I have found so many deals before on Craigslist. My future husband and I have bought downhill skis, our big-ass TV, and furniture off the site, and paid WAY less than we would at any store. I find the best deals on Craigslist. Because of Craigslist’s bad/weird reputation, my friends are always curious and a bit amazed at how I find these things.
So I am going to let you in on some of the secrets to my Craigslist-Fu…
1. Research, compare, and learn
Educate yourself about the costs of an item you are looking for, and see what price other Craigslist sellers are offering for the item. When looking for downhill skis, I looked at what skis cost in stores and what prices different sellers were offering for skis of varying ages.
Then ask yourself these questions:
- What price are you comfortable with spending?
- What does the average quality look like for that price?
- How far are you willing to drive, and do you have the means to pick it up?
Doing all of this research will help you be more confident in recognizing a really good deal when you see one.
2. Keep at it
I don’t get the great deals by buying the first listing I see. I keep looking down the list, and try to find the lowest price item for the highest quality. Sometimes I look at pages of listings for days until I find what I am looking for, in the quality and price I find acceptable. I am an indecisive person, so I will spend what seems like forever to another person just weighing my options. My partner says the same thing that makes my Google-Fu (being able to search something online quickly) so horrible, makes my Craigslist-Fu (Getting awesome deals) so great.
I will keep coming back to the site each day if I am looking for something specific, and I will often email a few people about their items if I find more than one. When looking for a rug, my partner got frustrated that weeks went by and we still had nothing on our floor. I didn’t want to settle for something that I found cheap but ugly. Finally, a guy that was moving out of the country listed his gorgeous rug that he had bought less than a year ago, and it was one of the best purchases we ever scored.
3. They can’t all be winners
Remember that because you are not buying from a store, that neither parties are held under any requirement to follow through. No one is signing a contract here, and the customer is not always right. There are going to be lemons, and there are going to be no-shows. I have been on both sides of this situation, and have learned not to take any of it personally.
Most times the seller has multiple people asking about the same thing, so it is possible that someone can buy it before you can. It is possible to research the item, and then get disinterested in it when you go to pick it up (the best part about this is that you don’t NEED to buy it or take it with you, because no contracts).
Also, you will be sorely disappointed if you are looking for something super specific. Keeping a general idea of what you want in your mind will ensure a wider range of items to choose from. Think “red futon” and not “IKEA brand, wine-colored futon, item #0000.”
4. Be safe
This is perhaps the most important guideline that I keep, because there is a reason some people do not trust Craigslist. Shopping smart means that you are not giving anyone more information than what is necessary to get in contact with you. Try to always pay/accept money in cash, and don’t give people your credit card information.
As I said previously, there is no obligation to go through with a sale. One time when looking at apartments, I was supposed to meet up with the person showing me the place at the front entrance of the building. When I opened the door, the awful look and smell of the place caused me to go straight back out the door without even waiting for this person. Never force yourself into a situation where you don’t feel safe. There is no shame in this.
5. Be friendly
Acting paranoid by refusing to even give a first name or basic contact info will only make you look suspicious, and make you harder to work with as a buyer or seller. I know that not everyone is an extrovert, but you will be surprised how much people want to work with you when you act like you want to work with them.
Letting people know what you’re using their items for will sometimes help, too. For example, I found that when I told people I was buying all their Medieval-themed stuff for my Medieval-themed wedding, people were often more intrigued and willing to help. Sellers may feel honored to have their old things be part of something special, and sometimes give you an extra discount if they really share your interests.
Good luck to anyone taking the thrifting route when shopping, and may your Craigslist-Fu serve you well!