Monday, January 17, 2011

How To Shop Craigslist

So if you know me in "real life" or have read much of my blog, you will know that I am a big fan of buying used. I LOVE Craigslist, yard sales, thrift stores, hand-me-downs, dumpster diving, free stuff at the curb, etc. In fact, I cannot tell you one piece of furniture in my house that was purchased new. We always look to buy used whenever possible. And not just furniture, we also buy used clothing, cloth diapers, baby gear, electronics, and jewelry.

One of our favorite places to shop for used items is on Craigslist. Craigslist has gotten a bad rap with some people because of it's personal ads and the movie "The Craigslist Killer", but it's really a great site that some people have just used poorly. When used properly, Craigslist can be a great tool that will save you lots of money.

A question my husband and I get asked a lot about Craigslist is whether or not you have to set up an account. You DO NOT need to have an account or username to shop or sell on Craigslist. You can set up an account for selling purposes if you would like to manage your listings, but there is also the option to sell without setting up an account. I am just going to cover shopping on Craigslist in this post.

To shop on Craigslist, you first need to go to the main website at and then select the city that you are in or near.

If you have something that you are specifically shopping for, go to the search box and type in the item you are searching for. If not, you can just browse all listings in certain categories in the "for sale" section in the center of the page.

When searching for a specific item, use key words that you think the seller would probably use in the description. For example, if I just type in the word "table", it will give me tons of results. But if I type in "dining table", it will narrow that selection down a bit. If I want to be even more specific, I could type in "antique dining table". Run your search several times using different key words. In this example, I will search for "cloth diapers".

The search results show me the titles of the posts, the city the seller is located in, the price they are asking, whether or not there is a picture of what they are selling (pic), and the date the item was listed, starting with the most recent listing. If one sounds interesting to you, click on the title in blue. I clicked on the title "NEVER USED CLOTH DIAPERS" at the bottom of the picture above and it brought me to the complete listing description below.

These diapers look and sound good, but the seller does not indicate the brand of diapers. So before purchasing, I would email to ask the brand so that I could do a little research by "Googling" the brand to see if there are any online reviews. To email the seller, I simply copy and paste the "reply to" email address into my regular email "To" section.

Here is how I would typically word the first email.
I am interested in the cloth diapers that you have listed on Craigslist. Could you tell me the brand of the diapers?

I would then wait for an email back from the seller, and we would email back and forth until I am ready to make or decline the purchase. If I want to move forward with the purchase, we would then decide on a time and place to meet to make the transaction.

You can also include your phone number in the initial email or ask for their number if you would rather discuss the items that way. My husband prefers to text. Whatever is easiest for you. I personally begin all of my transactions through email, but then like to make meeting arrangements by phone.

Here are a few tips I have regarding the actual transaction:
  • Choose a public place to meet. I usually meet people in a busy grocery store parking lot or at Starbucks. 
  • Ask the seller what kind of vehicle they will be driving, so you know how to find them.
  • Bring the exact amount in cash. Most sellers will not accept a personal check and many do not have change.
  • Examine the item closely before paying. If it was misrepresented by the seller, and you do not want to purchase it, it is okay to decline. If you still want it, but feel it is worth less than they are asking, see if they will take less. 
Here are a few tips I have for buying used cloth diapers:
  • Check elastic to make sure it is still tight so that you won't have leaks.
  • Check velcro to make sure it still sticks well.
  • If the diapers have snaps, check all of them by snapping and unsnapping them.
  • Look for any tears in fabric that would affect functionality of the diapers.
  • Stains aren't a big deal to me because they sun out easily, and my baby will be making his own. :)
I hope that this has been helpful for those of you wanting to purchase used items. Please leave a comment with any questions you have and I will answer in the comment section so that it will be helpful to others.