One of the best avenues available to buy used is craigslist (spelled intentionally a lower-case “c”). For those of you who don’t know, craiglist is a no-frills classified advertisement website organized by location where people can post items they have for sale and browse through listings for everything from jobs to housing to lawn mowers.
When my husband and I have something we need to buy, sell, or take to the dump, craigslist is the first place we turn. We buy things, we sell things, and we have given things away for free that we otherwise would have had to pay to dispose of.
Wheeling and dealing on craigslist has reinforced the concept for me that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” To say craigslist has saved us a ton of money is an understatement.
Here are a few tips that we’ve learned over the years to help ensure craigslist success:
Have some common sense.
There are good and bad ways of doing business on craigslist. We’ve all heard the horror stories of craigslist deals gone bad and as a precaution, my husband is home for most of our interactions. If he is not available, I will meet someone in a public place. I never post my address in the ad and we’ve learned the hard way that you should always count out the cash before finishing the deal.
Know your prices.
I’m in the market for bunk beds right now. I was at Kmart the other day and they had brand new bunk beds for $189. There are a lot of used Kmart-ish bunk beds on craigslist priced higher than that. A little bit of research online and watching craigslist ads has given me a good idea of what I want and how much I should spend.
Practice good customer service.
I try to do most of my buying and selling communication through email. If I receive several responses from interested parties when I’m selling an item, I respond to all of them and let them know where they are in line. That way if buyer #1 flakes out, I’ve already communicated with buyer #2 and they will be ready to buy if I end up contacting them.
Good communication in your post is key. It’s okay to be direct and post things like, “Price is FIRM,” “Must pick up today,” or “Don’t contact me if you don’t have your own transportation.” Clear communication will cut back on the people who are just kicking tires and end up wasting your time.
Think outside the box.
Before you buy anything, and I mean ANYTHING, check craigslist. You would be amazed at what you can find for sale. We purchased a used white vinyl, double paned, 8 foot sliding glass door on craigslist for a fraction of the retail price. Brand new, in the box, in the plastic, barely used, or very used, modern or antique, it’s on there somewhere.
And before you take anything to the dump ever again, consider selling it or giving it away for free on craigslist. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I love craigslist’s bartering section. You can trade a tile floor for a dirt bike any day of the week. Electronics for trade are popular as well. Did you hear the story about the kid who traded up on craigslist from a phone to a Porsche in two years? Yeah, anything is possible.
We’ve have had a fair amount of construction work done on our house in exchange for goods. Little to no money changed hands and both parties walked away happy. Talk about a win-win.
Here are a few creative examples of how craigslist has saved us money:
Before taking this very heavy, wood framed, single pane window to the dump, I decided to post it for free on craigslist:
Notice it’s even missing one pane of glass in the bottom right corner. Nevertheless, someone drove from Astoria to come get it because they wanted it for “art.” I had to hold on to it for a few days waiting for the one day a week they drive to Portland, but they came and got it and I didn’t have to pay to take it to the dump.
Our house was a fixer-upper when we bought it to say the least. In the last few years, we’ve replaced pretty much everything including the roof and the siding, and a lot of the work was done through bartering. Before putting fiber cement siding on our house, the existing cedar shake siding needed to be removed and disposed of. Here’s our pile of old siding that I almost rented a dropbox for:
I posted this on craigslist suggesting people could come sort through the scraps or take the unpainted pieces for kindling. People spent hours finding good pieces that could be used on their garages, sheds, playhouses, etc. I sorted through some of it myself separating painted pieces from unpainted pieces and gave away a lot of it to friends and family for kindling.
In the end about three-fourths of it was taken away for us. We took what was left to the dump (in one trip in our truck) and disposed of it for $20. A dropbox from the garbage service would have cost us hundreds of dollars.
My husband and I have recently ramped up the fun and made a craigslist “fund.” When we sell something on craigslist we put the money in a jar. We’ve challenged ourselves this year to buy the extra things we need (like bunk beds) solely out of this fund.
This has inspired us to find things around the house to sell and to shop wisely for the things we need. Basically before we can buy, we have to sell. This helps us think twice about how much we really need something and it’s cutting down on the amount of “stuff” in our home.
In full disclosure, about two days after we started this challenge our dryer broke. I shopped on craigslist for about a week to no avail. We ended up buying a new dryer at an outlet store and paying for it out of savings. I tried though! Aside from that, we have stuck to it.
And if Craigslist is just not your thing, you can still check out the “Best of Craigslist” for some great entertainment!
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