Thrift Is Beautiful: Stuff You Already Own

Chances are, you weren't always a Mustachian.

No.  Chances are, in your former life, you didn't really appreciate the cost of your day-to-day luxury purchases.  You may have even gone through a phase where buying things temporarily eclipsed making and accomplishing things.  Or perhaps it wasn't quite that bad, but over a rather extended period you were rather less careful with your money than you would now have liked.

That era may be past, but the effects remain.  You certainly have less money than you would otherwise.  If you spent primarily on experiences, you have memories, consequences, and outcomes; if you spent primarily on durable goods, you may have quite a bit of stuff.  This article focuses on the latter situation.

I spy with my little eye...

So, what to do?

Sell It

There is a strong argument for getting rid of the extraneous stuff you don't use.  Stuff takes up space, meaning that you are spending more on living space than you need to in order to store it.  Stuff also has mass and volume, and serious mass and volume can set you back serious dollars (and serious time and effort) every single time you move.  Many types of stuff also require some form of management or maintenance: cleaning the stuff, organizing the stuff, keeping the stuff in working order.  If the stuff has little utility to you, that time, money, and effort is yielding a very poor return on investment.

Before you go the commercial route, hit up your friends.  You might not get top dollar, but selling to friends is fast and convenient.

It's extremely easy to sell stuff on Craigslist, Ebay, and Amazon.

Craigslist is by far the easiest - hop on the site or the Android or iOS app, enter a price, description, and location and upload some photos, and you're done.  If you live in or near an urban area with a lot of Craigslist activity, you may be free of the item and holding a stack of cash by the end of the day.  Finding a buyer might take longer in less-active regions.  Also, be prepared to do some negotiating - some people will take your stuff at the listed price without hassling you, but others may try to haggle it down.  If the price isn't negotiable, put that fact in your ad!  Mr. Money Mustache has written his own love letter to Craigslist with some good tips on buying and selling.

With Ebay and Amazon, your customer base - and your potential price range - expand at the cost of more complexity.  You'll have to create an account and set up a bunch of stuff before you can start selling, and you'll have to deal with - and pay for - shipping.  The benefits only outweigh the costs for someone planning to sell a lot of stuff, or stuff that is likely to have a limited local customer base.

If you have junk that no one is likely to be willing to pay money for, put it in the 'Free' section on Craigslist or donate it to a local school or charity.

Use It

When you bought your stuff, you probably had a plan beyond storing it in your closet.  As you scale back your spending, it's likely you'll find yourself with more time available for doing.

Books you've never read?  Tools in mint condition?  Art supplies still in the plastic?  Photography equipment?  Exercise hardware?  Musical instruments?

An often-neglected key to low-cost living is having lots of hobbies that require more time, effort, and thought than they require cash.  Perhaps you once considered exploring a hobby, but you got too busy and you never got around to it.  Especially if you already own what you'd need to get started, why not give it a shot?

One happy side-effect of the explosive growth and maturation of the Internet is that it's much, much easier to learn how to do something new today than it was a decade ago - jump online, run some Google searches, read the Wikipedia page, find a forum (or subreddit, or Google+ Community, or Facebook group, or email list...) dedicated to the topic, and jump in!  You may find that there is still tons of utility and many hours of fun locked away in the neglected stuff that you already own.

Of course, you might spend a few days trying to play the clarinet and suddenly realize why you had shoved it in the back of that drawer.  No personal utility?  Sell it on Craiglist!