In my last post I talked about how to save money at the happiest place on Earth. Today’s post is about saving money at the happiest place on the internet. I love Craigslist. Most of the stuff in my house came from Craigslist and when I don’t need something anymore I can usually sell it to somebody else and get most of my money back. What makes Craigslist so great is what it has done to the used goods marketplace. It has made it ridiculously efficient.
Think about how people bought or sold used goods before the internet. Classified ads in newspapers were expensive, garage sales were a ton of work, and thrift stores were OK, but somewhat unorganized making them difficult to find what you need. Internet sites like EBay and Amazon improved things dramatically, but left a great deal of inefficiency in the market. Listing your stuff took some time, collecting payment was a hassle, shipping stuff was a hassle, and there was a middle man to collect fees from you.
Craigslist made the buying and selling of used goods extremely efficient. Stuff can be listed in a minute or two, keyword searches make it easy for buyers to find what they want, negotiations are done easily through email, and buyers and sellers live in the same city which makes it easy to meet and exchange the goods for cash in person.
Besides being easy, transaction costs are free. No middle man to pay, no shipping cost, and no fees for accepting payments. This kind of efficiency in the used goods market means less waste throughout society and big savings for those that participate. To give you an idea of just how much money you can save by using Craigslist I went around my house and picked out everything I purchased off of Craigslist. Then I compared what I paid (to the best of my memory) to the retail price of that item if I had purchased it new. Here is what I found:
Aquarium- paid $20, retails for $60, saved $40
Twin matress and boxsprings- paid $50, retails for $200, saved $150
2 kid’s bikes and 1 adults bike- paid $55, retails for $250, saved $195
Reel mower- paid $30, retails for $100, saved $70
Blender- paid $5, retails for $30, saved $25
Bowflex- paid $200, retails for $700, saved $500
Dining room set- paid $150, retails for $600, saved $450
Set of Dishes- paid $30, retails for $75, saved $45
Dresser- paid $20, retails for $125, saved $105
Dresser- Paid $50, retails for $200, saved $150
Kid’s foosball/ air hockey table- paid $50, retails for $130, saved $80
LCD monitor- paid $20, retails for $150, saved $130
Freezer- paid $50 retails for $600, saved $550
Sled- paid $1, retails for $10, saved $9
Futon- paid $30, retails for $200, saved $170
kid’s chair- paid $5, retails for $30, saved $25
Another futon- Paid $60, retails for $300, saved $240
2 cordless drills- paid $20, retails for $120, saved $100
3 tennis racquets and 3 balls- paid $15, retails for $80, saved $65
kid’s football cleats- paid $5, retails for $25, saved $20
grill- paid $50, retails for $150, saved $100
kindle fire- paid $120, retails for $170, saved $50
pizza stone- paid $5, retails for 30, saved $25
pasta maker- paid $5, retails for $120, saved $115
tortilla press- paid $1, retails for $15, saved $14
crock pot- paid $10, retails for $20, saved $10
Citrus juicer- paid $1, retails for $10, saved $9
Kitchen aid mixer- paid $75, retails for $250, saved $175
slicer/shredder attachment- paid $10, retails for $60, saved $50
2 night stands- paid $30, retails for $100, saved $70
Patio set and umbrella- paid $85, retails for $350, saved $265
Nexus 4- paid- $275 (I splurge occasionally), retails for $300, saved $25
Wife’s phone- paid $100, retails for $400 (I don’t recommend buying subsidized phones on contract, but that’s another article), saved $300
Popcorn popper- paid $1, retails for $15, saved $14
Set of pots and pans- paid $25, retails for $100, saved $75
Refrigerator- paid $400 + $150 in repairs, retails for $1,000, saved $450
I purchased this rental house before craigslist was invented, but I have listed it in rent twice without paying for classified ads- savings $40
Washer and dryer set inside rental house- paid $200, retails for $700, saved $500
Wireless router chewed by dog- paid $10, retails for $75, saved $65
Bar stools- paid $75, retails for $300, saved $225
Treadmill- paid $100, retails for $600, saved $500
Tube television- paid $30, used to retail for $250, saved $220
32″ LCD TV- paid $150, retails for $250, saved $100
37″ LCD TV- paid $150, retails for $350, saved $200
TV armoire- paid $75, retails for $1,500, saved $1,425
Dyson vacuum- paid $200, retails for $500, saved $300
Steam mop- paid $30, retails for $50, saved $20
Washer and dryer- paid $300, retails for $1,100, saved $800
That is a total savings of $9,261! If that is enough to convince you to buy from Craigslist, here is how to do it:
How to buy from Craigslist
Buying from Craigslist, is often very simple. Just visit Craigslist.com, select the city you live in, and do a search for the item you want to buy. If items are available you can select the one you want and email the seller to let them know you are interested and to work out the details. If you don’t think the price is fair, pay attention to the date the item was posted. If the item was posted in the last day or two, the seller may be less likely to accept a lower price. If they posted it more than a couple days ago, go ahead and offer a price you think is fair as the seller will probably just be happy to get the item out of their house at that point.
Sometimes what you are looking for on Craigslist isn’t available, and this is what separates the thrifty from the true savings artist. When a human being makes the decision that they are going to buy something, they get excited about it and want it right then. When what you want isn’t available your first instinct will be to run out and pay retail for it. If you really want to save money you need to fight that instinct and be patient. What you want will turn up on craigslist sooner or later, and chances are you can wait to have it until that time. I have waited months or even years to get the item I wanted at the right price, but for $9,261 in savings, it is worth it.
To help you find the hard to find item, I use a smart phone app. Go to the Google play/ the app store and search for a free “craigslist notify” or “craigslist alert” app. I’m not going to recommend any in this article, because I haven’t found one I really love, but they are all OK. The problem they all have is too many false positive alerts that turn out to be old listings you have seen before. I even paid a few dollars for an app once, and it wasn’t any better so just stick to the free ones. Once you get your app installed just set up an alert for the item you want. When your item is posted your mobile device will send you a message and you can proceed from there.
Sellers will want to be paid in cash, not by check. If you put yourself in their shoes, they are just as concerned about being cheated as you are, so they don’t want the hassle of wondering if your check will bounce.
Important- Sellers who want to ship goods to you, or want you to pay by paypal or western union are always scammers! Don’t do it!
Once you have agreed on a price, you will need to agree on a time and place to meet the seller. Although reports of craigslist related attacks in the media are greatly overblown, it is important to be smart to avoid any potential problems. You should try to meet in a public place where many people will be around. If you are really worried about it, tell the seller you want to meet in the police station as no criminal would be dumb enough to rob you in a police station.
Another good idea would be to learn more about the person you are buying from. Do a Google search on their name to find out where they work and various other information about them. Many states have free public records background searches that can be done through your state’s department of corrections or bureau of investigations website.
When purchasing, if at all possible test the item before handing over the cash. You should know enough about the item to know how it should properly work before buying it, so if you are buying something you don’t know much about, do a Google search to learn what you should be looking for.
If you are selling something on Craigslist, it is virtually certain you will get emails from scammers. You can usually tell who the scammers are because the email they send will seem very generic, with no reference to the item you are selling or your location. The email might say something like “Is it still for sale?” or “I would like to purchase this item from you.” You also might notice poor grammar and bad spelling. If you get an email that looks like this, just delete it.
Craigslist has a very clever email system where the seller and buyer email each other without being able to see the true email address of the other party. This prevents scammers from getting your email address to send you more scams and spam. To defeat this control, the scammers will often ask you to send an email to an address they give you rather than just reply or they might ask you what your email address is. If somebody wants to email you outside of the craigslist system they are a scammer, so delete that email move on.
Another trick that scammers will try to get your phone number. Just like the email, they will either ask for your phone number or ask you to text them. The problem here is that this situation is not as clear cut as when you are asked for your email because there are a lot of legitimate craigslist users that prefer to communicate through texting rather than email. I suggest you be careful of any phone number that isn’t from your area code. If you get a phone number from out of your area, simply do a Google search for that phone number. If it’s a scammer, you will likely see a warning on some type of message board or blog that the phone number you searched for is up to no good.
How to sell on Craigslist
Selling on Craigslist is almost as easy as buying. Just take a picture of what you are selling, fill out a short description of the item, follow the instructions to upload your picture to craigslist, click a few more buttons and you are done. When you are selling an item, you should be realistic about how much it is worth. Some people think they should be able to sell items for near retail price because the item is “like new.” This won’t work. If somebody wanted to pay retail price for something they would go to the store, not email you. Shoppers on Craigslist are generally smart and if you think you can trick somebody into paying more than an item is worth you probably won’t get emails from anybody but lowballers who will offer a ridiculously low price hoping you will just be happy to get rid of the item. If you don’t know how much your item is worth, see what similar used items are going for on amazon and Ebay.
You should also respond to emails fairly quickly. If you don’t write somebody back within 24 hours they will probably assume the item is no longer for sale and move on to the next seller.
Important- Anybody wanting you to ship your item to them is always a scammer, as is anybody wanting to pay through paypal. You should only do business with people who want to meet you face to face and who are willing to pay cash.
Don’t be a troglodyte
Currency came to be used on a regular basis about 5,000 years ago and due to the enormous convience it created, human beings quickly dropped the barter based economy and began using currency exclusively to exchange for goods and services. The efficiency with which transactions can be performed thanks to currency is absolutely critical to the modern economy and society in general. You might be thinking to yourself “What are you talking about, what kind of a Neanderthal wouldn’t use currency?” I wouldn’t blame you think this final section of my article is strange, but the sad fact is that there is a small group of troglodyte’s on Craigslist that still think the barter system is the way to go and refuse to use currency.
Now there are some people who will say something like “…the price is $150 or I would accept a Xbox 360”, and those are not the people I am talking about. Those people know exactly what they are going to use the money on and are trying to save themselves a step by trading. However, those people understand that there might not be somebody else out there that both wants what they have, and has what they want so they understand that in all likelihood they will have to accept cash, and then trade that cash for the item they really want.
I’m talking about “people” who only want to trade for something. If you write an email to them offering cash for what they are trying to trade they will write you back and explain that they don’t want cash, they only want VHS tapes of professional wrestling. Don’t try to explain to these idiots that they can exchange the currency you will give them for the goods and services they are trying to acquire, I have tried it several times and it just doesn’t work. Even if by some odd coincidence you happen to have whatever they want, I still wouldn’t recommend contacting these troglodytes. You really don’t want to mess around with meeting them at their cave.
Write me, maybe?
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments about this article, let me know. If you just want to brag about what a great deal you got on craigslist, I would also love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
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