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Thrift Stores, Consignment Shops, and Other Ways to Shop Secondhand and Save Money

Two Women in Thrift Shop

Secondhand shopping has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. But unlike most massive industries, this one is in part designed to help you save money. If you’re interested in buying used, here are some places for you to start your search.


It’s possible to find just about anything used online. eBay (still exists!) and some newer, more focused shops like thredUP (high-quality secondhand clothing) and decluttr (used technology) let you ship your secondhand shopping right to your door.

Facebook Marketplace and craigslist generally offer a hybrid experience where you shop online but pick up in person. Both allow you to set a radius to search near and far, and further narrow your search by category or search term.

When shopping secondhand on the internet, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Move quickly: Items can go fast! If you’re interested, message the seller right away.
  2. Proceed with caution: Buying things on the internet can sometimes mean scams. Don’t hand over the money until you’re sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for. Be quick to message the seller, but slow to transfer funds.
  3. Negotiate: Sellers are generally pretty motivated to move their merchandise. If you see they’ve cut the price or have the language “or best offer,” it could be a chance to save even more on your used purchase. Just don’t get too greedy, unless you’re willing to lose out to someone else.


No, Buy Nothing groups aren’t too good to be true. They’re exactly as advertised: you don’t have to buy anything. These groups come out of the Buy Nothing Project, started in 2013, for a local economy based solely on giving.

All you need to do to participate is to give, receive, and share freely. In fact, you can only post three things: a gift you can give, an ask for something you need, or gratitude to show appreciation. My wife and I have used our local Buy Nothing group both to give and to receive. Not only is it useful and practical, but it feels good and builds community at the same time.

You can use their search tool to find your nearest Buy Nothing group in Vermont, or download their app.


One person’s trash is another one’s treasure. A colleague of mine is the queen of setting up these swaps. Friends (and friends of friends) convene with things they each no longer want or need. Everyone can then go through what other people brought and select what they want. It’s free and you can feel good knowing who and where it came from. Plus, it helps keeps perfectly fine and usable items from ending up in the landfill. A win for your wallet and for the environment!


The signs pop up on telephone poles and lawns in the spring and last through the fall. Yard sales require a certain amount of commitment and patience, but you can find some steals. There are two approaches to yard sales: get there bright and early to look at everything, or come at the end when “all things must go” and prices are very much negotiable, if not simply “free.”

Person Paying at Farmers Market

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Consignment shops sell other people’s possessions for a commission, splitting the sale with the item’s owner after it gets purchased. Items for consignment are discounted from the original sale price, which means you can often get a pretty good deal.

As an example, we bought some clothes for our newborn at Boho Baby in Williston. They’re as good as new and help us stick to our baby budget.

On the flip side, you can also use consignment shops as a way to earn extra cash. As added bonuses, you don’t have to do the marketing or selling yourself and you clear some space in your home.


There’s a reason Macklemore wrote a song about them. You can find almost anything at a thrift shop—glassware and dishware, music, furniture, art and décor, and, perhaps most importantly, clothing and fashion accessories (instead of fast fashion). Like yard and garage sales, you may have to search long and hard to find what you’re looking for. But isn’t it so rewarding when you do come across something good?

Generally speaking, the items all come cheap. We bought a few $1 platters at ReSOURCE that were perfect for serving Thanksgiving turkey. To my wife’s chagrin, I often peruse the “free” bins for vinyl records and books. But that’s part of the fun. You never know what you might find!


One note of caution: Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. I fall into this trap myself with phrases like, “It’s only a few dollars…” But those dollars can add up.

Other than that, you really can’t go wrong. Happy secondhand shopping and money-saving!

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Nick Bohlen

About Nick Bohlen

Nick Bohlen is a communications strategist at VSECU, sharing ideas and information with staff, members, and Vermonters. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, and exploring Vermont’s great outdoors with his wife, daughter, and dog.
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