To be honest, the “Free Stuff” section on Craigslist is a crap shoot (Just linked to the NY one for fun). If you follow this section on Craigslist regularly, it’ll be rare for you to see anything that’s actually worth your time. Once in a while though, you hit a jackpot.
In this post, I’ll go over how I monitor the “Free Stuff” section for my local Craigslist using RSS Feeds, which allowed me to pounce on a great deal that came up.
Monitoring Craigslist – RSS Feeds
When you search anything on Craigslist, you’ll get a long list of items. This can be cumbersome and time-consuming to review each time you search. To help manage this and single out any new information, you can set up an RSS feed.
For handling my RSS feeds, I use The Old Reader. It’s free, it has great functionality (it’s based on the older Google Reader – RIP), and best of all – your favorite blogs (maybe even this one?) are all in one place! The site will show you your entire list of blogs and if there are any new updates. Basically, you don’t have to go to 12 different blogs every morning.
To set up a local RSS feed for a section of Craigslist, go to your larger area Craigslist and select the “Free Stuff” section. This lists ALL the free stuff that’s in your larger Craigslist area. To pare it down a little, I then do a search using only my local area (see reference image – remember, I never said I was an artist).
Once I search the term for my area, I go down to the bottom of the page and click on this little RSS feed link that Craigslist makes for any search you have.
Voila! You now have an RSS feed for your specific search.
For an added bonus, if you want to expand your area for your search, you can add multiple areas/key words using the | symbol (right below the Backspace key) in between your search terms. This also applies to other categories on Craigslist, such as garage sales! I have RSS feeds for local garage sales and another for a larger area that includes using “church|flea|rummage” which lets me find church sales, rummage sales, or flea markets.
My Free Craigslist Deal
Now, I can’t link to the original Craigslist page since it was removed very quickly, but the listing said “Free IT books! Want to get rid of them all at once and ASAP!” I was able to do a few quick searches on Amazon to see that there were at least 2 which were selling well (they had a low Amazon Sales Rank < 1,650,000 for Books – here’s a great post explaining Amazon Sales Rank). So, I e-mailed the guy letting him know that I live 10 minutes away, and he quickly responded. He let me know that he had some additional Leadership and Dashboard books that he was trying to get rid of. I said throw them in!
In total, I got 83 books! Now, they weren’t all good. For my cutoff of “is it worth my time,” I use $5 profit. Generally, you can ignore shipping costs in your back of the envelope calculations for estimating profit (Amazon credits you $3.99 and media mail costs are generally ~$3-$5, or $4 on average). I’m not a high volume Amazon seller so instead of paying a monthly $40 fee, I pay $1 per transaction. If I ever average over 40 Amazon sales per month, I’ll probably move to the monthly fee since you can have unlimited sales without additional fees. For my calculation though, I guessed $5 for my Amazon fees (normally $4.50, but I’d rather overestimate). Back calculating, that gives me a price of $10 or higher for a “good” book
Out of the 83 books, 43 of them were in the good range! Listing is a cinch on Amazon (scan barcode or type in UPC, quickly note any damage/condition, match lowest price, type quantity, and click “list”).
I was able to go through all the books, including listing the good ones, in under 2 hours.
Free Stuff Profits
Here’s the numbers so far. Keep in mind, I only got the books 1 week ago!
Books sold so far: 15 (HOLY CRAP, RIGHT?)
Books left: 28
- Purchase price – $0.00
- End Selling Price (of the 15 so far) – $211.59
- Fees and Shipping/Handling – $60.02
Total Profit: $151.57
With a $0 investment, I’d say I’m doing pretty well so far! And I still have another 28 books left… This guy was just happy to get them out of his house though.
Two big lessons to take away from this flip:
- Always be hustling! Keep on the lookout for opportunities to flip some items for profit!
- Know the worth of your own stuff! Now, maybe this guy didn’t want to go through the work of selling all of these books on his own, but he had to know he spent a TON on them originally (many have prices of $40+ on the back). He could have easily gotten some $ from me for them.
Hopefully you’ll set up a few RSS Feeds on some of your favorite Craigslist searches and make a few scores!
Image Credit: Eli Duke