Sunday, 20 April 2014

Tips for Pretty on the Cheap: How to Become an Ebay Ninja!

If there's one thing this blog has always been about, it's trying to get a home that looks the business without spending stupid amounts of money.  Wayne and I are in a position that we can both work full time and we don't have children (well, except our fur babies) so while we're not exactly on the bread line, we want our hard-earned cash to work hard for us.  And no matter what financial position you find yourself in, I'm pretty sure you want the same thing.

There's nothing worse than spending top whack on something only to see it in the sales a few weeks later. Or seeing a DIY that replicates something you've just spent good money on to buy new.

I also sincerely believe and have said many times before that your home should be a reflection of you and the people who live in your home. There's nothing worse than falling into the 'Ikea Pit' - seeing a showroom set up and buying everything in it to replicate it in your own home. It's also one of the reasons I am not a big fan of the 'hotel' look - when there is nothing in a room that really reflects the personalities of the owner, a room lacks soul, it lacks personality.  There's something intrinsically missing from it - you can physically FEEL the lack of presence in the room.  It's not a good look, no matter how pretty it appears in the pages of a catalogue, book or on your screen because it feels staged.

So I thought I'd start putting together a little list of some of my top tips for Getting Pretty on the Cheap. Tips that will help you to curate a beautiful home without spending too much money but also getting that personality along the way.

Now I do love an eclectic look so that's the perspective I'm coming from here.  Keeping an open mind is important - I sometimes have something very specific in mind for a room but then simply can't find it or can't afford it. It's happened more times than I care to mention. But that takes me to my first tip...

Ebay Saved Search makes me a Super Search Ninja


Any time I am looking for something really specific, I will create a 'Saved Search' on eBay.

Let's say I'd like to find some nice faux bamboo Chinese Chippendale chairs (god knows I spent a lot of time looking for my dining set).  Ya know, the ones like Jonathan Adler has on his site for £795 per chair.

(Ok, I'll let that sink in for a second because SERIOUSLY. £795 PER CHAIR.)

(Right, are you over the shock?  Good cuz the one I got above cost me £107 including painting and upholstery.  Back to the post.)

First, I will type in 'bamboo chair' into the search box.

Now, that's not specific enough because I'll end up seeing so much crap from so many miles away that I'll get hundreds of results.



Then I will click under categories, "Home, Furniture and DIY" to further filter my results.




Then I'll just click on 'Furniture'.



Now because I am only looking for vintage chairs, I don't want any results that show me 'New' items - antiques and vintage items will always be 'Used'.  So scroll down on your screen to that option and tick that little box.


I also want to make sure I'm searching within my budget.  So for argument's sake, let's say I have set myself a limit of £100 for a chair.  You want to stick that in the little field that says 'Price'.


We're not done yet.  Now, furniture as a general rule (especially if it's used) will normally be collection only. So there's no point in looking for furniture that's 200 miles away, pretty as it may be, because I don't want to drive 200 miles to go pick it up. No, I want to just look at furniture that's, say, within 25 miles of my home (a reasonable drive for me, maybe you are happy to go 50 miles or only 10, that's fine).

See that blue text that says 'More Refinements'?  You want to click there.


You'll get a little box that pops up and what you want to click on is 'Item Location'.  And you want to specify how many miles from your postcode that you're willing to travel. (I blurred out my postcode but you get the idea.)


Ok, so now you should only see a few items that specifically meet your search.  But what if you don't see anything you like?  Well, here's the big secret... you need to 'Follow the Search'.

Yes, there may not be anything today but what about tomorrow and the day after that or the week after that?  Instead of having to perform this search every time, you only have to do it once.


And what you want to do is sign up for email alerts.


Now sit back and relax because Ebay does the work for you. You just have to check your email and anytime a new listing goes on that meets your exact search requirements you'll get an email to let you know. You can conveniently browse the selections from within the email and click on through to any that take your fancy.

In a case like this, I would actually set up multiple searches. And I would follow the same basic principles except under 'Antiques'.


This way, you'll be searching items from both those that know their antiques (easier to find but higher priced) and those that just think they have some old chairs they want to get rid of that their (rather cool clearly) grandma passed down to them (harder to find but cheaper in price).

I've used this method for nearly every vintage item I have in my home and it always works well for me. Sometimes, it takes months to find the right thing but at least I'm only spending a minute or two looking at an email rather than having to perform search after search every time I remember what I'm looking for.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

1. Do not be overly specific in your search terms.  While I could have created a search for 'Chinese Chippendale Faux Bamboo Chairs', I know full well that the best prices are going to be from people who don't really know what they're listing. If someone recognises that it's a Chinese Chippendale style chair, the good likelihood is that they are going to be charging top whack for it. So make your search terms a little less specific and you'll find the better bargains.

2. Be aware of misspelled words. It absolutely drives me batty how many people in England spell 'drawers' as 'draws' (yes, we know you guys don't pronounce your 'r's' but that doesn't mean it's not there.) - common misspellings like this, however, are a great way to find things that other people will miss. Using something like 'Goofbid' will find lots of these listings for you.


3.  Crappy pictures do not always mean crappy items. This is the original listing for my new TV cabinet. It wasn't a great picture but I knew it had potential.  Thankfully, no one else did and I was the only bidder which means I got the cabinet at the original listing price, no auction craziness required.


Which as you know, later became this...


So those are my top tips on how to become an Ebay Ninja and get pretty on the cheap!

Did you find these tips helpful? Would you like me to provide some more of my top tips? Let me know because I'll make this a little series if so!  If you are already an Ebay Ninja, what are some of your top tips? I'd love to hear from you and share your wisdom with my readers!



Don't miss a thing!




13 comments:

  1. I had no idea about the "Follow my search" option! No wonder I'm such a useless Ebayer! Off searching for a few cool new Ebay finds now... thanks for the tips!
    Cx

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  2. Thanks for the tips! I so second Christine (up above)... I gotta try that out!

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  3. More tips like this please - you just saved me hours and hours of agonising searches! Thanks!

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  4. This is fantastic - thank you!! (From another useless Ebayer about to become a Ninja...) ;)

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  5. Thank you for this great tip. Hoping to put this to use soon :-)

    Claire x

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  6. love that TV cabinet!
    that's exactly what i do on ebay too!

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  7. love it! i fly my eBay ninja flag high and proud!

    happy monday.

    michele

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  8. Love your finished project! Such a great job and great eye!
    Leelee @ paperbagstyling

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  9. Wow! I had no idea of the potential on EBAY!!! I have been searching on craigslist for months... And not finding much. We need to furnish our new home and the completely empty nursery for our son due in 10 weeks. Thanks for all the help!!! Woohoo!

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  10. WHUT. Mother fucking ninja skills! I would have never have thought of doing that.

    I find eBay a little bit intimidating and therefore have only ever used it a couple of times. I don't know that I like the idea that you could end up spending more on an item just because someone else wants it too. Having said that, if I was looking for something specific, this sounds like the absolute skills.

    You go girl.

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  11. I love the tips because I'm terribly unsuccessful on ebay

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  12. Love ebay most of my furniture is from it. What color is on your walls in the first picture?

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