special occasions

15 Second-Hand Gift Ideas That Are a Pleasure to Receive

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Giving pre-loved gifts doesn’t have to be tacky. Here are 15 second-hand gift ideas for everyone in your life + how to give second-hand gifts the right way.

second hand gift ideas
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Would you buy someone a second-hand gift?

Would you be pleased to receive one?

Second-hand presents are a contentious issue. Many of us feel that only new items carry the weight of a generous spirit. Second-hand can come across as stingy if it’s not done right.

Personally, I think buying second hand is not only a great way to save money, but a way to cut down on all the stuff that just ends up as clutter.

The average kid owns 238 toys but only plays with 12 daily [source]. That’s way too many toys. And I seriously doubt my own kids play with even 12 toys a day.

When my mother was young, just before Christmas her doll would take a trip to the doll hospital. And then for Christmas, she would be gifted the same doll, all, well, dolled up.

Mum was super happy with this gift and it was a much-loved and cherished toy.

Buying second-hand gifts for Christmas or other occasions sounds nice in theory, and maybe second-hand gifts would be fine for the immediate family, but what about extended family and friends?

What about that fussy relative with the high gift expectations?

Here are some second-hand gift ideas that work for anyone.

How to Give Second-hand Gifts the Right Way

There’s a trick to pulling off second-hand gift-giving: like any gift-giving, you have to match the item to the recipient. You can’t just give any gift, it should be something your recipient will love, be it brand new or pre-loved.

And you need to start planning early to give yourself time to source that perfect item.

The shops start early. By September, all the decorations are out and the trees are trimmed.

They want you to start thinking about Christmas early so that you spend more money. But you want to start thinking about Christmas now so that you can save money by finding the perfect second-hand Christmas gifts.

But don’t just limit this approach to Christmas. The same strategy can be used for birthdays and other gift-giving occasions. 

To start planning now for second-hand gifts, write a list of all the people you need to give a gift to. Then write down some gift ideas that you think that person would like.

Read further: How to Be a Gift Giving Guru.

Where to Buy the Best Second-Hand Gifts

The best places to find used gifts include:

  • Op-shops/second-hand stores
  • Garage sales
  • Gumtree
  • Pawnshops like Cash Converters (look out for their sales!)
  • Facebook buy and sell groups and pages
  • Newspaper classifieds (if you’re lucky enough to still have a local rag)

It won’t be long until you find the perfect item. And thanks to technology, this doesn’t mean weekends spent in op-shops (although that’s always a fun way to pass the time), it can mean browsing Gumtree on your phone, on the couch, in the ad breaks.

In 2014, Australians spent $45 billion dollars in the period leading up to Christmas. That’s an average of $2,500 per person over the age of 14 [source].

Do those stats blow your mind? 

While it’s great to be generous towards others, digging yourself into debt to give gifts is crazy.

If you cast your mind back to last Christmas, how much of what you and your family received ended up as clutter? Do you still use it? Can you or your kids even remember what you got?

Even if we all just bought one second-hand gift, that would be tonnes less ‘stuff’ produced and ending up in landfill.

15 Perfect Second-Hand Gift Ideas

Looking for the best second-hand gifts? Below are some ideas to help you find the perfect pre-loved gift for the right person.

1. Pre-loved games

Whether it’s a game for the Xbox, a game of Scrabble in good nick, or a jigsaw puzzle, a good way to save on games is to buy them second-hand.

A lot of Xbox/ PlayStation games are only ever played once. When the player has reached the end, the novelty of the game is over – their boredom is your gain.

Things to look out for: make sure the game doesn’t need a code or key to unlock. PC games are more likely to be locked to one user only (what a waste!). Some PlayStation and Xbox games have extras that can only be unlocked with a password.

Before buying, check the disc for scratches.

If you’re buying pre-loved board games, check that all the pieces are in the box. You may need to download instructions for play.

While it may not be possible to check that all puzzle pieces are in the box, especially for big puzzles, go home and do the puzzle to make sure there are no pieces missing.

There’s nothing more frustrating than a large puzzle with a piece missing! I’ve had great success buying kid’s puzzles second hand. They are some of the most loved puzzles we own and are still in use 10 years after purchasing them used!

2. Classic Books

We have a lovely 1970s edition of the Complete Winnie-the-Pooh that we purchased for the kids second-hand and that I wouldn’t hesitate to gift to someone else.

When book stores are full of Disney franchise merchandise, it’s hard to find really nice books anymore, unless you get them second-hand.

But you don’t need to stick to classic books or first-edition books to gift second-hand books. Imagine giving (or receiving) a whole series instead of just the first in the series and buying it for the cost of a single book!

3. Vintage accessories

Not used darling, vintage!

What girl doesn’t like a little vintage bling? It’s amazing what you find in pawn and second-hand shops. Stunning jewellery for a fraction of what you pay for it brand new.

Don’t just think jewellery though.

Handbags, vintage suitcases, hair accessories, fountain pens, stationery or desk sets, jewellery boxes, perfume bottles, silk scarves can all make great gifts for the right person.

4. Antiques

Finding genuine antiques at frugal prices requires a bit of ingenuity and scouting, which is why it’s a good idea to keep gifts in mind when you’re op-shopping.

But bargains are there for the savvy buyer. The key is to look for quality at your price point.  And of course, match the gift to the tastes of the recipient.

Garage sales can be the best place to pick up cheap antiques because sellers don’t always know what gems they have on hand. But you have to know what you’re looking for and get in early and beat the trade buyers.

5. Collectibles

Know a collector?

I know a person who collects plates (the ones you hang on your wall) and always welcome more plates to her collection. Sure, you can pick up a plate in one of those little kitsch shops, but a vintage plate, particularly a limited edition one, would be all the more welcome.

People collect all sorts of random things and if they are a true collector, they will love gifts that can be added to their collection.

6. Fabric Remnants

No, you’re not going to give someone random bits of fabric. Unless of course, they are an avid sewer and would love random bits of fabric. 

But if you’re a sewer, random fabric remnants can be turned into gifts!

Quilts, placemats, cushion covers, children’s clothes, dolls clothes, table cloths, napkins…The fabric remnant bin at our local Salvation Army store is the first place to head when bargain hunting for fabric.

7. DVDs

Second-hand DVDs are the perfect gift for the person who is not on board with streaming media.

If you look for DVDs in good nick, then you won’t even be able to tell they are second-hand. Like games, DVDs are often only watched once, sometimes not even that, if the DVD in question was a poorly chosen gift.

Before buying a second-hand DVD, always open the case and check the disc for scratches or damage, especially if it’s a kid’s DVD!

8. Hamper items

Personalised hampers can make a lovely gift, and you can pick up some great hamper items second-hand.

A tea hamper could include a vintage cup and saucer. A wine hamper could include wine glasses. You could use some of the ideas below to couple second-hand, up-cycled tableware and linen with homemade preserves and baking.

At the very least, an op-shop is the best place to look for hamper baskets, but I like to think outside the basket and pack hampers on serving platters or even in bags that can be used again.

9. Linen and Tableware

Why pay full price for a serving platter, salad servers, cake sporks, teapots, wine glasses, table cloths or other tableware you can probably pick lovely ones up second-hand.

A nice tea set for the right person, for example, will always be appreciated, whether brand new or second-hand (and you probably won’t be able to tell it’s second-hand).

Think about ways you can take second-hand items to the next level by adding your own crafty touch.

This video tutorial on how to add beads to serving spoons and other flatware is a lovely example of how you can improve on and personalise the second-hand items that you buy.

You could embroider a tablecloth or stencil placemats, paint a vase or decorate a serving platter (you can buy the paints in the video on Amazon.)

10. Autographed items

There are some things you often can’t buy brand new. A special edition or autographed item can be a very welcome present for the right person. But you have to keep your eyes peeled for these rare finds. Garage sales are a great place to find under-priced autographed items.

11. Classic or quality toys

If you look in the toy section of a second-hand store, it’s often filled with ratty, broken, plastic Fisher-Price toys.

These are not the type of toy that makes good gifts.

Instead, classic or quality toys like wooden toys in good conditions, Barbies in good condition (here’s how you can restore a Barbie doll; you can also make it an awesome gift with a whole bunch of homemade clothes and accessories to go with the doll), Lego (here’s how to clean Lego), Melissa and Doug, HAPE, and HABA (these are some of the quality toys we have loved – keep an eye out on Gumtree for them!).

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for second-hand clothes and accessories that would make great dress-up sets, maybe with a little up-cycling!

12. ’New’ Second-hand items

Here we come to the re-gifted item. The unwanted present from last year that hasn’t even been opened. You could really say these items are not even second-hand at all.

Look on gumtree and Facebook groups straight after Christmas for a whole host of re-gifted items.

Just be sure not to make the same mistake – buy something your recipient will like so your gift doesn’t get re-gifted!

13. Bikes

ALL our bikes, when I was a kid, were second-hand. 

A bit of tender loving care, and a new coat of paint and some new parts and bikes can look and ride as good as new.

14. Sports equipment

For Sale: Kayak. Used once. Perfect Condition. $50.’ 

Second-hand sports equipment can be a great way for a loved one to get into that sport or hobby they’ve always wanted.

Encourage them by getting them the equipment they need at a fraction of the cost of brand new. And if you spark a passion, they can always upgrade their equipment as they progress.

While not sports equipment, musical instruments can also be purchased second-hand for a child who would like to learn an instrument but you’re unsure about their commitment. A friend bought her daughter a second-hand violin for Christmas (and I take my hat off to her for doing that!).

15. Art

Art can be a difficult gift to give unless you know the tastes of the person you’re buying for.

But if you are sure, second-hand stores, garage sales and eBay are great places to pick up old artworks. And who knows, you may be lucky to pick up a genuine collectable stashed at the back of someone’s garage.

Instead of art, you can pick up some good frames to up-cycle.

Framed scrapbooking paper, wallpaper or fabric can make lovely art, especially when you group more than one frame together. Or you could up-cycle the frame into something else, like this serving tray from a picture frame.

Gifting second-hand items doesn’t have to be tacky.

The key is to always, always match the gift to the recipient (this holds true for brand new gifts too). If it’s still in good shape and it’s something your recipient loves, then it won’t matter how many people have pre-loved it.

What are your thoughts and tips on buying second-hand gifts?

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9 Comments

  1. Hello again Melissa .
    In your hampers you suggested an antique cup and saucer with other tea things.
    My suggestion is you can buy multi layer plate stands on ebay and also the drill for drilling china.
    I have seen a stand made with cup and saucer together on top followed by a side plate -then salad plate-lastly dinner plate. All of the china was beautiful old bone china but each with a different pattern. The stands are inexpensive ranging from $2.00 for a 3 level up to $8 or 9 for the large multi layer stands. China can be bought for less than a dollar a piece in most thrift shops.Single pieces often hang around for years .
    What a lovely gift to a High Tea conniseur
    But I have also seen a cake stand completed with old records instead of china!
    Some craft shops sell game pieces unpainted. I recently saw a set of dominos and chess pieces -an arty person could decorate them to meet a friends interest.
    What about a cardboard box covered with decorative paper (decoupage style) for keys and things left in pockets and on the kitchen counters ( you know thats where everyone leaves “things”.
    I also listen to my friends – you know when you are chatting and they say ‘I would really like’ or ‘I wish I had’ or ‘I really need’ just little things that we often forget to buy for ourselves.You could put a number of little items together.

    1. Hello Eileen, it’s lovely to hear from you again!

      That’s a great idea making on how to make a cake stand. High tea is quite fashionable at the moment (for good reason, my belly thinks 🙂 ), and a homemade cake stand would be a lovely present.

      They are some great ideas. Tuning into what people are saying is a good way to get the right gifts.

      Thank you for your great tips!

  2. Some people are ungrateful whether you buy new, second hand or craft them something. They get crossed off my list.

    1. That’s fair enough, Theresa! It’s especially hard when you put a lot of effort into crafting something and it goes unappreciated.

  3. Thank you for sharing this info. I have been brought up on op shopping since I was a child, but not everyone I know appreciates a well thought pre loved gift. So in the interest of still being frugal and sustainable I make them cushions or bunting instead (sometimes from preloved or up cycled fabric) ☺️

    1. Cushions and bunting are lovely ideas, Connie. It’s a shame how hung up we can get on stuff.

  4. Hi Melissa,

    I’ve just set up Fab Fings, an online vintage boutique and also just launched ‘Gift Bundles’, unique vintage gift sets.

    I need all the help I can get to break the taboo of buying used goods to give as gifts. Is there anything you can do to help? I would be so grateful.

    I am going to set up a link list from my website. Do you swap links?

    Here is a video promoting ‘Gift Bundles’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TStNsc4dFpo

    Hope to hear from you,

    Hannah.

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