How to Remodel Your House by Thrifting: Part II - Craigslist/Ebay

Welcome to part 2 of our Remodeling your House by Thrifting. Today we are going to focus on what has been the biggest source of inexpensive materials for John and I in our own home remodel. If you missed out on Part 1 of the series make sure to stop over and check that out too! 

If you aren't using craigslists yet to find materials for your remodel, you should. Here's just a couple of quick reasons why: 

1. We know real estate is an investment and remodeling projects can add a serious boost to that investment. . 

2. The less you put into an investment and the more you get of an investment the better, right? So if I put in $100 and get out $200 - you are like, awesome! But what if you put in that same $5 and still get out $200 ?  You'd be like, "I'll take door number 2 please!" That's what remodeling by thrifting has the ability to do for you. 

3. It's all in the numbers. So, while talking numbers can be a bit uncomfortable let me give you an example of how we have saved money just on our craigslist purchases alone. When I did the math to figure out how much money  we have saved using Craigslist on our remodel just this year, the final number was around = $9,095!!

Here's the breakdown if you are curious. I tried as best I could do look up similar products to what we purchased. Not only were we able to get materials for cheaper, but in almost every setting we were able to get higher end nicer materials, than if we had bought budget grade new.

 Siding:  Brand New =  $7,000 | actual spent =  $1,000

New sink fixtures: Brand New = $ 100 | actual spent =  $10

New ceiling fans: Brand new = $300 | actual spent  =  $50

Washer and dryer: Brand New =   $2,000 actual spent  = $35 (these are front loading, high capacity energy efficient models)

New Kitchen sink and garbage disposal: - $350, actual spent, $20

New entry door - $300, actual spent - $15

Bathroom vanity with countertop and sink: Brand new = $200 | actual spent = $25

Total project savings from Craigslist = 9,095!!

So why isn't everyone taking advantage of what's right in front of them? I think the most obvious answer is they don't know how, or are timid to jump in. So, let's address some of the top concerns when it comes to thrifting on Craigslist, so you can really be smart about how you invest. Cause wouldn't rather, you know, not spend your life savings on a new entry door or a ceiling fan? Maybe that's just me....

Here are some top concerns people have when it comes to purchasing from craigslist. 

1. Buying from strangers is scary 

We've all heard the stories about that one lady who was brutally murdered while trying to buy an antique sewing machine etc. While I do acknowledge that this world can be a scary place, and there are most definitely scammers and not so nice people out on craigslist - I think some common sense principles really help this one out. 

        - Create safe meeting places: If I can at all avoid it, I almost never give my personal address to a stranger. My all time favorite place to meet up with someone is right across from the police station. I'm talking 100 feet from the entrance of the police building. I know that some towns even provide safe meet ups for buying and selling from people you don't know. Check your local police department to see if this is a service they offer. 

         - Don't go alone: If I have to go to someone's house to pick up an item (say a large remodeling item) I never go alone. Most often, I don't go at all as a woman. When we are talking about numbers,  I am just more prone to be a statistic than my husband. 

     - Be aware of your surroundings and know basic self defense: I think this is important whether or not you are meeting up with people. There are many things we do in our lives that put us at risk to danger whether we know it or not. Increasing our situational awareness and understanding how to react to emergency situations is always helpful. 

  - If it seems shady, or a too good to be true deal - figure out why before proceeding: Sometimes people legitimately don't know the worth of what they are selling, or need to declutter their lives rapidly. Those looking for a deal can benefit greatly. However, thieves and not so nice people also like to offer too good to be true deals. Now, anyone can make up a story, but I've noticed that scammers tend to have stories that don't match up and generally  seem fishy right from the start. 

If a large amount of money is involved, don't bring the money with you - Inspect the item first, assess the situation, then go to an atm and get the cash. I've also been in situations where I've paid half, inspected the product, and then paid the other half. This gives both parties insurance and a way to move forward. 

2. Used stuff is gross  

dirty duck

Now I realize everyone feels little bit different about the thrifting lifestyle. I'm assuming because you are reading this article, you either are someone generally down with the occasional thrift store trip, or you are just generally intrigued by the concept. I think when thinking about used items, especially items for your house, think about the house you just purchased. Unless you bought a newly constructed home - everything in the house you bought it used. Walls, toilets, light fixtures, vents, appliances, carpet...everything. In fact, if your house is like mine - some of the house has probably been used for 30 + years. So replacing it with something that's only been used for 6 is still a definite upgrade. 

With that said, some used stuff is gross. Here's my top used materials list that I tend to proceed more cautiously before purchasing. The great thing is oftentimes, these materials are listed for brand new at a way discounted price. 

  • Toilets
  • Carpet
  • Venting  (range hoods, bathroom vents)
  • Bathtubs
  • Dishwasher
  • (used ) Plumbing
  • (Used) Electrical 
  • (Used) Siding
  • (Used) Windows

Now all of these under certain circumstances may be ok to purchase used, but these are the areas I would generally proceed with more caution. 

3. Buying used is risky and not worth my money

There is something very risky about buying things that don't come with a guarantee or warranty. However, peace of mind can be quite expensive. I love this article by blogger, Mr. Money Mustache. In it he talks about the illusion of peace of mind, and how oftentimes we throw alot of money away on insurance and warranties to obtain a perceived "safety net." Now, I'm not against all insurance - but could I suggest that sometimes weighing the risk may be worth it? 

The questions I ask myself is, "Am I prepared to lose this ____ amount of money in order to take this risk? What is my back up plan if this is completely a dud? 

I'll walk you through a recent purchase John and I made. We bought washer and dryer off of craigslist to replace our current models. We needed ones that could stack, front loading, and we need a different dryer. We knew we could sell our set for at least $175 and had it listed for sale before we even purchased the new set. We knew the set we were buying had some issues with the washer. We found a set on Craigslist for $200. So we would, at the end of the day, spend $25 bucks.  We decided spending $25 on even just a dryer would be worth it - even if we needed to spend full price for a new washer. In the end I spent 2 days on the phone with repair people and $10 for a new part and we had a fully working set for $35. 

4. It's such a hassle to have to search, wait and meet up for materials this way.

Yes, yes it is. There's no way around it; purchasing and remodeling your house this way is not going to be the most efficient way to come about materials. I've tried to streamline this process as much as possible by planning ahead. If you want to read more about some of these strategies check out Part I in my series. With that said, John and I have certainly passed up lots of good deals for the name of efficiency. This again goes back to weighing the cost, risk and worth of the item. That set of tiles might be perfect, but if it's an hour and a half away, is it worth the time to go get it? 

5. I don't even know how to get started


  •  Using craigslist, in your town and area is a great place to start. Don't just search within the area you think the item might be in, but do an entire search of your area for the item. I also recommend searching other terms. For example when searching for a fridge, search refrigerator, fridge, kitchen appliances, appliance set, and kitchen remodel. Sometimes gems can be overlooked when they are listed poorly or difficult to find. 

  • Check surrounding towns and keep an eye on places you travel frequently. I watch towns about 3 hours from me in every direction. While I wouldn't make a trip that far to pick up a used doorknob, I might make the trip if someone was giving away free granite countertops (true story, someone was -I just wasn't fast enough on it). 
  • Download the craigslist app and set alerts for things you are looking for. This is how I found our siding, and it was so helpful. 
  • Call and ask for pictures on the posts that don't have photos. I'm so tempted to just skip over posts that don't have any pictures associated with them, but so is everyone else. I know if I go the extra little bit and ask for photos I can find things other people haven't snatched up. 
  • Don't be afraid to haggle. If this is an uncomfortable practice for you, be sure to check out part 1 in this series where I go  more into depth about how to do this. 

Final thoughts

While craigslist has been the main vehicle of shopping for us, we have also had great success with buy/sell/trade group on facebook in our area. You can now even set alerts within these different groups. 

Other place to also try: 

  • Ebay local classifieds
  • Your newspaper classified section 
  • Reddit local groups

So what about you? Have you used craigslist for remodeling needs. What the craziest thing you've ever come across while thrifting? Leave your comments below!



How to Remodel your House by Thrifting - Part 1

Unexpectedkindness is themost powerful,least costly, andmost underratedagent of humanchange.png

Janelle here!  So truth be told, I'm a bit of a bloodhound when it comes to finding a deal.  Not sure what it says about me, and it makes me feel all uncomfortably materialistic, but, it's true. Whether it's sweaters, baby gear or makeup, I just don't pay full price for it. I can't remember the last time I bought clothes for myself(or family) at full price. 

Now that we are knee deep in renovating our houses it was only a matter of weeks before I began to sniff out the best places to find discount materials for remodeling. Let me pass on my learnings and savings to you. :) 

Garage Sales

garage sale

When John and I were first dating, I asked if we could go to a garage sale together. He rolled his eyes, agreed, and I took him along. I don't think he knew what he had agreed to. " You ain't garage saleing with your grandma anymore!!!!" He calls me the pirate queen of the garage sale seas (just laugh along, he thinks he's funny :)  Sometimes friends and family have asked to bring me along to show them the ropes. Since I can't come to your house with  a starbucks to go and a list of garage sales, I'll just have to pass on my knowledge to you with a bullet list (you can pour coffee for yourself before reading if you want to pretend)

Here's some garage sale tips for AWESOME finds on remodeling materials (and really anything)

  • Make a list...and TRY to keep it - John's laughing at me as I write this. I'm kinda bad at this one. But in my defense...most people at garage sales don't come with a list at all!!  At least I mostly stick to my list.  My list is not something I come up with the night before I go out to a garage sale. I develop the list year long. For example, I know my son will need new shoes in the fall. It goes on the list now in January and I begin watching for shoes at all my sources. During garage sale season (May-August) I watch for shoes, and will buy them if I find them at a garage sale. I generally try to keep my list only 6months out. This means I'm not buying something for our house I know we won't use for another 3 years. This is how we found the siding we used on our house .  The siding went on the list and I started watching. I found it a month later, and we bought it. We didn't do the siding for another 5 months from when we bought it. 

  • Map It out -  Before I ever leave the house in the morning I check the local newspaper, craigslist listings and a few facebook groups that I follow for any garage sale listings. I write down the addresses for all the listings that sound like they have materials from my list. I star ones that sound extra promising. Then, if I'm feeling really dedicated, I'll punch in the addresses to google maps. I quickly figure out a general loop that hits most of them in roundhouse order and then number my addresses based off that loop. When I'm in the car I go by my numbers, and it takes me in a way more efficient pattern. Time is money when it comes to garage sales, so you don't want to waste it driving back and forth across town. 
  • Get comfortable haggling - This comes in handy especially if you are shopping near the end of the garage sale day. If you've never put on your own garage sale, just know, most people spend HOURS tagging and pricing all that inventory you are looking through. When 4pm rolls around and half of it is still there, they don't want to put it back in their house. They also don't really want to lose money off of it and just donate it. Here's some general haggling guidelines

- "If I buy all of these _________ will you give me a discount? "

- Round down . Instead of $4.50 ask if they'll do it for $4.00. Fifty cents might not seem like a lot, but if you do it every time you buy something at a garage sale, it's like using a coupon to buy milk, every time. It adds up

- I noticed this "defect" would you consider doing less for it? - Be careful not to insult their item, since it may have sentimental value. 

  • Do a drive by - Remember how I said time is money when it comes to garage sales? The time it takes you to get out, park the car, walk up the driveway, and locate the materials you are looking for - you may loose out on what you were really looking for in the first place. You also risk the chance of impulse buying when you go to a garage sale that doesn't have anything that catches your eye from the drive by.  So I recommend if you aren't sure about a sale to drive by the house slowly (like a straight up creeper friends!) and look to see if you see anything. 
  • Avoid the impulse buy: This goes a little back to the list making. Let me just say that there are weeks that I have hit up garage sales every Saturday and never bought anything. It can feel a little discouraging to go to all that work of mapping everything out, and hitting all duds. But, what money are you saving by just buying things you don't really need? I'm still developing self-control in this area. This is especially important to practice if you are going to a neighborhood garage sale. I almost never go to neighborhood sales without a very clear list in my mind. 

Match your merchandise with your neighborhood: Now that you have your list, you need to find the people who have those things. Are you looking for a pottery barn rug and decor from anthropologie? Watch closely for sales in fancier and higher end neighborhoods. There aren't a lot around my area that hit the really high end, but a few years ago I hit some in the suburbs of chicago and I walked away with decor and home furnishings from west elm and pottery barn for only a few bucks. Are you looking for a kitchsy item or something with a distressed look? Antiques often come from people who well...are antiqued. Figure out where the "older" more established neighborhoods are. For example, we live right behind a retirement home. Their clothing racks usually aren't worth glancing at but I have discovered gorgeous antiques and jewelry. 

A few specific places you are going to want to look when looking for building supplies and home decor are moving sales and estate sales. These sometimes will have hardware and building materials. 

Alrighty, those were my main points on hitting up garage sales, but we are just getting started friends! My thrifting roots go deep and my accumlated knowledge...vast :) Check back soon for part 2 of how to remodel your house by thrifting.

Are you worried about missing part 2? Head over to the sidebar and subscribe to the RSS feed. It'll plop the update right in your inbox. :) 

Until next time!