Why buy new when you can shop used: Reviewing second hand approaches to first world problems

“Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of quantity to Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances to Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of chances.” Sun Tsu

For all of us there is the justified issue of money, we may not like it but money makes the world go around, at least at this time. We can all remember times in our lives where a solid barter or trade superseded any hint of monetary distribution. When all we had to offer for a tool or even food was a trade of our services and or objects we held. Of course if there are those of you who have never seen these times, horse trading or bartering is absolutely one of the greatest skill sets we can absorb and use.

For myself personally, I have worked for multi-billion dollar corporations when a billion dollars meant something. I was middle management by the time I was 21, and making high 5 figures when gold was under $100 an ounce. Not at any point did I consider my future, sure I had a couple months of savings, and old habits instilled in me by my parents die hard so I have always had a decent stock of dry, canned and other food as well as water. However, did I really think the world could end, or that the things that have happened would.

                                                                                 – Honestly –

Yes, I did, see I have the benefit of something others may have never had. At a very young age I was taught there is no shame in asking someone with plenty if my labor or services were of sufficient value to trade for some of what they have. I was also taught to share what we had, even if it was little or barely sufficient for ourselves. I was taught the value of hard work, not of money. Rather I was taught money was merely a means to an end and the end was what we decided. In addition to this, I had by the age of 11 lived through a major car accident, sexual and physical abuse by the leader of the church and their friends and by the time I was 12 several major surgeries on my back, legs and knee. I was in traction most of my 13th year and at 14 was learning to walk again, thanks to extreme atrophy of my legs post surgery. You see the car incident resulted in my much advanced physical condition of grade IV spondylolisthesis at 11-12. Unheard of, the physicians gave varying degrees of diagnosis from the standard to the extreme, none very positive.

However, I was not raised to quit, my father had if anything helped me understand one thing. We can only rely on ourselves, more importantly, we cannot quit. Quitting was not in my vocabulary. So I continued on, as the second eldest of 8 children. Four girls, four boys, and at the age of 12 the eldest at home I was also saddled with the “wonderful” eldest role. Of course I had been taught to trap, harvest, raise food and hunt before I could walk as they say. I was tracking animals actively at 6 and 7 and my daughter does the same today, my son, my engineer has extreme talents just not in the same arena. I was also taught the art of the deal. To this day my parents have not that I am aware of had a vehicle that was not traded for in some manner, excepting the car I was able to gift them recently.

This is the point of the article, the art of the deal. Modern Americans fail to understand a simple principle, it is not about take as much as you can before the well dries up. No, self sustaining lives are all about creating mutually compatible, beneficial and voluntary relationships with as many people as we can. This betters our chances at finding a deal, service or object when we need one. Modern Americans seem to be trending towards looking good without substance and basically grifting those around them for whatever they can. I was raised with the mindset that we had to work for what we wanted. We earn our way and should never knowingly take advantage of others.

With this mindset, the idea of trolling pawn shops, second hand stores and garage/yard sales is not a negative. It is a benefit that has mutual rewards. There are several local pawn shops and dozens of people who gladly embrace the idea of expanding a very mutually beneficial relationship. It has allowed me to do what my father always prided himself on and so many of my genetic siblings failed to understand even to this day, keep his word even at a personal cost to self. You see, in the end, your word is all you have. If you cannot keep your word, what good are you really? Sure there are hundreds of sharks swimming the business seas, and they all die alone.

So if it is pride that keeps you from rubbing shoulders with a homeless man on the isle of the local dollar store or a sense of being better that keeps you from seeking out the deal versus always needing a brand name. I doubt sincerely that this is the page for you. By all means, have your pride and integrity, but remember a simple reality, things do not a wealthy man make, Rather it is lack of debt and a clean conscious that makes a truly wealthy man. (I am using man as a general term) I used to believe that I would trade anything for a Saudis yacht, until I realized just how terrible every modern mega billionaire really is and how much worse are those who scramble at the feet of them trying to prove themselves.

So was this a review or more of an instructional. I guess a bit of both, if I could leave you with a few points.

  • Pawn shops sell at between 50 and 200 percent of the paid value of the product, the longer it is on the shelf the more likely they are to make a real deal for it.
  • Yard sales are all perception, if you walk into a yard sale looking like you own a 22 bedroom mansion, you wont find a good deal. No need to lie, just remember, there is also no reason to reveal your money or status through items worn.
  • Almost every single thrift store I have ever been to has at least one person who believes they are an antique dealer in another form, avoid them and deal with the others. There is no reason to overspend for something you know can be had for less. Remember, they got it for free, sure, some of them may have overhead but most utilize labor of individuals on probation. Meaning their real overhead is the electricity and the director who is likely making far more than they deserve.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for the deal or offer a LEGITIMATE counteroffer to someones original Even at a box store, product that doesnt move, means lost profits, and most box stores price things at an average of 15-100% profit margin, so that dinged can of food, we know wont store long BUT will allow us to prevent reaching into our pristine stash? Ask for a discount!

Use your words, as I tell my children, be polite and firm. Tell them why you believe that your offered price is a valid one. What is the worst that can happen? They turn you down? How many of us are married and how many of us dated at some point, come on, getting turned down is nothing more than a learning experience. And an invitation to try, try again!

If it helps at all, I have a relatively decent collection of firearms, obtained overall at below market value simply because I know how to ask and what I am willing to pay. I also know true values and inflated values and I can break down and put together virtually every currently available civilian firearm known. Though unless you have a decent relationship with the owner, DO NOT do this without first asking. If you know what you are doing, they will not hesitate to make a deal with you. Because you are not buying a brand you are buying a product and are no normal customer. Know what you want and why, DO NOT be one of the modern, “oooh pretty, must have” or worse, “but honey, jake down the street…”

Free the mind and the body will follow.

About Jesse Mathewson

Arizona since 86', lifetime prepper, camper - criminal justice advanced degrees, numerous certifications, 1+ million rounds (shooting for decades), prior contractor, instructor, current volunteer, disabled, honest, father of two husband of one - all budget and prepared. Jesse Mathewson reviews because regular people need someone in their corner as well!


  1. Good advise. I shop Thrift Stores, especially for spares. Used is good. I buy used sweat shirts at 1/4 of what a new on costs. They seem to last me as long. Quality tools seem to work just as well new as used.

    It can take a while to find what you are looking for at a price you are willing to pay. Now it is just something I do, versus an occational event.

    Another big plus is you can get more and be better diversified buying used than new. Something to consider.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      JP- first thank you, positive feedback is very nice to have, being human I enjoy a minimal ego rub – second, absolutely, there are some things I do not buy second hand, however, those are rare indeed.

      Im sure youve noticed modern clothing is quite reduced quality wise, sadly, unless it seems you have a tailor 🙂 i for one cannot afford that

      • axelsteve says:

        Luckily there is a bunch of thrift stores in my area and one pawn shop. I go looking for a suit for church and have not lucked out yet. I got lucky on a sport coat though. I have bought several things from the thrift stores .

        • Jesse Mathewson says:

          Axelsteve, benefits!

          Suits I will spend money on getting fitted and the like. However, I have not worn a suit in over a decade now, on purpose that is. 🙂

  2. patientmomma says:

    Jesse, Thanks for the reminders! My folks were very thrifty so it wore off on me. I regularly shop the thrift stores, but need to check out more pawn shops. I always ask for discounts; most stores offer some kind; but if not, I don’t buy much there. About the only things I buy new are electronics; even then I buy the two or three year old models, that are heavily discounted because they are “outdated”.

  3. mom of three says:

    Hubby, did some work for a pawn shop owner tho we did not barter he paid us we did find some great deals. I enjoy movies, so I will buy them their. Thrift shops,,, well were I live they are very expensive for what they are selling I have one Salvation Army, I can find things, or Goodwill Mondays are $1.79 for a red tag, each week they do a different color last week was green, did not find anything. I just stopped buying canning jars I have too many but I did get a great deal on a waterbath canner, one of the ladys said She would sell it for $5.99, did I need it no but at that cheap of a price I took it off her hands. I’m at a point where I don’t need anything in fact I want to get rid of things. If I do need something I look for deals I need to stop at a few yard sales again it’s been years since we’ve done it.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Mom of three, that is a good deal. Haha, I tend to sometimes “overstock” certain things as well, I dont think it is bad necessarily, unless I get out of control and then its hoarding 101 🙂

  4. anonymous says:

    I book shop very often at the thrift stores, which sell books for $1.00 or slightly more. Far less costly then new and $20 plus at B&N or other retail book sellers. The words inside the covers are pretty much the same. :^)

    Now that winter is over, a good time to look for quality made winter clothing.

    Pawn shops and flea markets are becoming more difficult markets where I am. Still some bargains, especially if older item has the same name but far less robust construction (bought a pair of 1960’s Bushnell Custom Compacts for $20 – I guess the shop just looked up Bushnell binoculars and priced accordingly).

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Anonymous, I have noticed that- darn hipsters are making “thrift/second/recycled /upcycled” expensive in some ways. Though thankfully most are still more reasonable than not.

  5. I work in a thrift store serveral times a month. I have found most of Christmas presents, and most are new. Most people never value things any more.Just get rid of things. I agree with you.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Very true, if a thrift store employs say someone who is capable of fixing minor electronic damage, etc., they could easily do very well!

  6. Less is more….. Over the years I have noticed that most people are status seekers. They must have the latest and greatest. At one time way back my wife had season tickets at a couple of live play theaters. Man…..we finally had enough of those people, dressed to the nines and as stuck up as you can get. There is nothing wronf with used provided it will do the job you intend to use it for. Yes, there have been and still are times I will only buy new, but those are far and few between. I used to be a remodeling contractor. To do a good job you need good tools. For example, any hammer will pound nails BUT a quality hammer will have better balance and be made out of a better steel. Where I used to live was in a semi rural area. some of the homes being put up were not a home, more like a manor or palace. Yet, if one looked inside, those folks had no furniture. seems after getting the place built and landscaped they didn’t have any money to furnish it. Look at the price of name brand tennis shoes. Insanity!!!! I wouldn’t buy a new vehicle if you paid me. IMO way overpriced for what you get not to mention all that computer crap. I also have found out over time one doesn’t need near what folks think they need in order to live life. I blame TV for a lot of that. “Ask your doctor if you need this…” “You will be the envy of your friends with this new Gadget”. And on and on….

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Curt S, personally havent had network tv in well over a decade so wouldnt know 🙂

      However, I believe it is our societies core problem honestly. We are less likely as a society to make decisions based on need and more on want, (Rome and every major civilization since and most prior fell as a result of those excesses in living)

      All I can say is its not one thing in particular, it is the human condition currently too live in extremism, though there is as much extreme in ideaologies like Buddhism, myself i found certain affinity with taoism, eg., balance- not an equal hard balance as that alone simply does not and cannot exist, everything undulates or moves- there is no metric for measuring balance or equality, rather, to not live in extremes, and you will find life to be rather enjoyable even facing an apocolypse if you will.

      So yes I absolutely agree with your premise and approach. I buy new and I buy second hand and I even pick in ocassion. All of this allows me to provide a rather comfortable to many individuals standards life on a rather small income. 🙂

  7. Prepared Grammy says:

    I agree! My son and his fiance got me a used Christmas present, and I love it! They both have a second job working for a man who does estate sales. I asked them to keep an eye out for good cast iron cookware. Can you ever have too much cast iron? 🙂 They found a wonderful dutch oven for me! They’re still looking for a White Mountain ice cream freezer, the kind that uses ‘arm power.’

    Another note: I’ve always gone to thrift stores for many items, but don’t usually get clothes there. The richest woman in my county is a wise spender. (Our kids went to school together, and we went to church together until we left to go to a different church with our family.) She and I were together on a disaster relief trip last summer. I had gained a few pounds, and I only had a couple of pair of jeans that fit, neither of which I was willing to take a chance of ruining. She told me that she gets her jeans at Goodwill. I found two pair that worked great, and only paid $10 for both. I don’t think anyone would believe that a woman who’s a millionaire would wear someone else’s ‘old’ clothes or shop at Dollar Tree, but she does. (By the way, she’s a wonderful and giving woman.)

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Prepared Grammy- I would say, truely rich rarely spend frivolously 🙂

      • Prepared Grammy says:

        She’s as common as they come, and worth much more than the money in her bank account. When someone’s sick, she shows up with a homemade meal and a handwritten card.

  8. Be careful of Craigslist. There are vultures there to make money on your discards.
    I offered a push mower for $50 and someone wanted me to meet them 25 miles away AND offered $35.
    All of us on CL aren’t destitiute.

    But, on that note, remember also..those blessings you extend on the less fortunate will come back in unexpected blessings for you. Can I hear an Amen??!!

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      I dont disagree JJ for certain, 🙂

      • I should add that I have found some great buys on CL.
        Things I needed but still discounted means a lot to me.

        • HELLO ON THIS “TEDDY BEAR” TUESDAY! AS I have said I shop very hard ON “CRAIGSLIST” THE FREE STUFF ! I GOTEN CASTIRON COOK WARE FOR FREE ! COLEMAN stove just need to be clean UP ! I even shop on WENESDAY at the “GOODWELL” I get OLD PEOPLE DISCOUNT ! I even got a 10×16 COLEMAN TENT for free the zipper was broken I even got some BLACK WALNUTS seeds for free I planted them and they are coming up ! I LOVE FREE STUFF

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          As far as someone buying things to resell, who cares as long as you get a price you are happy with.

          I buy things to resell all the time. If someone offers you a lower price you don’t have to take it. And there is no need to get torqued off.

          I think this is something that our consumerism mentality (Mostly pushed by TV) has made strange and offensive to many of us. The statement All of us on CL aren’t destitiute kinda plays into the idea that it’s wrong to dicker on a price.

          Going back and forth on a price is what barter and buying used is all about. Better get a handle on doing it now without thinking the other person is only there to piss you off.

          In my buying and sales of used items prices and counter prices get thrown back and forth all the time, no offense meant by either person, it’s just how it works. I like it this way.

          Most times a deal is made that both parties are happy with.

          And post-SHTF it’s only going to be more common then it is now, better figure out how to not let it bother you.

  9. Chuck Findlay says:

    I do a lot of garage sale, thrift store, flea market, pawn shop and estate sale buying.

    I’ve found each one of these has their own learning curve you have to go through to come away successful. And each one has a pattern of things I generally find in them that will be different then the other ones.

    Estate Sales
    Estate sales are for the most part over priced with a few exceptions. Clothes are less expensive then the local Good Will and Salvation Army Stores and almost always more expensive as far as quality of the clothes go. Also hand tools (non-powered tools) are lower priced then pawn shop. Electric power tools are way over priced at estate sales. I only go to estate sales in upper-class to very high-end neighborhoods (areas where I work in) so you naturally find better quality items then in the lower income areas.

    Pawn Shops
    Pawn shops almost always have tools at very reasonable prices, even power tools are a good price at them. I find pawn shops are pretty much dominated by guy stuff and not to many things in them that woman would be looking for.

    Garage Sales
    Garage sales are where I do exceptionally well at as far as finding things I can re-sell for a profit. (I have a rule that something must sell for 3 to 4 times what I bought it for.) Tools are also a good things to find at garage sales for good prices if you know tools.

    The range of things I find at garage sales is all over the map, I never know what I will find. It makes for an interesting day when I go to garage sales. Garage sales have Tupperware for almost give away prices. Something that cost $15.00 will sell for $1.00 or less. They are full of Tupperware.

    I live in an area that has winter (cold, snow) so garage sales are seasonal. This makes me focus on pawn shops, estate sales and thrift stores during the colder months. But even with this down time garage sales are my best hunting ground as the things I find are more then able to make up for the down time. And also I stock up a bit on things that need a bit of repair work and do these repairs in the winter.

    Thrift Stores
    Thrift stores are a good reliable year round place to look for things. As far as used clothes they are the place to find them. Any day, any time of the year you can find clothes in good shape.

    Tools at thrift stores are almost always very old, on their last leg, missing parts and way over priced. I don’t hardly look at tools at thrift stores. But like garage sales thrift stores have a wide range of things in them and you never know when you will find that rare item.

    Canning jars are over priced at thrift stores unless you find a case of jars. Single jars are selling for $1.00 (no lid or ring) each at both The Good Will and Salvation Army Stores. I can buy a case of 12 of them at Menard’s for under $10.00 with rings and lids.

    Lots of used electronic items at thrift stores that still work but have been outdated by our (TV based consumerism) society’s constant need to have the latest, greatest item. You can buy electronic things for very low prices. But for the most part no one wants old electronic things so there is no market for it. Even working you can hardly give it away. But I have been able to find a market for a lot of these older electronic items, that being a hamfest (amateur radio flea market) Ham radio guys like older tech and if you understand the market it is easy to pull in $600.00 at a hamfest and do it before noon and be home by 2:30 PM.

    I have also noticed over the last year that thrift store prices have gone up, it may be that sales are up and they want to cash in on the trend.

    Flea Markets
    Flea markets are a good source of outdated items (the 1970’s and 1980’s are popular decades right now as far as what you see) that may even be new but just old. And like garage sales you can find a wide range of items. Flea markets are full of older sales people (on fixed income?) that generally do little to no work on any of the stuff you find and therefore things are run-down and need repair. Also I find many of the sellers are asking way too much for what is essentially junk. But I still find a few things I have use for at flea markets.

    I find that the same things sit on their tables month after month not getting sold. These flea market sellers are not too savvy as far as how to make money. I think they find items, buy them (no idea where they find some of this junk) throw them on a table and sit back and hope someone buys it.

    I’m convinced I would not want to sell things at most flea markets and the only way to make money at a flea market is to run a flea market yourself as you get paid if these out-of-touch vendors sell things or not, mostly not sell things.

    As far as how to find things at garage sale, thrift store, flea market, pawn shop and estates

    Garage Sales and Estate Sales are best to go to on Thursday morning, this is the time you get the best pick of things. By Friday afternoon all the best stuff is gone and I hardly stop at them on Saturday.

    Pawn Shops and Thrift Stores are good to go to any time the door is open.

    Flea markets are a hit and miss (mostly miss) any time you go.

    Thrift stores have a set price and you can’t seem to get them to budge off that price. They are cooperate things that have a hive mentality that doesn’t allow for independent thought or action by the employees so the price is the price.

    Garage sales and pawn shops have very fluid prices and they are always open to offers on the price of things.

    Estate sales are pretty much like thrift stores and seldom will allow for a lower then marked price.

    What I’ve found and what works for me is a mindset as far as finding things. After some rough times I live a much lower lever then I use to (No house with a deck and pool, no BMW auto, no BMW motorcycle, no Caddy, no almost unlimited spending, no wife that has no understand of spending limits) and have found I get by very well and am for the most part a much happier person. I live well within my means and with zero debt. I’m not bothered at all buying use clothes or items. In fact I prefer it over buying new things.

    That doesn’t mean I go without things, I have pretty much all I want and also have left over cash and silver so it makes for a happy and comfortable life.

    I believe to make bargain hunting pay off well you never drive by a garage sale or estate sign again. For the rest of your life you ALWAYS stop at them (other then Saturdays as they are picked over by then.) and take a look.

    Like the saying goes “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.” Perseverance pays off in the end as long as you don’t give up.

    It takes time and the right mindset to make bargain hunting work for you. It’s unlikely you will start this week and suddenly find pots of gold. It takes time to learn how to find things, what areas pay off better then others. You have to condition your mind to look for diamonds-in-the-rough that need a bit of work to turn them into what you want. You do find things that are diamonds, but it’s not so common that it happens every day.

    Thrift stores and flea markets are very competitive as far as other people looking for bargains. Where as garage sales are much less so and you will likely find more things you want at garage sales just because not as many people are at them. It takes more work, more time and more gasoline to go to 25 garage sales then it does to a flea market or thrift store. But then the pay-off is better.

    You can find good things if you are willing to look through a lot of chaff to find them.

    I’ve been doing bargain hunting for years (like 30+) and here are a few of the better things I have found.

    A $5,600.00 MontBlank Swiss Automatic watch for $1.00 (I’m keeping it, when will I ever have another 5K watch?) that is selling on E-Bay for $1,800.00

    A Casio G-Shock ($80.00) watch for $1.00, going to sell it as I don’t like black watches.

    A Seiko 5 $200.00 watch for $5.00, I’m keeping it (it’s on my wrist right now) as I like it.

    A Seiko quartz watch for $8.00 (worth $50.00 used) and it was running.

    At an estate sale I found a $130.00 watch winder for $4.00, I’m keeping it as it is nice to have my automatic watches wound when I want to use one of them.

    All the watches only needed to be shaken or a battery to work.

    Lots of marine radios for $5.00 or less, Lake Erie is 3-miles away and there is a big boat market here. These marine radios sell for $35.00 to $70.00 at hamfest. I have 3 hand held and 2 mobile radios to sell right now.

    An alcohol 2-burner stove for $5.00, selling on E-Bay for over $100.00 (I may keep it as I like it)

    GPS units at garage sales sell for %4.00 or less, right now I have 7 of them. I will easily sell them for $15.00 each at a hamfest. I always sell all of these I can find.

    MP3 players for 50 cents to $1.00 or less and at hamfest they sell for $5.00. I load them up with music and they sell out every time. I have maybe 10 of these ready to go.

    Knifes are always a good sell at hamfest. I buy them for next to nothing (most times under $10.00) and sell them for $15.00 to $25.00. I have lots (at least 40 of them) of knifes that I’m ready to sell.

    Tools sell good at hamfest. I buy them rusty and wire brush them to clean metal and paint them.

    Archery bows, 2 crossbows for $15.00 each, a Darton 50-pound compound bow for $10.00

    A 1949 Zenith Transoceanic Shortwave radio (working great) for $25.00, I re capped it, cleaned it up, realigned it and will easily sell it for $150.00 at a hamfest. It will sell before the sun comes up.

    A Radio Shack DX-150 shortwave radio for $10.00 (working) I cleaned it up and it will sell for $50.00.

    I also over the last Summer bought 5 portable shortwave radios at garage sales for $5.00 or less, they each will sell for $15.00 to $25.00.

    The list is long for things I have found for almost give-away prices.

    I know most of us here will not resell things to the extent I do and it may at first not seem worth selling something (Like a GPS unit) that I bought for $5.00 for only $14.00. But when I do this with 80 things I suddenly have a lot of extra prep money to use.

    And even if you don’t resell things you can still find things at great prices for personal use.

    PS: Jesse I know you are into knifes, I just bought a book off Amazon you may like.

    “Wayne Goddard’s $50.00 Knife Shop”. It’s an interesting book and is (as the name suggest) about building a knife making workshop on a budget. I don’t plan on doing much knife building, but as another post-SHTF skill that may be handy this book would help that along the way. Give it a look if you have even the slightest interest in knife making or think knife making may be something good to know if (or rather when) it hits the fan.

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      I also picked up one of these today at The Good Will for $8.00, only it’s painted green. Doesn’t look to ever have been used.


      • Jesse Mathewson says:

        Chuck, I would caveat that pawn shops are best hit month end, especially chain shops, last week / Thursday -Friday they are lending more selling less, to make numbers they will fire sale (that and learning their codes – many pawn stores have dates- and times and pricing on the tags-)

        Here especially if you want large items or appliances, before 6am through 8am at yard sales etc., on Friday- and Sat –

        Otherwise yes, absolutely agreed. Now, I have considered setting a table at local swap meet- because I have things that I fixed…or can make look and work very nice plus I easily got most of them for well under any pricing negatives. 🙂

        For instance, I will find a sale on morakniv companions/ ganzo folders and drop $100-200 than set up a display challenging them to break it (hammered into wooden post etc.,) since they are actually very strong they dont break…and I sell at an easy 35% (brand new product)

        For myself being on disability I have to deal cash or keep it on the DL 🙂 either way- I look at 5-10 % losses for unfixable, and have gotten very good at recognizing and grabbing solid deals

        So 20-30% profit, i am okay with, especially considering I can undersell and provide better quality than the average seller as you well know I am sure 🙂

        • Jesse Mathewson says:

          I have 3 pawn shops that I regularly am able to grab firearms at very solid rates. The seller/gun guy is motivated, knows me, we have a dialogue and have done quite a bit of business. I fix/clean or refinish as necessary and – and a month later

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          I hardly ever go in a chain pawn shop. they just seems to be wrong, all clean and organized and are unwilling to think outside of the hive mindset.

          I like the small shops that are almost always messy (you know the ones that look like a hurricane hit them 5-min ago) and full of all kinds of interesting junk. I find the small owner businesses much more willing to take offers. They also seem to be nicer and more down to Earth people.

          It’s not really about what kind of pawn shop you go to, but more that you go to them and get off the mentality of always buying new things…

    • BlueJeanedLady says:

      Hey Chuck Findlay, Jesse Mathewson & all the other Thrifty, Wise, Curious & Interested Ones,

      Excellent article, Jesse – and excellent supplement to Jesse’s article, Chuck – for smart 2nd hand shopping info & advice! I’m a huge fan of second hand purchase opportunities as well. Between the two of you, Jesse & Chuck, the only major, additional sources not mentioned specifically that’s coming to mind right now, for finding quality 2nd life items for purchase, that I can currently think of mentioning are live (in person, not online) auctions.

      Although most auctions around my stomping grounds are indeed a variety of “estate sales” the advantages of a live auction versus an estate sale are worth individual exploration in differing regional areas; Best example(s) in my area, most live auctions are advertised in local newspapers &/or their respective web sites with a list of goods available for you (any consumer) to self research and evaluate costs & benefits individually before attending – thus giving you, the 2nd hand consumer, an opportunity to save the time, trouble and vehicular gas as to whether the auction has anything of interest or affordable in the first place. As well, for those that don’t like to “haggle” (as we say in my corner of the world) or “dicker” (as Chuck mentions from his regional base) about prices, the auction activity replaces the haggling &/or dickering activity by using the “bidding” process, which is generally less irritating &/or challenging, depending on how one sees such for some personality types, tastes & preferences. To each his/her own!

      As an example of the last few sentences above, I love to “haggle”, reasonably (not insultingly as to how items are priced) & pleasantly of course, yet I often times have difficulty keeping up with the auctioneers’ fast speak at auction(s). On the other hand, my husband doesn’t enjoy “haggling” nearly as much I do and he can keep up with the auctioneers’ fast speak pace quite easily . . . Therefore he’s comfortable and generally prefers taking the lead at an auction while I’m usually the one eagerly taking charge of price negotiations at the thrift shop or garage sale. Hey, it works for us! And, whatever works for you and yours is best, too! Right? Right! 🙂

      To supplement Chuck’s excellent supplement may I respectfully offer a few more points of potential regional differences with a couple of these 2nd hand purchase options?

      Chuck said,

      Pawn shops almost always have tools at very reasonable prices, even power tools are a good price at them. I find pawn shops are pretty much dominated by guy stuff and not to many things in them that woman would be looking for.

      While I generally agree with this, Chuck’s idea as far as generalized gender roles & their tools go and he & we all know those should ideally be interchangeable at whim regardless of gender – but so life goes. We (DH & I) have only one pawn shop out of three within 30 miles of our place that even challenges the idea of Chuck’s claim, meaning he’s mostly correct on this observation. This one pawn shop in our area has a lot of jewelry – not the “real diamonds & tiaras” – ha! – but indeed jewelry of much nicer quality than the discount variety of “fashion” jewelry in Walmart, Target, etc.; that can be bought for half-pennies on the dollar of fair market value at this pawn shop. Not that such defined “not real” jewelry is necessarily a prepper item but many – yes, even among many-a-prepper gal here today – a lady sometimes enjoys feeling extra bedazzled & excessively bejeweled pretty looking once in a while. 🙂 Also, this same pawn shop I mention almost always has a few pieces of quality cookware, kitchen items, sewing machines and many sewing / crochet / knitting notions available while the other two pawn shops in the nearby area seldom do. Plus, this first mentioned particular pawn shop also sells a surprising number of books and outerwear (coats, gloves, snowboots, etc.) for both adult – not children – genders. Go figure! Check out your own local pawn shops before dismissing any of them, just cuz! 🙂

      Chuck also mentioned,

      Thrift stores have a set price and you can’t seem to get them to budge off that price. They are cooperate things that have a hive mentality that doesn’t allow for independent thought or action by the employees so the price is the price.

      Again, I agree that most thrift shops won’t budge on prices if they are corporate owned (Good Will being the best example of corporate owned thrift stores that won’t budge price-wise that I can agreeably think of right now) but many locally owned Ma & Pa type thrift shops or Church sponsored thrift shops are often very eager to “haggle” or “dicker” a price on just about anything. Again, as a consumer and as stated by others in this thread, don’t be unreasonable about offering an alternative, lower price in the local shops and don’t get your pants twisted if they decline any given offer but most of these type, locally owned / Church sponsored thrift stores really do want to move the merchandise as much as any retail store does. So, it never hurts to ask for a different price in a decent manner.

      The only time I’ve ever been declined a “haggling” opportunity in a locally owned thrift shop was when younger &/or new employees / volunteers were working and they didn’t believe they had (or actually didn’t have) the authority to do so. Honestly, IMHO, that’s all good and well yet when I was interested enough to ask that they check with a later-shifted owner / supervisor if a differing financial offer of mine was acceptable on a particular item they eagerly agreed to pass on my request – & did so – and often my request was accepted so I would stop by later in the week to make the actual transaction. Yay! Everyone wins in those type scenarios! 🙂

      One more note about thrift shops (and it actually can apply to pawn shops as well); Get to know the people that work there &/or the local owners. Just by chance I once happened to work next door to a Church sponsored thrift shop. Although 90% of the merchandise was clothing they had a small area of house-hold items and hand tools as well, I started visiting every Thursday (only because Thursday worked well for my work schedule) over my lunch hour and got to know one of the lovely lady church volunteers – always working at the shop that same lunch hour of mine – on a friendly & first name basis.

      After several weeks (and a few random purchases) she asked what else I might be searching for – in general – and offered to “hold” any few recently donated items that fit the description I might mention until the next Thursday (my routine visit) if I’d like. Well, knowing well that this church also opened their thrift shop doors at any hour of day or night for area people with immediate & emergency needs I hesitated as I didn’t want anything “held” for me that could be given to someone in dire straights especially if I might not even want such after initially viewing such. I relayed this thought to her and she smiled wonderfully and oh so knowingly as I learned yet another life lesson . . .

      Her wisdom-filled-older-than-me aged self sweetly trumped my ignorant & youthful, at-the-time, response as she said, “Well we won’t be able to hold items “for sale” that are needed for anyone suffering immediate tragedies so you needn’t worry about that aspect to begin with but we’d be happy to hold something we think you you might want for a few days if no one else needs such desperately!” (Was I really thinking a Church based thrift store would do so for little-ole thrift-shop-warrior me or was I just being a tad obtuse, short-sighted and trivially too young-minded as to my need for such a responding suggestion on my own part? Well of course I was responding too naively at the time! Ha!)

      Well, I think I blushed a bit at the time and know I grinned at my own lack of thinking things through, verbally appreciated her kindness and said, “Of course it would be nice if you could do so and thank you so much for the offer.” That delightful lady found numerous pieces of clothing in my size & my husband’s size (within my preferred taste zones – she was remarkably spot-on about 75% of the time) and a few household items / tools for us over the next few years at the expense of absolutely no one as my money for all “held” & later purchased items went quickly into their emergency fund for regional care-taking of individuals in need So All Was Well. I missed her thrift shop presence after she became a retired volunteer, too; Yes, I really missed visiting that wonderfully kind and smart lady that I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet and know, at least a little.

      Again, great article Jesse, great supplemental post Chuck and many other wonderful responses with great ideas between and after such. I’m guessing the best advice – in general – about buying things 2nd hand is getting to know & realize what you want and/or versus what you need and getting to know and work fairly, kindly & decently with those having the mechanism to make it so. Thanks once more for the article & well thought-out follow-ups, Everyone.

      Good luck all! Keep taking care and staying safe & smart. ~BJL~

      OH, OH, OH! An important P.S. note:

      If you are buying new (my own experience with both a refrigerator and – separately – an inexpensive set of wicker porch furniture which just happens to be about 20 years old now and still used on the front screened porch) from a big box type store and if all the sales staff have left is to sell you the “floor model unit(s)” don’t hesitate to ask for a 20 % discount to start. Chances are all they will initially counter-offer you, with a great deal of moaning & groaning I might add, is a 5% or a 10% discount. However, if you are forward enough & daring enough to challenge the floor model “wear & tear” price reducing usage in the first place – you might – – – again, just might – – – successfully counter-offer their 10% sale price with a purchase price of a 15% discount off of the “new” price . . . as we once did with both of these brand new, brand name options, and go home singing & whistling like a happy bird in springtime! 🙂 Happy Haggling All!

      Did I mention I love to “haggle?” 🙂

  10. I went to a major grocery store chain where I shop and spied one lone plastic table on a shelf. All the other items were sold. I talked to the manager about giving me the table reduced to $15 already, selling it to me for $5. He was astounded that I wanted a $35 table that was reduced for $5.

    I told him it was the only item left of the huge display; it was the end of September; he could put out another display and make money in that spot; how many people are shopping for plastic tables for the yard this time of the year. He mulled it over and turned to tell a clerk to sell it to me for $5.

    I gave him reasons that would benefit him–better looking area in the store with the huge rack gone and the ability to put in another display of items that might sell better. I do this all the time. Most of the time it works. If it does not, there will be other times to ask again somewhere.

    This store would get in high end food items with nowhere to display it. The shipper made a mistake. One day, there were a dozen boxes of whole wheat pasta imported from Italy, cut with brass or something blades. It should have retailed for almost $4. They had it marked down to $2. I offered the manager $1 for the package and I would buy all 12. Every time, the manager took me up on my deal. It was a crowded markdown rack, so he was happy to free space and make a customer happy.

    But, you must remain pleasant instead of insulting the person with whom you deal. You can be knowledgeable but not a know-it-all! Attitude is everything.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Linda, absolute be pleasant, this is very much a case of honey versus vinegar. Be firm, honest and pleasant

  11. pigpen51 says:

    I was on vacation in Florida, and hit a second hand store with my wife. That is what we do on vacation, not the theme parks. I bought a Safariland Shoulder Holster for my 1911 that retails for 160$, for only 15$. And two different magazine holsters, one for a buck, and another for 2$. I didn’t bother looking up the price on these, but they were certainly much more expensive than that. We have a rescue mission here in our small city, and they have a couple of stores to support their cause. We go there often, and I always look at books, and my wife looks at things she likes, like puzzles. I will buy clothes there, save underwear and socks, which I only buy new. My wife went there last weekend to buy me a pair of tennis shoes just to bum around in, and come back with a pair of Reebok high tops, which she paid 6$ for. These I am sure were well over 50$ or more new and they are in brand new condition. I think that some parent bought them for their kid and they didn’t fit, so they donated them. I have also noticed that it is us people who are on the lower end of income, who take care of each other. I have been on the higher end and am now on the lower end. And it is us on the lower end who donate food to each other in need, who take Christmas gifts to people with kids who don’t have any, who stop at a gas station and put some gas in another persons car so the dad can get to work the rest of the week. Not the well off people, but those of us who also just get by, are the ones who take care of each other. And do so happily.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hello Jesse,
    I like to have a backstory on people to ensure their credibility before I believe what they say prima facie, especially when the individual offers advice or suggestions. You mentioned that you “worked for multi-billion dollar corporations when a billion dollars meant something.” Could you provide more information on which “multi-billion dollar corporations” you worked for? I appreciate it. Credibility is an important factor in business.


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