Bargain Hunting at Online Thrift Stores

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Adventurous shoppers have learned that the deep discounts at thrift stores make the experience worthwhile. The selection may mostly be items you have no use or taste for, but digging through the rocks to find the gems can result in serious savings.

If you aren’t near a secondhand shop, you can also score great deals with online thrift stores; however, you need to be patient and willing to buy something without touching it, testing it out or trying it on. And, if you’re buying clothing, you also have to know what size you are, or else it’s a bit of a guessing game.

Here are several popular options for doing second-hand shopping in online thrift stores, plus tips for avoiding payment and shipping issues.

Auction Sites

eBay is the most well-known online auction site, but there are also nonprofit organizations online like Goodwill. Here, you can find almost anything in all kinds of conditions and from all over the world. But, be careful you aren’t caught up in the excitement of the auction and end up bidding more than you can afford or want to pay for an item.

Retailers

Although there are many shopping alternatives to Amazon, Amazon Marketplace is a unique site where individuals and businesses can sell their new or used goods alongside Amazon’s retail offerings. You simply go to Amazon, search for what you want, and see if any Amazon Marketplace sellers are offering the item used. Amazon guarantees anything sold by its Marketplace sellers.

Community-Based Sites

Another great place to look for secondhand items is Craigslist Worldwide or Kijiji (Canada only). These companies have a local site for each city, and you can go through the listings by category. Use these sites carefully, because there are no guarantees that what you’re buying is genuine. Many listings will ask for cash; however; sometimes you can barter with the seller. Often, you can find free items to pick up, such as an old, but working, refrigerator or freezer. People are often looking to upgrade to more efficient or modern appliances, and they’re willing to give away the old models to anyone who’s willing to take the large items away.

Independent Shops

Many thrift and consignment shops take pictures of their in-store items and put them online to be purchased. While many of these shops sell mostly clothing, you may be able to find other items from time to time. Here are three to try:

General Tips

If you do plan to shop online to buy secondhand items, keep in mind that the sale price may not be the final price, as the seller could charge you for insurance, shipping and possibly handling. When you’re shopping for deals online, take all these charges into account to figure out whether an item really is a steal. Some sellers can be unscrupulous and mark their items as extremely cheap to get attention, but then take their real profit margin by gouging you through inflated shipping and handling surcharges added on to the sale price.

If you are buying from an online marketplace, you need to also check the listing to ensure that the merchant will ship your purchase to you, as many listings specify “local pick-up only for cash.” If you’re living abroad, ask the seller if they ship to your country, and be aware that customs and duty fees may apply.

If you do decide to pick up a purchase in person and pay in cash, safety becomes an issue. Make sure the meeting is set in the daytime in a busy public place such as a mall, and always bring a friend along with you. There have been rare instances where buyers go to meet a seller only to be robbed … or worse. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam.

The Bottom Line

Buying secondhand items online can come with many issues that you may not experience when shopping in-store. However, venturing online for used items is incredibly convenient, and it could result in significant savings. And as an added bonus, each purchase will help keep old items out of landfills, while it helps keep money in your wallet.

Last Updated: February 28, 2013
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About Mochi and Macarons I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months by budgeting and tracking my expenses. Financial independence is possible for everyone, but it takes discipline, hard work, and learning a new way of looking at your money. No one should have more interest in your money than you do. You can find me blogging casually about money at: The Budgeting and Expense Tracking Tool. www.thebudgetingtool.com

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