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Get over being squeamish about buying used items

Sunnyside Thrift Store is pictured here on

Sunnyside Thrift Store is pictured here on Friday, April 14, 2017. Credit: Christa Lopez

Bedbugs. Weird smells. The possibility of imminent breakdowns.

People have all sorts of excuses for not buying used stuff.

Those who deliberately buy used items, though, say such fears are not just overblown — they’re also expensive.

Katy Wolk-Stanley, a Portland, Oregon, labor and delivery nurse, has a short list of things she’ll buy new, including personal care items (toothbrushes, makeup, feminine hygiene products) and certain clothing (socks, underwear, bras).

Otherwise, she looks for secondhand options, something she’s done for more than 10 years since she first heard of The Compact, a group of people who pledge to avoid buying new.

The idea is to reduce waste, clutter and the negative effects of consumerism.

“You save money. You make a decision that you feel good about,” says Wolk-Stanley, who blogs as The Non-Consumer Advocate.

  • Saving money

Wolk-Stanley and others use thrift stores, Craigslist, garage sales and local Buy Nothing or Freecycle groups that connect people who have stuff to give away with those who want it.

“I’m not buying used things that are worn out. I’m buying used things that look brand new,” Wolk-Stanley says. She’s using the saved money to help put two sons through college without loans.

Julia Park Tracey, an author and journalist in Forestville, California, refurbished her home using materials that otherwise might have been discarded. She bought new energy-efficient appliances but gathered most supplies from The Freecycle Network, Craigslist and the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity ReStores.

  • New can mean expensive

The decision to buy new can be costly. Take cars, for example. The average transaction price for a new vehicle exceeds $34,000, and it will lose as much as 22 percent of its value when driven off the dealership lot, according to car research site Edmunds.com.

If you make 10 vehicle purchases in a lifetime, you can save more than $100,000 simply by buying cars that are two or three years old. And you might stack up more savings by avoiding long loan periods and high interest rates.

  • Getting started

Some things are better if purchased new. Safety experts recommend avoiding used bicycle helmets and car seats, for example, in case they were damaged in previous accidents.

People leery of buying used appliances and furniture can consider refurbished versions, floor models or the “scratch and dent” section of home improvement stores, where imperfect merchandise can be bought at steep discounts.

Household goods prices often are inflated. Furniture, appliances and electronics tend to have big markups, and there’s an $8 billion rent-to-own industry devoted to making them even more expensive. The weekly or monthly payments often add up to twice or more what the item would cost if purchased outright.

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