Earlier in the week I wrote a guide to making money on eBay. In this post, I’m going to show you how to spend it!
Just like selling, buying on eBay quickly becomes addictive. You’ll soon start to question the price of everything you buy – from that Topshop tea dress to an adaptor for your electric toothbrush – and wonder if you can get it cheaper on eBay. And the answer is almost always yes – as long as you’re clever about it. That’s where the Little Bird Guide to Buying Stuff on eBay comes in.
What do you want?
Unless you have an entire week of total nothingness stretching in front of you, or you’re stuck on a desert island with someone interminably dull (and a 3G connection), eBay is not the place for idle browsing. You’ll just end up with RSI, a crick neck and 20 billion items on your watch list. It’s best to identify what you want before you start searching, and the best way to do that is find it elsewhere first.
Do your research – if you’re looking for, say, a dress for a wedding, think about brand, style, colour, fit and size, and include these parameters in your search. No results? Widen it a little. Fiddle about with your keywords (take a look at the buzzwords mentioned in my guide to selling) and use category filters ’til you have a manageable number of results. Then you can browse without quitting your job and becoming a hermit.
Okay, now I’ve said all that, I have a confession. The longer you spend trawling through listings, the bigger bargain you’ll get. That search for ‘black dress’ may return 567 pages of results, and ‘the one’ is probably on page 566. Persistance is key when it comes to successful eBay shopping.
How much do you want to pay?
eBay money is real money. Seriously. It took me a few years and more than one call from HSBC asking about ‘suspicious transactions’ to realise it, but it’s true. There’s something about the process of bidding that makes everything seem pretend, like playing Monopoly or ‘borrowing’ a tenner from your mum.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement and competition of an eBay purchase, but each bid is contractual and you should always be prepared to pay. So give yourself a maximum bid based on what you think the item is worth and (this is the hard part) stick to it.
How low can you go?
There are a few things you can do to ensure you get the very best price on eBay, but the main one is this – do not bid until the auction is very nearly over. If you bid any early than the dying seconds, you’re just pushing the price higher as other people bid over you. It takes nerves of steel to wait until the last 30 seconds before showing any kind of interest in an auction, so you need your game face on. Sit on your hands if you must. Just keep away from that ‘place bid’ button.
Can’t control yourself? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us, especially when you stumble across something so undeniably perfect you just can’t stop. That’s where Goofbay comes in. Use the sniper tool to set your maximum bid for the auction and it’ll do all the nail-biting bits for you. Then you can sit back and laugh manically as your fellow bidders marvel at your eBay prowess.
Goofbay should be part of any eBayer’s weapons arsenal – other useful features include a misspelt keywords search and seller history check. It’s also great for those annoying auctions that finish at 3.27am or clash with your best friend’s birthday, because you don’t have to be at your computer to place your bid. Although if you’re a hardened eBay addict (like me), you might want to download the eBay for iPhone app to get your fix wherever you are (probably best to close it when she’s blowing out the candles, though).
You won! … Or not
Bagging a bargain on eBay is quite an achievement these days – almost everyone knows its money-making potential, and many sellers play dirty to preserve their profits. Shill bidding can be a problem and prices are pushed up as more people turn to the site as an alternative to the ever-expensive high street. But with savvy searching, it is possible to get what you want for less. Here are my favourite bargains:
- Topshop chunky cardigan – RRP £48, bought for £24
- Vintage leather pencil skirt – RRP approx. £70, bought for £13
- Vintage Levi’s 501 jeans – RRP £50, bought for £1.72
- Indian handpainted wooden Christmas decorations – RRP priceless, bought for £12
What are your tips for buying things on eBay? What’s been your best bargain?