Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sooo, have you met my friend Craig and his list?

OK, anyone who knows me, knows that I swear by Craigslist.  Swear by it.  I'd say 90% of the furniture in my house is from Craigslist, and I've gotten a random assortment of other things on there too. If you're willing to put in some time looking around, you can score some pretty amazing and unique stuff.  

For those of you who don't know, Craigslist is basically like a classified ad system.  You find your state and closest major city, and then you can browse all of the for-sale gloriousness that is Craigslist.  My favorite categories are (in order), Furniture, Antiques, Household Items.  I also do cars (by owner) on occasion too, since you know know that my husband and I happen to be car enthusiasts.  Woo!

I'm going to tell you everything useful that I know.  If it helps someone, then great--if not, well, at least you'll get to see pics of some random things in my house ;) 

Tip #1: Know what you're looking for, and be patient
Do some quick research on what you're looking for to get some price points.  What is a good deal?  What's ridiculously expensive?  Getting some facts will help you know when you're scoring a killer deal on something.

Also, depending on what you're looking for, it may take a while.  I looked for a bed for my spare bedroom for a whole month before I found the perfect one.  Good things come to those who hunt on Craigslist...oops, I mean "wait" ;)   

Tip #2: Try a variety of search key words.  
When I was hunting for a bed for my spare bedroom, the type of bed that I was looking for was called a "Jenny Lind" bed.  But I had also seen people call them "spindle beds" and "spool beds".  I made note of that and ended up searching all three terms.  (You can read about my search here)

Alternatively, if you're searching for mid-century modern furniture, try searching "vintage", "retro", or "mid".  See the pattern?  

Tip #3: By Owner vs. By Dealer
On the website, there are a lot of dealers, or big stores that try to advertise their goods.  I generally find that they don't have very good deals, or they just don't have what I'm looking for at all.  So I eliminate them by clicking "by owner", which gives you items that are sold by private owners only.  

Tip #4: Search Tempest and phone alarms
There is a website called Search Tempest where you can put in your zip code, a search radius, some key words, and it will search multiple Craigslist cities for you and return the results all at once.  It is great if you are looking for something really specific, and nothing has turned up in your area.  That's actually how I found my Jenny Lind bed!  I had to drive two hours east to get it in Albany, but it was worth it because it was only $25!  

My husband has an app on his phone (craigslist app) so that he gets alarms when something with a specific keyword gets posted in our area.  For example, he's into snow mobiles, so he has an alarm set for "polaris" and "skidoo".  This might be helpful for you too (but with different keywords!).

Tip #5:Thoroughly inspect the item before you buy.  This is kind of a given, but do a close inspection before you buy something.  Look for any broken or missing pieces, and smell any upholstery (yup!  smell it!).  Smoke and animal smells can linger in furniture upholstery, and if you are allergic, it can be annoying/frustrating.  

Before we bought our dryer that we have right now, the guy turned it on and let us see how it heated up.  I also did this with a window AC unit two summers ago to make sure that it blew cold air.  If the seller is honest, he/she won't mind at all.  

Tip #6: Try to talk people down.  
You should almost always try to bargain with someone on the the list price.  The exception to this is if you are already getting a killer deal, or you are one of multiple people who (really!) want the item.  Then you should just suck it up and pay the list price.  

Whether you want to talk the person down before you go to meet them, or during the meet is up to you.  Don't be unreasonable about it though...If someone's listing something for $40, ask them if they'll take $30 or $35.  Then, make sure that you have exact change.  No one wants to be talked down from $40, only to have to break your two twenties! ;)  If you're going to offer someone way less than their asking price, then you probably shouldn't be contacting them at all.  Last month I listed a car for sale for $2800.  I had a guy email me the first day and offer $1300.  Whaaaat?!  Short answer: "heck no!!"

Tip #7: Price your stuff a little high.

This is the converse to Tip #6.  If you're listing something for sale, you should expect that people will try to talk you down.  This is because they want to feel like they are getting a good deal.  So if you want to get $100 out of something, list for it for $120 or $140.  

When we moved into our house, I needed to replace my electric dryer with a natural gas one.  I listed my old dryer for $180 because I was looking to get $160 out of it.  And sure enough, the guy offered me $160.  Oh man, am I good or what? ;)  This girl's got some skills!

Tip #8: Pay in cash, and only accept payments are in cash.  I have heard of people getting cheated out of money by accepting personal checks that weren't legit.  Most people are hip to this fact and won't accept anything but cash anyway.  So save yourself the trouble and bring only cash.  Bonus points if you have exact change!  

Tip #9: Count out your money.
This is especially important if it's a large sum of money...anything more than several hundred dollars that isn't readily countable by sight only.  I usually insist on the seller counting the money out in front of everyone.  I have heard of people accepting a big wad of cash (like, for a car), and assuming that it's all there, but when they go to count it later, it's short by a couple of hundred dollars.  Bummer!

Tip #10: Bring a friend.  Always bring a friend when you go to meet someone!  There are some sketchy people out there, and it's better to be safe than sorry.  My husband is so nice and usually offers to tag along with me before I even ask him!  If someone if buying something from you, it might be worth it to meet in a public place, like a mall etc.  

Now for some stuff that I've gotten on Craigslist:

I got our brown leather couch and love seat last winter for $800.  The owner was downsizing and was looking to get rid of them quickly, and I beat out about 4 other people for them.  I love the nailhead trim!  (and apparently so does my puppy Max!)

"Hey mom!  This nailhead trim is everything that I've ever dreamed of...I will stare at it now..."

The best deal that I've ever had were these three vintage light fixtures that I got for $10!  Yup!  $10 for all three!  They were originally a worn black wrought-iron, so I disassembled them and spray-painted the metal parts silver.  The two smaller ones are in our hallway, and the large one is in our living room.

Last weekend I snagged these two vintage blue glass lamps for $50.  I think that I'll probably end up getting some new shades for them because the existing ones almost over-whelm them with their sheer size!  I think that I will eventually put them in our sunroom [which my husband doesn't know that we are re-doing this summer...yet! ;) ]

I got this desk on Craigslist last summer for $40, and redid it a few months ago here.  It's in my spare bedroom now and I'm using it to store some of my tools!  

I also found my nightstands via Craigslist.  I actually went to go look at another pair of nightstands, but the people were having a garage sale and were getting rid of these too, and I liked them so much better :)  And the best part was that I got them both for only $20.  You can read about how I painted them here.  (For comparison, West Elm has something similar right now going for $250 apiece! yikes!)

When I killed my last phone (water damage! so typical for me haha) and I wasn't eligible for an upgrade, I bought a used blackberry on Craigslist.  It works great, and it's still my phone today!  I paid $80 for it.  

Lastly, my engagement ring is from Craigslist!  When my (now) husband proposed, neither of us had much money for a decent ring...I was still in college, and he was commuting 1.5 hours each way every day so that we could be together (awww!).  When we were finally married and stable, we upgraded my ring to a 3/4 carat solitaire ring for $1300.  Something like this would go for $3000 new in a jewelry store.  I met the seller (a girl), in a jewelry store to verify everything, and it worked out great!  

**Pound it!**

So, are you a convert on Craigslist now? If this isn't enough to convince you, then you'll probably never come over to the dark side ;)  **bwa ha ha!**  Good luck, be safe, and happy shopping!  If you have any questions etc, feel free to shoot me an email.  :) 


  1. My husband and I are in CA and just bought our first home last August and have been home improving ever since. I just discovered your blog today through a Google search on how to spruce up an ugly flat panel door. One AMAZING tutorial and 4 hours of pouring over your blog later, I am obsessed! I had already decided that you were super awesome, and then I discovered this page on your love for Craigslist and now I am convinced that we are kindred spirits. :) Anyway, I love your blog and find your tutorials super inspiring and helpful! I can't wait to tackle the ugly doors in our house. Thanks and keep up the good work!