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Pre-owned for the win

by Anastasia Karel about a year ago in house
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Clothing, furniture, kitchenware, you name it

Example of an estate sale

I love spending money and buying things. Always have, always will, no matter how many budgeting or other money advice stories I read. It must go back to the old hunter/gatherer instinct: our brains are wired to look for things to acquire, and if we can find something that no one else has, that's a major win!

This is where the huge pre-owned market comes into play. In today's world of fast fashion, it's so easy to go to a chain store and come out having spent $50 on a couple of shirts or items that might last a year or two before they either fall apart or you get tired of them. But is the convenience really worth it? I value quality over quantity and I'm always looking at labels and trying to discern how long something will last me before I buy it. If the item is vintage, chances are it's already served someone well before I find it, and it's worth buying because it was well made and still has life left in it.

During the worst of the pandemic, ThredUp was my favorite place to look for pre-owned clothing and I probably bought more than I really needed (especially since I couldn’t go many places). What made the site especially tempting was that over the summer they had a bingo-style game where you filled in a square each time you purchased a particular item or completed an action like shopping from the app. Of course, I never actually scored bingo, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun trying! I'm currently sitting on credits worth $55 and want to wait until I see something special.

Over on Instagram I follow a lot of mid-century modern design accounts, and lust after these beautiful pieces of furniture made years before I was born. But the prices! If you shop at an antique store, you will likely pay top dollar for sought-after items in the MCM category. So, I turned to online auctions, which are another way to acquire pre-owned items for less than you'd pay in a store. Sometimes there’s a lot of action in the final minutes of the auction and I don’t win because other people are willing to pay more than I am. But other times I get lucky and submit a bid in the last two minutes that ends up winning.

A benefit to buying pre-owned is that you are likely supporting a small business rather than a multi-national corporation (not to say all corporations are bad, but it’s important to remember the little guys). The online auction companies I follow are local companies and usually run the auction as part of an estate sale business. I see this as part of the cycle of life: a person in the 1950s or 1960s bought a piece of furniture, used it for 50+ years, and is now ready to downsize or have their heirs deal with all their belongings.

If you’re not comfortable buying pre-owned clothing or don’t like vintage furniture styles, an easy place to start buying pre-owned items is in the area of kitchenware. Especially if you’re young and trying to stock your first apartment’s kitchen, you can find a lot of good quality pieces at Goodwill or flea markets for affordable prices. This is also a great way to add some personality to your place and ensure that not everything comes from a big box store. While I used two bowls from IKEA for 15 years and they were perfectly suitable, I get so much more joy from a set of bowls I won at auction because they represent who I am. And at the end of the day that joy is what is most important.

Vintage bowls


About the author

Anastasia Karel

I’m an archivist by trade, and creator the rest of the time! I love to tell stories about the places I’ve been and things I do.

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