Craigslist Shopping 101
This article shares tips from the 7th episode of Dealista, our podcast that'll help you get more for less.
We’ve often joked that Craigslist is a haven for unworthy junk and hopeless cast-offs, but in my experience, it has proven to be a time and money-saving resource that I regularly use for finding amazing deals and solid bartering opportunities. Here are the basic details of how this shopping site works and the tools that can give you the advantage in buying only the best!
What Is Craigslist?
I’m sure most of you already know, but it is essentially the online classified ad service. It is free to use, heavily regulated by its own community, and a go-to destination for things you might not be able to grab easily at a megastore (like an apple picker, 10 pounds of morel mushrooms, or a collection of late 80’s records.)
How Do I Use It?
Broken down by state and then city, Craigslist lets you zone in on items that are as close to your home as you wish. Since the biggest consideration to purchasing a hot item can often be distance, it’s a good idea to set limits to how far your willing to drive in order to pick up a purchase (since most sellers have no interest in delivering or shipping.) I usually prioritize driving distance by how much money I’m saving or how rare a find is. (It’s not worth my time to drive a few hours to pick up a couple of bags of baby clothes. Buying that registered Dexter bull, however, took my husband a day’s drive, and it was well worth it!)
Tools to Give You the Advantage
Like Ebay, Amazon, or any other online retailer, there are some clever tricks to finding outstanding bargains and getting them first. Some worthwhile sites that help you find listing with spelling errors include Typobuddy.com and Misspellr.com. If you think you may have more luck finding an item that is simply mis-categorized, try SearchAllCraigs.com.
Feed junkies (like me) can always use an RSS option to amp your chances of being the first to know of a coveted find. (Wondering what RSS is? I suggest you listen to this podcast by the Digital Marketer.) If you are like me, you usually have a list of search terms that you check frequently. (Lately, I been checking Omaha, NE for “food dehydrator” and “apple baskets”.) Once your search results come up for any particular term, check the bottom of the page for the RSS link. You can use this with your existing reader to get updates to that term almost instantly (and you won’t need to return to Craigslist to do so.)
Shop Smart, Stay Safe
A good thing can’t usually stay untarnished, and Craigslist is no exception. Between the Nigerian scams, flame wars, and serial killers, it’s fast becoming the place that urban legends live for. I usually send my husband to do my bidding, but even if I coordinate a purchase myself, I follow a few tips to ensure my safety:
- Keep your information to yourself. (I don’t give out my full name when doing business, and I try to always email or call the seller. They really don’t need my info to schedule a transaction.)
- I avoid areas that I’m not familiar with, take a friend with me, and don’t pick up purchases at night. (If the seller can’t bring the item out to me in my car, the deal is off.)
- I always pay cash. This is what most sellers want anyway, and it keeps them from getting a hold of my other sensitive financial info. (Always ask for a bill of sale, however. You may need it for taxes or for legal protections down the road.)
For the most part, I’ve had an amazing experience with Craigslist. My husband uses it regularly in the course of his small farming business. (We’ve purchased cattle, a tractor, lumber, drywall, mechanic work, and hauling services from it in just the past year.) The free stuff category has been worth it alone for us. (We’ve managed to score paving stones, a brand new bathroom sink, and lots of cardboard boxes.) If you’ve been avoiding it out of fear or because you weren’t sure it could meet your needs, I suggest you give it a try!
If you enjoyed these tips you can find more in our show's archive.