You may have heard the motto, “Buy used and save the difference.” It’s simple advice. Whenever possible, avoid buying brand new items and instead put the difference between the used and the retail price into the bank.
You need a lawn mower. Mid-range retail price is $300 for a push mower. You pick up a good used mower at a yard sale for $80. You have a difference of $220 in your pocket. Yay! Now, the hard part. Instead of using that extra money to splurge on 15 pounds of dark chocolate (What? Don’t judge me), you stick that chunk of change into your savings account.
Since we have a specific goal of paying off our loan early, we’ve tweaked this motto slightly to fit our situation: “Pray. Buy smart. Pay the difference.” As much as possible, everything we save by buying used or discounted will go toward our loan.
Our first opportunity to live by this motto came by mistake. When we did our final walk-through (the night before we were supposed to close on the house), we noticed one glaring problem: The washer and dryer were gone! The seller had agreed to include all appliances with the purchase of the house, and I was super excited about the high capacity washer in the laundry room. We’d been using a compact set in our rental and I was always behind on laundry (especially during puking marathons… *shudder*). So the prospect of a giant machine that could actually wash a whole laundry hamper’s worth of clothes was thrilling.
Alas, no one knew where the promised set had disappeared to, so the seller agreed to give us money to buy another. Our realtor and the seller did some quick research and found that the cost of a brand new, comparable set would cost roughly $1600. At closing the next morning, the seller cut us a check for that amount.
As we gazed over a sea of shiny washing machines in the middle of Menards it was oh, so tempting to fork over that entire sum for the benefit of having a brand new set.
“The seller is paying for it,” we reasoned.
“We’ll probably never have a chance to buy a brand new, matching set again.”
“Plus, we’re supposed to be moving in next week. We don’t have time to scour Craigslist for a used machine. We need one right away.”
“These are guaranteed to last for years.”
And the justifying went on and on until we looked at each other and burst out laughing. Who were we kidding?! There was no way we were spending $1600 on a washer and dryer set! Not when there were other options. It was nice to dream for two seconds, though.
The sellers had made it clear that they didn’t care whether we spent the whole thing on a set from Menards, or used only part of it to buy a used set. They just wanted to give us enough to cover a washer and dryer comparable to the ones that had been in the purchase agreement. Very nice of them.
We decided to buy used and put the difference back into the loan.
In the midst of the craziness of trying to move in the middle of a blizzard (welcome to April in Wisconsin), Joshua working extra hours with the bus, and settling a family of 7 into a new home, we began our search… on Craigslist. I didn’t find a whole lot. Discouraged, overwhelmed, and more than a tad stressed, we began to pray that God would give us wisdom and what He knew to be best.
Finally I came across an ad for a used appliance store advertising refurbished high capacity washers. We headed over there and found a gorgeous Samsung Smart Care 4.5 cu ft washer. From my research, it was exactly the machine I had been hoping to buy. Unfortunately, it had “SOLD” plastered on it. The sales lady offered to call a sister store in Minneapolis to see if they happened to have another one. When she got off the phone she said, “Great news! This one was actually being held for a woman who never picked it up. The lady never paid and it’s been here over the “holding time,” so it is available if you want it. In fact, it’s been here so long, I’ll give you 20% off.” The listed price was $400. With the discount she was offering, the sale price came down to $320. Oh, yeah!!
Even better, they had the matching dryer and she offered it for the same price. So, after taxes, we ended up paying a total of $686 for my dream washer and dryer set! Yes, they are used, but only barely. It was one of those things where the original buyer decided they didn’t like the set for whatever reason, so they returned it to the store. It was an outdated model, so the store sold it to this appliance place to clear it out of their showroom. The only thing wrong with the set is that the washer has a few small dings on the side.
What a blessing God gave us!
Out of curiosity I looked up our machines to find the retail value. If we’d bought these slightly outdated models brand new the cost would have been….
Difference between retail and used (before tax): $610
If we were just spending our own money and were going to “buy smart and pay the difference” we would pay $610 extra on our loan this month. Since we were given a check to buy a new set, we actually got to save more than that.
What we could have spent: $1600
What we actually spent: $686
Difference to add to first payment: $914
Fun Fact: I plugged the numbers into Payoff Track. If the only extra money we ever paid on our loan was that $914, we could pay off our mortgage five months early and reduce our total interest by whopping $2,690.57!
Brand new washer and dryer set for $1600? Or slightly used set for $686, knocking almost $2700 off our loan?
Now I can wash this whole pile of laundry at one time.
The only downside is that I no longer have a kid tall enough to move it all to the dryer.
Pray. Buy smart. Pay the difference.