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Why You Should Love Craigslist

“risk”, a frequent commenter here at blueprint, left a comment in my previous post on Home Reserve furniture [3] about how he/she (I’m pretty sure risk is a he, so I’ll use he from now on, unless she objects :)) scored a nice three piece Ikea PAX Wardrobe [4] for a mere $150 (saving, he estimated, $600) on craigslist [5]. This motivated me to want to write about the benefits of craigslist to the personal finance conscious. Craigslist [5] is a free service akin to an online community bulletin board where anyone can post anything for free (some listings require payment, but none related to what the average John or Jane would use). The beauty of it is that you can sell and buy lots of things for fractions of their original cost (such as risk’s PAX wardrobe).

You may not have a craigslist in your area but if you’re near a moderately sized metropolitan or geographic area, there’s a craigslist. For me, I can pick either of the Washington DC [6] or Baltimore [7] (a list is on the right hand side for each area covered). The size of each craigslist is different, for example in DC the ‘for sale’ category contains over 47k listings while in Baltimore it has fewer than 9k (San Fran, the first and largest, has over 122k listings); size will come into play later.

Selling on Craigslist:
There are a ton of categories in the ‘for sale’ category from bikes to tools to electronics to listings of garage sales. If you want to sell something, list it in a sub-category and it will appear in the larger ‘for sale’ aggregate listing. You have all the benefits of a newspaper classified advertisement without any of the cost. I suggest you use their free ‘anonymizer’ for your email and that you don’t list a telephone number (unless you are in a tremendous hurry to sell) and expect someone to try to bargain down your initial price. Also expect a face-to-face transaction, unlike most times on EBay, because these folks are going to be in your area and no one likes to pay the post office to ship something a mile. The main benefit of craigslist is that there are no transaction fees – sell your stuff at a decent price without paying EBay their 5.5%+ cut but you are dealing with a smaller market.

Free Stuff:
In the ‘for sale’ category, there is a ‘free’ sub-category where you can find all the things people are giving away. Usually it’s ‘you haul it away’ type deals but you can find anything from moving boxes to furniture to pets needing a new home. The pickings are usually pretty good but they go very quickly.

Buying on Craigslist
It’s pretty much what you’d expect if you were to respond to a classified in the paper, just be diligent, be careful, and be smart about it. I’ve never bought anything from someone off craigslist but it can’t be much different than responding to a classified.

Finding a Job/Gig:
A job is a full or part-time job listing and there are a TON of categories (from accounting/finance down to writing/editing). A gig is akin to contract work, usually a few hours, short term, no extended relationship expected. There are only eight gig categories. Finally, you can list your resume but I’ve never done that so ‘buyer beware’ on that one.

I’ve never used this but friends have used it to sublet out their place or find some short term residential housing. I think it’s your best bet if you need to find a place to stay for under six months because you can usually get it for cheap and avoid apartment complex’s ‘under 1 year lease’ BS overcharge. What’s cool is that they’ve integrated Google Maps so you can find out exactly where the place is. My friends have also used it to check out relative rental prices in the area to figure out if you’re getting ripped off.

Those are all the things I think you should definitely check out at your local craigslist, there are a bunch of other features such as an actual community bboard (lost and found included) and personal ads but I’ve never really checked those out. Do you have a positive or negative craigslist-related story? I’d love to hear about it.

Update 8/25/05: For every ying, there is a yang, read why JP doesn’t like craigslist [8].