How to Save Money When Shopping Second-Hand

laurieYou’ve probably heard that there’s a plethora of money to be saved when making purchases at a thrift store, consignment shop or garage sale, as opposed to paying retail prices.

This is true; however, those bottom-line prices aren’t always bottom-line. With some little-known tricks, you can save more money on top of those already low prices.  Here’s how: 


Thrift stores

Thrift stores are well-known for their great deals, but if you shop them right, you can save even more. The Goodwill stores here have several deals for extra money off their already-low prices. Tuesdays are half-price days on certain price tag colors. On Wednesdays, those half-price tag items from the day before all go for the low, low price of $1.49. Thursdays are “kids’ days”, where all kids’ clothes and toys are price much lower than Goodwill’s normally low prices.   Check your local thrift store and see what kind of bargain deals they offer in your area for huge opportunities to save money.

Garage sales

One of the keys to successful garage sale hunting is to always, always ask if they’ll take less on an item you want. It’s important, however, to do it respectfully, politely, and not to low-ball your offer and take a chance on insulting the owner.

My daughter one time got a terrific deal on a Jeff Gordon fire jacket simply by being sweet. They were asking $40 for the jacket, which still had the tags on and was worth at least $75 online. My daughter, 11 at the time, politely asked if they’d take $25, simply because that was all she had. Won over by her sweet demeanor, the owner said “No, but I’ll take $20.”  SOLD!

Another big garage sale money saving tip? Wait till the last day of the sale. Owners are often eager at that point to get rid of the stuff left so that they don’t have to haul it back into storage or bring it to the local thrift store. Huge bargaining power for buyers on the last day of the garage sales. For us personally, we’ll take whatever somebody offers for an item on those last days; it’s better to make some money than no money at all.

Consignment shops

  • Look for damage on an item that may have gone unnoticed by store employees, and ask for a discount because of the damage. This may not always work, but it’s worth a try.
  • Ask store employees if the owner of the item is willing to go any lower on the price. Often times, consignment agreements list a percentage that the owner is willing to take off to get the item sold.
  • Check with employees to see if the consignment store has discount days/hours. Some stores have specific days of the week in which prices are lower.

Craigslist/Ebay

  • It’s always worth the try to make the owner a counter-offer. We’ve done this several times for Craigslist items.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In fact, on our last Craigslist purchase we only got $5 less than what he was asking.  But $5 is $5, and we paid less than 50% of what we would’ve paid for a similar new item in the store, even with the gas money it took to drive to his house to pick it up. SO worth the work!
  • Wait and watch for a week or two. The owner could lower the price out of eagerness to get rid of it.  Granted, you could risk losing the item, so only do this if you can live without what you’re looking at. But by waiting, you could make money on the seller’s eagerness to get rid of the item.
  • Offer to get there first. Many times a line like “I’ll give you $100 instead of $150. I can bring the cash over right now, “will get owners real eager to sell. They’ll picture that Ben Franklin in their hand and be glad to make a quick deal.

Second-hand items usually come at great prices all on their own, but by following the above tips, you can easily multiply your savings, and save more money in the process. Happy hunting!

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11 comments

  1. Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo says:

    Interesting! I didn’t know about the price reductions for Goodwill. The Goodwill on my area is not so great, but occasionally I stumble on a gem. Muchas gracias.

  2. Laurie says:

    Thanks, Taynia! Yes, there are indeed little tricks to shopping and saving at Goodwill, and the occasional gems do pop up if you keep your eye out. I think all stores have different types of merchandise though. Have a great day. :-)

  3. Good tips, Laurie! I really should start shopping at thrift store more often — those sales sound amazing.

    Haggling on Craigslist and garage sales is key but I hardly ever do it. Whenever I’m trying to sell used stuff, I’m always open to haggling because I just want to get rid of whatever I’m selling. But I never project that same mentality onto other people even though it’s most likely appropriate.

    Buying items in bulk at a discount is a good strategy, assuming you want/need more than one or two things. When I go to garage sales, I usually collect all the things I want first, total the price as listed, then offer to buy it all for about 5-15% less than the total. Most people looking to clear up clutter jump on the opportunity to sell a lot of items at once.

  4. Hey Laurie, great tips! I find the best time to hit the thrift store is first thing in the morning or an hour before closing. In my experience those are the 2 times that they put out new merchandise and I get pick of the litter! Has anyone else noticed this or is it just me?

  5. Adley says:

    Wow these are great tips. I actually talked down the price of 2 monopoly board games last weekend at the flea market. The lady’s asking price for each game was $5 and she had two. I told her I was interested in both and ask if I could get them for $8. She took a second to think about it and agreed to it. :-)

  6. David Smith says:

    Second-hand can be as good as brand new. The key is to be patient in shopping around whether online or in traditional retail outlets. The bottom line is you save money for more important purchases.

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