When I was a kid, money was tight and most of my shoes, clothes and accessories were hand-me-downs, garage sale finds or from secondhand stores. To have something brand new was something I cherished. So you can imagine my confusion when my kids, in their early teens, wanted to go thrift shopping. I admit that it took me a while to come around. In my mind I still equated secondhand with worn, damaged and maybe even a little bit smelly. But my Gen Z’ers didn’t care—they were only interested in the sustainability aspect of secondhand purchases. Each generation has something to teach and something to learn from each other. I took this as my learning opportunity and embraced it.
This past Christmas season, I took it a step further and asked my family if they would consider having a secondhand Christmas. To my delight, everyone was in, but the big question was—what did this really mean? I realized that we needed rules around it. Here is what we came up with:
Presents had to be secondhand, refurbished or hand made
Stocking stuffers could be bought new
Intimate items could be new—the standard Christmas PJ’s and undergarments
Consumable items or plants were approved
We had the kids make their normal Christmas lists and the fun began. We went to thrift shops, consignment stores and flea markets. We bought gifts on Facebook Marketplace, eBay and even Amazon--where I was able to buy gently used books that were on the Christmas list. For the big request present (electronics) we went directly to the manufacturer sites to purchase refurbished items.
Here’s what we learned from this experience:
Secondhand doesn’t have to mean worn out, damaged or even used at all. In many cases we found items that had never been used. Think of those clothes in your closet that still have the tags on that didn’t fit but you never got around to returning them. Or the new kitchen gadget that Aunt Doris thought you needed but after 3 years, it’s still in the box. There are a lot of these item out there that people want to get rid of.
Refurbished items from the manufacturer are just as good as new with a discounted price and sometimes they even come with a warranty.
It is more time consuming to search for presents than to just click “add to cart” on Amazon. And if you are buying from an individual, there is the hassle involved with setting up a meeting time and place and potentially haggling on price. However, if you can take the time to do it, you can not only save money but also play a small part in helping the environment.
It opened our eyes to all the things that are available secondhand. My husband said to me, “Why aren’t we doing this more often (when making purchases)?” I refer back to the last point on that one! But we have really tried to continue to look on resale sites when we are in the market to make a larger purchase—especially things like furniture, appliances and electronics.
Overall, it was a great experience. The kids were more than happy with their secondhand presents, and handmade presents are always favorites. While I don’t know that I’ll make it a “rule” again, I will definitely be scouring all the places and websites I mentioned above when the next holiday season rolls around!