Homesteading can be expensive and you’ll need a lot of supplies! Luckily, there are ways to get free items! Find out how and why we use Craigslist to get tons of free homestead supplies!
I feel like our homestead should have a sign that says “Zenstead Farms: Brought to you by the Craigslist Free Section”!
All joking aside, Craigslist is a super integral part of our homesteading success! Because, contrary to popular belief, establishing a new homestead isn’t cheap and it takes a lot of supplies! The more that we can find for free, the better! Craigslist provides a way to source cheap or free homestead supplies!
There are so many free homestead supplies that you can find on Craigslist! If you use it right, it can be a game-changer for your homestead! But there is a bit of a learning curve to master in order to get the best supplies. So I’m going to do my very best to share my vast Craigslist knowledge with you!
Yes, I know we’ve all heard the horror stories about how dangerous Craigslist is and how you should avoid using it. I will briefly address safety later in this post, but I’ve honestly had the opposite experience. In fact, most people who list things on Craigslist are people just like you and me! We’ve sold and given away plenty of things on Craigslist, and I like to think that we aren’t that scary or creepy (but watch out for the cat because she’s sketchy AF).
Plus, finding awesome items on Craigslist is fun! It honestly feels like a treasure hunt! We always get a bit of a “high” when we are the first ones to show up and snag something amazing for free! And we’ve manage to get a lot of free stuff over the past couple years!
Free homestead supplies we’ve gotten from Craigslist:
- Truckloads of bark/mulch
- Pots, watering cans, potting mixes and other gardening supplies
- Flagstone and landscape rocks
- Pavers and bricks
- Picnic tables, patio umbrellas and outdoor chairs and benches
- Firewood (this is how we heat our house for free each winter)
- Sprinkler and irrigation system parts
- Pallets and wooden crates
- Our chick brooder and seed starting cabinet (made from a free entertainment cabinet)
- Animals (this is how we got our composting bunnies!)
- Plants, starts and sod
Purchasing homestead supplies on Craigslist:
If you can’t find enough free homestead supplies, there are lots of items you can purchase on Craigslist. And they are often priced well below what you would pay for the brand new version in stores!
When purchasing items on Craigslist, do your homework and make sure it’s a good deal. Occasionally, we’ve found items listed for more on Craigslist than they are in stores (because people be cray-cray). But for the most part, you can get a good deal on items. We always check Craigslist first for things like lumber, t-posts and metal roofing.
Last summer, we bought some brand new lumber and a brand new, in-the-box gazebo to build our outdoor kitchen space. We paid $700 for the lumber which would have been around $1800 if we bought it at the store. We paid $500 for the gazebo and it retails at $900.
7 techniques to successfully use Craigslist to get free homestead supplies:
So, what’s the secret to getting free homestead supplies on Craigslist? You’ve got to be dedicated and persistent! Luckily, you are a homesteader and probably already possess those qualities! Here’s my best advice on how to use Craigslist to find cheap and free homestead supplies!
1. Choose the right locations:
Craigslist varies a lot from area to area and town to town. Obviously, more affluent areas will have different items than poorer areas. And a more agricultural area will have different items that an urban area. For instance, here in Idaho, we have a lot of things that are constantly on the free section like pallets and lumber. But our friends who live in SanDiego have a much harder time finding these items. Keep this in mind, especially if there are a couple of different areas near you that you can choose from.
2. Know when to watch for items:
There are also certain times of year to watch for the items you need! During these times, you will want to be very consistent with checking for postings. Gardening items are posted most often in early Spring and Fall when people are cleaning their yards and gardens. I’ve also found that the first couple of warm, sunny weekends of the year are pure gold! People are outside cleaning up their properties and doing projects so they post a lot of great things on Craigslist. If you need indoor items, the first of the year is a great time to watch because people are cleaning and organizing as part of their New Year’s resolutions. I’ve noticed that winter and the hottest part of summer are the least active times for postings in our area.
3. Be willing to get your hands dirty:
Buying an item at the store is very different than Craigslist! It’s not uncommon that you will need to put in some manual labor to claim your items! We’ve dug up sod, plants, landscape rocks and pavers from people’s yards and even taken apart wooden structures! In fact, when we moved, we sold our beloved chicken coop on Craigslist. The person who bought it showed up with a flatbed trailer, a skid steer and about 10 of the most ripped country boys I’ve ever seen. They had it moved within half an hour!
Putting in some labor is often the trade-off for getting free or cheap items. Luckily, it’s also what discourages a lot of your competition! Be prepared by dressing appropriately and bringing tools and wheelbarrows. Depending on the item, plan on spending upwards of a couple hours loading your items.
4. Check often & act fast:
This is the most important thing I can tell you about Craigslist! I can’t stress enough how important it is to constantly check Craigslist, especially the free section! Most good items will be claimed within the first 15-30 minutes after being posted. Checking often is especially important with “Curb Alert” items which can go quickly (these are items that are placed on the curb and can be claimed by the first person who shows up).
Not only do you need to check often, but you also need to be ready to jump in your car and go get the items! On weekends and evenings when we are home, we will refresh Craigslist every half hour or so. This is the best way that we’ve found to claim free items before others get to them. It may seem like a lot of work, but it has absolutely paid off for us!
5. Weed out the junk!
When I tell people about the things we get from Craigslist, they are often shocked and say that they only see junk on Craigslist. There is a lot of junk on Craigslist! I swear that at least 15 couches are posted everyday in the free section! And I’ve even seen some highly questionable items (like a rather large collection of adult “toys”). Weird! But don’t give up! The reason you see so much junk is because the good items are claimed quickly and the postings are taken down. Be persistent and keep checking – it will pay off!
6. Make a mental inventory of the items you need:
If you really want to be successful on Craigslist, you have to find the balance between striking when items are available without collecting a bunch of things you can’t actually use! Cause no one wants their homestead to look like a complete dump! Ain’t nobody got time for that!
The best way to do this is to have a mental inventory of the projects you want to accomplish over the next few years. That way, you can collect the items you know you’ll actually need and use.
For instance, we know that we want a fire pit area with flagstone around it. We have no plans of doing this project until next year at the earliest, but we also know how expensive flagstone is! It’s also one of those items that doesn’t last long on Craigslist before being claimed! So we’ve been watching for flagstone for over a year already and we have collected about 75% of what we need to complete the project. Finding free items is definitely a long game to play, but if you are prepared, you can save a considerable amount of money and still accomplish all your projects!
7. Be safe:
The most important thing to remember when using Craigslist is to be safe! I would say 99.9% of people listing items on Craigslist are good people. But there is still the 0.1% that you need to be wary of.
We have never had any scary incidents. I did have a strange one (which felt like a cross between the Beverly Hillbillies and Children of the Corn), but the people were harmless. When meeting up with someone or going to their house, try to take someone with you. If you do have to go alone, meet in a public place if possible. Also, let someone know exactly where you are going and check in with them when you are done picking up the item. And if you ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable, leave right away!
Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start treasure hunting!