Save Money (and the Earth) by Buying Second Hand

5 July 2012

Did you know that the average person produces 390kg of waste per year (Environment-green)? Did you know that 1 in 3.7 adults claim they always reuse things instead of throwing them away or buying new, whereas 1 in 25 do not (rd)?

We’ve all grown up with, or at least know of, the earth-conscious motto:

  • Reduce
  • Re-use
  • Recycle

It’s easy to save money and the earth by buying second hand.  Having furnished part of our living area and most of our basement suite with mostly second hand furniture, I seriously enjoy hunting for bargains by buying second hand.

Here are some of my latest “finds” from Craigslist :

  • Lacquered solid wood kitchen table with four chairs $50 (reg price $300+)
  • Stainless steel microwave Danby (used 1x) $25 (reg price $70)
  • Apartment sized fridge (new) including removal of our old fridge: $320 (reg price $700)
  • Ikea office chair x 2: FREE (reg price $150 for both)
  • HP Inkjet printer: Free (I know Inkjet printers aren’t worth very much but it was still mint condition!)
  • Ikea Hemnes day bed with foam mattress: $200 (reg $650)

By buying second-hand off of Craigslist, not only do you save at least 50-70% off the normal ticketed price for items, you get to meet others in your community, you get to practice the skill and art of negotiation, and you get to save the planet by reducing waste, re-using other people’s waste, and recycling!

Everything I bought was pretty much still in mint condition.

You can find quality used goods on:

Oftentimes people are moving and can’t take their furniture or other goods with them.  Check for “TODAY ONLY” posts or one day posts where you can just go and pick up furniture or other goods that you need for free.  People selling on Craigslist are often open to negotiation. The only frustrating aspect of getting things online is that some people who are selling might be flaky (as are people who are buying).  Patience is key.

I believe this is more common in Eastern Canada and more popular than Craigslist. Same concepts apply as Craigslist.

  • Thrift Stores

Salvation Army; YMCA/ YWCA; Value Village; Great for clothes, kitchen goods, books, and some furniture (even wedding dresses!)

In the tradition of Glamor magazine Fashion Do’s and Don’ts here are some DO’s and DON’Ts to get you started:


Try and take a friend with you if you’re meeting someone in their home for a Craigslist or Kijiji purchase. One time my spidey senses were tingling when this large man locked the door behind him when I was picking up the kitchen table.  He turned out to be a really nice guy, I think it was that locking the door behind him was just an automatic thing he usually did.  I made sure I stuck closer to my car after that!

Do Inspect. Do an inspection to make sure everything works like they say it should.  For example, we made sure the fridge worked by plugging it in.  Do ask questions about how long they’ve had it and why they’re selling.

Do Make Sure You Know the “Market Price” of the item. Being aware of how much that item would normally cost is important.  You should be aware of the price if that item were new, and also the price that other people are selling it for used.


Don’t be afraid to bargain or negotiate. If you’re inclined to, many people are pretty open about negotiating.  I often say I’ll come look at the item and when I get there, I negotiate.  Usually I find this more successful than negotiating over the phone or over email or text.

Don’t Buy Used Mattresses. Why you ask?  Because bed bugs tend to enjoy living in mattresses and box springs and if you get them in your home, the cost to eradicate them will be much more than what you saved buying a used mattress!  I know I made this faux pas myself but the people who brought me my Hemnes day bed were from a ritzy area of town where the likelihood of bed bugs is very low.  Still I should have been cautious but buying a new foam mattress from Ikea was just too expensive.

Buying used goods through Craigslist, Kijiji, thrift stores, or garage sales can be very rewarding for your wallet and budget in addition to being rewarding for planet earth.  We can all make a difference by being conscious of the waste we’re producing every day and make an effort to reduce that waste by buying second hand or used next time you’re shopping for something that you need.

Bargainmoosers, do you regularly buy second hand?  If so, what was your favourite purchase?

(Image credits: Ashish)


  • Angela
    "the people who brought me my Hemnes day bed were from a ritzy area of town where the likelihood of bed bugs is very low." Please do not be spreading this misinformation. Bedbugs have nothing to do with ritzy areas of town or being supposedly "dirty." They do not discriminate and anybody can end up with bedbugs in their home. In fact, many people bring them back in their luggage when traveling so that ritzy area may just have more bedbugs than you would think because those people are likely the ones that can afford to go on vacation. I don't want to assume but I think that is a fairly safe assumption. This is a very informative post but I just wanted to bring attention to that comment because I am really sick of hearing that only "certain kinds of people or certain areas" get bedbugs. We should all be trying to get the proper information out there so that we can all avoid getting them and if we do to know the signs and catch them early instead of pointing fingers.
    • Clare
      @Angela- Thank you for sharing your comment- sorry about my assumption, Angela! In my job I actually come across these critters fairly often myself, so you're right- I could very well bring them home. Even people who travel, watch movies at a movie theatre (reported case a few months ago), sit on fabric seats on a ferry etc. can get them.
  • Barbara
    I have gone even further...finding treasures in neighbors' recycle bins on collection day...a humungus plastic flower pot, which now resides on its sid in my "stump" old office chair that had been put out for collection, which now resides on my veranda....and tuna tins, which I used to use for crafts. These items were "free"...!!!
    • Clare
      @Barbara- Wow! That's great! What crafts do you make for tuna tins? Yeah, so many things we throw away can be re-used- especially if you live in a place (e.g. remote town) where recycling tins and plastics isn't accessible.
  • jo
    A number of communities have a site from For example in Victoria, is way more popular than Craigslist or Kijiji, so readers should check all 3 sites for their local area. Freecycle is worth checking out as well. Used sites & stores are great for maternity clothes, and baby & toddler clothes/toys/equipment. This stuff can cost a fortune new, but is usually only used for a short period of time so often in great condition second hand.
    • Clare
      @Jo- Thanks for sharing these sites! I have heard of freecycle- sounds like a good website dedicated to free stuff (vs craigslist where people may be selling). Yes- good point too about maternity clothes baby clothes etc- no point spending a fortune when the "bang for your buck" lasts only 3 months. :)

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