Buy Second Hand First

Shopping second handSomeone asked me recently if I was a “garage sale guru.”  I’d answer to that but I prefer “Stylishly Frugal Living Expert” as my title.  Regardless, I’m a garage sale, estate sale, second-hand store, free pile type-of-gal!  I try and always buy used items, first, instead of buying new and that includes most items except the“unmentionables” which I won’t mention but you can probably imagine.

Buy second hand first

I do love the finer things in life – lovely handbags, cashmere, finely made clothing, a nicely decorated home – but I don’t like to squander money or resources.  Purchasing items second-hand makes the most sense for the environment and my wallet but it does  require patience.  These are my tips for shopping second hand and they’re all very frugal, fancy and fun – all very Go Gingham!

Buying used items

Buy second hand first shopping tips

  • Find out when a sale ends and go back when things are half off.  At estates sales, this generally means Sunday afternoon.  At garage sales, it can be past a certain time the very same day.  When I have a garage sale, I want stuff gone so I usually go half off after 12 noon.
  • Go back the day after the sale and see if the people have a dumpster.  Sadly, lots of estate sale companies will get a dumpster and pitch what doesn’t sell.  Dumpsters are great places to look for items after a sale.

Buy wool blankets second hand

  • When arriving at a sale, ask if there are any free items.  There’s usually a box of free stuff and it’s filled with broken items that are easily fixed.
  • At estate sales, go to the basement for the best deals on tools and broken furniture that can be easily fixed.  The first words out of my big mouth upon arriving at an estate sale are, “Where’s the basement?”  Estate sales with basements are my favorite!

Buying second hand rug

  • Picture frames, sewing notions, craft projects, handbags, dishes, kitchen appliances are all good items to buy at estate and garage sales.  A tour of my house with a stop in the kitchen to see my second-hand beauties and you may never buy new again!
  • No one should ever buy holiday decorating items and gift wrap new – it’s always for sale second-hand.  Yes, when I was a PTA president we had fundraisers that sold gift wrap and I bought some but honestly there’s no need to buy it new.  Between the never-been-opened-gift-wrap and old maps, you will find all of your gift wrapping needs met.
  • Don’t turn your nose up at “free stuff” that’s on the street corner.  Half the furnishings in my home (certainly all of the chairs that are scattered around – but we won’t talk about my chair obsession today!) are from a corner free pile or when we lived in Washington, D.C. from bulky trash day which meant you could put out just about anything for trash collection.  We used to call it “alley shopping” back then.

Buying used furnitureIt also helps if you like to shop, which I do!  I just shop at garage sales, estate sales, second-hand stores.  Find a friend or go on a date with your sweetie and go shopping – second hand, first!

What’s your favorite spot to shop?  What extra tips do you have?  Do you like second-hand shopping, too?

Go Gingham Related Links:
Shopping at “Goodwill Bins
Estate sale finds: vintage wrapping paper
Light lanterns for garden – from the “Goodwill Bins”
The claw for the claw foot tub that got traded – even better than buying!
Our library book return basket is also second-hand
Hello handbag – a very stylishly frugal purse bought at an estate sale
Wine charms – from an estate sale

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Sara

Sara, creator of Go Gingham, is passionate about cooking and feeding her family healthy, real food. She's a green enthusiast, too, who loves to grow food organically. Sara loves to travel - especially by trading houses. An avid runner, she can also be found chasing after her chickens in the backyard.

16 Comments


  1. I love shopping, unfortunately I grew up shopping at Nordstrom, Gap, Hanna Andersson…never second hand. Over the years I’ve come to LOVE shopping second hand and I’m slowly learning to do it well. We move around quite a bit (military) so it takes extra time to find the good shops and garage sale areas.

    Thank you for the great tips.


    1. You are welcome! You’re right it does take a little time and patience when shopping second-hand but it’s definitely worth it. Great job!!


  2. Me too! I buy everything that I can second hand, and I don’t think we are any the worse for it. Here is a pic of one of our rooms at home – the only new things in the pic are the pillows on the couch – everything else came from auction, yard sales or relatives who were down-sizing. I love old stuff though. Even our animals (horses, dogs) have been previously enjoyed by other families before we found them on Kijiji (a Craigslist type thing popular in Canada).


      1. Heidi, thanks for the link! It’s amazing that even your animals came to you that way. I love it! I’ve had success getting rid of lots of items that way, too. Including some rather large, old bushes that I posted on Craig’s lis and someone came and dug up – while I sat sipping my coffee 🙂


  3. When we lived in Dallas, I had *great* luck finding most of what we needed for the home via Freecycle or the free section of Craig’s List. Since we moved back to Portland last summer, I’ve been disappointed with how much less traffic my two favorite online resources get. I guess Portland is more of a get-out-and-browse type of city? I may have to come follow you around a couple Saturdays this summer to learn where the best sales are 😉


    1. You are welcome to tag along with me, Emily! I’m afraid I’m more of “pull over while going somewhere and see if there’s anything interesting at this sale” second-hand shopping gal! My husband will make a list of sales he wants to hit – all planned out by quadrant of city so it’s efficient, too. Many estate sale companies have e-mail lists and they’ll send you a weekly update of where their next sale will be. I went to 2 sales yesterday – I bought a new strainer for $1 and it’s much nice than the one I have at home. I just used it, too! Thank you 🙂


  4. I’ve become a big convert to second-hand. I can’t afford to buy high quality new, but I’ve got some great stuff (and it’s usually almost-new when I get it) that came to me second-hand. Like the tip on looking for a dumpster after an estate sale–never thought of that!


  5. With all your 2nd hand finds, you need to know how to sew. How did you learn to sew? I am all thumbs and have not found any classes. I have no clue what a bias is, yet you have mentioned it many times on your site in relation to cutting on the bias…..


    1. Hi Sue, thank you…I forget that not everyone is a sewer!
      I learned to sew when I was growing up but didn’t really sew until we bought our first home and we needed curtains. My first ‘sewing’ projects involved using sheets – they have straight seams sewn by someone else and I used those finished edges as mine. The seams I sewed were neatly tucked away out of sight – meaning they were hidden by the curtain rod!
      On the bias means cut at a 45 degree angle to the edge. Fabric cut on the bias has the ability to curve and stretch easily. When used with home furnishings, that usually means when used with piping or trim. With gingham fabric, that means instead of neat little squares, they’re the opposite so they look like tilted squares or almost diamonds, although they’re not.
      In clothing, on the bias means the fabric usually has a better drape to it. Dresses or skirts sewn “on the bias” mean better quality because of the drape or how the fabric moves but it also means there’s more waste because pattern pieces aren’t efficiently placed on the fabric they’re placed how the drape will be best.
      If you can follow a recipe, you can sew. Start looking at everything inside out because that will show you how things are put together. And, practice. Make simple curtains or cloth napkins. Start with straight seams.
      Thanks for the comment. As usual, comments give me ideas for new posts so thank you for another idea!


  6. Oh I am such a fan of Go Gingham and I totally live by your buy second first shopping tips!! I like your tip about the basement! I clothed all my young daughters from car boot sales and they were simply the best dressed little girls imaginable. Thanks so much Sara, for sharing this with us at Natural Mother’s “Seasonal Celebration Sunday.” Hope to see you again this Sunday / Monday!! Rebecca x


    1. Rebecca, you are so welcome! I know my kids were always well dressed because of second-hand shopping. They still are but not they buy their own clothes and do layer in new pieces with things I/they have found second-hand. My son isn’t much of a shopper but he loves it when I find him athletic shorts at our local second-hand store!! Yes, I’ll see you next week 🙂 thank you.


  7. Just found your blog today and am enjoying the articles. The posts about second-hand shopping are close to my heart as this is not only how we live (by choice) but also how I make my living now. I needed a flexible type of work when I returned to school and due to chronic pain issues that make a typical job unworkable for me at present. What began as a experiment has become not only my home-based small business but also our supplemental income. We are so thankful for a few friends that took the time to teach me about vintage and thrifting as it is now our way of life. My husband and I are proud to say that 85% of our lifestyle is thrifted, 90% of our wardrobes, home decor, art, office supplies, housewares, and much of our furniture is secondhand. Had to smile about your comment on basements at estate sales–we LOVE the basements–and the attics and garages are a close second! Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration…you are appreciated. 🙂
    tina aka forrestina vintage recently posted..vintage Wizard of Oz book and record collection – unabridged – Columbia – 1960s by forrestinavintage


    1. Tina, what a great stylishly frugal living story! I’m so impressed with your Etsy site, too. Sometimes it takes a friend to help get you started on thrifting…and loving the basements!


  8. Hi Sara, I am new to your website. its nice to hear that I am not alone in this ever changing “technological” world we live in. I do not have any type of networking account. No Twitter,Facebook,etc.

    Texting however, is something I am guilty of. My sixteen year old and twenty-one year old tell me I have to keep up with the “times” we live in. A good old fashion conversation or a letter in a nice card is a thing of the past! I still from time to time send my best friend a letter, or a nice card from a thrift shop. Vintage cards are a wonderful find!

    Keep up the good work. I am a single parent, and am always looking for ways to save money. It has been extremely hard doing so, but small goals are what I strive for to make a difference.


    1. Kathy,
      I love the old-fashioned way of communicating and don’t think it will ever go out of “style.” Keep up the good work of saving. You’re right about small steps – those are the easiest ones to start and they usually stick around.
      Great job!
      PS I’m not a texter either. My fingers are too big or something like that. 🙂 I’d rather talk on the phone – the one with the cord and dial.
      Thanks, Kathy!

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