How to get better at finding eBay bargains

Miss Thrifty11 May 26, 2009

Ah, I remember when I picked up a Ballantyne cashmere top and a fitted, 1970s velvet jacket for mere pennies. I even bought my 1920s wedding dress from eBay, for around £25. The influx of buyers means that those salad days are long gone, but the increased traffic to eBay has had another, wholly delightful result.

There aren’t just more buyers; there are lots more sellers too. It means that if you press the right buttons (quite literally, in this case), you can dig out some super-spesh bargains in seconds. And this is what I do:

When I’m searching for items these days, I rarely search using brand names. Honourable exceptions, as detailed in a previous post about buying fashion on eBay, are a few labels including Tristan Webber, Boudicca, Elspeth Gibson and Ben de Lisi.

The rest of the time, this box is my friend:

You’ll find it on the left-hand side of the page, at the bottom of the sidebar. Enter your postcode in full, and set the distance to 10 miles. It filters your search results so that only those within 10 miles of your postcode are shown.

So far, so good. Another way to do this is to open up your chosen category, then go for the Sort By box at the top right, and set it to Distance: nearest first.

The trick, I have found, is to apply the filter when you are viewing large, general categories. Women’s Clothing, for example, or Pushchairs & Prams. It whittles them right down. Most likely there will also be a number of items in your results that have low or zero bids, because the title was spelled wrongly, because the picture is rubbish or non-existent – or just because. They are yours! The other money-saving wheeze, of course, is that you can pick them up in person, so you won’t have to pay postage costs.

The Home & Garden and Antiques categories are great for this: the majority of furniture up on eBay is being touted by private sellers who specify “collection only”. It narrows their pool of willing buyers dramatically – and you can pick up some great bargains. (My favourite purchase: an art deco lamp with a beautiful milk glass shade, now gracing my desk.) If you live nearby, some sellers will even drop bulky items off to you, for zero or minimal cost.

However, you can also have a lot of fun in Clothing & Accessories. When I do this I go into Women’s Clothing, set the distance to within 10 miles of my postcode, then rack up the filtered results using the Distance: nearest first box on the right. I also apply another filter: I go into the box on the left-hand sidebar and set my size. Usually, the stuff at the top of the results belongs to sellers in my home town here in Yorkshire. So the items that are there are (a) my size and (b) within walking distance, so I don’t have to pay the postage charges.

I find that postage charges on eBay can often be inflated, so I do like to avoid them when I can. I also like being able to hunt out good clothes; so many clothes are now posted on eBay that, unless you’re looking for pieces from one designer in particular, trying to find that perfect item can be extremely difficult.

Finally, if someone in your town has put a chunk of their wardrobe up for sale, and one of those items is in your size and to your taste, chances are that the rest of the items are going to be in your size and in your taste too.

This is simple stuff, but it’s a veritable bargain bonanza. Example: right now I’m watching a clutch of items including a green olive silk dress from Toast, a cream tea dress from Zara, a bizarre-but-beautiful silk kimono top and a layered shift from Jigsaw. All in my size, all ending tomorrow, all within walking distance and all currently priced at between £0.99 and £3.20, with hardly any bidders. (I’m also watching an Alice Temperley top, which ends tomorrow and is currently priced at £10.50; Temperley tends to go for a bomb on eBay, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one….) Wish me luck!

Image credit: Dru Bloomfield.

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11 Responses to “How to get better at finding eBay bargains

Janet says:

Thanks for this great tip! I used it last night and came up with loads of great bargain items. I messaged a bunch of sellers from my watch list and was pleased to see only two said no to collection. This is a great way of looking through the daunting Women’s Clothing category.

May 27, 2009 at 9:29 am

Holly says:

This is such an awesome post Mis Thrifty! Thank you so much. I’ve been thinking about buying clothes on eBay for a while but it’s such a minefield of crap it makes my head hurt. You are a star!!

May 27, 2009 at 10:36 am

Great tips! I’ve actually been toying around with a similar strategy, but this is so much more concise and I love love the idea of picking up items instead of paying for postage. I’m kitting out the new flat, so the antiques section near N1 is going to take a beating!

May 28, 2009 at 12:53 am

admin says:

Thanks for the comments guys! Hope you find some great bargains. An update on my own auction activities, as detailed above: I won the Jigsaw shift dress for £1.04. I would have had the Temperley top too, if I hadn’t lost myself in The Apprentice last night – that item only went for £19-odd in the end!

Miss T.

May 28, 2009 at 11:18 pm

sarah says:

I find the website ‘fatfingers’ good, as it finds all the items that have been mispelt for instance – guerlain may have been spelt gerlain. Very handy!

May 31, 2009 at 8:58 am

admin says:

I love Fat Fingers too! I even did a post about it, but it was a while back:

I have better luck with Electricals, e.g. “cannon camera” rather than “canon camera”, than I do with anything else though. Haven’t tried Beauty – will give that a shot…

Miss T

May 31, 2009 at 11:33 am

Suzanne says:

Great tip and typos are so common on Ebay listings you can definately grab a bargain by typing in common mistakes.

weeding dress has to be my favourite at the moment!

June 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm

thankyou so much i just tried this and found so many great buys in my local area all within my budget!

January 4, 2010 at 4:10 pm

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