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4 Smart Buys that Used to Be Considered Cheap


Have you ever wondered how some products have gone from being thought of as cheap, embarrassing and tacky and are now socially acceptable and even applauded as being economically savvy? Somewhere there has been a shift in consumer perception and products with benefits that promote a reduction in spending, clutter and carbon footprint are gaining traction.

Below are 4 categories of consumer smart buys on the rise from their “cheap” stigma.

1. Used Clothing: News flash.: The Goodwill is not just frequented for silly Halloween costumes anymore. No. There has been an 84% increase in revenue at Goodwill Industries from $1.9 billion to $3.5 billion over the period of 2007 to 2012 from the sale of donated goods. And, more than 180 new or relocated stores opened in 2010 by Goodwill Industries International Inc. So what’s with the upswing? Jon Lal founder of had some very compelling and thoughtful reasons for the growing acceptance. Jon noted that a recent song called Thrift Store has become extremely popular. And though not focused on clothing, TV programs including Antiques Roadshow and I Break For Yard Sales with Good Morning America host Lara Spencer show the value of pre-owned items.

The driving forces of the used clothing trend are not limited to the abundance of consignment store chains like Plato’s Closet and Second Time Around. Apps like Thriftly and Poshmark are a big part of it, too. Jon Lal also shared that Thriftly just won first place prize from Glamour Magazine and the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s at the “Dressed to Code” fashion hackathon.

2. Renting Accessories: Does renting something you could never afford to own make you a poser? Heck no! It makes you a smart consumer with excellent taste. Take for instance, David Goldberg, founder of Fresh Neck is the “Netflix for Ties” that gives members unlimited access to designer neckwear and accessories from top designers like Hermes, Prada, Gucci, and Versace. When he launched his business, his product was seen as “cheap”, and it was said that nobody would “rent” ties. Well now he’s grown the business to over 500 members, carries top brands, and has been featured in the likes of Esquire, Details, MensHealth, HuffingtonPost, David said his product has seen unbelievable traction as a gift. Who would have thought that the rental concept has now moved beyond personally acceptable to giftable! That is a huge leap for smart consumption.

I’m in love with idea on several Reduction Rebel levels. Most outstanding is the availability of quality items that can be enjoyed by many people without needing to be stored and maintained. This business concept fosters minimalism.

3. Boxed Wine: Remember when boxed wine was repellently cheap and tacky? Have another look because now it’s an eco-friendly and economic superstar. A box of wine is equivalent in volume to four bottles of wine, with up to a 75% cost savings. Now for the packaging. The lightweight cardboard is less expensive to ship (less fuel) and there is less of it to recycle compared to 4 wine bottles. Boxed wine also stays fresher longer than bottled wine reducing the chance for waste. And you know how I hate waste…and now we’re talking about wasting wine. You get me.

4. Foreign Cars: Shawn Tougas, Co Founder of suggested the curious delay in acceptance of cheap foreign alternatives, which is especially prevalent in the automobile market. Shawn explained, “at first, they are seen as tacky and cheap and eventually become established as a viable alternative to the domestic version. Companies like Datsun and Honda were seen as cheap vehicles at first, but now they are seen as higher quality than GM (Datsun being Nissan now). A part of this is due to the industry in the foreign country developing to a point where they can offer a quality product, like Japan did with cars, but there does seem to be a psychological delay in accepting the brands. If you look at the Korean brands, Kia and Hyundai, they have reached a point where the quality is there and they are starting to become accepted, but they aren’t on the same level as the major players.”

So where is this psychological switch coming from? Is it the availability of consumer report to qualify value? Or is it our lag in recognizing our needs? Shawn made an interesting point: Quite suddenly, people valued different features, possibly brought on by the gas shocks a few decades back. A smaller car was more important than the perception of it being cheap. Then, once everybody had one, the perception problem went away.

I am looking at this now, thinking about Ford’s small car innovations that are taking off, yet Honda is – as of right now – the only major automaker in the US making condensed natural gas (CNG) powered cars. BTW, CNG costs about half as much as regular gasoline and has lower exhaust emissions. Sigh.

What smart buys have you discovered?

Eve of Reduction: Free Seasonal E-Newsletter; Extra tips and wit on Facebook; Reduction Beauty on Pinterest ; The debut DIY lifestyle book (includes 10 upcycling tutorials); and the guide to creative streams of income ebook (only $2.99).

I’m Cristin Frank (AKA Eve). I love all things frugal and crafty. My mindset is always on upcycling, repurposing, reducing waste and saving money – and Eve of Reduction is my roadmap. You might also want to check out my book, "Living Simple, Free & Happy."

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3 Responses to 4 Smart Buys that Used to Be Considered Cheap

  1. Mike Collins October 7, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    That’s interesting to hear that a tie rental service was doing well. I remember seeing an episode of Shark Tank where a similar company named Tie Try was hoping to get one of the sharks to invest in their company but no one bit. If I remember correctly, it wasn’t the specific idea that they didn’t like but the overall business plan and lack of sales deterred them.
    Mike Collins recently posted…The Real Cost of Owning a HomeMy Profile

  2. Glovis Yan@necktie supplier October 9, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    This is the first time i heard of this necktie renting service and it is interesting to know that this niche business is doing great. This is something enlightening my marketing strategy for next year planning.

    Thank you for the post.
    Glovis Yan@necktie supplier recently posted…How Custom Made Neckties be Beneficial in the Workplace?My Profile

    • Eve October 9, 2013 at 11:17 am #

      That’s great! I was also happy to see the upward trend in renting high quality items. It makes so much sense economically and fashion-wise.

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