Second-Hand Shopping Strategies

Save Money and Reuse Quality Items

Second-Hand Shopping Strategies

Moving Budget

As a college student I moved four times within my five years as an under grad.  I lived in the dorms my freshmen year, and off campus in two different town homes and one apartment. After college, I lived in two different apartments before getting married.  As a military spouse, we have moved four times during our 10-year marriage.  We have lived in three different states and overseas in Okinawa, Japan.  All that moving experience has taught me how to shop for furniture and kitchen goods, and how to look for quality made items.  Here are my strategies for shopping for second-hand furniture.

Before You Shop

Moving out on your own is an exciting time in a young adult’s life.  Whether are moving into the dorms, a house, or an apartment there are several responsibilities that come along with that new place.  Paying for your rent, utilities, food, transportation are just a few of the bills that you will be responsible for. Rental deposits, set up fees, and renters insurance are expenses that will impact your budget. That’s why it’s essential to have a budget for furnishing your new place. Before you go shopping follow these steps:

1.) What do you already have?

Look at each room and take an inventory of what you or your roommates have brought along.

2.) Take measurements of the space you are furnishing.

The couch that grandma gave you may not fit into the new apartment. Your mattress may not make it up the stairs. Being intentional with the items you are looking for will save you time and money. Not to mention the physical stress of trying to move a sofa up and down different floors of your building.

3.) Know your numbers. 

Have a place on your phone designated for your room measurements. Be aware of how much you can spend. Your budget will empower you to be intentional with your purchasing decisions.

4.) Check out local neighborhood social media pages.

We have found two dressers, outdoor patio sets, and a computer desk posted as “Curb Alerts”. Many cities have specific bulk trash pickup days. Keep an eye out in those areas the night before pick up and you could find great quality pieces being carried to the street. Finding a free second-hand piece of furniture is good for anyone’s budget. Finally, if you live in a college town look for deals at the end of semesters or trimesters. Students are often trying to get rid of home furnishings in a hurry. For more ideas on finding free furniture check out this article form Apartment Therapy


Shop The Store You Can Afford

Why go into a store that has items priced out of your budget? Don’t waste your time if you are going to be disappointed and leave empty handed. If you are unsure of a price range of a particular store look at their website before going inside.  In 2022, most stores have an online presence, and if there is a sale going on they have advertised it on their social media pages. 

With that being said, I am a strong advocate for second-hand shopping strategically. Regardless of your budget, saving money and reusing an item that could end up in a landfill is a win win. There are different types of second-hand stores.

Thrift Stores

These are stores like Good Will, Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity. People donate their gently used items to the store, and the organization sells the items. Most thrift stores are connected to non-profit organizations. 

Consignment Stores

These stores will have rules for what they accept. People bring in their items they want to sell. The store inspects the pieces and makes a deal with the seller. Consignment stores will keep a percentage of the sales. 

Yard Sales

People pull out the items they want to sell into their yard. You are more likely to have opportunities to negotiate with the sellers, but social media has made it easier to advertise yard sales. Early birds get more inventory to shop at these events.

Estate Sales and Auctions

I have spent hours in the North Carolina summer heat waiting to bid on an item at an estate auction. I learned so many second-hand shopping strategies from the older ladies that sat next to me. You can find high quality furniture and home décor at these events. There are fees and taxes that you will need to look up that are state specific before raising your paddle to place a bid. Also, be sure to keep track of your winning bids.

Estate sales have set pricing and will also require planning. If there is a particular piece you want arrive as early as possible because these are first come first served events. However, if you arrive at the end of an estate sale you may find more deals. 


Quality Over Quantity

When it comes to second-hand shopping strategies be aware of what those pieces are made of. A solid wood table can be refinished.  We purchased wooden chairs from Habitat for Humanity, sanded them, and then painted them. Long story short we spent $60 for six chairs. The supplies were $126.78, so we invested a total of $186.78 for six dining room chairs!!! It took about two days to sand and paint. The drying process was a week. Wayfair was charging $199.99 for two chairs in the same style.

We have shelves that are made from compressed wood that have been damaged during the moves. Since they are compressed wood, they are harder to repair like a solid wood item. Be aware of cleaning and protecting furniture. We have a grey sectional that we purchased off Facebook.  The color is more forgiving to stains compare to the cream-colored sofa we purchased from a thrift store here in Bluffton, SC. Neutral colored furniture is also easier to decorate around regardless of where you will be living in next. 

Finally, remember that they are more you buy the more you need to pack up when you move again.  I have a donation bag in a closet that I am consistently adding items to.  If we don’t use an item at least once a year we donate it. This makes moving a little easier.

For more strategies of what to look for when buying second-hand furniture check out this article from If you would like to learn more about creating a budget, you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook @salchowcoaching. I also offer individualized financial coaching via Zoom. You can set up a consultation to learn more about my programs on my website, Salchow Coaching.


No Comments

Post A Comment