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May 22, 2016

How We Saved $11,000 on Various Purchases

I very rarely pay full price for anything. It’s pretty easy to get a small discount by shopping around, but when I’m making larger purchases, I usually find a way to save a substantial amount, and it isn’t hard.

Buying Used
The secret to saving lots of money is very simple, but you have to have an open mind. The "secret" is buying used, and your two best friends are eBay and Craigslist. Amazon is great for cheaper items or stuff that has to be new, but bigger ticket items can almost always be found lightly used about half off.

I’m sure some people don’t like the idea of buying used items, but if you inspect it before you buy and clean it after, you shouldn’t have any problems. It also helps if you buy high quality items since they will hold up well, even used. For example, lots of used furniture will last longer than the brand new Ikea alternative.

I’ve found the best approach is to decide exactly what you want then search eBay and Craigslist for it. eBay is obviously better for smaller things that can be shipped, but Craigslist is great for items large and small. It does, however, help if you’re located in a large urban area.
If what you’re looking for is a bit uncommon, don’t give up. I’ve often said you can find anything on Craigslist, if you are patient enough. Every couple days search again, because what you want is likely to show up eventually.

Before I make just about any purchase, I check out the options on the used market. A lot of people don’t think to do this before they buy, and they are missing out on a big savings opportunity. For inspiration, here are some of the things I’ve saved a ton on by buying used:

Price New
Price Paid
Custom Couch
$      3,000
 $         800
$    2,200
Dining Set
$      1,100
 $         600
$        500
Patio Set
$          800
 $         200
$        600
Baby Bike Seat
$          100
 $            63
$          37
Road Bike
$      1,400
 $         670
$        730
Hot Tub
$      7,000
 $      1,500
$    5,500
Console Table
$          200
 $            40
$        160
Changing Table
$      1,400
 $         100
$    1,300
$          240
 $            80
$        160
$    15,240
 $      4,053
$  11,187

As you can see, our family has saved over $11,000 by purchasing used items. That's real money!
Our "used" dining set looked brand new.
Our "used" couch was custom made for Disney, and was apparently on a TV show.
The best part about buying quality items used is you can often sell them when you are finished using them for just about the same price you paid for them. I call this a “Craigslist rental.” It’s like a “Costco rental,” but less dishonest.

I will add one final note on flea markets and garage sales--while it is possible to find great stuff at these events and they can be fun to browse, they tend to be very hit-or-miss, so you are usually better off targeting exactly what you want on eBay or Craigslist.

Cheap New Stuff
Besides Amazon, you can find some pretty good deals on household goods at discount stores like Home Goods, Ross, Marshall’s, etc.
If you need tools, the prices are shockingly low at Harbor Freight. The quality isn’t great, but for tools you will only use once or twice, you can’t beat the price.

Craigslist Profit
If you're really committed to Craigslisting, you can try what my brother has done.  He has picked things up from an alley and immediately sold them on Craigslist for a quick buck.
He will also occasionally buy a piece of very inexpensive furniture at a garage sale then lightly refurbish it and sell it at a profit. Sometimes for hundreds of dollars.
So not only can you save money by buying used, you can actually make money.

Tell me about your best Craigslist deals in the comments.

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