I think every one of us harbors secret shopaholic tendencies. But staying out of debt means spending less than you earn. And that means spending smart and personal expenses management. To help you on your smart spending journey, Mint has come up with a list of eight items that no matter how tempting, you shouldn’t buy new.
- CDs and DVDs: With iTunes, Netflix, and speedy CD-burning technology, it doesn’t seem like anyone even needs to buy new CDs or DVDs anymore. There’s no shortage of online retailers that sell used CDs and DVDs for reasonable prices, including amazon.com, secondspin.com and half.com. Sites like deepdiscount.com or dvdplanet.com sell new DVDs for much cheaper prices, some as low as $5, with free shipping. Brick and mortar stores also sell used CDs and DVDs. Ilike Amoeba, the world’s largest independently owned record store; but, unfortunately it’s only located in the Bay Area.
- Books: I can’t tell you how many books are on my shelves that I bought new, read once, and never looked at again. There’s even some I never read. The usual suspects (amazon.com, secondspin.com, and half.com) will carry cheap used books, as will sites like bookfinder.com or abebooks.com. And there’s always the library. Libraries offer access to online versions of their books and audio books. Your librarians miss you; just beware of late fees!
Mint’s Tip: Watch for online bartering sites that allow you to trade items with other people for free. Sites like peerflix.com, switchplanet.com, and barterbee.com allow you to trade things with people all over the world.
- Apple Products and Electronics: There are a number of online resellers of refurbished apple products like iMacs and iPods. This means that with minor aesthetic or mechanical repairs, the product is as good as when Steve Jobs first demo’d it. It just costs less. Apple stores sell refurbished products, as do online retailers like Small Dog Electronics. Some people warn against buying used electronics, but I have two refurbished Macs at home and have never had a problem. Try to get full-disclosure about a refurbished model and you should be fine.
- Designer Clothes: You may be surprised to see designer clothes and budget in the same sentence. Sites like celebclosetraiders.com and vickissecret.com sell used designer and consignment clothes. CelebClosetRaiders.com raids celebrities’ closets and sells what they no longer want, like a dress Paris Hilton wore on MTV’s TRL. Fashion Under $100 is an innovative blog that finds cheaper versions of celebrities’ outfits. Other sites like bluefly.com offer new designer clothing at discounted prices. An even cheaper practice is to buy designer lines that are specifically produced for retail chains. Vera Wang, known for $10,000 plus price tags, recently brought an exclusive line to Kohl’s. Target teamed up with designers like Isaac Mizrahi and Cynthia Rowley. And J.C. Penny has teamed up with Nicole Miller, making great design available at realistic prices for the first time.
Mint’s Tip: People tend to think the more money they make, the more they should spend. Instead of paying $80 for a pair of jeans, they’ll shell out $200, just for the name brand. Mint suggests you stay loyal to the brands you liked on your way up, and put the difference into a high yield money market account (just like you should be saving your raises, bonuses, and other financial windfalls).
- Baby and Maternity Clothes: No one should pay $50 for designer jeans for a toddler, right? In one year, a newborn triples its weight. The next year, he or she gains 3 to 5 pounds. Age three brings 4 more pounds. Growth continues until they are old enough to buy their own clothes! Instead of wasting money on clothes they will quickly outgrow, opt to buy clothes from sites like gently-used.com or babyloot.com, and encourage doting family members to do the same. Then, invest the difference in a college savings account for your child, like a 529 plan. The money will grow tax-deferred and future distributions come out federally tax-free. A gift like that lasts longer, and means more for your child’s future, than any outfit.
- Games and Toys: How many times have you played Monopoly since you bought it last year? Twice? Amazon.com and ebay.com have lots of games and toys to choose from, generally with cheaper prices than retail stores. Ebgames.com and gamestop.com offer large selections of the most popular games, as well as the classics — both in new and used prices.
- Homes: Unlike cars, homes can increase in value if you update and improve them. But older properties may need expensive and weekend-consuming repairs. That’s why these properties often cost less per square foot, and why you might be able to get more home for your money. Decide what’s right for you based on your time, skills and patience for home renovation, and on factors like location, price, neighborhood, safety, amenities, living space, taxes, and school district. Sites like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, newbuyer.com, and MSN Money are good sites to start with if you are considering buying a home.
- Cars: New cars depreciate drastically. Unlike with a house or real estate investment, they won’t increase in value. As soon as the tires hit pavement, it’s only worth the wholesale value. Then it drops 15-20% per year for the first three years. At that rate, a $12,000 automobile loses $5,400 in three years! Plus it will cost thousands per year in gas, maintenance, and insurance. It makes more financial sense to buy a used car. You’ll get more for your money. Read more about new car and used cars from a previous post: A Young Professional’s Car Buying Guide.
top photo credit: miltedflower