Each household is expected to spend $1,536 during the holiday season this year, according to a 2018 survey by Deloitte, with gift purchases taking up 34% of this spending.
You can get creative and stay in budget by follwing one simple strategy: buying used gifts.
“There’s a lot of reasons people avoid buying used items for gifts,” says CentSai’s resident financial expert, Peter Neeves. “Psychologists refer to gifts as symbolic markers of both the gift giver and of the relationship between parties.”
That said, Neeves adds, “Some gifts play well used, such as cars. Many people who wouldn’t take offense at a used Corvette might take offense at used jeans. It’s very contextual, and it depends a lot on the relationship between the parties.” So make sure you and your recipient are on the same page when it comes to quality.
Secondhand gifts save money, reduce waste and keep you from regretting that purchase that the kids grew out of or lost interest in. It also helps you get great deals, especially with Toys R Us out of business.
The trick to having a successful buy-used holiday is in knowing how to score a great, high-quality deal. Here are the six tips for ensuring you get your money’s worth.
1. Ask questions
The most important thing to do before you buy used gifts is to make sure they’re good quality. If you're buying online, always ask for additional pictures if the toy has a defect, such as a dent or a stain. And be wary if the seller doesn’t describe it in detail or bother to provide pictures.
2. Don’t be afraid to shop around ...
Don't want to pay full price on a product? Check out online marketplaces like Facebook or eBay. Competitive pricing may get you the best possible deal. Be specific about what you want and the condition you want it in, and don’t just take the first offer that comes your way.
3. ... but know where to look
For big items — outdoor play homes, for example — search first on places like local Facebook sales pages, eBay or Craigslist. But don't stay confined to your computer.
Look into brick-and-mortar stores or sales. Garage sales can be gold mines. Check out any of them that you pass by. Don’t be afraid to purchase new and excellent-condition clothing and shoes from consignment stores that have quality control in place. Stores like Goodwill, Savers and other secondhand children shops are known for their toy selections and dress clothes.
4. Know what used gifts to skip
There are some things you just don’t want to take a chance on, like boxed items. These are toys like puzzles, games and building sets that you need to have each piece of in order to make them worthwhile.
Unless there’s some form of buyer guarantee, don’t take the risk with certain items. Who wants a puzzle with a missing piece?
Also consider avoiding anything that can get moldy. Plastic baby dolls with a feeding component or bath toys — which get wet — may be a health hazard.
5. Double-check everything
Though it's exciting to jump immediately on sales, take the time to make sure an item is in the condition you expect before wasting the time and money to order it or go pick it up. Check the product for stains, rips, tears, missing parts, weird smells and so on.
6. Shop smart & safe
Whenever you buy from another person online, you should follow some safety measures. First, never wire someone money. Instead, use third-party money-transfer systems like PayPal if you pay online. If you can’t resolve a dispute with a seller, most forums or your credit card company will help you if you have been genuinely misled.
For in-person purchases of more than $20, insist on meeting in a safe, public area. But most importantly, use your gut feelings to determine whether or not a purchase feels right for you. There are scammers out there — and online purchases are riskiest type of consumer fraud.
Your holiday season doesn’t need to be about blowing your savings. By shopping intelligently and safely for preloved toys and clothes, you can bet your child will have a holiday they won’t soon forget.
That said, if you’d rather buy new, there are still ways to make the holiday season affordable. Here's a list of 50 freebies and discounts you can land during the holidays.
Additional reporting by Kelly Meehan Brown
This article originally appeared on CentSai.