When it comes to decorating on a budget, secondhand can be your best friend. There are terrific buys to be had at thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets. But not everything is a good deal, even if the price is right. Bringing home something that you canít use, is broken beyond repair, reeks of cigarette smoke or pet odor, or (worst of all) is infested with bedbugs is never a bargain.
Best Things to Shop for Used
Dishes and serveware: Whether youíre looking to complete a set of china you inherited from Grandma, or you like the funky style of mismatched pieces, most thrift stores are filled with dishes, mugs, glasses and serving pieces.
Artwork: You might not find a lost Picasso at the flea market, but you can certainly find paintings, prints and photographs that suit your tastes, your home and your budget.
Non-upholstered furniture: Though even furniture without upholstery can harbor bedbugs, youíre safer with non-upholstered pieces. Great-looking wooden or plastic chairs, tables, bookcases, hutches and desks are easy to find secondhand.
Collectibles: Whether you love ceramic dogs, 60s kitsch, antique candy molds or thimbles, part of the fun of collecting is the hunt.
Craft Supplies: You can frequently find great deals on craft supplies at garage sales and thrift stores. Many people get excited about a new hobby, buy a lot of supplies, then quickly lose interest. Their loss becomes your gain.
Holiday decorations: You only use holiday decorations for a short time each year, so thereís no reason to spend a bundle. Add to your snowman collection, pick up a selection of antique tree ornaments or buy that set of wooden, cutout figures for your front lawn. Avoid used holiday lights, however, as they might not be up to current safety standards.
Garden dťcor: Used pots, garden seats, garden art and yard accessories are easily available used, so why buy new?
Patio furniture: Itís a treat to eat outside on a balmy summer night. A patio table, chairs and market umbrella make it comfortable. Patio furniture tends to be quite expensive during its season, so shop for secondhand treasures if you donít want to wait for clearance sales.
What to Leave Behind
Mattresses: You donít want to spend your nights sleeping on someone elseís shed skin cells, body oils, sweat, secretions and possible bedbugs, right? Nothing else needs to be said.
Upholstered furniture: Iíll be covering the signs of bedbugs in a future article, but for now, Iíll just say that you take a risk when you buy upholstered secondhand furniture. If you feel itís worth it, inspect the piece very closely for bedbugs or their tiny black droppings.
Cribs: Your babyís life is far too important to cut corners. Unless you are buying a crib from someone you know, and you know exactly when they purchased it, you probably canít be sure of the cribís age. Many older cribs are not up to current safety standards, or had recalls for dangerous defects. Donít take the chance.
Shopping secondhand is a lifestyle for many of us. Not only does it save you money, it also helps the environment, lets you develop your own style instead of an overly matched look and lends itself to an outlook that doesnít focus on possessions, but on the heart.