I’ll Second That!newby.17 | March 5, 2012
Normally none of us likes to be second. We’ve been conditioned to strive for perfection—in essence, to be number one. But when it comes to saving money, second is first, if you get my drift. You can save a lot of money by not requiring perfection in your purchases.
Most grocery stores now have “second stands” where you can purchase food that is safe to eat, but might be slightly past its prime. Second-hand baked goods, produce, and even milk and meat are available if you are lucky enough to find them at your normal shopping time. For dry goods, the store will probably have a rack set up in a corner of the store where you can buy day-old donuts, breads, cakes and cookies at 40% off the regular price. The quality is still very high if you want to eat them over the next few days; however, you can also freeze them for later use down-the-road. Produce follows the same time restrictions; eat immediately or clean and freeze. Want to make banana bread? Buy bananas that are turning brown at half the cost. A bag of reduced apples makes a great crisp for dessert. Peppers can be cleaned, diced, and sautéed in a little oil; then frozen for later use in pizzas, casseroles, and soups.
If you see a gallon of milk on sale for 50¢, but the date on the container is stamped with that day’s date, take it home and drink it! The date is the sell-by date, not a use-by date. Usually, milk is good for up to a week past the sell-by date. If you have a large family and know you can drink a gallon in 2-3 days, you’ve just gotten a heck of a deal!
One of our local grocery stores discounts meat every morning that is sell-dated for that day at 50% off the original price. You can take it home and cook it that evening, or put it in the freezer for later use. I stopped in last Sunday morning on my way home from church and got four packages of meat for under $9 (steak, pork chops, meat loaf mix, and bulk sausage).
If you are a local foods supporter, ask the vendor at your favorite farm market or farm stand if they have any seconds for sale. I particularly like to get seconds when I buy peaches. Since I’m going to peel and slice them immediately, I don’t care if they don’t look “perfect.”
There are many stores that sell clothing at a huge discount because they have some kind of imperfection or flaw. You have to be careful to check the item carefully when you try it on, but many times the imperfection is nothing more than an odd dye lot or crooked stitching. You probably don’t want to purchase something that is ripped, torn, or stained, but some items might be discounted even further if you point out an extra “flaw” to the manager. Last summer I found a really cute, name brand dress at a store, but part of the trim around the neckline had become unstitched. I took it up to the manager to ask if I could have an extra discount, and she said I could have the dress for $2.00! I took it home, opened up my sewing machine, and stitched it back in place. It took me all of five minutes to fix it.
I love the “scratch and dent” areas in the big home stores. Two years ago, I purchased an expensive, name-brand washing machine for half price because it had a scratch on the side. Since my washer and dryer are housed in the basement, I wasn’t concerned with a little cosmetic damage. But this would have been a good deal even for someone whose appliances are upstairs. Most laundry rooms have alcoves where the washer and dryer slide in, so a scratched side would not matter there, either.
There are usually “scratch and dent” or clearance sections in furniture stores and department stores. You can find furniture, pictures, or decorative objects with just a knick in the frame, headboard, or end table that you can touch up with Old English or wood stain. I’ve also bought pottery and lamps at ridiculously low prices because they had a chip in them. I use filler (to patch nail holes in walls) I already have to repair the chip and then paint over it to match the rest of the object.
Bottom line? Buying second-hand food, clothing, and household goods can help you save money. We only get a couple of opportunities to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a single purchase, which is when we buy a house or a car. And once those purchases are made, we don’t repeat them very often. It’s the small, day-to-day purchases that can really help save dollars in our budget over time.
Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension