Scour the web for savings

Sites like Craigslist and Freecycle are great resources for finding deals, Hamm writes.

Michael Probst/AP/File
A women arranges books on a shelf at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany, in this October 2012 file photo. Hamm uses Craigslist and Freecycle to look for deals on furniture like book shelves.

We currently own a 2004 Honda Pilot, which we use for most of our family’s driving needs. We bought it off of Craigslist. We ended up paying substantially less than we would have at a dealership.

I have a large handful of tools that were given to me by someone on Freecycle. They cost me nothing.

Last year, I purchased several of my children’s Christmas gifts off of Craigslist. They were all new or nearly new, and they all cost far less than they would have otherwise. 

A few years ago, I found a keyboard on Freecycle, one I used to help myself learn how to play the piano a bit. It cost nothing.

The internet is a powerful place to find person-to-person sales and sharing, and those two sites are at the vanguard of it.

All of us have lists of things we’d like to have. It’s a pretty poor financial choice to simply go buy these things, and any sensible person won’t just go out there and start spending.

Instead, they’re patient. They wait for the right opportunity to find these things. They’ll barter if the chance comes up, or they might even pay a few dollars, but they won’t pay a whole lot.

Craigslist and Freecycle (among other sites) play into this perfectly. They offer a great opportunity to find items you might want or need for free or for a very low cost.

Sure, often these items are used, but you have the ability to inspect them before you buy them. In my experience, most of the stuff listed is either of good quality or you can tell by the description that there’s something less than stellar about the item.

I often watch Craigslist and Freecycle for those few things that I’m looking for (right now, for example, I’m looking for a low-cost wall-mounted shelf for a few books). Once every few days, I’ll stop in and browse the new entries for my area and, if something matches, I’ll inquire about it.

The key is to be picky and stick with stuff you’re actually looking for that’s at a low cost. Most of the entries are completely irrelevant to me. A few more might be of interest, but they either cost too much or there’s something about the item that rules it out. I look for the few remaining items and those are the ones I chase after.

Let Craigslist and Freecycle be a part of your routine, particularly when there’s something you need that has a low urgency about it. These sources will often connect you to that item at a surprisingly low cost without leaving the convenience of your home.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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