An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

Buy and Sell on Craigslist to Make Extra Money

By now I think it is safe to assume that all of you have heard of Craigslist. The free bartering/swapping/selling community has exploded in popularity in recent years, I believe, in large part due to the economy. As the economy has suffered, people have turned to alternative methods of obtaining the products and services they want or need. Craigslist is a community of individual people who are selling or trading products and services. You can find everything from a high school English tutor offering their services, to a guy trying to sell an old 15 speed mountain bike.

The beauty of Craigslist is that there are no transaction fees, no listing fees, no advertising, and no hassles. Craigslist makes their money off of a very select group of paid listings, such as job listings and adult services.

The good news for you, is that there is an opportunity to make a lot of extra money off of craigslist by buying and selling products. In fact, it is entirely possible to turn this into a full-time job.

Craigslist Arbitrage

Arbitrage, or the philosophy of buying low and selling high, is the basis for Craigslist success. Just as in any other case of arbitrage, the higher your margins are, the more profit you will make.

With Craigslist, it is important to be able to source the products that you will sell. Many Ebay sellers also struggle with this same task, but Craigslist sellers have it a little easier in my opinion.

While Ebay sellers operate on very small profit margins, and thrive on high volume, there is still a lot of money to be made in one good Craigslist transaction.

What to buy and sell?

The first question you will need to answer is what products you will buy and sell on Craigslist. Often times you can find many items to sell around your house, or by sorting through your favorite hobbies or side projects. A quick scan of Craigslist will reveal anything from an ATV to a Waterford Crystal lamp.

One of the most important things to remember is that it helps tremendously if you have in-depth knowledge of the product you are trying to buy and sell. If you are a big music buff, then you might feel comfortable buying old records and reselling them for a profit. I would not.

You might feel confidant in buying an old refrigerator and reselling it for a profit. I also, would not.

The beauty of Craigslist is that almost everyone can find a niche of products that you know well, and make money buying and selling within that small niche of products.

Where to find products to buy and sell on Craigslist

You can find products just about anywhere. Once you have identified one niche, or multiple niches of products, you can begin the search.

Here is a quick list of places that you can check for products you are interested in reselling:

  • Yard sales/ Garage sales
  • Ebay – If managed correctly, and typically done in high volume
  • Pawn Shops
  • Trade Shows
  • Local Library
  • Flea Markets
  • Auctions
  • Estate Sales
  • Sam’s Club
  • Office Depot
  • Inventory Liquidation Sales

Finally, you can often find great deals on products to resell right on Craigslist. If you are able to find people who are already selling the products in your niche, then it is possible that you will be able to buy and sell products entirely through Craigslist.

Craigslist for college students

Craigslist may be the perfect opportunity for college students to make a lot of money. College students love to buy things off of Craigslist because they can typically get a quality product for cheap. They can also avoid paying shipping costs, which college students hate, and they can buy local. If you are a college student, or if you live in a college town, you can profit off this trend.

College students come and go every semester. Many students move into and out of a dorm or apartment every 9 months. This constant transitional lifestyle provides excellent sources of stuff! The best time to source products is at the end of the Spring semester, which typically falls around the beginning to middle of May. This is when you should buy the majority of your inventory to resell. You can buy the old furniture, appliances, electronics, and dorm decorations that college students want to get rid of, and don’t want to move.

When move-in time rolls around in August, you can sell the same stuff back to other college students for a profit.

The beauty of this scenario, is that you can often get items for free in May because students, and especially parents, simply do not want to bother with the stuff. They are willing to give it away if you will haul it off.

This provides a nearly endless supply of items to buy and sell on Craigslist.

How I made $140 on one Craigslist transaction with 15 minutes of work

About a year ago I was looking to buy a used pressure washer off Craigslist. I found one that looked in good condition so I called the guy up, and drove over to his house to check it out. The pressure washer was what I needed and a very good price. As I was paying the guy, I noticed a Stihl chainsaw on the floor in his garage. He was selling a few other items also, so I asked him if he was selling the chainsaw.

I know a good bit about chainsaws. I grew up cutting firewood with my Dad, and have been comfortable with chainsaws for many years. I know the rough estimates on price for these machines, and how to perform routine maintenance.

The guy was selling the chainsaw for $35 dollars. I was shocked. I paid him the $35 and took my Stihl chainsaw and pressure washer back to the house. I paid $75 for a like new pressure washer and a Stihl chainsaw.

Here is where the story gets even sweeter.

When I bought the chainsaw, I took the guy’s word that it worked great. I do not recommend doing that! In this situation, I knew that even a broken Stihl chainsaw was worth $35, but that is not always the case for most products. When I got home, I took the saw out, and began to clean it up. I changed the oil, cleaned the oily sawdust from the blade housing, scrubbed the black exhaust from the saw, tightened the bolts holding the bar in place, and replaced the old gas with fresh gas. 15 minutes of work later, and my $35 Stihl chainsaw was humming along perfectly. I cut up a few logs in our backyard to make sure she was in perfect working order, and went to Craigslist to list my new toy.

I did a quick search of other saws of the same brand and size, and priced my saw accordingly. I priced my saw for $200. I immediately (within 5 minutes) got 3 emails of guys wanting to meet me to look at the saw. I contacted the first guy to email me and setup a neutral meeting location with some wood we could cut. I met him there the next day, he tested the saw and saw that it worked great, and he haggled down with me to $175. I gave in…

So, with 15 minutes of work, I made $140 by buying a product I new was valuable, and adding a little bit of TLC.

If you look for products that you are familiar with then you will stand a much higher chance of finding a product that is being sold for well below it’s real value.

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3 Comments

  1. I did this once with clothes from a thrift store. Back in the day with Tommy Hilfiger was a big deal I was able get a pair at a thrift store for $2 and resold them for $35.
    Jeremy @ Personal Finance Whiz recently posted..Why The Occupy Wall Street Protesters Are FumingMy Profile

  2. I like the chainsaw observation. That is something to look out for if you are buying something from someone on Craigslist. You might show up for one thing, but they might have other good things they are looking to sell. If you bring some extra cash, you could come away with more good stuff.
    Craigs recently posted..How to Sell Fast on Craigslist updated Mon Nov 26 2012 8:48 pm ESTMy Profile

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