How to save money shopping on EBay

Posted by: Jason

One of the parts of collecting miles and points that appeals to me is the notion that by doing the extra work, you’re saving money. I would never pay to go to the Maldives, but by accumulating enough points and miles – I am willing to take this exotic trip.

The same philosophy rules the rest of my life in pretty much all facets. I’m always hunting for ways to save money and get value by paying less for items. Today I’m going to share with you how I personally shop on EBay that has been quite lucrative in the past. I’ve bought and sold on Ebay for 12 years. I’ve sold everything from car tires, telephone mainframes, to Ligretto card sets from Germany. I have also purchased a far amount of items as well and have found a method pick up great items at cheap prices.

Step 1: Determine what you want and what you’re willing to pay This may seem like common sense – but if you know what you want to buy and how much you’re willing to pay ahead of time, you won’t get caught in a last minute bidding war for something. Unless it’s a one of a kind unique item that you’ll never see again, chances are it’s going to pop up again.

Step 2: Get creative on how to find the item. Let’s take an example if you’re looking for a Dirk Nowitzki jersey. By doing a simple search on Ebay, we get 310 items with Dirk Nowitzki jersey in the auction.

Now normally you would just scroll through and find a particular item you like and start bidding on. But what about if instead you tried to find items that no one is going to find? In this example, do you know how many people can’t spell Nowitzki? By using the website fatfingers.com – we can find auctions from people that misspelled them and therefore there will be less people bidding on them.

At Fatfingers, you type in the item that you’re looking for it and it will search for spelling variations of that. In this case, we’re going to type in Dirk Nowitzki and hit enter. It searches for Dirk Mowitzki,Dirk Niwitzki,Dirk Nowitski, etc. and we find 70 auction from people that can’t spell Dirk Nowitzki.

The auctions that we want to concentrate on are “Auctions” and not “Buy it Now Auctions“. The reason is: people who are selling via buy it now auctions have already set a high price for what they think the item is worth and therefore there is no opportunity to get a cheap deal.

We can now save this search and have Ebay send us an automated email each hour, day, week – whatever we chose to send us auctions with these misspellings. To save a search, click on the “Save Search” hyperlink to the right of the search results. I have several daily searches running for specific items I’m looking to get a bargain on. As an example, people misspell the name of the most popular basketball player of all time: Michael Jordan. Here are 519 auctions for Micheal Jordan.

Let’s identify an auction that would be interesting – in our case, here’s an auction for a Dallas Mavericks Adidas jersey for Dirk Nowtiski.

This is a perfect candidate with an item we want, a misspelled name and a low starting bid. Traditional logic would be to place your bid now and come back right before the end of the auction to bid some more. This isn’t going to save us any money and certainly not any time.

Step 3: Use automated bidding
Let’s rely on some automation to help us grab this item at the last second. I’ve always used a pay service called “Esnipe“. The thought behind ESnipe is they wait until the last second and place your final bid.

Simply create an esnipe account which will require you to put in your ebay username and password since they are bidding on your behalf. Next, you’ll enter in the item number of the item you wish to bid on.

Esnipe will pull up the item information and here is where you will determine how much to bid for. What is the maximum you’re willing to pay for this item? I’m willing to pay $40. Therefore, I would put in a bid of $40.78 for this item. Why not an even number like $40? Most people place bids in even numbers so by adding a couple of extra random cents, you would beat someone else that bid $40 even. Enter in your maximum bid. The “checkup” box is how many minutes prior to the auction end would an automated email will be sent to you letting you know where the auctions stand. The buffer is how many seconds prior the auction end should esnipe place your bid. I always use the default 6 seconds so another bidder won’t have time to bid higher.

At this point, I’m unconcerned if this item sells for more than $40.78 as this is the highest I wanted to pay for this item. If I get outbid, I’ll just keep looking for another item that’s interesting and do the same method.

As mentioned above, Esnipe is a pay service, but the fees are nominal. I’ve only purchased bid points 3 times over 7 years.

Some other quick tips to remember:

1) always check a seller’s feedback prior to bidding to make sure they’re reputable
2) always pay with Paypal with a Visa / MC. This allows you to have some chargeback ability should things go south. The chargeback ability with American Express is pretty shaky with them (as least since the last time I checked).
3) always read all the way through the auction for descriptions about condition of the item.
4) avoid international sellers. Being US based, I personally only buy from US sellers.

I hope the above method will be helpful for you to save money shopping on Ebay. I’ve purchased hundreds of items using this method – there are some real bargains to be had out there.

  • Frequent Miler said,

    Great post. I bet there are some really good arbitrage opportunities here

  • Sice said,

    Looks like you can use your DL flight time wisely now too:

    Buy and sell in the sky this holiday season and beyond.

    You can now enjoy complimentary access to eBay on board all of our
    Wi-Fi-equipped flights.

    From the “new” to the “hard to find” – when it’s on your mind, it’s on eBay. And now you can stay connected to eBay after you take off. Just click on the eBay banner on the Delta Connect Wi-Fi portal, and you can surf the site for free during your flight.

  • jason said,

    @frequentmiler – thanks!

  • Free In-Flight Ebay Access And Money Saving Ebay Tips - Points Miles and Martinis said,

    [...] fellow BoardingArea blogger MilesQuest, shares his tips here for a simple way to save money shopping on Ebay. It involves searching for misspelled words of [...]

  • romsdeals said,

    nice post! are you reselling these items back on Ebay or another method? Craigslist? Seems very tedious. I also buy and sell, but not that often.

  • jason said,

    @romsdeals – mostly for gift shopping and personal use. My favorite work pants cost me $12!

  • Shane said,

    What about shopping potals and Ebay. I know Virgin Australia have a Velocity Rewards shopping portal that lists ebay and I so does the Marriott Rewards program. Always wondered how a shopping portal would work with ebay.

  • Grant said,

    @Jason, I have used this technique for many years to find some good deals. you would be surprised at how simple words can be misspelled. I use a site called https://www.myibidder.com/ to do all my snipping of auctions.

  • jason said,

    @Grant – good to know I’m not the only one!

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