Secondhand phone upcycling DIY + why to choose refurbished tech

In honour of Recycle Week, I'm sharing my tips for enjoying tech in a sustainable way & without the hefty price-tag. Plus, I've upcycled & personalised a refurbished phone so I hope you'll try out this easy DIY decal project too...

Collaborative feature

Some items have been gifted

One of the most wasteful things you can own – in terms of money and materials – is technology. So, in honour of Recycle Week, I’m sharing my tips for enjoying tech without the hefty price-tag. Plus, I’ve upcycled a refurbished phone with a personalised design so I hope you’ll try out my easy DIY decals project too…

When giffgaff asked me to get crafty and upcycle a refurbished phone during Recycle Week I jumped at the chance. I’ve been a giffgaff customer for YEARS. I can’t even count how long I’ve had that giffgaff SIM in my phone. It’s always been the best way for me to run a mobile phone – no contracts and no commitments – and I simply take that SIM out of one old phone and into a new-to-me refurbished phone. Easy.

It got me thinking about how technology is such an expense for many of us and I’m sure that there are ways to reduce that cost while staying sustainable too. Here’s why you should choose refurbished tech the next time you update your phone…


Firstly, and most thriftily, let’s talk money. As soon as you peel off that protective cover (which is oh-so satisfying, I know!) your box-fresh smartphone or brand-new tablet depreciates. You’ve lost money (maybe hundreds of pounds, depending on the make/model) in seconds. Yikes!

As you may realise from the name of my blog, I don’t like losing money. And I’m sure you don’t, either. So even though you might need a new phone or quite fancy upgrading to the latest model, consider the cost of depreciation before you make that purchase.

One easy way to prevent depreciation is by buying secondhand tech. This means that someone else has taken the depreciation hit, but you still get to own the smartphone you always wanted at a much lower price. Personally, I’ve resisted buying a new phone for nearly 20 years. That doesn’t mean I’ve had the same phone all that time – it just means that, when it was time to replace a broken old phone, I shopped secondhand.


Just because you’re buying something ‘secondhand’ doesn’t mean accepting anything ‘less’. It just means that someone has opened the box before you and has taken that depreciation hit. It’s likely that a secondhand phone will have been wiped clean and reset to factory settings before you buy it, so there’s almost no difference between a new phone and refurbished phone.

Many people get an automatic upgrade with their phone contract so there’s usually an influx of secondhand phones in the market around 18 months after the model has been released. You can get the latest models at a lower price as a ‘refurbished’ phone from giffgaff. But what exactly IS a refurbished phone?

When buying refurbished or secondhand, the thing that matters here is the condition. giffgaff’s refurbished phones come in four categories from ‘good’ to ‘Like New’ where phone has been bought new and returned unused. All the phones are still checked for faults and data-wiped, so you’re good to go. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell that the refurbished Huawei P30 Pro I got from giffgaff wasn’t brand new. It even had that protective sheet on the screen – so I still got the satisfaction of peeling it off!


You can save even more money if you opt for a ‘good’ condition phone, as it’ll run perfectly but may have some small cosmetic marks. It still comes with a 12-month warranty so you can feel confident in the product. And, if you’re such making a huge saving on a phone that works like new just because it has a scuff or tiny marks on the back, there are many things you can do to cosmetically improve the look of your new phone.

Let’s face it, you’re probably going to put it inside a phone case anyway, so you’ll never even see that minuscule mark on the back. That’s the first way to improve the look of your secondhand phone – simply pop it in a case. Choose a colour or design you love and you’re ready to enjoy your ‘new’ phone.

If you prefer to carry your phone without a case, you can always revamp the back with a sticky vinyl decal. I’ve created a project to revamp one of giffgaff’s refurbished phones using self-adhesive vinyl from Vinyl Warehouse. I have shared a step-by-step tutorial of this DIY decal project on giffgaff’s Recycle Week hub. You can personalise your refurbished phone with your own designs and, if you position the pattern or text carefully, you can easily cover up any tiny signs of wear-and-tear.


Our old tech is rarely recycled. Often, it’s replaced before it has reached the end of its usable life. It’s stashed away in drawers and cupboards gathering dust – probably with a folder full of photos you’ve been meaning to download but never got round to. Yes, this is me.

There are a few things you can do to be more sustainable with your tech, and maybe the most obvious one is to use it up and wear it out. Keep using that phone, tablet or laptop for as long as physically possible. Until it is actually broken, or damaged, or won’t turn on any more. Just be sure to keep back-ups AT ALL TIMES so you don’t lose any precious photos or documents when it suddenly dies!

I had an iPhone 5 that I bought secondhand in 2014. It was already 18 months old and the previous owner had upgraded with their contract so no longer needed it. I’ve STILL been using that iPhone this year! Sure, the operating system hasn’t been able to update for a while and some apps are becoming unusable – but the phone itself is still physically usable.

Although I have felt the pull to update my smartphone many times over the years, every time I’ve questioned myself and realise that the phone still worked okay, so why would I spend money unnecessarily on a brand new one? Then, when it was time to upgrade, choosing a refurbished phone was the only option for me.


When you’ve finished using your tech – whether it’s worn out completely or you’re just ready to upgrade – you can recycle it. If it’s completely broken, you may be able to recycle it at your local household waste centre, just check with them when you next take your recycling. If it’s still useable, here’s the good news – you could get some money for it.

Through giffgaff recyle you can trade-in your phone and maybe get some cash for it! If you enter the make and model of your phone into the website you’ll get a quote for how much your phone could be worth if you want to recycle it with giffgaff. You’ll not only earn money from the phone, but you’ll ensure it continues to be used and doesn’t end its days in a box of dusty tech and tangled old cables.

Alternatively, you could sell your used tech yourself online using local selling pages on Facebook or take it into a trade-in shop. Again, at least your phone will be reused, and you might get a bit of cash for it. Or, if you feel like you’ve had enough use out of the phone and you’re not worried about making money from selling it, you could donate it to a charity.

For example, Hubbub is running a campaign called ‘Community Calling’ where you can gift your old phone to be reused and recycled. Your old phone will be wiped and restored, and given to someone who doesn’t already have access to a mobile phone so that they can stay connected, especially when isolated at home.

OR you could have a go at revamping your old phone using the decal design ideas in my DIY smartphone upcyling tutorial. Maybe you’ll fall back in love with your old phone if you give it a bit of a makeover!

Whatever you decide to do with you old phone, make sure it ends up being reused or recycled – and opt for a refurbished phone when the time comes to update your tech. It’s the thrifty option! Let me know if you have any suggestions for upcycling your phone and I’d love to hear about any more charities who can make use of old tech so please leave me a comment below.


This article is a sponsored collaboration. The pink links in the content indicate a sponsored link or information source. The blog post reflects my own experience and the sponsor hasn’t had any control over my content 🙂

Share this article:

Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in Lifestyle Promotion Studies and is trained in Personal Money Management. She loves to ‘get the look for less’ so regularly shares thrifty-living advice, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

Take care and stay safe...


Please take care, stay safe and use common sense when following the advice, projects, recipes or ideas from

Your use of any information or materials on this website is entirely at your own risk – so please stay safe!

New to the blog?

Popular posts

More about Cassie

Latest posts

Take care and stay safe...

Please take care, stay safe and use common sense when following the advice, projects, recipes or ideas from

Your use of any information or materials on this website is entirely at your own risk – so please stay safe!


Resources Library

Download free money-saving
checklists, budget planners + ebooks to inspire & motivate you!

+ Top Thrifty Tips Newsletter

A round-up of money-saving
articles & seasonal tips

GDPR Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner