In the pursuit of Financial Freedom, the biggest obstacle preventing meaningful progress is spending.
Peoples spending habits are where the lofty goals of FF will inevitably succeed or stall. While increasing your income can be extremely impactful in accelerating your FF goals, it does absolutely no good if you simply turn around and spend that new found income on more STUFF.
Which is exactly what most people do.
Bigger house, better car, designer clothes, new motorcycle/boat/snowmobile, home renovations, better vacations. There are endless pits to throw your cash into, which is why it’s rare for people to have much money, if any, burning a hole in their pocket.
But if you want to achieve FF, that’s exactly what you have to get used to doing. Having a whole lot of extra income that you aren’t spending. Period.
Whether that money is going to pay down debt, or you’ve eliminated your debt and are now building your retirement nest egg, in order to make FF a reality your spending and lifestyle must fall well below your means. Unless you plan to win the lottery, this is simply a non-negotiable piece of the FF puzzle.
But for many, that’s easier said than done. And yet there is an abundantly simple way to cut your consumer spending by an easy 50 to even 90%. A method that is grossly under-utilized and oft forgotten.
Buy used. As often as you possibly can.
Ok – not your underwear, that’s gross, but with the advent of Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace and other used for sale sites, you can pretty much find anything you need in used (but like new) condition. At a fraction of the retail cost.
From books, to baby gear, to clothing, to shoes, to sports equipment, to furniture, to cars and everything in between, there’s always someone looking to sell something that they didn’t really need, they are replacing with bigger and better, or that their kids just didn’t end up using. Often in fantastic condition.
As unfortunate as it is that we live in a world of such mass consumerism, at least it provides a ridiculous selection and competitive market for used goods. And that can definitely stand to benefit the bottom line of anyone looking to cut their spending costs.
Now – I am not advocating in anyway that you use garage sale-ing or Craigslist as justification to buy stuff you don’t need. No matter what kind of “deal” you may find, if you didn’t actually have a need for it in the first place, it is 100% wasted money. But for the things that you do actually require in day to day life, before you head on down to your big box store or surf Amazon, try instead to start with a quick query of your local online used market.
If you haven’t frequently bought used items, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what’s available. These aren’t the used goods of the sports swaps or thrift shops of our childhoods, where all the funky smelling clothes or sweaty, stinky, used by three different kids, sports gear is the best available option. The online used market is chalk full of items people bought, barely (if at all) used, and are now trying to recoup a small percentage of what they paid for it in the first place.
Buying used is by far my favourite way of shopping. I always feel great when I can find something I need for a dirt cheap price.
This spring we hunted on Craigslist for the perfect bike for our oldest son’s birthday. After a substantial growth spurt, he had well outgrown his old bike. We decided on a budget of $100.00, and ended up with a mint condition Norco bike. Retail cost? $600 + tax. It made for a very nice birthday gift.
On a smaller scale, tomorrow I am going to buy a pair of Tom’s shoes. I’ve been wanting a pair since I wore out my last set, and they sure do make a great Mom shoe. So I went to the shoe store the other day and tried on a bunch of pairs to confirm my size and what style I liked. Then I promptly went on Craigslist and found a nearly brand new pair, worn once by their new owner, who in a state of optimism bought a size too small. What were originally $70 + tax shoes will now cost me a much more palatable twenty bucks.
Similarly I’ll also be picking up a pair of basketball shoes for our oldest. Purchased by the parent of what can only be described as a shoe addict in the making, these $230 + tax Lebron James basketball shoes, that were worn a total of 4 times and look like they were just pulled out of the box, will only cost us thirty dollars. And really, isn’t that what basketball shoes should cost – superstar basketball player endorsed or not!
Now some might cringe at the thought of buying and WEARING used shoes. I suppose – but I’m not talking about well worn, smelly, barely any life left in them kind of shoes. And the reality is that almost anything you buy at the store could very well have been worn a couple times and returned by an unhappy purchaser. Also there’s a good chance that a bunch of people have already stuck their feet in your “brand new” shoe while trying it on in the store.
To underscore this point – we were at the store today and I watched a parent let his child suck and chew on a stuffie toy, and then promptly put it back into the display. Not so new hey?
So really, what’s the difference? If buying used still makes you shudder, don’t worry, just pick up a bottle of anti-bacterial spray and you’ll be fine. (Clearly we should all be doing the same for new products anyway!).
But regardless of this fact, as a society we’ve decided that, for the majority of products, as soon as something enters the “used” category, the item is immediately devalued by a substantial margin. But that same outlook has also caused people to view purchasing used products with a huge stigma. As though buying used is only for people who can’t afford to buy new.
Sure – why buy used if you can go to the store and pay the same price for brand new out of the box. But if you’re getting a huge discount just because something has been slightly used, why would you buy brand new? After all, just because something has been used doesn’t mean that the functionality of the product has actually been devalued or damaged by any significant margin. So if you can get a product that essentially performs to the exact same standard, why would you spend more money than necessary just to get the status of “new”?
In many cases, after the first wear or use of a “brand new” product it’s going to look exactly the same as it’s used counterpart that you could have purchased at a fraction of the price.
So if you can get over the stigma (which I strongly suggest you do), and start thinking used first, you’ll find that you end up saving thousands upon thousands of dollars. Dollars that can be re-directed to a financially free life.