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The 10 best things to buy used

Buying used items vs. new stuff is always a wise choice. It’s a smart way to save money by getting great deals on everyday items. Moreover, it’s one of the most effective ways you can help protect the environment. After all, when you buy used stuff locally, you’re not only keeping useable items out of the trash, you’re conserving all the resources that go into manufacturing, packaging, transporting and ultimately disposing of unneeded new items. Something else to remember about the benefits of buying used goods: they’re available in a wide range of categories at retailers throughout the Twin Cities. The Hennepin County Choose to Reuse site offers a shopping tool that allows you to enter the type of item you’re looking for and will provide a list of retailers likely to have it.

To make your shopping easier still, we’ve put together a list of the ten best things to buy used. For each item we also offer retailer suggestions for you to explore.

Top 10 items to buy used vs. buying new

You can find used stuff in a wide variety of categories, and resale retailers do a great job of curating their offerings to showcase high-quality items, which they typically offer at bargain prices. Here are our picks for the categories where you’re most apt to find smart buys on items that would require significant natural resources to manufacture new.

Clothing

Woman shoe shopping

Apparel items require massive resources to produce. That pair of jeans you just bought? It took up to 1,800 gallons of water to produce. Your new t-shirt? About 715 gallons. Then there’s the environmental impacts of packaging, transporting, and ultimately disposing of clothing.

A LOT of clothes are manufactured every year – and a lot of them get discarded. Fast fashion encourages buying stylish clothes and then quickly discarding stylish clothes, not only because styles change quickly but also because fast fashion items simply aren’t made to last. Clothing and other textiles make up a significant portion of the waste stream. In 2017, from the United States EPA’s most recent report, Americans generated 16.9 million tons of textile waste.

Fortunately, increasing numbers of clothes buyers are choosing to donate or sell used items, which means that you can find incredible buys on everything from almost-new designer apparel to everyday basics. Here in Hennepin County, we’re fortunate not only to have a large number of clothing resellers, but a wide variety of them, selling high-quality apparel for your varied needs.

Here are just a few to consider:

Books

Woman reading book

Each year, we cut down about 30 million trees to produce new books. In the meantime, our shelves at home overflow with ones we’ve already read, and a number of retailers do brisk business buying and selling gently used books at discounts of 50% or more off their cover price.

Next time you’re looking for a good read, explore the wide selection of offerings at these used book resellers:

Furniture

Man shopping for furniture and lamps

You don’t have to be a collector to appreciate the appeal of used furniture. Anyone who’s ever been to an estate sale or one of our many antique shops and used furniture resellers has encountered the incredible range of styles and types of furniture that can be snapped up at bargain prices vs. new. Better yet, older furniture is often much better made than new items, particularly when it comes to wood furniture. Whether you’re looking for high-end designer furniture or kid-proof durable pieces, you’ll find retailers selling just what you’re looking for.

The fact is, people are fickle about furniture. They often change their minds after a purchase, resulting in large inventories of barely-used furniture at secondhand stores and flea markets. From sofas and tables to desks and kids' furniture, the shopping opportunities are endless.

Shopping for used isn’t your only option, however. You can also transform your current furniture with refinishing techniques or have pieces reupholstered. See below for businesses that offer help in that regard.

Whether you shop for used or want to restore or refinish furniture you already have, your choice not to buy new will have a significant impact on the environment. In fact, manufacturing new furniture generates 100 times the carbon dioxide that refinishing does.

Where to explore your options? Here are a few suggestions:

Furniture Resellers

Furniture Refinishers

Furniture Restoration

Bicycles

Used fixed gear bike

Bicycles are generally well-made and easy to maintain and recondition, which means that there’s no tradeoff in buying used versus new two-wheeled transportation.

Fortunately, we live in one of America’s bike-friendliest communities, where you can find great deals on a wide variety of bikes, from sleek road models to fat-tire, winter-ready designs. Whatever bike you choose, you’ll enjoy a significant discount off the price of a new one. Look for quality bikes – at great prices – at these retailers:

Small appliances

Toaster

From blenders and toasters to coffee makers and panini presses, a wide range of small appliances can be found at used retailers. Need a slow cooker or a bread maker? Looking for a toaster, roaster or steamer? These are all items that can be found in great condition – often barely used – at area resellers. People receive them as gifts. They buy them on impulse. And invariably, a large number of owners discover that they don’t actually use them.

The large number of unwanted appliances results in great deals for shoppers of used goods. Check out these stores for a wide range of perfectly useable small appliances:

Exercise/sports equipment

Boy with soccer ball

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that a lot of exercise equipment doesn’t get much use. People buy it with the best of intentions, but only a small percentage of purchasers stick with their exercise regimens for the long haul.

Likewise, you can find all kinds of used sports equipment, from lacrosse sticks to hockey skates. Purchased new, these items can cost a fortune, so do yourself a favor and make a point to explore your opportunities to purchase sporting goods used.

If you’re looking for good-quality exercise and sports equipment, check out the following resellers. You’ll find all sorts of gear that, if you weren’t paying so little for it, you’d swear was new.

Children’s products

Girl on playground in cute clothes

Kids grow up fast. The clothes they wore last season no longer fit them this season. The toys they loved a year ago, they can’t be bothered to play with today. Which means that choice and bargains abound across the gamut of children’s products, from apparel to games to play equipment.

It’s always a good bet to shop used for kids’ items, not least because so many toys and other items are made from plastics that can’t be recycled. Your kid will love what you buy, and you’ll feel good about keeping these goods out of the trash.

Home electronics

Woman with iPhone

Home electronics, much of it mass-produced devices that are frequently updated and discarded, generates a tremendous amount of what’s known as “e-waste.” The United Nations estimates 50 million tons of which are discarded every year.

Fortunately, a growing number of resellers are focusing on this category. And because so many consumers tend to discard perfectly functional items for the “latest and greatest,” you can find great deals on barely-used items, including computers and monitors, smartphones, Blu-Ray players, gaming consoles, flat-panel TVs, iPods, digital cameras, speakers and much more. Shop here for great buys on home electronics:

Entertainment

Man inspecting the quality of a vinyl record

From CDs and DVDs to audio books and LPs, odds are you can find your favorite titles used all over Hennepin County, not only at specialty retailers but at used book stores and a wide variety of thrift stores.

Check out some of the following retailers:

Musical Instruments

Girl with flute

The price gap between new and used can be astonishing when it comes to musical instruments, so it really pays to shop secondhand in this category. And that’s especially true when it comes to instruments for a child. After all, kids often play for just a few years before losing interest. That leads to serious bargains for used instruments shoppers. Plus, it’s great insurance to buy used for your child since you have no idea if they’ll really commit to the instrument.

Where can you find bargains? Check out these retailers, as well was pawnshops, local Craigslist postings, and other online resources.

Shop smart, buy used

Shopping for used goods is all about the savings – and not just the kind you can track on a credit card statement. When you choose to buy used over new, you’re saving precious natural resources that go into manufacturing new goods, as well as transporting, packaging and eventually disposing of them. And here’s more good news: Buying used is easier than ever today. Retailers abound throughout the Twin Cities. They range from specialty stores offering well-curated selections of hard-to-find items to family-friendly discount stores offering massive bargains off of retail.

Join the growing number of Hennepin County residents who choose to reuse. Join the Circle to learn more about how Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse team can help you keep useable goods in a circle of reuse. Because what stays in the circle stays out of the trash, and that’s good for all of us.

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Now that warm weather has arrived – and with it, the desire to clean and declutter – this a great time to get serious about donating usable goods that are taking up space in your overcrowded home.