Best of Craigslist

One of the best tools of most minimalists is craigslist, a free online classifieds page where you can sell anything. Quite literally, anything. I’ve used it to sell countless things in order to declutter my life, and it continues to be a powerful tool for me personally. I occasionally even buy things from it! But usually it’s just surfboards, and only when I find a really great deal.

But to some people, craigslist can be daunting. It’s all up to the two parties to agree on a price and a meeting location, and sometimes it can get… weird. But I’m here to alleviate some of that anxiety by sharing my best (and worst) craigslist stories! I firmly believe that most people are pretty normal, and the odds of you entering into a dangerous situation via craigslist are less likely than meeting some crazy on the street.

First, let me quantify “anything”. You can put anything up for sale on craigslist. Provided the price is right, it’s almost guaranteed to sell. For example, when I bought my first house there was some leftover junk that the previous owners left behind. Namely some cheap plastic planters on the front porch and a bunch of cheap wire shelving in the garage. But rather than cart it to the curb, I listed both things on craigslist. The shelving sold for $10 and the pots sold for another $10, and I didn’t even have to take the time and energy to carry this junk to the curb. I also sold a bird bath from the front yard, which I promised the previous owner that I’d keep. However, bird baths are little more than mosquito breeding grounds here in South Florida, so I sold it for $15 to some middle-aged folks who were looking for an Easter present for their grandparents, rather than keep it and shell out money for bug spray.

Not everything is as simple as selling junk from your house, though. When I started my senior year of college I didn’t have a bed (long story) but 6’3″ me decided on a whim to see if there was a such thing as an “extra long” mattress. Turns out, there is! I was in a little bit of a time crunch, but the seller of this “extra long” full-sized mattress agreed to meet me that night… at 10:30. In Easley, South Carolina. (If you’re not familiar with that area then I would describe it as a place where Southern stereotypes are born.) Anyway, a buddy of mine and I piled into his truck and headed out, only to pick up this mattress and box spring out of some farmer’s shed in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. But it didn’t have bedbugs (luckily) or smell weird or have any weird stains, and I used it incident-free (sort of, but that’s not related to craigslist) until I sold it four years later for exactly the same price I bought it for. All made possible by craigslist!

I’ve bought two motorcycles, a truck, and my classic Volkswagen Beetle on craigslist too, so it’s not limited to used junk or low-priced items either. I’ve sold just as many vehicles on the site as well. But I recently had a small debacle over a very nice American Fender guitar, which was resolved once I realized the guy was just jerking me around. Just remember: the ball is in your court if you’re buying or selling. You are under no obligations, and you can back out anytime if you feel that something’s amiss.

And sadly, the one downside of craigslist is that most people tend to be flaky. I’m helping a buddy sell an old Kia right now, and maybe one out of ten people who ask about it actually show up.

I’ve had some weirdos buy things from me and then ask me for their money back, but never for a legitimate reason. I’m always very honest with the things I sell, so I’m extremely hesitant to meet anyone once I’ve made a sale. After all, I’m not running a business, I’m just clearing out clutter. Anyway, one guy bought a stereo amplifier from me, and even tested it in my house before buying it, only to text me about an hour later in a rage because it didn’t have a radio antenna. I told him he could buy one for $2 from RadioShack, but when he got more belligerent I just blocked his number.

Probably the worst craigslist interaction, however, had to do with a small motorized bicycle I built as a fun side project in my garage a few years ago. It was basically a beach cruiser with a weed wacker motor on it, and that’s also exactly what it sounded like when it drove past. Unfortunately in Florida these vehicles are not street legal without a moped tag, so I was restricted to off-highway use only. But I’m an engineer and I like to tinker. (That’s my excuse for a lot of things!) Anyway, I got tired of it and put it on craigslist just to see if there was any interest, and someone wanted to buy it within a week of me posting it. Unfortunately, despite asking me multiple times for a manual, they refused to read the manual, especially the part that detailed the oil to fuel ratio for the two-stroke engine. After one day, the engine seized on them and they demanded their money back. Since it was their fault they turned a great motorized bike into a piece of scrap metal, I did not oblige. I did make $40 though, after buying the bike, repainting it, and fitting the motor to it, so it wasn’t a total loss. At least, not for me! Read the manual, kids.

Oh, and I should mention that I use pseudonyms, a fake email address, and a Google Voice number on craigslist to protect myself, and I generally try to meet at a location that isn’t my place of residence unless it’s inconvenient (selling furniture, vehicles, or other large house-bound items). Just remember, ALWAYS meet in person, ALWAYS deal in cash only (no matter what), and TRY to take a friend with you, or at least tell someone where you’re going (but that rule is true of pretty much all parts of life). That last one I definitely made sure to follow when, a few weeks ago, I sold a motorcycle windshield to a bus driver… IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS ROUTE. But anyway, If you follow these rules, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a pleasant, safe experience on craigslist, all while being well on your way to a more minimal lifestyle!

Photo: My motorized bike, on its first official test drive. By “official” I mean that it was the first test drive after I remembered to put the lock nuts on the engine mount (the first test drive the motor almost fell off) and also after the other test drive where the carburetor fell off while I was going down a hill. It takes a few tests to work out the kinks, but the rewards are worthwhile!

Saturday Links! July 18, 2014

For Americans Seeking Affordable Degrees, German Schools Beckon by Soraya Nelson, npr.org. Why hasn’t the United States been able to figure out education while almost every other first-world nation has? It’s mind-boggling, and also sad because I’m one of those millions with student loan debt.

Jobs That Will Pay Back Your Student Loans, mrandmrsbudgets.com. If moving to Germany isn’t your thing, there are a lot of other options that don’t require you to graduate with crippling debt.

Perfection Is The Enemy Of Frugality, Mrs. Frugalwoods, frugalwoods.com. If perfection is the enemy of good, it’s also the enemy of frugality. Also remember: Advertisers create need, and that’s part of the problem for anyone trying to be frugal. The Frugalwoods’ (Frugalwoods’s? English is weird.) blog is one of my favorites and always a great one for inspiration on how to live contrary to how most people seem to live.

3 Ways to Get Help With Your Down Payment, femmefrugality.org. There are lots of ways to get a mortgage, and you absolutely don’t need 20% for your home, especially if you are a first time home buyer. I wish I had this information about four years ago!

BONUS: What I’ve been listening to this week:

Have I linked to Cobalt Cranes before? If so, they’re worth repeating. From California, but they recently made a stop through West Palm Beach. Pretty cool!

Photo: Think roaches are annoying? This is a Cuban Anole, a rather large, aggressive lizard that lives in my banana trees. This one is about a foot and a half long. When he shows up on the porch I have to chase him off with a palm frond which he usually attacks pretty viciously until I coax him away from humans. #tropicalproblems 

Saturday Links!

Things I’ve read over the past week that I’ve found that are above and beyond the usual Internet. Enjoy!

Getting Rich: from Zero to Hero in One Blog Post by Mr. Money Mustache. I just stubled across this blog recently, and find the author to be a great person to financially look up to. Already retired, making his money work for him, and generally enjoying life. Everything I want for my own life!

What Does Your Work Truck Say About You? by Mr. Money Mustache. One of my favorites on his blog so far, it inspired me to finally cut the chains tying me to my own truck. My truck isn’t as bad as some of the ones he writes about, but it’s not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

A Life Worth Waking Up For by Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist. Productive people always make time to exercise, because your body is the tool that allows you to do everything else. If it’s not your priority, everything else will suffer as a result. This blog post heavily references another article.

How A Year Of Extreme Frugality Changed Us by Mrs. Frugalwoods, frugalwoods.com. One of my favorite blogs out there, the Frugalwoods continuously break the mold of today’s spend-spend-spend culture. Case-in-point: they assume that any expenditure will make them poorer, and work from that starting point. Certainly not typical!

Bonus: What I’m listening to today!

Photo: A picture from my recent trip to California, a beach where a bunch of seals were hanging out. If you look closely you can see them!