What’s the biggest strain on your household budget? Mortgage payments? Car payments? While those are certainly major expense for many people, there’s another expense which has a big effect on your family’s finances, and it’s probably not what you expect – it’s all the “little things.”
Every month, you buy a ton of small items of many different types. They’re not regular expenses such as groceries or clothes, they’re typically one-off expenses such as new tires, sports equipment, tools, exercise equipment and other stuff which isn’t easy to classify. While these little items aren’t terribly expensive on their own, overall they add up.
Buying used is a great way to save some money when you need to make purchases such as these. But buying used doesn’t always make the most financial sense. When should you buy used, and when is buying new actually the better deal? Here’s a breakdown:
When to Buy Used
1. Pets – Dogs in shelters have an uncertain life. Dogs raised by breeders or puppy mills are almost always adopted, however. If you buy a “used” dog from a shelter, you’re not just saving that dog’s life, you can also save some money, too. Plus, dogs from shelters are usually guaranteed to be healthy.
2. Tools – Hammers, saws, screwdrivers and other hand tools are a good bet to buy used. Any tools without electronics or many moving parts are usually pretty hard to break. A cursory visual examination is all you, as a prospective buyer, really need to judge the tool’s quality. After all, there aren’t too many ways to break a hammer.
3. Video Games – New games from a retail store are usually $60. However, games depreciate in value quickly. Games can drop down to half-price, or more, in as little as a few months. There is a booming market for used games on eBay and Craig’s List. The only thing to be aware of is the condition of the game. Before you buy any used game, check the back of the disc for scratches – if it’s scratch-free, you’re good to go.
4. Books – Used books are a common sight at garage sales, rummage sales and fundraisers. The great thing about a book is that, no matter how many times it’s been read, it’s still the same book. Obviously, you want to watch out for missing sections or damage, but you can buy a used book for a fraction of the price the very same story is available for new.
5. Exercise Equipment – A lot of exercise equipment is purchased, used for about a month, and then forgotten about. As long as you can test the equipment before you buy, you can get a great deal on a treadmill, elliptical and any other kind of device.
When to Buy New
1. Tires – Tires are too valuable to buy on the cheap. Unlike a car, there’s no reliable way to trace the history of a used tire. They could’ve been in an accident. They could have a nail lodged into a spot which is difficult to detect. In order to save on tires, buy new, but keep an eye out for two-for-one sales or other tire specials.
2. Humidifiers – Humidifiers are a common sight at garage sales and second-hand stores. While it can be tempting to pick up a humidifier on the cheap, there are some health risks associated with a used humidifier. Mold and bacteria can lurk inside, which can be harmful. When you buy a new humidifier, you know you’re getting a clean, healthy unit.
3. Computer Software – Buying used computer software from a stranger is never worth the risk. Frequently, people who go this route end up with pirated software. Not only is it illegal to own pirated software, you always won’t be able to get any support from the manufacturer.
4. Wedding and Engagement Rings – While a ring passed down within the family can be a treasure you can’t put a price on, the same doesn’t apply when buying a ring from a stranger. The quality of a ring purchased online can be impossible to verify. Additionally, there’s an emotional component. Not too many people are comfortable wearing a wedding or engagement ring which was originally purchased for someone else.
5. Sports Equipment – Sports equipment can be expensive, so used equipment can be very appealing, especially to parents. The problem is a lot of sports equipment is designed to only take one serious crash. Safety goggles, helmets, elbow and knee pads can all look fine on the outside, but be damaged internally. The only way to ensure the equipment you’re using is safe is to buy it new.
Buying New Without Breaking the Bank
The trick to getting a good deal on something new is to always keep your eyes open, and anticipate your needs. For instance, suppose you’re driving around town and spot a sale at your local tire store. If you have the money to spare, why not buy the tires when their on sale and store them in your garage until you need them? It’s not like they’ll go bad, and you’ll certainly need new tires at some point in the future.
This doesn’t mean you should buy everything you see which is on sale. It does mean always keeping good deals in the back of your mind when you’re out shopping. If you’re lucky, the next unexpected need might not be so unexpected after all.
Old vs. New
Buying new does have its advantages. You can get whatever you want quickly, and be assured that whatever you buy works as intended and has no hidden damage. The disadvantage is that, unless you shop around for a deal, you’ll have to pay full price.
Buying used has its advantages, too. You can almost always get a lower price than buying new. Also, for the right types of products, there is no different in quality between new and used. The downside to buying used is that it can take time to find that perfect deal. Also, you have to make sure your product is in good working condition.
Knowing when to buy new versus knowing when to buy used is as much of an art as a science. But taking the time to find the best deal almost always makes financial sense. It’s a great way to help prevent all those “little things” from putting a big damper on the family budget.