We love Craigslist! That’s right, here in the Frugality Is Free family, we are strong believers in shopping at Craigslist. Not only do we get to buy furniture we can afford, but we get to buy real furniture – you know the kind made out of real wood, and it is an environmentally friendly shopping solution too.
Before we moved, we sold a lot of our things on Craigslist, because we had to fit all of our belongings into one moving truck. (See our How To Sell on Craigslist Guide here). Most of our furniture had been free to begin with by rescuing non-wanted items, before they made it into our local landfills. We’ve also sold lots of books, toys and clothes at Craigslist, and if you do it the right way, you get a much better price on Craigslist than at yard sales. After spending the spring selling as much as possible on Craigslist, we finally did our moving yard sale in July, and we got a nice stack of cash to shop for in our new town.
Now that we’ve settled in in our new town, we’ve been browsing Craigslist daily to find the right items for our new home. We had a hurricane come through not long ago, and our local Craigslist inventory has shrunk because of it, since many people lost their belongings and were in need of new. Still, by looking every day, by being careful to avoid the flood areas, and by being a fair negotiator, we’ve been able to find the pieces we need in the budget we had.
Bellamy Blue got a cherry w0od princess bed for $30, we got a new chair for $25, and we found a rolltop writing desk for $30. We recently found our very first complete dining room set, a Thomasville extendable dining table with 8 chairs for only $225, and this past weekend we drove few miles down the street to pick up new-to-us furniture for the boys’ room. They got a big armoire, a dresser and two side commodes – all real wood – for $70.
And then there’s Bellamy Blue’s new princess dresser. It was a $20 dresser that looked quite in rambles with a bad spray paint job. However, it was real wood, and after spending $20 on a can of paint and putting in some elbow grease and time, it is a beauty that makes her girly room complete. You can see more details of the $20 pink dresser makeover here.
What do you think of the transformation?
We’ve been shopping at Craigslist for years, and over time we’ve got the science down of how to get the best prices for the best products. Take a look at our Craigslist buying guide below and save yourself some money.
How To Buy On Craigslist:
- Look Every Day: When shopping at Craigslist you have to have patience. Know what you want and keep looking until the right thing pops up. It took me a few months to find the right dining table at the right price, and we were just about to give up finding affordable solid-wood furniture for the boys room, which could fit their space and withstand their rough use.
- Sort Your Search To “For Owners Only”: In our area a lot of thrift stores, small businesses and furniture stores list their inventory on Craigslist, but their prices are usually much higher than the regular posts. This is why we exclude these by using options and clicking “For Owners Only.” It takes a way a lot of the clutter, and it makes browsing for the right thing faster and easier.
- Ask questions: Before you go, make sure to ask questions about the piece you are looking to buy. Are there any scratches or stains, do all the drawers work, what are the measurements etc. Is the piece made out of solid wood, a mix of solid wood and veneers or MDF? When it comes to buying used bikes makes sure to confirm sizes, and ask if there are any rust, rips in the seat or problems with the handles etc. Also, be wary of sellers, who sell a lot of bikes, as you do not want to buy stolen goods.
- Negotiate Fairly: Just because a piece of furniture is listed at $300, doesn’t mean the value is just that. Compare other prices on Craigslist, research the manufacturer, look for new price on similar items, consider how long the piece has been listed etc. Plus determine what you can afford to pay. We wanted to get our middle son a “new” 24 inch bike for Christmas, but we were wavering between buying a new cheap one for $80 at Walmart, or buying a better quality used on Craigslist. We finally decided that if we could find one for $40-$50 on Craigslist, we’d go for it. We looked for months, until we found one in great condition listed at $70. We compared the new price of $149 for the same brand/size at Toys R Us, read the reviews, and we decided to offer $40. The seller came back at $50, but we simply replied: “Thanks, but $40 is my max budget.” He accepted, and it turned out that the bike was in almost new condition, so it was a good find. However, sometimes the listed price is a fair price. We paid full price for the Thomasville dining set. We had had such a difficult time finding the right set, as we wanted a light, real wood set that fit into our beach setting. A new set – not Thomasville – with only 4 chairs would cost $1000 including shipping and taxes, and then we would have to find more chairs, as we are already a family of 6. At $225, it was a fair price, and we’ve not seen anything that affordable since, plus nothing in a style we like either.
- Go To The End of the Feed: If you want the right price, going to the end of the Craigslist feed is your best way of negotiating. This is how we got a $30 rolltop, solid wood writing desk for $30, a beautiful cherry wood full size poster bed for $30, and a 9 piece dining set for $225. When the items have been listed long enough, there is more room to negotiate, or the seller might have cut the price several times. However, an item not selling on Craigslist can also mean that the seller is stuck on his or her price. Make an offer a little under what you want to pay, just to leave some room for negotiating. But, you never know, you might get a $30 piece of furniture out of it- it has been known to happen around here. We studied the Craigslist feed for our new town, even before we moved here, because this put us at a better position when pricing and negotiating. We knew that the cherry wood poster bed had been listed and relisted (We think it was because the photos was of it not assembled), and so when we had the moving truck we made my move, and we lucked out. The $30 roll top desks that we got usually sells at $100 – $250 at our local Craigslist. We offered low, hoping he would come back under $50, but the owner took our offer without a counter, because he needed the space, and we could pick up the same day.
- Look For Quality: One of our reasons for shopping used, is that we want and need high quality furniture. We have IKEA furniture in our home, but we’ve learned the hard way that manufactured wood does not hold up well in a house full of boys. Thankfully IKEA recently recalled their dressers, which meant we could get our money back …and we spent the money on solid wood dressers instead. Solid wood furniture can be hard to find these days, and expensive, so buying it used is a great way to keep quality in your home.
- Do Your Research: Before you buy, do you research. What does a comparable item sell for new, what is the cheapest price you could buy a similar item for new – even if it was MDF and not solid wood. What is the material? What and where has it been manufactured? What is the manufacturer’s reputation? Are there any reviews for the product you are buying? If so, what problems should you keep an eye out for? Also when you do your price comparison make sure to consider shipping and taxes, as these can add a substantial amount of cost to a big item.
- Stick To Your Budget: Even when buying used, it is important to have a budget in mind. This prevents impulsively overpaying, and it also prevents you from spending money you don’t have. When we moved, our big thing was that a lot of our “new” furniture would have to be paid with the money we had earned from our Craigslist and yard sale sales before we moved. Our oldest son bought himself a bike, when we just moved, and by sticking to his budget of $40, he got the bike he wanted at a price he could pay, just by negotiating a little and having patience in his search. Now he rides all over town on his new-to0-him bike, and he can use the rest of his hard-earned savings on a kayak.
- Expand Your Search Area: Since the Hurricane hit our town and coastal areas worst, we expanded our search area to a nearby big city. We cleared out a Saturday, and then we scheduled five pick ups in one morning.We picked up two armoires, a 9 piece dining set, a dresser and a bike all for less than $400. New price would have been more than $5000, and everything was in great condition.
- Consider the Work/Time/Costs of Renovating: Giving a piece of furniture a makeover costs money, so consider this when buying used. Do you need to sand it? (Oh boy sanding is time consuming, and you need to have a sander on hand). A gallon of paint costs $20+, and then you need paint brushes, rollers, foam brushes etc., plus you might need a poly or wax sealer too. And then there’s your time. Refinishing a piece of furniture takes several hours and a lot of patience. Are you up for it? For us to consider buying a piece furniture that we have to refinish, it really has to be dirt cheap and in great condition. We’ve refinished four pieces of furniture this fall, and it takes up a lot of time. The first project was refinishing two old dark bookshelves that we originally bought for $15 a piece several years ago. It cost us $20 in chalk paint from ALDI and a lot of time sanding, but we now have two beautiful pieces of beachy furniture in the office.The next project was a $30 MDF/veneer armoire that we bought on Craigslist a month ago. We wanted this piece for storage in our bathroom, and it was the perfect size. A new MDF piece would have cost $100-$150. It was in good condition, but it looked dated. We used leftover light blue paint from painting our walls, so it did not add cost, but we spent a whole day on the project.The last project we did was Bellamy Blue’s pink dresser. This solid wood dresser was in great condition, but it had a horrible spray paint job. We spent $20 on a gallon of pink paint and a whole Sunday, but the result was beautiful, and we could not have gotten her a new, pink solid wood dresser for less than $500.
- Be Polite: As with everything else, being polite , courteous and respectful go a long way. Especially, when you’re trying to get a good deal. If you lowball a price, simply let the seller know that you have a tight budget. If the offer is not accepted, thank them anyway. You never know, if they can’t get the item sold at the price they want, they may return to you and accept your price after a while. Don’t shut the door by being rude.
- Have Cash on Hand: This one is important. As a seller it is frustrating to have to break a $100 bill, and we don’t like having cash on hand either. When selling,weI always confirm with the buyer that they would have the exact amount, because we didn’t have any cash in the house. Even if nothing like this has been communicated to you, you should never assume that the seller has any change. So bring the exact amount. On our big Craigslist shopping trip, we had envelopes with the exact change for each item at the price we had offered. It made it easier to get in and out, and it also prevented any confusion.
- Bring Help: Now that we have a teenage son in the house, shopping for furniture is much easier. Don’t expect the person selling the furniture to be able to help carry.
- Be On Time: Respect your neighbors, be on time. If for some reason you cannot make it on time or at all, make sure to communicate. During our big Craigslist shopping trip to a nearby big city, it took a lot of planning. We used the GPS to do time estimates, and then we communicated with each seller letting them know that we were in town to buy from several sellers, but that we could give a time estimate and keep them updated.
- Have The Right Vehicle: When shopping at Craigslist having the right vehicle is a must. We don’t! We picked up Bellamy Blue’s bed and my husband’s chair, while we still had the moving truck. For our big Craigslist shopping trip, we rented a truck at Home Depot, because we paid for time only not mileage. For local purchases we have improvised, even putting some pieces on top of the minivan. We recently decided to buy two piece of furniture new from Target, because it was cheaper and easier than having to find the right pieces at Craigslist and then finding a way to transport them, plus it saved money not having to repaint in the color we wanted them. Target had a great sale if we spent $150+, free shipping, and one piece we got an extra $30 off for picking it up in store.
- Buying New vs. Old: Sometimes not even Craigslist can suffice. Our oldest son is tall, and getting taller every minute it seems, so finding him a used new bed was difficult. We wanted him to have an extra-long bed, so that he could be more comfortable, even as he enters high school. We also wanted him to have storage under his bed, because let’s face it, teenage boys can be messy, and he is no exception. By eliminating the room to store mess under his bed and turning it into functional space in the shape of drawers we hoped to eliminate some of my frustrations. Finally,we wanted him to have a solid wood bed, because boys are rough on furniture. We browsed Craigslist for months for the right captains bed, and we even inquired on a few. But, it turned out to be harder than we had expected. First of all extra long beds are hard to find, secondly many captain’s beds in today’s market are made out of MDF and not solid wood, if they are solid wood it takes quite a truck to transport it, and finally solid wood captains beds are expensive – even when used. In the end, we ended up using a coupon from our post office moving package to get a solid wood xl twin captain’s bed from Wayfair for only $279 shipped after tax. It came just in time for his birthday, and we’re hoping it will last at least until he goes of to college.
How To Sell On Craigslist:
- Post Good Images
- Price To Sell
- Try Again
- Spread Out Your Posts
- Link Your Posts
- Give A Instant Discount
- Arrange Pick Ups
- Don’t Count Your Chickens
You can see our full, more detailed Craigslist selling guide here.
Do you have tips for buying or selling on Craigslist? What have your Craigslist experience been like?