It’s Christmas time and here’s where things are about to get really real…parking lots and stores get really packed, people get really rude, and budgets take a really big hit. So if you’re trying to figure out how to avoid all that yet still give your young one a Christmas that’s really great (or whatever holiday you personally celebrate) then you’ve come to the right place. Let me start with saying I can pretty much guarantee that in this read you’re going to learn at least one thing you never knew before. That said, let’s continue.
If you have a child that’s under the age of five then this article is best for you since what we’re about to do should fly under their radar and typically not let them be the wiser. Although depending on the item and the condition, this may work for older children and even teens (again that’s contingent on some crucial components which we’ll discuss in further detail).
So how do we attain all this holiday peace yet fruitful giving without breaking the bank? Buying used. Yup, I said it, buying used toys. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “My little darling is worthy of new toys though.” You’re thinking, “Used toys are gross and germy.” You’re thinking, “Used toys are broken and incomplete.” And to all those things I’d say, “You’re right, you’re 100% correct…but you’re also way way wrong.”
Don’t believe me and don’t want to read all the following info below until you think I might be telling the truth? Then scroll down to where the pretty pictures are and look at my personal examples.
Yes, your kids are worthy of new toys and buying used ones can help. How? Maybe buy a Hot Wheels playset brand new but get all the Matchbox cars used. Yes, used toys can seem gross and germy but there’s tons of recipes for non-toxic cleaners and ways of disinfecting toys (here is one example) so spend time, not money. And yes, used toys aren’t always complete but you can either look for missing parts elsewhere or don’t buy that particular one if it’s a big deal. The key here is that buying used can work out if you know what you’re doing and where to do it.
When buying used, there are four main types of places you can go: consignment, thrift, online, and garage sales. But before we get into the advantages each one holds, as well as examples of what I’ve bought and how it compares to buying new, let’s start with what advantages ALL these places share in common.
Avoid Hustle & Bustle
Most people are not shopping for Christmas at these types of places so you will most likely avoid the crowds and the chaos.
This one is a no-brainer and I only include it to be thorough, so let’s not spend a lot of time on this one because I think it’s the most obvious. I will say, though, be sure to comparatively shop like you would anywhere else. Just because one place, say a garage sale, has it for one price, check eBay for the similar item and what it ‘Sold’ for so you get an accurate idea of whether or not you’re getting a good deal. Just because it’s used doesn’t mean it’s always at it’s cheapest. Some sellers think that older equals vintage thus equals overpricing it. Remember, something is only worth what someone will pay for it.
Believe it or not, a lot of used items are high quality since they’ve already survived one full use and are still fetching a resale value. If the item was cheap and essentially a complete piece of shit then it wouldn’t typically be accepted for resale. Key word there is “typically”.
This one is based on you personally but because you didn’t spend a lot of money you’re a lot less likely to want to hold onto items that are no longer needed. Think about those apps on your phone, or games on your console, or clothes in your closet that you paid too much for and know deep down inside that once you admit it’ll never be used again you feel like you’re admitting defeat.
Everyday is Unique
Which one of us never imagined finding a treasure map and looking for buried loot? Well your trip to a thrift store won’t end with a treasure chest, unless of course it’s empty, vintage, and used, however, you could discover something that you never thought you’d find and if not today, then maybe tomorrow when they get their next truck load in. Yes, I’m a bit obsessed with going every couple days but if you found the items I did, you would be, too.
You wouldn’t believe (because my wife wouldn’t have either if she hadn’t witnessed it through me) how much you can make off of used items if you’re looking in the right places and for the right stuff. To get started selling those items here’s a guide I put together on How-To Tips and Tricks to Selling on eBay.
Because you didn’t pay a lot of money it’s easier to pass a used item on to someone else who may need it more than you. Also, since you’re blessing this person with something you already owned, they were going to get a used item whether this was originally new or already used, so I doubt they’ll be too picky and will probably be grateful for you being there for them.
Now let’s discuss what each outlet has to offer advantageously. On top of that, I decided to share a small example of purchases I’ve made from each outlet just to put my money where my mouth is because everything I’m writing is 100% from experience and not just a bunch of words thrown together in order to fill the internet with more bullshit.
Child specific consignment shops are the best way to go to a brick and mortar store that is tailored to your needs when it comes to used toys. Consignment shops hold a few advantages that the other used outlets do not.
Consignment stores typically will allow returns as long as tags are still on it, the condition of it has not changed, and you posses the receipt. This is very advantageous in case clothes don’t fit but make sure toys function properly and pieces aren’t missing before you leave the store because most the time it’s only apparel that is returnable. Now eBay and it’s seller will sometimes allow returns but there is a lot of hassle with that so you’re going to want to make sure you get your purchase right the first time.
Chain consignment shops typically make sure that products meet mandatory and self-voluntary safety standards as well as keep recalled items off the shelf. This isn’t always the case with the other types of outlets as it takes self-policing for this to be the case and that isn’t something you want to always depend on.
Did you know that places like Once Upon a Child will only sell puzzles that are unopened if they have more than 100 pieces and that if the puzzles are less than 100 pieces they make sure it’s complete? So you’re guaranteed a complete puzzle at a fraction of the price this way. I learned this when I purchased this great, vintage Mario Bros. puzzle there for $2…yes, $2. Needless to say this was bought for myself.
Action & Toy Figures
One of the things I love from a place like this are the random bags of toys and action figures at a price that just one of the toys in the bag would cost if it was new (some thrift stores have these, too). For example, you can get an entire bag of all four Ninja Turtles as well as their rad sensei Splinter for $6. Tell me that’s not a tubular deal.
Supply vs Demand
These place as wallpapered with baby items and toys galore, which allows for multiples of almost everything in the store. The nice part is they need to move this stuff so it’s priced great and the longer it sits the more the price comes down.
2. THRIFT STORES
You may think you know everything there is to know about thrift stores but if you haven’t been in one for a while a lot has changed. Here are some great advantages thrift stores hold.
New Retail Items
Did you know that retail stores like Target have a deal where their clearance items, that no longer have shelf space, go to Goodwill for a fraction of the price and those savings are passed onto you? And these are new, never used, items.
A lot of Goodwill’s now have auctions in their store every week so you can find some great items for a fair price. This is where your teens come into play. The most important things to keep in mind is that teens want something cool they can tell their friends they got. So it has to be something that is cool and typically retro as well as in good condition. Right now vintage gaming is trending with both young and old gamers alike which is driving the prices for these collectibles through the roof. I see these old systems bundled with games and controllers in the auctions every week and if I didn’t already own most of them I probably would be getting into the action. However, I did pick up this Nintendo bundle for $45.
Because inventory is constantly changing they need to make room for the new stuff. Each wave (the date inventory was put out) of items get a color tag and thrift stores are often having percentage off sales on tagged older items so they can make room for new stuff.
Here are several amazing deals I found recently that deserve mentioning:
I found this easel (below) yesterday for $5 compared to $68 here on Amazon.
Below is a new, SEALED version of The Hobbit Scrabble that I got last week for $3 compared to $22 here on Amazon.
This one is a little tricky in that I got the below lot (and more not pictured) of Little People for $7 where something like this runs anywhere from $50-$100+ on eBay.
The online marketplace has a lot of advantages in that we can avoid crowds, have it delivered to us, shop late at night in our pajamas but there are some real important advantages as well. Such as:
You can find exactly what you’re looking for at a fraction of the price of it being new when you search at places like eBay and Craigslist. Whereas if you go to the other three used outlets you are at the mercy of what they happen to have.
Except the next outlet (garage sales & flea markets), the previous two (consignment & thrift) do not allow for negotiating but on eBay you can submit a best offer and negotiate if the seller allows it. Same goes for Craigslist, you can negotiate the price before you even go to look at it thus making sure it’s worth your time.
eBay specifically has buyer protection, making the money you spend in eBay’s control, so if you’re not satisfied, you can almost certainly get your money back.
An example of what I bought from Craigslist, and saved a lot of money, is this Step2Step Rollercoaster system. We had gone to a birthday party that had one of these and our son absolutely loved it. We ended up finding it in great condition for $35 compared to $91 here on Amazon.
4. GARAGE SALES & FLEA MARKETS
Garage sales are hands down the best place with the best prices because people are wanting to move this stuff quickly and they’re not a store with employees they need to pay. They’re typically appreciative for every penny they get from the junk they’ll most likely throw out if it doesn’t sell.
Here is a Sega Genesis Classic Game console I got for $5 at a garage sale down the street from my house. Compare that $5 to the cheapest price I could find, which was on eBay, of $50 (includes shipping).
Now tell me all these examples I provided weren’t great products that would make great gifts and all at an even greater price (than that of new ones).
Do you have similar stories? Share them with us below so others can see this is perfectly acceptable and nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about.