Mouthy blogger Shoestring Jane has taken on the challenge of buying only second hand for a year to save money. Here is how she is getting along.
Being a frugal sort of person, I have always bought pre-owned items. I find it hard to walk by a charity shop, I am happy to drag myself out of bed at 6am on a Sunday morning to hit the boot sales, and I have often found second hand bargains online.
However, this year I decided to take this a step further. I decided to buy only second hand for the whole of 2021.
I have to admit that I am not your average consumer to begin with. The past few years have seen me wanting, and therefore buying, less and less of pretty much everything. My desire to jump off the consumer treadmill, stay free of debt and work less is stronger than my desire for more stuff.
It seemed a natural progression to set a rule for myself to buy only second hand. But purchasing pre-loved goodies for yourself is one thing. What about gifts for other people? What would happen if the freezer broke down? How about underwear? Could I really see myself in second hand pants? Probably not.
I decided I needed to set some rules.
If you decide to buy only second hand, there will inevitably be some areas when compromise is necessary.
For me, I decided that all clothing apart from pants and socks should be second hand. Furniture, modes of transport such as cars and bikes (not that I am planning to buy either during 2021), footwear, kitchen equipment, electrical items and soft furnishings are all easy to source pre-loved as well.
Even if the freezer or the oven did break down in the course of the year, I knew the chances were that I could quickly locate a second hand replacement if no repair was possible.
However, realistically, should something such as the boiler stop working and be beyond repair, I would need to buy new.
I also decided that it would be acceptable to buy new when that would facilitate a repair to one of my belongings or allow me to upcycle. So paint, glue, screws, nails, string, etc are allowed.
I have also bought new pillows and a phone charger, although in both cases I chose the best quality I could afford so that they would last longer. The phone charger, for example, is stainless steel and guaranteed for three years.
Gift giving has been the most challenging aspect of my ‘buy only second hand’ rule. I am perfectly happy to be gifted something pre-loved, but I was worried that others wouldn’t be so appreciative. What if they thought I was just being cheap?
I started gently by searching for vintage and collectable items. Most people have a completely different view of something that is old and rare – even if vintage or antique are just another way of saying second hand!
My brother is a lifelong fan of West Ham United Football Club (well, someone has to be!). His birthday came first, so for him I sourced some old match programmes from the year he was born, a West Ham vintage rosette and a tie clip. He seemed delighted with this selection. Good start.
My older sister, however, presented a bigger challenge. She has never been known to visit a charity shop, nor have I seen her buy anything second hand. Even her vehicles are purchased from new.
After much head scratching, I found an old guy on Facebook Marketplace selling planters made from wood that he had salvaged from building sites and skips. This seemed very much in the spirit of my bid to buy only second hand. I purchased one for a whole £10, painted it a nice shade of green and filled it with plants and flowers.
I followed this up with vouchers for an online vintage clothing store for my nephews, an experience in the form of a weekend away for my partner Justin, and some beautiful charity shop glassware for my mum.
Adding plants and experiences to my list of permitted gifts may stretch the rules in the eyes of some. However, this has allowed me to give gifts that are appreciated rather than slavishly following my pre-loved rule and buying things no one wants.
I also allow consumables, such as toiletries and edible items. Recently I had to find a wedding present. I filled a second hand wicker hamper with chocolate, bubble bath, mini bottles of wine, alka seltzer and sweets and called it a Wedding Recovery Kit. Sometimes you have to think out of the box and be a bit creative.
Now I am planning for Christmas and have been looking out for potential Christmas gifts since early summer.
The thing with buying second hand gifts is that you can’t leave it all to the last minute and expect to come up trumps. As a result, I have a storage crate under my bed gradually filling up with potential Christmas presents.
An added bonus of this approach is that it allows me to spread the cost. No terrifying credit card bills for me in January.
Where to source second hand
If you are considering following my example to buy only second hand – or even just to purchase a few used items – then where are the best places to find the bargains?
Jumble sales are my absolute favourite, but are sadly quite thin on the ground these days. Boot sales are the next best place to source second hand, as items are often good quality and very cheap.
Facebook Marketplace has become a treasure trove for used bargains over the past few years. Online sites can also be good, but aren’t always cheap as they are often used by dealers, who want the best price for their stock. Having said that, I have found eBay great for sourcing unusual items, such as my brother’s West Ham collectables.
Could you buy only second hand? It has certainly saved me some money.
However, a bonus of this approach is that it will reduce your carbon footprint. If you are concerned for the environment, then buying second hand makes a lot of sense. It saves usable things from going to landfill and means that one less thing needs to be produced from scratch. This results in less energy use, less packaging and less transportation.