If you're looking to get the most value for your dollar, it would do your wallet good to check out secondhand options. Many used goods still have plenty of life left in them even years after the original purchase, and they're usually resold at a fraction of the retail price, to boot. Here's a list of 21 things that make for a better deal when you buy them used.
1. DVDs and CDs: Used DVDs and CDs will play like new if they were well taken care of. Even if you wind up with a scratched disc and you don't want to bother with a return, there are ways to remove the scratches and make the DVD or CD playable again.
2. Books: You can buy used books at significant discounts from online sellers and brick-and-mortar used book stores. The condition of the books may vary, but they usually range from good to like-new. And of course, check out your local library for free reading material.
3. Video Games: Kids get tired of video games rather quickly. You can easily find used video games from online sellers at sites like Amazon and eBay a few months after the release date. Most video game store outlets will feature a used game shelf, as well. And if you're not the patient type, you can rent or borrow from a friend first to see if it's worth the purchase.
4. Special Occasion and Holiday Clothing: Sometimes you'll need to buy formal clothing for special occasions, such as weddings or prom. Most people will take good care of formal clothing but will only wear it once or twice. Their closet castouts are your savings: Thrift stores, yard sales, online sellers and even some dress shops offer fantastic buys on used formalwear.
5. Jewelry: Depreciation hits hard when you try to sell used jewelry, but as a buyer you can take advantage of the markdown to save a bundle. This is especially true for diamonds, which has ridiculously low resale value. Check out estate sales and reputable pawn shops to find great deals on unique pieces. Even if you decide to resell the jewelry later, the depreciation won't hurt as much.
6. Ikea Furniture: Why bother assembling your own when you can pick it up for free (or nearly free) on Craigslist and Freecycle? Summer is the best time to hunt for Ikea furniture--that's when college students are changing apartments and tossing out their goodies.
7. Games and Toys: How long do games and toys remain your child's favorite before they're left forgotten under the bed or in the closet? You can find used children's toys in great condition at moving sales or on Craigslist, or you can ask your neighbors, friends, and family to trade used toys. Just make sure to give them a good wash before letting junior play.
8. Maternity and Baby Clothes: Compared to everyday outfits that you can wear any time, maternity clothes don't get much wear outside the few months of pregnancy when they fit. The same goes for baby clothes that are quickly outgrown. You'll save a small fortune by purchasing gently used maternity clothes and baby clothes at yard sales and thrift stores. Like children's games and toys, friends and family may have baby or maternity clothing that they'll be happy to let you take off their hands.
9. Musical Instruments: Purchasing new musical instruments for a beginner musician is rarely a good idea. (Are you ready to pay $60 an hour for piano lessons?) For your little dear who wants to learn to play an instrument, you should see how long his or her interest lasts by acquiring a rented or used instrument to practice with first. Unless you're a professional musician or your junior prodigy is seriously committed to music, a brand new instrument may not be the best investment.
10. Pets: If you buy a puppy (or kitty) from a professional breeder or a pet store outlet, it can set you back anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. On top of this, you'll need to anticipate additional fees and vet bills, too. Instead, adopt a pre-owned pet from your local animal shelter and get a new family member, fees, and vaccines at a substantially lower cost.
11. Home Accent: Pieces Home decorating pieces and artwork are rarely handled on a day-to-day basis, so they're generally still in good condition even after being resold multiple times. If you like the worn-out look of some decor pieces, you can be sure you didn't pay extra for something that comes naturally with time. And don't forget, for most of us, discovering a true gem at a garage sale is 90% of the fun!
12. Craft Supplies: If you're into crafting, you probably have a variety of different supplies left over from prior projects. If you require some additional supplies for your upcoming project, then you can join a craft swap where you'll find other crafty people to trade supplies with. If you have leftovers, be sure to donate them to your local schools.
13. Houses: You're typically able to get better and more features for your dollar when you purchase an older home rather than building new. Older houses were often constructed on bigger corner lots, and you also get architectural variety in your neighborhood if the houses were built or remodeled in different eras.
14. Office Furniture: Good office furniture is built to withstand heavy use and handling. Really solid pieces will last a lifetime, long after they're resold the first or second time. A great used desk or file cabinet will work as well as (or better than) a new one, but for a fraction of the cost. With the recession shutting down so many businesses, you can easily find lots of great office furniture deals.
15. Cars: You've probably heard this before: Cars depreciate the second you drive them off of the dealership's lot. In buying a used car, you save money on both the initial cost and the insurance. It also helps to know a trusty mechanic who can check it over first. This way, you'll be aware of any potential problems before you make the purchase.
16. Hand Tools: Simple tools with few moving parts, like hammers, hoes and wrenches, will keep for decades so long as they are well-made to begin with and are well-maintained. These are fairly easy to find at neighborhood yard or garage sales. If you don't need to use hand tools very often, an even better deal is to rent a set of tools or borrow them from a friend.
17. Sports Equipment: Most people buy sports equipment planning to use it until it drops, but this rarely happens. So when sports equipment ends up on the resale market, they tend to still be in excellent condition. Look into buying used sporting gear through Craigslist and at yard sales or sports equipment stores.
18. Consumer Electronics: I know most folks like shiny new toys, but refurbished electronic goods are a much sweeter deal. Consumer electronics are returned to the manufacturer for different reasons, but generally, they'll be inspected for damaged parts, fixed, tested, then resold at a lower price. Just make sure you get a good warranty along with your purchase.
19. Gardening Supplies: This is an easy way for you to save money, and all you need to do is be observant. Take a look outdoors and you'll likely find such gardening supplies as mulch, wood, and even stones for free or vastly reduced prices. Used garden equipment and tools are also common goods at yard sales.
20. Timeshares: Buying timeshares isn't for everyone, but if you decide that it suits your lifestyle, purchasing the property as a resale would be a better deal than buying it brand new: on average, you'll save 67 percent on the price for a comparable new timeshare. If you're new to timeshare ownership, give it a test run first by renting short term.
21. Recreational Items: It's fairly easy to find high ticket recreational items like campers, boats, and jet skis being resold. Oftentimes, they're barely used at all. As long as they're in safe, working condition, they'll make for a better value when purchased used than new.
Lynn Truong is the co-founder and Deals Editor of Wise Bread, a blog dedicated to helping readers live large on a small budget. Wise Bread's book, 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget, debuted as the #1 Money Management book on Amazon.com.