Hello, my name is Christy, and I’m a CraigsList addict. Admitting you have a problem is half the battle, they say. Except I don’t view it as a problem. I am known among my friends and colleagues as the Bargain-Finder Extraordinaire, and I don’t shirk away from that title. As a thrifty person by nature, as well as one who appreciates and upcycles old or worn-out items, CraigsList is my mecca. I visit it daily and pay homage to its treasures.
Years ago, my friend Sarah introduced me to CraigsList, so I owe her for the habit of the hunt. Since that time, I’ve both sold and bought numerous items from the site, mostly in the Furniture category, since home décor is my true love. Have I met a few “interesting” people along the way? Yes. Have I been disappointed with what I came to buy once I saw it in person? Yes. But, truly, I’ve never felt like I’ve had a bad experience. Mostly, people are honest and nice, just doing their best to make or save a buck; and quality pieces do exist for the taking.
My house is really a CraigsList museum of sorts, as the majority of my furniture has resulted from said purchases. Here’s a quick list (along with a few pics) of some of my faves, which were all in great condition:
• An entire white solid-wood girls’ bedroom suite from Bassett (circa 1960s) – $65!
• Set of 6 Pier One rattan-woven dining room chairs – $50 total
• Antique black-painted secretary – $50
• 2 black mid-century modern leather chairs – $100 total
• 2 reupholstered houndstooth mid-century modern slipper chairs – $150 total
• White Ikea sofa table (which I turned into a bar) – $50
• Large round upholstered ottoman – $40
• 2 orange retro vinyl chairs for playroom – $40 total
• 3 solid-wood cabinets originally used to house LPs (turned into bookcases)- $125 total
• Solid-wood desk – $25
Inevitably, I get asked the question: “How do you find such great deals? I can’t find anything out there!” So I have decided to share with you some of my secrets. Part of me hopes you do not start using my tips because, then, you will be my competition. But I like you guys (and feel a little sorry for you), so I’ll take my chances. Here are my Top 10 tips for CraigsList finds:
1. Misspell your search item. That’s right. Spell it wrong. Sometimes, I have found that the best deals have become lost in the search-shuffle because searchers type in “dining table” or “dining chairs” when there are zillion posted by sellers who have misspelled them “dinning.” As a former English major, I cringe at these mistakes. As a bargain-hunter, I delight.
2. Search for the most basic term. As you probably understood from my first tip, the CraigsList search function is not the most sophisticated. As such, if you type in “bookcase,” it will not necessarily bring up “book shelves.” Go simpler and just type in “book” to see much of what may fall into your category.
3. Try alternate names for your search item.
• Couch, sofa
• Ottoman, stool
• Cabinet, console, bureau, credenza
• Foyer table, sofa table, entry table
• Bedside/bed side table, nightstand or night stand, side table
• Desk, secretary, writing table
• Hutch, China cabinet, sideboard
4. Looking for something unique.. with personality? Search by color. If you’re interested in cheering up a room or adding a little pizazz to your décor, try searching by color alone. Some of the best items will come up, for example, under orange, yellow, turquoise, and pink – especially quirky vintage ones.
5. Check daily – the good ones go quickly. Yes, it takes some time. However, if you get into the habit of checking regularly, it is a very manageable task.
6. Questions to ask the seller: Is it real wood? Who is the manufacturer? What is the history of the item? Is it from a smoke- or pet-free home? What are the dimensions? The last one sounds kind of lame, but there have been times when I saw a piece online and imagined it to be a certain size (which fit my space), only to be surprised that it was actually quite larger or smaller when I saw it in person.
7. Don’t bargain until you’re there. So you see something you like, but it’s $20 more than you want to pay for it. Rather than email or call the owner to ask about a price reduction, wait until you set an appointment to go see it in person. You’d be surprised how much more someone is willing to bargain when you’re standing right there in from of him with your sweet smile and cash in hand (ready to port away the thing they want to ditch).
8. Mark it as a “Favorite.” CraigsList allows you to mark up to five items as a “favorite,” so you can quickly find them again if you are not ready to purchase immediately. This comes in handy when you’re on the fence about something OR if an item is marked too high and you want to take a “wait and watch” approach before you pounce. As you can guess, people often mark down their prices if things don’t sell quickly enough for their liking.
9. Think “repurpose” or “revamp” and use your imagination. Sometimes, we all get in the habit of just seeing things very superficially, without projecting what something might look like with relatively minor changes. Ask yourself: Would it be perfect if it was… refinished? painted? reupholstered? Or, can I make that ugly console into a cool piece simply by adding baskets instead of a lower drawer or replacing the old hardware? Also, if you’re searching for something old which you can fix up, remember search words like “vintage,” “antique,” “primitive,” “retro” and “rustic”
10. Think twice before you block “Dealers.” One of the nice features of CraigsList is that it allows you to narrow your search parameters or view-settings by blocking those listed by Dealers, for example. Believe me, I’m just as tired as you of seeing the umpteen mattress ads by that wearisome outlet that over-posts. However, some of these Dealers are second-hand, vintage or consignment furniture stores with really great stuff! If you’re really struggling to find something, you may want to keep Dealers in your search to expand your scope of possibilities.
Well, that’s it. Those are my Top 10 tips, in no certain order. I hope this inspires you to save money, find something amazing, and minimize full-cost retail purchases. It’s true that they don’t make things like they used to – with a certain quality, style and craftsmanship – so you’re doing yourself a favor by preserving something used or old. Send me pics of your CraigsList treasures, and I will post the best on my site. Oh, and happy hunting!