lose value so quickly and manufacturers really price waaaaaaay over value. If you don’t build it yourself, used is the way to go. Also not true about serials.. You can’t register it twice but you can install it and use it just fine and legally

  • I LOVE garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores and consignments shops. I was raised (one of six kids) on second hand items. While Jilllee’s list seems extreme to some, lets keep in mind that it’s mind over matter – if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter !! LOVE THIS SITE !!!

  • GIMP is great for making digital images i.e. those that will never be printed. But if you want a printout or framable photo of your picture, it really is inadequate. PS is a must for that. I’m speaking from experience here; we had both on our computer and I preferred GIMP so that’s what I used to make my son’s birth announcement. It looked great on the screen so we had 50 of them printed out… They were all ppixellated and completely unusable. When hubby and I made a similar one one in PS, it came out looking completely professional. The difference is that GIMP doesn’t give you any dpi options when you save (that I’ve ever found anyway) so everything you create is low resolution. Great for a Monet effect, not so great for anything else ;p

  • You asked us for a family favorite recipe. Mine is yellow rice and chicken. Even my DIL eats it. I stew 4-6 chicken legs until they are falling off the bone, pick those bones out tearing the meat into bite sized pieces, then(measuring the called for amount) I use the liquid to cook the rice. Sometimes I add brocoli to the mix while it is cooking and sometimes steamed veggies on the side. This is comfort food an a favorite topping is Lousiana Crystal hotsauce. Even the kids like some of that! I also put ranch on theirs to cool it of (if they let me!)

  • A few years ago a local town did a Giant Clean Up Day–it actually stretched into several days! People brought out TONS of STUFF that had been hidden in their garages; closets; attics–you name it. We (an elderly friend and I and then my kids after school) took my Jeep and CLEANED UP.

    We hauled home stuff that I am STILL using–my bedroom rug; my de-humidifier–needed a HOSE CLAMP otherwise was brand new. Vacuum cleaner. Kids toys. Books. Furniture. Lamps. ANd–not one item had bugs or anything else–and this was certainly a fine way to acquire some! Not even some one working the counter at the Thrift Store to look over them–just us. Friends of mine who lived closer grabbed a pick-up and went into “business” as temporary “pickers”–one load of a dining room set got them $1500 from a local dealer!

    I was SOOOO ENVIOUS! I saw SUCH good things that I didn’t have the ability to cart off or a place to stash them. If I had still had a barn—sigh.

    People went NUTS. The town thought that people would bring out a busted lawn chair or so and they would clear it all out in a day. Oh how wrong they were! Lawn mowers snowblowers canoes–you name it.

    I also MISS our dump! Yep. Aside from being the place to see everyone you knew it was THE place to find stuff you needed. Wood paint bags of clothing that we would have set aside for a thrift store in town–we would go thru them and remove anything not saleable—toys or replacement parts for toys like swing seats—furniture. Now I don’t doubt that the dump as far as TRASH was a disaster–not gonna argue THAT. But as a place to RECYCLE—unmatched. Now we have “transfer stations” that you need to sort EVERYTHING for–takes up a HUGE amount of space in your house OR you can pay thru the NOSE for the stuff to go in bags and get—burned. Very little is pulled OUT of the “waste stream” to be REUSED–some stuff is sold for recycling—some of the guys will set aside boxes of books but then one guy decided to start CHARGING for the books–dropped off FREE–with expensive dump STICKERS. People got a bit angry at this! Why we cannot have a shed on EACH transfer station grounds–these are acres of grounds–to hold just exactly the things that COULD be re-used–charge something for them if it is worthwhile—and REDUCE what gets tossed–shortsighted is all I can say. Burns me even MORE when I am asked to PAY to dump something–and you CAN’T buy a dump sticker AT THE DUMP!!!!—and then the guys heave it into a recycling bin! Grrrr!!!!

    Well anyways—we can all stand to think more about how and what we buy and use.

  • The only thing you forgot was pets! It’s great to adopt/rescue!!!!!! Check out petfinder.com for all kinds of puppies, kitties, bunnies, farm animals and much more!

  • Just a note about hats (and shoes) – they aren’t cleaned before you buy them at the local department store or haberdasher either. Ever seen the number of kids playing dress up in the hat collection? All sorts of creepy-crawlies and infections could be getting passed around. Get ’em cleaned whether new or used. Spray out those “new” shoes too – ewwww.

  • I would have to agree with many above that I have in fact purchased many of the “do not purchase” things on your list with nary a problem. Used shoes (often! we’ve saved hundreds and hundreds especially with our growing children), jewelry, sheets, swimsuits, mattresses, furniture (a LOT – in fact almost all of the furniture in our home is used), cribs (most of the recalls are enforced for daycare workers – if you do actual research you’ll see the number of deaths is actually quite low, also – when our babies were born it was buy used or buy nothing – we were very poor, also it would be sad to imply that we could never then sell OUR cribs/furniture), stuffed animals, helmets, laptop. I’m so thankful I did. Sidenote: on furniture/mattresses we buy I do clean them well with a vacuum and then the wet carpet vac (which I got used, ha!). Doing all this has helped us be able to be a one-income family. We live in a throw away society. It’d be such a shame to imply all of those things on the list should just be thrown out after one family uses them.

  • Just a side note to the stuffed animals. You can’t wash them in hot water but you can run them through a hot cycle in the dryer. That is something that is suggested when you run across lice. (As I learned once many years ago when it went around our school and found it’s way to our home)…
    Another suggestion along those lines is something I do monthly – I put all of our pillows, couch and chair cushions and my granddaughter’s stuffed animals in a large plastic bag, a few at a time and suck all the air out with my vacuum cleaner. it gets a bunch of the dust, dust mites and dead skin out. This is great for allergy sufferers too!

  • I agree with some of those things–like everyone else. Buying used stuffed toys, clothes, sheets and blankets is always thriftier for me. You can always throw those things in a good hot wash and hot dryer, or have them professionally dry cleaned. Keeps them out of the landfill and there are some beautiful pieces of fabric in them at times! In fact, I think I’ve had new sheets only twice in 34 years. I use them for curtains, furniture covers. rags, etc. The uses are almost limited. Used clothes I’m pickier about, it has to be easily cleaned to go home with me. Shoes for adults, depends on how used they are, almost never for kids. Socks and underwear, bras, never, ever! They are mostly too cheap nowadays to not buy new. When we were poorer newly weds, or with a young family, used anything was always considered first. Eating was more important than brand, spanking new furnishings. I can clean and disinfect just about anything. I think what you are willing to buy used or not depends mostly on your budget.

    • You can most definitely buy linens from a thrifts store with ease if you have a newer washer/dryer. My washer has a steam cycle, which is fabulous! Even using a handheld steamer will kill just about anything & freshen the fabric. If you’re worried about any type of insects (lice, bedbugs, etc), you can always dust fabrics, quilts/comforters, pillows, mattresses, curtains, stuffed animals, etc with Diatomaceous Earth, which is literally an edible insecticide. It is a desicant & sucks the life out of insects, it’s cheap & has many, many uses.

  • Through any hunters who still plan on wanting to raid the last few .Buying Legit Wow Pandaria Gold,.. Mists of Pandaria Discussion; Wow Gold Making Guide5.0 Hunter Hit and Expertise Caps, SLDataText looks like it might be within the update process for five.0.4. It’s not throwing back any errors, but some in the modules are not available (especially, guild and friend status) and there are others that are not working. I did configure it best I really could though.

  • love the blog though i have to say that your “do not buy” list is silly. and it speaks to the mainstream idea that our “stuff” is totally disposable. if everyone bought these things new, all the time, what happens to the old? the consumer waste stream is disgusting and i have to say that it’s lists like these that support the mindset.

    i have bought nearly everything on your do not buy list because we are a family that very, very rarely buys anything new. which actually means that the stuff we do have is high quality, built to last (most of it vintage), or, in the case of kids clothing and such, bought cheaply to avoid paying ridiculous prices for what are essentially clothes meant to get dirty, torn, stained, etc.

    one example: i never would have been able to afford a dyson vaccuum had i not found one that was used (in great shape) at a garage sale. $20 and i have had it for over 2 years, using every day and it works perfectly. in the event that we do wish to buy something new (our current laptop, for example) i don’t have a problem forking over full retail because we save thousands of dollars doing it the other way 99% of the time.

  • Absolutely agree with you on the instrument thing. My brother and I started playing instruments in fifth grade. We would always see kids with brand new, gorgeous instruments losing interest in music or wrecking their horns. My parents rented a sax for my brother for a while, then bought him a used one. Worth it. He didn’t get an actual NEW sax until high school.
    We also have two used pianos in my parents’ house – one is electric. I would definitely recommend getting a piano used if it is in good condition. While it did have to go in for repairs in 2011 (the pedals had become disconnected), I played our upright piano nearly every day for six years with no problems. My parents got the electric for me this year from a co-worker who got it new for his daughter – who promptly lost interest in it. ;)

  • From the other side…. we have a crib that I’d love to give away (now). It’s VERY well used – solid wood and 50 years old last month. It “housed” my two older brothers, myself, and at least 5 other babies whose parents borrowed it for a while over the years… and my own son a few years ago. Before we used it with him, we tested the paint for lead (safe, obv) and bought new hardware for the springs- then used the old steel stuff when we realized how bendy the new alum one was.

    The catch? The bars on the side are 1/4 inch wider than current safety regulations. For that reason, we can’t give it to a charity (like a home for teen moms). Because no one we personally know needs it, and no stranger trusts us enough to get a fantastic find, it’s just taking up much needed space in our casa (recent move makes space at a premium here). Oh, and there’s a matching dresser too…

    It’s so frustrating, it’s not even funny anymore. Sigh.

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