Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tips For Getting Free Stuff on Craigslist

I think that everybody in the Western world probably already knows about Craigslist, but did you know that every Craigslist has a "Free" section? It's the bomb. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff you can find on the Free list. Nice furniture given away by people who are moving tomorrow and need it gone now. Building materials, a million couches (some nice, some disgusting), entire playscapes, hot tubs, craft materials, pallets, landscaping rocks or gravel or bricks, and working appliances are all items I see regularly. Not every once in a while, but regularly. Some other things I've seen recently on the Free list: roosters, rabbits, dogs, kittens, gerbils, sporting and concert tickets, scrap metal, television sets, a newborn boy, and a male. The one labeled "newborn boy" scared me but it was just someone looking for free baby items for their new baby boy. The one labeled simply "male" scared me, too, and I was too afraid to click on it with my 9-year old looking over my shoulder. I will try not to think about it. Some things on Craigslist are better left unexamined.

Christmas morning on our Craigslist futon
Lindsey at Northwest Backyard Veggies had a fun post this week called The Craigslist Rule Book. You should check it out because it is funny and illuminating. She talks about general rules for being a good Craigslist buyer and seller. I have a few tips specific to getting stuff on the Craigslist Free section. The first thing you need to know about the good stuff on the Free list is:

1) The good stuff goes fast. Really fast. You can contact the person 20 minutes after the ad goes up and not get it. Now, don't let this get you down. If the ad is still posted and you want the item, go ahead and contact the person even if it has been listed awhile. Sometimes the first (and second and third...) person has flaked out and that's when you step in. Or, strangely, no one else was chomping at the bit for the antique hand-crank washing machine that was going to require four burly men to load. So what I'm saying is, if you are interested in something by all means contact the seller immediately.

2) Check the listings often. Because stuff goes so quickly it pays to check the listings often. Also, checking often familiarizes you with what is being offered regularly in your area. There is an abundance of free hot tubs offered on the Austin Craigslist. In other parts of the country you see a lot of above-ground pools. During garage sale season there are lots of garage sale leftovers listed.

3) Offer very prompt pickup. Most people who offer things for free just want the stuff out of their space as quickly as possible. In your very first email you need to offer to pick up the item as soon as you possibly can. Don't say "I can pick it up this weekend". People who say that are not sure they really want the stuff. Say "I can pick it up tonight after 5pm". Which leads me to tip #4:

4) Be specific in your response. When you respond to a free ad go ahead and tell the seller/donor exactly when you are available. Offer flexibility, too. "I can pick up the item tonight after 5pm, tomorrow morning before noon, or at another time if that works best for you."

One of my favorite scores was a huge box of swing-top homebrew bottles. Tonight I am the backup person for a load of 4,900 (yes, you read that right) tiny aluminum lip balm and hand salve tins. Brand new! That would be such a score and then everyone I know would be getting homemade lip balm for Christmas this year. I'm also waiting to hear back from someone giving away three rabbits, their hutch, and all their accessories. I've been wanting to add some meat rabbits to the homestead but I had planned to wait until fall. As I told Mr. Chanclas, though, you don't turn down 3 rabbits + hutch+ the goods for FREE. You just don't. So I'm anxiously awaiting the word on that one.

Scavenge on, my friends!


  1. We have Freecycle where I live which serves a very similar purpose. I love it!

  2. 4900 lip balm tins?!? That's amazing! I'm crossing my fingers and toes for you b/c that would be a major score.

    You could make solid perfume, beeswax lip balm, eye shadow, tinted lip balm, coconut oil and calendula hand salve, and on and on.... :-)

    1. I am currently the backup person on the lip balm tins. I'll send you some if I get them!

  3. I am disappointed to report that I didn't get the lip balm tins OR the rabbits. Bummer.

  4. Dammit. Sorry bout that too.

    LOVE me some free CL! I just got a half YARD of natural gardener compost FREE. I almost fainted.

  5. I love Craigslist, I'll have to check out that list and see if any in"Free" section will be free.

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