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Make the Most of Your Money... 5 Rules for Secondhand Shopping from Craigslist and Thrift Stores.

Updated on October 31, 2012
High demand items like leather couches are a hot commodity and won't last long, especially at a low price. Chair and matching couch $150.  Brand new $1000+
High demand items like leather couches are a hot commodity and won't last long, especially at a low price. Chair and matching couch $150. Brand new $1000+ | Source

Craigslist, Secondhand, and Thrift Store Shopping

There are so many things that demand our money and whether you have chosen to live on one income as my family has, or are just a product of the current economic conditions, every penny counts. My husband does a great job providing for us but I know it is also important for me to make my house a home in as thrifty a way as possible. Craigslist and secondhand shops have become my new hunting grounds but even these methods can become costly if you don't shop wisely.

Like used car salesman, secondhand sellers are looking to make a profit. There is nothing wrong with that but it is also important for you to know the value of what you are looking for so that you don’t get scammed. Search online for items you are interested in so that you can get a basic idea of what it should cost. Remember that a used item does not cost the same as a new one. Be sure to compare ‘apples to apples’ by looking for the price of used items. Once you know what something should cost it makes it easier to come to the bargaining table with confidence.

When you move into an unfurnished home it is a delight to imagine how each room might look if you could fill it with everything you wanted. With dreams of grandeur in your head it would be easy to hop online or into the thrift store and start over buying, not to mention over paying, for all of those beautiful items. Just because you are getting bigger ticket items at a lower price doesn’t mean you should get everything you want. I have watched wives drive their husbands to the brink by ‘saving’ money buying things they didn’t need just because it was a good deal. It was almost like a hobby rather than a means to get the things the family needed.

Get together with whoever has a say in the finances in your home, set a budget, and stick to it. This will give you the freedom to buy that perfect item as soon as you find it and will put your financial partner at ease when you are out shopping. It is also a great exit strategy if you come across a pushy sales person. Bowing out of a purchase because you and your husband have already agreed on a price will end most high pressure sales tactics.

Here are some rules I follow to keep myself and my bank account out of trouble.

1) Know what you are looking for. I usually have several items I am looking for at any given time but I try very hard to stick to that list. This will keep you from impulse buying.

2) Set a price max. When searching on Craigslist, fill in the max price you are able to pay and a minimum price as well. This will keep the items that are outside of you budget, outside of your knowledge. The reason for a minimum price is due to the fact that often the most expensive items don’t have a price listed or have a $1 amount entered. Go with a $5 price minimum to avoid these expensive items. You can keep this limit on yourself even in the thrift shops by getting out cash and leaving the credit cards at home.

$75 on craigslist.  It is a bit dated with a 3.5in floppy disk drive but it has the feel of a traditional piano and a place to plug in headphones so my daughter can practice any time she wants to.  New these pianos cost $4500.
$75 on craigslist. It is a bit dated with a 3.5in floppy disk drive but it has the feel of a traditional piano and a place to plug in headphones so my daughter can practice any time she wants to. New these pianos cost $4500.

3) Be prepared to act. When you are out or find a great buy or browsing online and see the perfect item for the perfect price time can be of the essence. High demand items sell quickly and you may not have the chance to come back the next day or e-mail the seller after you have had a chance to discuss it with your husband. If you have already decided ahead of time what you need and what you are willing to pay you can act immediately on the purchase.

4) Offer less than they are asking. Most second hand sellers price their items with a little room for negotiation. In the end you may still pay the asking price but most of the time you won't. Pay attention to sellers who label ‘price firm’ or other similar phrases. In these cases they usually won’t want to haggle so you need to simply decide if you like their price enough to buy.

5) Check often. On Craigslist check a few times a day. The best items go quickly. I have an app on my smartphone that gives me updates for searches I put in. Go to the thrift shops regularly as well. A quick walk through when you aren't browsing but looking for a specific item only takes a few minutes and can be done on your way to or from some other place. Getting to know the staff doesn't hurt either. Some stores will even let you know if the item you are looking for has shown up so you can get the first chance to look it over.


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