It’s just 4 more days till the Chinese New Year. And everyone is busy cleaning their homes and clearing their unwanted goods. Many people are also shopping for a new outfit to wear on the first day of the new lunar year. But does new necessarily mean never-worn? Maybe it just needs to be new to you. Here are my 8 (auspicious) reasons why you should consider buying used.
Reasons to Buy Used (Some are Not that Obvious)
1. Cost Savings. This number one reason is obvious so I won’t go into much detail on this. But here are 7 more less obvious reasons:
2. Dyes, toxins, and other chemicals in clothing & furniture. Ever wondered why new things have a certain distinct smell to them? New research has shown that during the manufacturing process, some fabrics and materials have dyes, binders, and other chemicals that can leach out into the environment or into your skin. I used to think the skin was like an impenetrable barrier, until I was prescribed a transdermal medication. That was when I realised that the skin is like a sponge. It’s also your largest organ. And it’s part of the immune system, which means that it’s important in keeping you healthy and well. Let someone else deal with all these leaching chemicals. Buying second-hand means that it’s likely these chemicals have already been leached out over time from use, washing, and wearing.
3. Shrinking, stretching, and color changing clothing. I once bought a cashmere blouse at a thrift store. It was marked down to less than $5. Why? Because it was a size large that shrunk into a size small. The person who bought it probably didn’t know that cashmere shrinks in the dryer. When you buy thrift shop clothes, it’s wysiwyg (what you see is what you get). And you won’t have to worry about fading colours or shrinking/stretching fabrics.
4. Clothing with a story. By the time an item makes it to the thrift store, there’s a lot of “equity” in the item. Many hands have touched it and countless hours were spent making it, transporting it, and selling it. From the people who collected the raw materials and spun those materials together, to the people who sold the finished product, at each step, energy, money, and time went into the item. It probably traveled a great distance before coming to Singapore. It carries with it all that equity. And yet you can own it for just a mere fraction of the actual cost that went into making it.
5. Living a greener and more sustainable lifestyle. Most people are familiar with recycling. They know that recycling greatly benefits the environment. But there are 2 other more important R’s that are part of sustainable living that come before recycling. Those are reduce and reuse. “Use it Up, Wear it Out Make it Do or Do Without” was a common saying during the Great Depression Era in America.
As mentioned previously, items have equity, and that means fossil fuels and other energy have already been spent to make the item. If the item is usable, why not make that equity last? A lot of people are trying to adopt a green lifestyle. And they tell me, “I’m going to do my part to recycle my plastic containers and cardboard boxes”. But perhaps one of the biggest thing people can do to be green is to curb their consumerism and buying used whenever possible. Recently, the haze in China has been dangerously high. And it’s spreading to other places, even blowing across the Pacific Ocean. What’s the primary source of all that haze? It’s from manufacturing goods that get exported to consumers like us.
6. Recycling uses energy. Even if an item can be recycled, it is sometimes more costly or dangerous to recycle it. Hence, it would be better to prolong the use of an item or to repurpose it. For examples, plastic bags are costly to recycle. It costs more to recycle them than for a manufacturer to make them. This is why choosing to use cloth shopping bags can make a big impact.
For appliances and gadgets, particularly those which cannot be disposed of in a rubbish bin, it is very important to try to extend their useful life as much as possible. The Samsung Galaxy S4’s slogan is “Life Companion”. But do they really mean that? What happens when their next model comes out? If you absolutely need a new phone every time you are up for recontracting, then please donate or sell your used phone. There are organizations that will give it to a good cause, like Project Silverline.
If your phone or other devices are not in working order, you can drop it off at a e-waste recycling centre. Starhub has several e-waste bins set up in various regions of Singapore. Although these bins suggest that your device will be safely recycled, do note that much of the e-waste simply gets dumped to poorer nations where people will try recover some of the metals inside often using dangerous and primitive methods of extraction.
7. Older things are sometimes made with better quality. The age of plastics, which started about a half century ago, changed our mindset so that things became disposible. But prior to this time, things were made to last. They were made of natural materials, such as steel, glass, ceramics, and wood. Nowadays, with cheap materials, cheap manufacturing, and cheap labor, most items have “planned obsolescence” built right into them. You may find that some much older items are still quite functional and sturdy, despite their age.
8. An opportunity to make money, or at least break even. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. I would find a used item, buy it, then sell it back for even more money. This evening gown (pictured below) was up for auction on Ebay. I put in my maximum big, won the auction, and paid less than $15 for the dress. I wore the dress to a D&D when I was in my 20s.
Now in my mid-30s, I felt it was no longer age-appropriate for me, so I sold it back on Ebay a month before Christmas. It sold for 3x the amount. Most of the time, when I buy used and sell used, I just break even. (I call this “borrowing from strangers” since I get use of the item but don’t pay/earn anything). I’ve done this with clothing, furniture, appliances, tools, gadgets, books, textbooks, jewelry, toys, and computer games. If you plan your purchases strategically (buy during an off-peak), and sell strategically (sell at a peak), you might make a bit of money too.