Why You Should First Consider Second-Hand
We live in a society of abundance. This may not be obvious in this moment to everyone because of the epidemic situation, but we are surrounded by tons and tons of stuff. I believe there was no moment in the history before when the everyday things would be as available as they are. This makes me believe there must be enough for everyone. And I keep asking myself why should we buy new, when there is so much stuff already around us?
In explaining the current situation, the father of modern marketing, Kotler says, “Consuming became lifestyle and culture.” He foresees ending this era by “a number of consumers becoming life simplifiers”, who “prefer renting to buying and owning”.
Whether we consciously decide to become a life simplifier or not, there are many benefits of second-hand items. In my case, I’ve been buying second-hand since going to college (becoming an adult during the great financial crisis of 2008 meant living as a broke student for a decade). Finally, I am no longer a broke student, but cost efficiency in combination with ecological mindset still makes me always check second-hand options first and only then buying new.
However, I don’t share this easily. Sometimes I feel people see me like some kind of hipster when I explaining how my children mainly wear, play and use second-hand items. But I am not. I wish I could point out all the benefits, but it feels awkward even talking about it. So, maybe I can at least write them down. Here they are: 5 major benefits of choosing second-hand options.
1. Excellent value/money ratio
Cambridge dictionary defines second-hand as “owned or used in the past by someone else”. By definition, it doesn’t always have to be used, but only previously owned. Thus, a thing loses a huge part of its market price value by solely being owned, although it is still new.
There is a common perception that second-hand things are dirty, beaten, broken, shameful. However, just the fact, someone has taken a photo, made description and published an item shows worthiness of that item. I believe the seller’s attitude shows how they have taken care of the item in its lifetime.
There are many great deals among second-hand offers. What is a great deal, anyway? This would depend on your budget. I like it most, when I can get something in condition like new, with a “used” price. Those kinds of second-hand deals are good in their value/money ratio and give most savings.
2. Second-hand is budget Friendly
Second-hand buying can help with keeping your family budget low. For example, when expecting a new family member, you can spend thousands on brand new children equipment or choose second-hand and spend way less. Last fall, we would buy nursery equipment (cradle, changing mat, wooden closet, baby monitor), baby clothes (numbers 50–74), stroller and car seats for €400. In case of buying new, we would easily spend +€2000 on same, but already used things.
I use this category as an example because baby clothes, toys and other child related equipment is one of the easiest categories to get great second-hand deals due to the over-buying of those items and relatively short period of usage–e.g. clothes are overgrown in a month.
But there are many other categories in the everyday life that can lower your budget when choosing second-hand: house appliances, vehicle, full furnished house, adult clothing, electronic devices, home decoration, dishes, kitchenware, books, bags, and much more.
3. Better brands and quality
We often relate better brands to better quality. Second-hand options enable you to buy brands and quality which you could not afford otherwise.
Let’s say you have €50 to be spent on a piece of furniture. For this amount you can get:
a) a brand new, but generic thing, made of plastic or
b) a stylish, but used thing made of solid wood or other natural & premium material.
Which one would you choose?
Second-hand pieces are the most budget friendly way to stand out from the crowd, to “do you” and to express who you truly are instead of being a showcase of the latest trends
I’ve noticed, just the other day, how my daughter has the same pair of H&M leggins as 4 of her classmates (whatever I don’t get second-hand, I buy new). How is this possible in times of such wild choice and mass production of everything? Well, during the winter our government closed down all physical clothing stores selling because of Covid-19. The only option was to order online. The easiest way was to buy from one of big international stores such is H&M. Apparently all mothers did similarly because I can see many kids are wearing the same pieces. But in case of second-hand clothes there is no one else wearing same skirts and tops as my girl.
5. Land your hand to the environment
Have you heard already about the project called Story of stuff? It introduces the model in which stuff goes through 5 phases: extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. It brings a lot of shocking facts. One of them is also this one: 99% of materials go through this model (from obtaining material to the dumpster) in 6 months’ time. Choosing second-hand we are being more ecological, and can help to slow down this negative trend.
You do not help the environment only by re-using but also by keeping down the amount of paper and plastic trash in form of packaging. I mean, packaging is great. It is what defines the product, it makes it appealing and safe. Without packaging, new things would not feel as magical as they do.
However, the lifespan of packaging is usually very short. It is usually meant to be torn apart and thrown away. Such a waste of materials. This seems even more problematic nowadays, when we do more online shopping. The parcels I’d receive do not only have original packaging but are wrapped into 2 or 3 additional layers of plastics or carton. (I know there are also producers who make their packaging eco friendly or reusable, which I think it is great, but the majority unfortunately do not follow this trend yet.)
Second-hand or new? The 3 months rule.
When I am in a dilemma whether to buy a used item or a new one, I follow a simple “3 months” rule. I ask myself, what would this same item look like 3 months after I’d bought a new one. It would probably be worn a little, there would be some mark / minor scratch etc. Especially with small children in the house, there are always chances that things will not look like new after three months of usage. When the used item is not worn more than it would be a new one after 3 months of usage, I go with the used one.
If you can’t see any difference between buying new or used in 3 months from now, then you should choose a second-hand one.
This approach also enables us to avoid grieving over first marks of usage on furniture, appliances or elsewhere.
Downsides of buying second-hand
I realize that buying second-hand is not always an ideal option. Maybe something means so much to you, you must have it new. Or your spouse just does not feel same as you do when it comes to buying used items. Also, often there is no warranty as there is when buying new. Maybe a seller does not talk about the hidden faults of an item. There is also a narrower choice regarding a variety of options to buy from. Maybe you (or your child) are afraid to be judged by the society…
For sure, there are many downsides of choosing second-hand options. But they are lesser than its economical and ecological benefits. So, next time you do shopping, maybe try to choose second-hand first!