My husband and I are conscious of our monthly budget and how expensive our kids' clothes and toys can be. We've frequently used Craigslist to buy and sell items. We have sold two of our cars on Craigslist and have bought entire loads of clothing that outfitted our son for a year for less than $40.
About six months ago, I started noticing that my mommy friends were joining groups on Facebook with names like "Chicago Moms" or "Shop My Daughter's Closet." Intrigued, I sent a request to join a group in my area. I discovered that some moms were using Facebook as a place to buy and sell items at deeply discounted prices. The group I joined has more than 3,000 members.
How these groups work
Sellers post photos and descriptions of items on the group's wall. Some items are free, while others are listed at a certain price. Most sites are not set up for auctions, like eBay, so if you're the first to claim an item for the price listed, it's yours. Moms communicate via private message, or PM, to arrange pickup. Most groups require that buyers pay cash at pickup time, and group pages are moderated by administrators — usually moms who volunteer to keep the pages safe and friendly. These groups can save you a lot of time by helping you get rid of items immediately, instead of waiting until summer to host a garage sale. And you can pick up some extra cash without having to label every item with a price tag. One of my friends has made about $400 in the past six months. But before you jump on Facebook and try to sell all your baby shoes, keep these things in mind:
Location, location, location
When you think about joining a group, consider how far you are willing to drive. If you can get a gently used high chair for $5, but you have to drive an hour to get it, you might want to take into account the cost of gas and the value of your time when deciding whether it's still a good deal. I live in the Chicago area, where visiting adjacent suburbs can still require a 30-minute car trip. So I chose to join a group that is for my town's residents only.
In my group, most of the moms meet in public places for the exchange of goods and money. If you are willing to have a buyer come to your home to pick up an item, make sure you aren't home alone. And if you go to someone's home to pick something up, don't go alone.
If you choose to sell items rather than give them away, set reasonable prices. You might have fond memories attached to your child's stroller, but your buyers don't. Don't let nostalgia drive your price so high that no one buys from you, but don't underprice, either. Scan your group's postings for similar items to see what's the going rate, so you can get the item out of your house quickly but still receive a fair price.
Ditch the drama
Some people get quite emotional about buying and selling. Don't let the drama queens ruin your fun! I suggest turning off Facebook notifications for each new post or reply. Instead, just go to the site when you want to buy or sell something. It not only will decrease your exposure to negative comments or situations, but also will keep your newsfeed from clogging up with items for sale.