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5 Ways to Use Craigslist to Save and Make BIG Money

Last updated by on 24 Comments

Save Money with Craigslist

I’m not a Craigslist ‘power user’ by any means (OK, maybe I AM a Craigslist power user), but I have been able to successfully use Craigslist’s free classified ads to better my financial situation a few times, and I’m envisioning a few additional possible uses as well down the road and I’d love to hear your Craiglist success stories as well. Here are a few ways that using Craigslist can result in some big personal finance gains.

1. Sell your House on Craigslist

When I sold my house for sale by owner, the eventual buyer ended up finding out about the house through drive-by traffic. However, I initially had a buyer lined up who had seen the house through Craigslist within a few days after I put it on the market.

save money with craigslistThat wasn’t a fluke either. I had created a website for the house and linked to it via the Craigslist posting. On the site, I was using Google Analytics and discovered that Craigslist was sending about 10-30 visits daily to my website. That’s 10-30 potential buyers putting their eyes on pictures of the interior of the house who probably would not have otherwise seen it.

The next time I go FSBO, Craigslist will be one of my marketing tools again. Finding a buyer via Craigslist or other self-marketed methods can result in you saving 6% of your home’s sale price on realtor fees. On a $200,000 house, Craigslist would have just saved you $12,000!

2. Sell your Car on Craigslist

Towards the middle of last year I put my car on Craigslist. I was able to sell the vehicle within one week of posting it, to someone who first viewed it on Craigslist. I was also getting about 3 contacts per day via the posting, and again, 10-30 visits from the website that I had created for the car. If you go this route, always make sure to get paid via cash or other guaranteed payment before signing the title over.

3. Sell your Services on Craigslist (Barter)

Get your mind out of the gutter. There actually are legit services being bartered on Craigslist. A recent pull in my locale under the ‘barter’ section resulted in website design, landscaping, auto repair, building, plumbing, carpet installation, and more in exchange for a variety of goods or services. Work is hard to come by in this economy for many trade skills, and there are legit pros out there willing to offer their services in exchange for yours, or your junk (goods that is, not the other junk). If you do go this route, make sure that the person you are working with is a certified professional versus some two-bit amateur that might end up costing you more than you would have paid in paying for a pro in the first place.

4. Sell your Junk on Craigslist

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. You know all that old stuff sitting in your closet, basement, or garage? There actually could be a demand out there for some of it. It doesn’t hurt to throw it on Craigslist to find out. My wife recently sold an old snowboard that she hadn’t used in years for as much as she bought it for. All within a few days. I wish I had the same luck with an old guitar I currently have listed. In addition to listing your stuff, you can search the ‘wanted’ classifieds section to see if you have something that someone is looking for.

Being a minimalist is liberating. Being a minimalist with cash in your pocket is downright glorious!

5. Get Cheap or Free Stuff on Craigslist

People look to unload stuff they don’t want any more for dirt cheap prices. Even better, many people just give stuff away. A recent search I did turned up a nice, free washer and dryer, both in working condition. If you are in need of something like this, you just can’t beat that kind of savings.

Craigslist Tips

If you’ve never used Craigslist (and even if you have), here are a few recommendations to get the most out of the site and to protect yourself:

  1. Don’t put your real email in the listing – use a generic reply-to.
  2. Never take a check. Get cash for all smaller items and make sure payments clear on bigger items before turning them over.
  3. Take nice, high quality, low-res. photos to put in your listing.
  4. Be short, concise, and very explicit.
  5. If you don’t know HTML, put your listing content into a WYSIWYG editor (MS Word, for instance) and save it as an html file to cut and paste into the listing.
  6. Be careful. Make sure you’re not home alone when someone comes over, and use common sense.
  7. Keep up on all of the latest Craigslist scams, so you don’t get taken advantage of.

Craigslist Discussion:

  • What Craigslist success stories do you have?
  • What other ways can you use Craigslist to improve your personal finances?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


24 Comments »
  • Jeremy says:

    Just had my first craigslist experience on Friday. I have been searching it for months looking for a used part to get my Jeep that’s been parked in the garage for 3 years back on the road. While it took a while to find someone local enough to finally list what I needed for sale, when they did, I got a great deal. Saved hundreds over what it would otherwise have cost, and helped someone get rid of what was otherwise junk in their garage.

  • her every cent counts says:

    I’ve bought a lot of things on craigslist…

    I got a used couch for $150. It’s nice. I’m sitting on it right now.

    I bought my used car for much less than I would have at the dealership. It had a lot of miles on it, but I’ve had it for 3 years and I only ran into trouble with it this week. I’m still happy with the car.

    I bartered my web design services for personal training. That worked out fairly well. I recommend bartering for a set amount of time, because it’s hard to continue an ongoing trade.

  • Crystal says:

    I have sold 2 cars on Craigslist, one before my move to Hawaii and one before my move back to the Mainland along with a lot of other stuff. I purchased the car I owned in HI from Craiglist and got a great price. I have learned that Craigslist is the easiest, cheapest, and quickest way to get rid of things that are no longer needed.

    FreeCycle is another great site. If you are unfamiliar with it, definitely check it out. Makes another great resource to get rid of things. You can’t make money from it but you can find things you need.

  • allen says:

    I sold a computer i pulled out of a dumpster on Craigslist right before Xmass! All it needed was a new power supply, something I have too many of, and WHAM: a free $50 in my pocket. :D

    I’ve never done too much with Craigslist, but i can easily see how people can become addicted to it, especially the selling crap part.

    For real small things like books/dvds, I just find it’s not worth hassle, and take them to a local used media store.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @Crystal – I’ve heard some good things about Freecycle, but never used it. Anyone else had success with this site?

    • Trish Schrader says:

      I know it is legitimate. Many people put in requests for help, with clothing, needs for their family. I have helped several in the last year. I have donated children’s clothing and given food to a family with little income. I know a lot of people give things away…..that are too good to throw away. I now have many knick knacks with no place to go.

    • Jeremy says:

      I was looking for washer machines to build something else and a friend stumbled across a frecycle post that netted me a washer, dryer, 275gal oil tank and some other stuff. I filled my full size pickup and used some for my project and turned a buck on the rest. It’s hard for me to watch freecycle, but if you have friends that do (ie- stay at home parents who live by it) ask them to keep an eye out for you.

    • Jeremy says:

      Good post on Craigslist Miller. I’ve survived on craigslist for the last 3 years since the economy went down hill. I won’t claim 6 figures by any stretch, but I’ve kept the phones on and the truck on the road. My favorite personal story includes some chicken equipment and a load of turkeys…. real live turkeys. I raise about 25 turkeys a year for thanksgiving and it was a week before the turkey poults (babies) were to arrive. I got a call off craigslist about my equipment for sale… which I had received for free when cleaning out an old farm. After some conversation me and the buyer figured out that he was in fact the hatchery I was receiving my birds from (Via a middleman) which was 3 states away. In the end, my supplier gave me my birds for free, handed me cash and took the equipment to my customer for me. Now that’s a great trade for a guy trying to live on a shoestring budget! Those turkeys were worth close to $250, and it was almost like my supplier was paying me to take them.

  • Craig says:

    I have had success on buying cheap things off of craigslist. Also used it as a way to find my current apartment. More importantly I used it to find my current job. It’s a good utility to use for multiple reasons.

  • stephanie says:

    I’ve always lived in small towns that have limited presence on Craigslist. But I’m moving to Chicago in about 18 months, and I’ve been using Craigslist to get an idea of rent prices, jobs, and cool things to do in the area. I’m glad to see your tips for using Craigslist, because I’ll probably use it much more once I’m in a major city!

    • Trish Schrader says:

      When you have unpacked in Chicago……a good thing to do is take in all the museums. I lived an hour from Chicago all my life till 35, and a great outing for all of us was to go to the Science & Industry Museum….. Check out the suburbs for rentals….some are very close. Good Luck and hope you make it through the winters…..that is why we left. Trish

  • Heather says:

    @ G.E. Miller – You asked about FreeCycle. I’ve used it several times with success. Yeah, you sometimes get folks saying they’re going to come pick up something and they don’t but most of the time its not a problem. Last time I used FreeCycle I posted a rice cooker and crock pot and within 10 minutes they were gone. Not just physically spoken for but actually picked up!

  • Kelli says:

    We just sold our car yesterday on Craigslist and it took less that 24 hours. The key is to take some time to put together your post. We did some nice formating with pictures and got about 10 calls in the first day. We got 1200 more than what we could trade it in for and it went to someone who really needed it! We are too excited!

    Quick Question Anyone know? Do we have to pay taxes on the 2400 we got for the car in 2009? Is that considered income?

    Thanks!

  • Pickup Lines guy says:

    I just this weekend got a 97 Subaru Imprezza, in fabulous condition off a Craigslist posting. Kelly Blue Book on it was 4,200. I got it for 1,600.00. I had been to a ton of little dealers, thinking they might need to sell cars at a decent price but no luck. I’m so happy, but feel like a chump for not looking there first.

  • Dave says:

    I have been a craigslister for years, both buying and selling on it. I recently bought an $800 armoir for $100, and like using it rather than a yard sale for some of my “got to go” items. There are also some other ways to profit from it like helping people find items that in the wanted section using affiliate links. And if you have your own website its a great traffic generator for your products.

  • Crystal says:

    @Heather, great to hear someone else has had success with FreeCycle. I have never had any problems with people not picking up items. I love that you can get things you need and it keeps people from just throwing things away. Better for the environment and our pocket.

  • Wise Finish says:

    I was able to sell a car on Craiglist… in 5 minutes! The buyer came over immediately and the sale was closed in 30 minutes!
    It’s a great tool.
    I never can get anything from the “free” section though. There must be a lot of frugal people around here because even if I see things pretty fast after they come up, they are gone.

  • Wren says:

    Hey GE,

    I’m a huge fan of craigslist; I’ve bought and sold a bunch of stuff on there. I got a brilliant deal on a spectacular iMac in October (it’s still working wonderfully!) that was several hundred dollars less than anything I found on ebay or amazon. I find the free section especially awesome. I usually browse it once or twice a week–you can find some really useful stuff there.

    As far as freecycle, I was on their mailing list for a few months, but there was never anything offered that I wanted. For all you with children, though, there always seems to be tons of baby stuff being offered. It’s certainly handy to get rid of unwanted junk, though, but I’m not sure if it’s any more effective than craigslist. It’s certainly less efficient since you can’t search.

  • Michigan Girl says:

    We found a WONDERFUL home for my dog on craigslist. It was just a perfect match!

    I am currently looking for a room/sublet on craigslist…it’s been awhile since I have been looking…still trying to find the right place.

    CL is not as big over here on the East Coast as the West Coast- but I think we are starting to catch on!

  • My Life ROI says:

    I used to paint houses when I was in college. Craigslist was a great lead generator. I noticed these leads closed at a lower percentage (probably indicative of the price shopping nature of people on Craigslist..) but it was still leads I would not have had otherwise.

    I have used it to sublet out my apartment twice before.

    I have used it to get a sublet for the apartment I now currently reside in full time.

    I have used it to fully furnish one of my old houses for free.

    And the guy I sublet from in my current apartment had a lot of great furniture but he was moving 2,000 miles away. He left it for $100. King size box springs and mattress, book shelf, dresser, desk, etc…

    All the deals have worked out well! I love craigslist.

  • Jim Leigh says:

    I was able to get a $100 gift card for Hobby Lobby for only $55! Make sure the card has a number you can call on the back to verify the amount, though!

  • Michael says:

    I disagree with one of your points. The one about contact. You said do not use your real email address, you said use the “generic type-to”. My response is Yeah… do that… IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SELL IT!!! If your REALLY serious about selling your stuff on Craigslist a PHONE NUMBER is the single most important thing you need in that listing!!! A collection of GOOD QUALITY pictures is second, and a GOOD, thorough description is third. I’m not saying you will not sell it if you don’t do all 3, but I WILL say if your selling the same thing as I am they will call ME first, because I don’t leave any questions unanswered! I made killer money on ebay doing the same thing. People get on ebay and they use the most ridiculous sentence: It goes like this: “Email me with any questions.”
    THAT is the most ridiculous sentence you can use. You should have thought enough to have already answered any questions they could POSSIBLY have right there in the description. The real question is “Do you want to sell it or not???” If you do then you want to take away ALL guesswork, and really sell what you have, and you do that with good pictures, THOROUGH (look it up) descriptions, and a phone number. Oh, and it does no good to include the phone number if you don’t answer it or at LEAST return calls promptly.
    I sell on Craigslist and have a warehouse fully stocked just for CL. I make good money there. Emails (especially the generic ones) usually get me nowhere. A phone number gets the ball rolling, and I can tell in 2 minutes if you really want what I have, or your just wasting my time.

    Otherwise… great article!

  • IT Rush says:

    Glad to see some of you found success in using craigslist to save and make big money. Actually, I’m just learning my lesson and hopefully be able to close one soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

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