By: Lara Krupicka
I’ve been a thrift diva since childhood. Sniffing out a bargain brings me a thrill, so I’ve never shied away from buying other people’s cast-offs. Not so with many of my peers. In recent years, however, the stigma of buying used has faded thanks to sites like eBay and Craigslist. Economic necessity and the green movement may give thrift a chance to become trendy. Want to get in on the savings? Check out these possibilities before you pay full price:
Sporting Goods. With kids’ sizes and interests changing often, it makes sense to spend less by getting used equipment. Communities have long been holding athletic equipment resales and you can usually find outgrown gear at garage sales. But if you need a sports-related item right away, used sporting goods retailers, like Play It Again Sports, have new and used stock available year-round.
Watch for: Ian Somerville, owner of the Novi, Michigan Play It Again Sports store, suggests looking for defects that would affect the function of the item. On leather goods (cleats, mitts, skates) make sure the seams are intact. Inspect for cracks in wood items and watch for extensive rust on metal parts. Somerville also cautions buyers of things like lacrosse pads to “make sure that all of the Velcro and elastic works well, and that nothing is torn or missing (or too smelly!)”.
Better off new: Personal items like mouth guards and jock shorts. Ski goggles , which usually only last a season or two before getting too scratched to see through. And hockey sticks – Somerville points out that “it’s difficult to know if there is a micro-crack inside a used hockey stock that is ready to break on your first shot”.
Clothing. As toddlers, your kids may have been fine with hand-me-downs, but most grade-schoolers like to make their own choices. You can still save on clothes by shopping at secondhand stores and clothing resale events. Linda Smith, a mother of two fashion-conscious girls appreciates the value of getting name brand clothes at bargain prices through buying at resale shops. One benefit Smith notes is that “they’re already shrunk. The clothes’ size and shape isn’t going to change.” Her advice on shopping for secondhand clothes is: “Be patient. You’ve got to dig to find what your kids will like. They are going to try on a lot and just get one or two things.”
Watch for: Worn spots on elbows and knees, broken zippers, and fatigued elastic.
Better off new: Athletic shoes for daily use where quality affects physical comfort, and underwear (for obvious reasons).
Furniture. One category where buying used costs less, but also nets potentially better quality is furniture. Fun, unusual, and well-built desks, bunk beds, and bookcases don’t have to cost a fortune. Check out neighborhood yard sale listings, and estate sales to find that piece you’re looking for.
Watch for: Signs of mold or deeper-than-surface water damage on wood, and upholstered pieces with funky smells.
Better off new: Cribs, due to safety standards, and mattresses, particularly with the rise in bedbug infestations.
Instruments. Particularly when your child is just starting out learning an instrument, it’s a good idea not buy them a new instrument. In many cases, you can rent either through your child’s school or a local music shop. But once your child has decided to stick with an instrument, you can save up to 30% or 40% by buying used. The key is buying a quality instrument. As Carla Ulbrich, a New Jersey musician and former music store staffer, points out, “You can find cheaply-made instruments that don’t play in tune. Then your kid will think they have no talent. This can be very frustrating.”
Watch for: Brand names. Certain makers are known for their level of quality. Find out for your child’s particular instrument which these are and shop accordingly (for example: Bundy for clarinets, Bach for trumpets, Ludwig for drums). Make sure all moving parts work smoothly, pads aren’t worn down, and any corks are in good condition. Remember that dents are generally cosmetic. It also helps to have a music shop inspect the instrument and advise you of any work needed before buying from a third party (also Ulbrich strongly advises against purchasing an instrument through eBay or Craigslist where you’re buying sight unseen from an unvetted seller).
Better off new: Instruments beyond student level.
(Lara Krupicka is a freelance writer and mom to three girls.)
Twice As Nice Kids Consignment
Time for the Twice As Nice Kids Consignment Sale! All seasons, all sizes PLUS a NEW shopping schedule. Presale shopping for New Parents/Grandparents, Volunteers, Police, Fire & Military. Books, games, puzzles, toys, outdoor toys, bikes, furniture, infant supplies, clothes(all seasons), shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, snow boots and so much more! Great back to school shopping and pre Christmas shopping. Want to SAVE money? See our ad for a special discount! Sale is held at Bethany Lutheran Church, 4200 N. 204th St., Elkhorn, NE. July 27th – July 31st Visit www.twiceasniceomaha.com for full details and sale schedule.