We spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t matter. It is fitting that this statement was penned by Tim Jackson – a British ecological economist and professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey.
He is also an author of best-selling books such as Prosperity Without Growth. Interestingly, this particular book was originally released as a report by the Sustainable Development Commission.
It became the most downloaded report in the commission’s 9-year history, prompting Jackson to rework it and publish it as a book.
When it comes to buying second-hand, there is a common misconception that it is something reserved for the lowest in society. The extremely poor who have no other option but to go for what some refer to as hand-me-downs from the wealthy.
However, is this an actual truth or just a generalised opinion that’s being peddled as gospel truth?
I remember coming across a post on Twitter some time last year that went viral in a matter of minutes. A resourceful Kenyan made a proposal. He was willing to take people to Gikomba and Toi markets for a small fee.
In less than an hour, he got thousands of replies. People from all walks of life, including those that are considered rich were willing to engage him. From the replies, one thing stood out, people (regardless of their financial status) are always looking for a good deal. At least all the smart ones are.
I am also a frequent visitor when it comes to markets such as Gikomba where I am yet to walk out without making crazy savings on very unique items.
During the visits, I have rubbed shoulders with individuals. You can just tell they come from the leafy suburbs of the Kenyan capital just by their mannerisms. But in case you are interested in learning the art of spotting wealthy individuals, I recently wrote on that as well here.
Read Also: 5 Subtle Signs That Prove Someone is Wealthy
Back to my defence of second-hand purchases.
The viral tweet I mentioned could explain the emergence of second-hand stores in Nairobi such as Think Twice. They are banking on the fact that heading to Gikomba at 5am and getting buried on bales of ‘Cameras’ is not for everyone.
They have taken it upon themselves to do the ‘dirty work’ and avail the items to their clientele online as well as at their stores, with a small markup of course.
Needless to say, their stocks are always flying out of the stores. This goes to show that second-hand items aren’t trash, as some would have you believe.
For one, when you go for second-hand items – be it second-hand cars, clothes, furniture or general household items, you are guaranteed to make significant savings.
Take an Erminio Ottone blue suit that I happened to come across during one of my early morning visits to Gikomba. After bargaining to within an inch of my life, I got it for Ksh850.
It was in mint condition and upon checking how much it was going for in its original store in Turkey, I realised that I had saved about Ksh10,000. On just one item. Now try tabulating how much I saved on curtains, throw rugs, sneakers etc.
Also, when it comes to second-hand items (especially clothes) you are more often than not going to bag yourself authentic stuff, as opposed to expensive replicas that will only serve you for a few months before getting disfigured beyond recognition.
Read Also: 13 Pro Tips for Shopping Second-Hand
Contrary to what you may have heard, buying second-hand stuff doesn't mean you are poor. It just means that you are conscious about your money.
You finally bag that big tender that you’ve been chasing and praying on for several years now. You rake in Ksh10 million in profit.
As is always the case with a lump sum amount of money, it talks to you even in your sleep. You go online and check the Mercedes Benz site and find that you can get a brand new zero-mileage C200 at 8 million.
However, you are smart about your money. You could afford to drive out of the showroom with that sleek German machine, but you already had a list of what you’d do with your money.
Your car budget was highlighted as Ksh1 million. This is where the second-hand car market comes in. You had even gone as far as writing down ‘check out the various car financing options available in Kenya prior to making the purchase.
You end up spending just Ksh600,000. Does the fact that you settled on a second-hand car mean you are poor, or just smart with your money?
I started out by quoting Tim Jackson and his argument that people tend to spend money they don’t actually have to impress people who don’t really care.
When it comes to making any financial decisions – in this case, spending decisions, hinging it on what Peter and Carol will think is a recipe for disaster and premium tears.
I do agree that trying to fit in is something most, if not all, humans battle with on a daily basis. As a teenager, I really struggled in this battle. During functions, not having Hanson shoes or TJs (they were the in-thing back then) was enough to send me into a mild depression.
All the cool kids from the city had them, and they seemed to always attract the finest girls during those functions. My younger and clueless version thought that a Hanson pair of shoes was all I needed to have my crush drooling. Boy was I wrong.
Fortunately, with age comes wisdom (in most but not all cases). My crush couldn’t care less about my borrowed Hanson shoes. She was more interested in me, and what was between my big ears.
As an adult, the battle to fit in is still present. However, past experiences have empowered and ensured that I win most of those battles, especially when it comes to spending my hard-earned money.
If giving in to peer pressure and spending just to keep up with the Joneses is the cool thing to do, I am more than happy to be tagged as uncool.
Read Also: Is Social Media Ruining Your Finances?
I have learned that if you want to get ahead financially, and build a successful life, living within, if not slightly, below your means is a non-negotiable. And this is something that may not be so apparent - you may actually be living beyond your means unknowingly.
For example, if you earn Ksh10,000 monthly and spend Ksh12,000 in a month, say from borrowing, you are living beyond your means.
However, you would still be living beyond your means if you spend exactly Ksh10,000 in a month but none of that money went to savings, added to your emergency fund or funded your most important obligations and was just blown on expenses.
Learn More>> 10 Warning Signs You are Living Beyond Your Means
You see that friend you think will judge you for buying second-hand, they actually don’t care at all.
It would be hypocritical and deceitful of me to try and convince you that I buy everything second-hand.
There are cases where I draw the proverbial line in the sand and fork out more money for a brand-new version of an item that is also available in second-hand stores.
For example, when it comes to electronics, I learned the hard way that cheap is expensive. I once bought what was described as a refurbished laptop in a bid to save Ksh10,000 – which was the difference between what I got and a brand new version of the same.
It took less than a month for me to regret the move. That laptop must have been refurbished in the pits of hell. From overheating, to going off whenever it felt like it, to weird rumbling sounds emanating from its internal fans that purred like an old-school diesel generator.
In less than 6 months, I had spent more than the 10k I saved trying to fix that laptop from hell.
I am in no way trying to paint dealers of second-hand electronics in a bad light. Far from it. My point is that when it comes to deciding on whether to buy new or go for the second-hand version, you need to take a long-term view.
This way, you will not be blinded by the potential savings you could make. Learn from my mistakes. And talking of mistakes, what does a salaried 23-year-old straight from college with a permanent and pensionable job with access to duty-free shopping do with his money? Check the article below…
Read Also: Money, Wastage & Me: Regrets, Lessons From 10 Years of Employment
I’ll wrap things up by taking you back to the little secret I mentioned earlier; buying second-hand items does not make you a pauper, spending money you don’t have is what will turn you into a pauper in the blink of an eye.
If an opportunity to make savings presents itself in the second-hand market...Take it and run.