Buying on Craigslist

Aug 31, 2009

When my son was a year old, we found out we were expecting our third child. The problem was that my son would only be 22 months old when the new baby arrived and thus, still in a crib. As a result, we were going to need a new crib for this new baby. When our first child was born, Craigslist didn’t exist (at least, not to my knowledge) and, to be honest with you, it didn’t even occur to me to buy “gently used” baby items. (Most of our baby items back then came to us as gifts, anyway.) But, three children down the road, I have learned that you can get some fabulous, in-great-condition, baby items for a fraction of the cost if you know where to look!

Immediately, I began my Craigslist search. For about two weeks, every day, I would click on the “baby + kids” link on their website. Once I did that, I would search for any cribs that people might be selling. I admit. I didn’t want to pay a lot for it. Our first crib probably cost about $400, but I didn’t want to pay more than $40 for this one! Eventually, I came across a crib that was being sold for $10. Ten dollars? I thought, what is wrong with it? The ad said that the crib was in great condition, except that they had lost the lever to put down the side rail and the new owner would have to purchase a few screws to secure the rail (or order the missing part from the company for about $10.) I thought, “In all my years of mothering, I have never once put down the side rail of our crib, so who cares about that?” I immediately contacted the person selling it and we set up a time to meet. (Important: Please note that I also researched the brand and make of this crib to make sure that it met all safety standards and had not been recalled.)

The seller and I ended up meeting at her father’s house, in his garage, because that is where she had stored the crib. When I got there, she had all the big parts of the crib out on the grass for me to see, but was in search of the bag that contained the screws to hold the whole crib together. Her father was out of town and so she couldn’t ask him where they were. She eventually found a plastic baggie that contained various pieces of hardware and told me that she believed these were the correct pieces, but if they weren’t, to contact her and she would send me my money back. I felt rather sorry for the woman. She was so flustered and worried that she was selling me a crib I would never be able to assemble! I told her that it was fine and to not worry about it, but as I was pulling out of the driveway, she ran up to my car and gave me back my ten bucks. She said she was too worried about it and that I could just have crib for free! FREE!!! Now, that’s a good deal.

As it turns out, those weren’t the correct pieces of hardware for the crib, but my husband went to Home Depot and for a few dollars, picked up what he needed and put the crib together himself. It was a wonderful, functional crib that survived a year and a half of my three-year-old son. When he outgrew it this summer, we went and bought his “big boy bed" off Craigslist. It, too, is in great condition. New, it would cost $400. I paid $75 on Craigslist. I have two sons who will use it over time and then, when I’m done with it, I’ll resell it myself on Craigslist – perhaps at a profit.

The crib story is just one of dozens of stories I have of successful Craigslist transactions. I also purchased our computer armoire, my son's scooter, two strollers, a video baby monitor, children and maternity clothes, a chair, a wheelbarrow, a baby swing, a co-sleeper, our car . . .the list goes on and on. And, with many of these items, when we no longer had a need for them, I resold them, usually regaining my original cost or more often than not, making a little extra cash. Once, I bought a piano for one thousand dollars and, when we no longer needed it because my parents gave me my childhood piano, I resold it for two.

I want to make it very clear, however, that when I search to buy things on Craigslist, I have a specific purpose in mind. I do not just scroll through what people are selling and think, “Wow, I’d love to have that.” That is how you waste money on things you not need. I know what I need and begin searching for that specific item. And, there is a good deal of research involved in all of my purchases. For example, when I needed a crib tent for my son (in case you aren’t aware, those are necessary for children who begin climbing out of their crib at an unreasonably young age), I researched how much they cost new. At the time, they were $80 (I believe they have come down in price since then.) I spent quite a few days on Craigslist, searching for one in good condition, at a reasonable price. Also, I had to factor in how far a distance I would have to travel to pick up the item. At that time, gas prices were exorbitantly high and I didn’t want to waste money on travel expenses. Sometimes, sellers are willing to meet you halfway if the two of you live a distance from each other, but not always, especially if the item is a large one. I ended up purchasing a brand new tent, still in the box, for half the cost of a new one - and this seller did agree to meet me half way.

I have also learned that you have to be diligent in your search. When I was looking for a birch-colored dresser for my son’s room, I found that dressers (at least, nice ones) sell very, very quickly on Craigslist. I would email the seller as soon as I saw their ad and, more times than not, I was the third or fourth person who had emailed them about their item. They usually put me on their “waiting list,” in case the other buyer didn’t show up (which happens more often than you’d think). But, it took me a few weeks before not only did I find a dresser that I liked, at a reasonable price, in a fairly close location, but also, where I was the first person to contact the buyer. So, my advice to you when buying: Be persistent! It will eventually pay off!

If you have no luck in your search for a particular item, or you are in a hurry to purchase it, Craigslist also has the “Items Wanted” link. I have only used this link a handful of times, but I have had great success with it each time I have. As an example, I purchase my son’s first real bike on Craigslist, but it didn’t come with training wheels and no one was selling any at the time. I listed in the “Items Wanted” section that I needed some and within a few hours, I had three offers to sell me pairs. I picked the one that was the best price and the closest to me and picked them up that day. I also used this section after I dropped my well-loved and often-used George Foreman grill on our kitchen’s tile floor, utterly destroying it. Within a day, not only did someone email me that they had a practically new grill, but the woman told me I could have it for FREE! She said that it belonged to her mom, an elderly woman, and it was never used and just collecting dust in the cabinet. Once again, great deal. You never know what you might find, at what price, if you just post an ad and ask!

A few times I have listed things I was looking for, people have contacted me to tell me that, though they didn’t have the item, they either knew of where I could buy it inexpensively or to say that they had seen a Craigslist ad for the exact thing I wanted and where I could find the advertisement. You’d be surprised at how helpful others will be in assisting you in saving money.

So, if you are in need of an item, before you spend a lot of money in a retail store, spend a little time searching what people are selling on Craigslist. I bet, more times than not, you'll find what you're needing right there - for a fraction of the cost!

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