In all my years living frugally, I have found that some things are worth buying new. Even though I often recommend shopping at garage sales and thrift stores, there are times when you don’t really save anything buying an item used or cutting back on something. I have tried to figure out how to save money using cloth napkins instead of paper ones, but I just haven’t been able to justify the effort when paper napkins are so inexpensive.
If the effort to make a less expensive item useful exceeds the value of the savings, it is not worth buying something used. I have put together a list of some of the things that I buy new and some of the things I try not to buy new.
Things I will buy brand new or name brand (I usually try to make sure it’s on sale):
Packing tape. The Scotch brand packing tape works much better than the cheap stuff and I end up using less.
Anti Virus software- If you use a Windows computer, donâ€™t take a chance on this one. Check out the reviews to determine which one is best for you. Mike prefers PC-cillin. No matter what you use, you will want to download the updates regularly. You usually get a year of updates free. You can usually save on new software by buying it at Amazon.com.
Haircuts- Normally, I am a huge fan of the beauty college to save money on haircuts but the other day was a flop. I took my 6 and 2 year old. We were there an hour and a half! I saved $2 and a long drive across town (about $3 gas) but it wasnâ€™t worth the wait and chasing after a 2 year old for an hour. Most of that time was spent cutting their hair. I will just take Elly to my stylist (only $6 anyway) and keep giving David his haircut at home.
Disposable Diapers â€“ With our 3rd child we used disposable diapers. With the other two, we used cloth at home and disposables when we went out. I tried the cheap disposable diapers but they leak every time. I found that Luv’s are cheaper than Pampers but still work. I did get some really cheap diapers free. I used those for during the day when I changed him more often, but never a night.
Major appliances- Most new appliances are so energy efficient, that unless you know for sure itâ€™s a year or less old, buy a new one. Do your homework. Spend the $5.95 for a one month subscription to Consumer Reports Online and study it carefully. It is worth buying a specific brand if it is significantly more likely to last.
Shoes- Mike and I have foot problems and need good shoes. We canâ€™t find used shoes that arenâ€™t completely worn out, so we buy new shoes (but always on sale). We buy used shoes for the kids as much as possible, but with our 8 year old itâ€™s getting harder. Most boys shoes are just worn out because boys tear them up before they outgrow them.
AAA roadside assistance- For a reasonable annual subscription, you can have someone make minor repairs or tow your car if you have car trouble. It’s worth it not to worry about breaking down and trying to get someone to help you. We’ve used this to get flat tires fixed, to have a locksmith replace the ignition switch on our pickup and to tow vehicles to the shop while we were traveling.
Kids Blow up Swimming Pools - Most used ones have holes so it’s not worth the risk.
Electronics - Unless you know how to fix them or unless you know they are working, it’s not worth the chance. If possible, do some research before buying electronics as the price does not necessarily reflect the quality.
Anything that sells new for under $10 - Don’t buy something that’s used that “needs a little work” if you only save $5. Usually “a little work” ends up being a lot of work and it’s not worth the hour or two (or longer) to fix it.
Canning- I don’t recommend canning if your purpose is to save money. By the time you buy the fruit or vegetables and the sugar and then spend hours canning, it’s not worth it unless you get most of the ingredients for free. If you do your own canning because you like to grow your own organic produce, then you have other reasons besides the financial for doing it and you can decide whether or not it is worth it for you to do it.
Except for the things I listed above, I usually try to buy as many things as possible used or at a substantial discount. I buy most of our food staples at Aldi, a small discount warehouse grocery store.
Cars - Much of the price of a new car is based on the “wow” value of having a new car. When a person buys a new car, the value of the car immediately drops to less than the amount that the buyer owes on the loan when the buyer drives it off the car lot. If you buy a used car, you will save a lot of money. If possible, save your money before you need a car and buy it with cash.
Shop around for one that has low miles compared to the other cars in your price range. If you look at a lot of cars, you can usually find a deal that will surprise you. If you don’t know anything about cars, find a friend who does and bring that friend with you. If you find a car you like, you can also ask your mechanic to look at it for you for a reasonable fee. It is well worth having it checked out of you’re not sure.
Clothes- I have noticed a difference when I buy Eddie Bauer, Van Heusen and other more expensive clothes. The colors are richer. They donâ€™t fade as bad and they last longer than Wal-mart clothes. I still wouldnâ€™t buy them new unless they were dirt cheap. I get them at the thrift store “like new” for less than $3 for dress shirts and .99 for T-shirts.
Most Furniture- I have young children and I don’t generally buy new furniture because I know that it will inevitably get scratched/stained/destroyed before its time. I buy most furniture at garage sales. I’m pretty selective so that I get good quality items that match my decor.
Couch - When you have kids, why buy a new one? Kids are especially hard on couches. Unless it has a print that really hides stains, just get a used one until they are older or out of the house. I spent $90 on the one we have now. I saved over $500 and can sell it for at least $50, probably more, when Iâ€™m done with it. If you have already purchased an expensive couch then a slipcover is worth the price with kids!
Toys and almost everything for kids and babies- Until they get to be a certain age, kids donâ€™t know whether something is new or not. Even after they are 8 or so, you can get by with buying used items and re-packing them tastefully. For example, I bought a super sized package of Knex (a construction toy with lots of little pieces) and put it in a large plastic container. I bought the Knex for $10, but they would have cost more than $100 new. If you buy used and dress it up, you havenâ€™t lost as much if they don’t play with it.
Camping Equipment - For items like tents, camp stoves and lanterns, most people don’t use them enough to justify the cost of buying them new. If we need something, we usually buy it at a garage sale from the people who bought it new and almost never used it. Like exercise equipment, there is a lot of it out there so you can always get a good deal.
Books- Books are so expensive when you buy them new off the shelf. Our library sells used books. You can also get them at used bookstores, thrift stores and garage sales. If you must have the latest title now (a diet book, self help book or something you saw on Oprah :-), there are ways to save quite a bit. Try Half.com, E-bay or Amazon.com. For young kids, you can definitely find it much less used!
These are some of my suggestions based on things that I buy. You may find that it is worth it for you to buy something new that I buy used. It’s different for everyone. The thing to remember is that for each item you buy, there is a cost and a benefit. Try to get the greatest benefit for the lowest cost.
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