Something old, nothing new: our very merry pre-loved Christmas

Daryl Braithwaite’s One Summer has just faded into Wham’s Last Christmas on the car radio as I pull into the suburban street I’ve driven half an hour to find.

There’s a bulldog waiting for me at the front door of the property I’ve come to visit. But he’s friendly. As is his owner, who greets me warmly and steps outside to show me the 20 metres of Astroturf in his garage I’ve acquired through Gumtree for the bargain price of $100.

Illustration: Dionne Gain
Illustration: Dionne GainCredit:The Sydney Morning Herald

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and this is the last stop of a second-hand shopping odyssey during which I’ve not set a single foot inside a shopping mall, but instead visited the homes of about a dozen Aussie families for some friendly trade and banter.

Turns out, the fake turf was gifted to my seller as offcuts from a commercial job he worked on recently. It’s usually $25 a metre at Bunnings. I’ve saved myself about $400 to spruce up the outdoor area of my new home.


On an earlier raid that day, I handed over $15 to a friendly young couple who helped me to load an outdoor wooden folding table and two directors’ chairs into my mini-SUV. They reckon they paid about $120 for the set a few years ago. The white fabric on the chairs is a little grimier than I expected, but not too bad, and they sure are comfy.

But just before I arrive at their address, I hit the Facebook Marketplace motherload, the object of my heart’s desire: a 2-metre diameter, circular, outdoor wicker daybed to grace my new turf. They retail for $1400. I’ve seen a few going second hand for about $600.

This one’s FREE.

And it’s only 20 minutes’ drive away. “Yours if it fits,” the owner responds to my immediate facebook message. On arrival, a heavily pregnant young woman and her husband help me achieve the near impossible and shoehorn it into my VW Tiguan. It fits. Just.

My second-hand Christmas shopping spree started only a little over two weeks ago, and slowly, at first, when I moved into my first home purchase.

A friend recommended getting rid of my moving boxes by posting them on Facebook Marketplace, which I’d never used before. Within minutes of pressing “Done” on my post, with a picture and description of the boxes, a lovely Filipino-looking lady messaged and called me “darling” in every subsequent message as we arranged for her husband to pick them up that evening.

Problem sorted for me. A stressful move made cheaper for them. I wished the husband good luck with their move. He smiled broadly.

Safely ensconced in my own new digs, I began looking around me for things I would need to make it feel like home. But instead of hitting the shops, I returned to Facebook Marketplace. A quick search yielded the first thing on my list: a new bed frame. For FREE.

I messaged immediately, jumped straight in the car and, after 45 minutes, arrived in a suburb I’d never been near before to find the address outside which the owner had carefully packaged up the slats in individual garbage bags and placed them on the nature strip.

It gets me thinking.

With Christmas round the corner, my Mr 5 had asked for two specific presents I’d not hitherto heard of: Beyblade and Bakugan toys. A quick search of Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace connect me to a mum with a collection of her son’s outgrown Bakugan toys that I could easily pay $200 to buy new. She wants $40 and will leave them on the front porch to collect.

I arrive early the next morning and whisk them away, leaving cash under the mat, feeling like some adult version of the tooth fairy, turning pre-loved toys into cash.

A few days later, I visit the home of a young mother and her two sons. The seven-year-old is selling his Beyblade spinners for $5 a pop and guides me through a delightful, if extensive, demonstration of how they work.

I shake his hand and congratulate him on the sale. He counts my $22 carefully and beams. Me too.

There’s just one more home visit, where I deliver a crisp $5 note to a young man for his outgrown Beyblade stadium – essentially just a big tub of plastic – and my shopping list is ticked. “Well done!” messages his mum, who was out at the time. “It’s nice when things can be reused,” she adds. “Merry Christmas.”

As presents for myself, I visit two salubrious suburbs to pay $40 for pristine white sheer curtains worth hundreds and collect FOR FREE a white linen and studded Italian club armchair that could easily retail for around $600 new.

All up, I’ve spent $222 and acquired about $3450 worth of goods, if bought new.

Instead of rushing around frantic malls and jostling with fellow stressed-out shoppers this Christmas, I’ve been on urban safari to parts of my city, where I’ve encountered, without fail, a friendly smile, a “Merry Christmas” and an eagerness to help.

During a summer that has brought home the reality of climate change to so many, it’s been nice to know I am reducing my footprint, and re-using perfectly good items that might otherwise end up in landfill. And helping some kids to learn early financial literacy, to boot.

I haven’t quite yet worked up the courage to sell anything myself.

But I do have a few spare metres of Astroturf, if you’re interested in a bargain, and a chat…

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