Our Craigslist Christmas.

Our Craigslist Christmas.

Last year, Will and I got our kids’ favorite Christmas gifts on Craigslist.

We didn’t set out to have a Craigslist Christmas, but as we started doing our (modest) Christmas shopping, we realized we couldn’t find what we were looking for in a store.

Our Craigslist Christmas | Modern Mrs Darcy

vintage typewriter from Etsy shop the spectacled newt

Sarah had wanted an antique typewriter for a while. I loved the idea of giving her a useful item that would hold its value, but it didn’t occur to me until mid-December that this was an idea we could actually make happen. If I could figure out how.

Etsy had quite a few gorgeous, expensive, and difficult-to-ship beauties, but I wanted something closer to $30 than $300 (or more!) I called a few area antique stores, none of which had any in stock at the moment, but one kind employee told me to look on Craigslist. She even gave me a target price range for the style I was looking for.

We’ve used Craigslist in the past to buy and sell everything from jogging strollers to free weights to end tables, but it never occurred to me to search the site for my kids’ Christmas gifts.

Sure enough, our first search turned up several typewriters, close to home and for the right price.

Our Craigslist Christmas | Modern Mrs Darcy

Inspired by our typewriter success, we set out to find a vintage train set like Jack has always wanted. And again, we found what we were looking for, close to home, and—after a big of haggling—for the right price.

The kids were thrilled with their gifts, and we were thrilled that we loved them. It didn’t hurt that Craigslist prices are negotiable, and that we didn’t have to go anywhere near the mall.

In hindsight, I can see we got lucky with our Craigslist Christmas shopping. I know a few people who are geniuses at finding great stuff on Craigslist, and they all say the same thing about finding the good stuff: give it time.

It’s early November. We don’t have all the time in the world between now and Christmas Day, but we’re a far cry from last minute. Last year we started our serious shopping when December was well into the double digits, because that’s when we finally got our burst of gift-giving inspiration. This year I’m trying (no really, I mean it this year) to plan ahead a little better, and that’s even more important if we want to shop on Craigslist.

Many people shop Craigslist for the deals, but it’s also a terrific place to pick up gifts you just can’t find anywhere else, especially antiques, collectibles, vintage finds. (Note: those aren’t just for kids!)

If you’re interested in your own Craigslist Christmas—or just in giving a few unique gifts you can’t find in the stores—now’s the time to start looking.

Penguin classics pile

Penguin classics on Etsy

Here’s your cheat sheet to great giftable items to find on Craigslist:  

any kind of collectible. Sarah’s typewriter and Jack’s train set fall squarely in this category. This category also includes things like action figures, cameras, clocks, tea sets, and dolls.
kids’ sports equipment. (It’s not Christmas, but we just got Jack a new-to-him bike off Craigslist last weekend. True to the above tip, it took us months to find what we wanted.)
toys, especially classic toys like Lego, Star Wars, Thomas the Tank Engine, American Girl. Craigslist is also a great place to pick up big items like train tables or play kitchens.
DVDs and CDs.
Books! Especially collectible books. I’m currently lusting after the vintage Penguin classics I saw on 5ftinf. I would be beyond ecstatic to find a few of these under the tree on Christmas morning.

We’re currently brainstorming what we want to get our own kids for Christmas, and when we think through the possibilities, we’re doing it with Craigslist in mind.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences with Craigslist, Christmas gifts, and collectibles. And if you have any good gift ideas for me, by all means, share them in comments. I need help! 

P.S. The MMD Christmas gallery.

Our Craigslist Christmas | Modern Mrs Darcy

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39 comments

  1. We do used on Amazon – used books, used CDs, used DVDs. It saves a lot of money (most of the time), and I’m not picky as long as everything works. I also try to go practical, so that means specialty foods, beverages, snacks, or unique kitchen gadgets that we’ve been eyeing for a while. It helps that we’re both foodies and enjoy spending time in the kitchen, so a gift for one tends to be a gift for both. 🙂

  2. Jenn says:

    My big problem with Craiglist? It requires me to talk to people, go see people, and sometimes haggle with people (I’m not good at this). The other problem is if you live in a more rural area you have to look at the nearest city and sift through everything to find the few that are close enough to you that the drive doesn’t negate the bargain price.

    How do you manage the people aspect while being an introvert?

    • Lisa Z says:

      You can and should always meet in a public place if possible (for large pieces of furniture it might not be–in that case I always make sure my husband is home or comes with me). I’ve met for Craigslist deals in grocery store parking lots mostly, during the day when others are nearby. I believe people are almost always trustworthy, but this is for “just in case.”

  3. Mimi says:

    I just sold my college-age daughter’s American Girl horse on craigslist to a very nice young couple who were buying it as a Christmas gift for their daughter. We’ve sold several items this summer, including a rototiller, a new gas water heater (we bought the wrong kind) and a treadmill. And my 18 year old son, inspired by those sales, bought a very nice road bike with his graduation money. Plus I almost forgot that we have hired 2 people this year with a craigslist employment ad. The ad goes in one day, we are bombarded with resumes that same day and interview the best candidates the next day.

  4. Shannon says:

    I have a sorta related question: I’m looking to give gifts of “future books” this year for Christmas. As in, pre-ordering books that will be coming out early next year by well known authors that you love. “Fairest” by Marissa Meyer is already on the list. Do you know of others that you would recommend? Thanks!

  5. Michele says:

    We have not only used Craigslist with great success, we also have used pawn shops. In TN we have a chain called Cash America. They have a great return policy & layaway. I was able to finally get my daughter a DSLR this Christmas for about 60% less than new! 🙂

  6. Shauna says:

    In addition to Craigslist, Facebook has similar groups. I live in a large metropolitan area, and we have Craigslist-type groups for every neighborhood, so I don’t have to drive all over town. Some are for moms, so they have a lot of toys, baby stuff, etc. Searching for items is quite manageable if the group is on the smaller side.

  7. Our neighborhood has a fantastic Google group that’s better than Craigslist in many respects. Most of us post there first, both seeking and selling. I’ve sold furniture, books, toys and outgrown kid clothing & shoes in the best way — I leave the box or bag next to my door, a neighbor slips a $20 under the door mat. So, so easy, and an introvert’s dream! I sold 3 pairs of Target jeggings that didn’t fit my girls this week. Tags still on, but I just did not want to step foot into Target again that week.

  8. Kari says:

    Speaking of Christmas, have you ever done a recommended list of books to give guys? Not that they can’t read others you suggest, but while I read novels, my husband tends to go for books like Lone Survivor, Freakonomics, and Malcom Gladwell titles. I’m on the hunt for books to buy him for Christmas!

  9. Stephanie says:

    Good idea! Keeping this in mind as Christmas approaches!

    P.S. I just totally searched “typewriter” on my local craigslist website…inspired by that beautiful picture in your post. How much did you end up spending on the one for your daughter?

  10. Marci says:

    We love Craigslist and use it for lots of things. I’ve bought and sold kid items, yard furniture, fish aquariums, you name it. I’ve really never had a bad experience, I just meet people in public places.

    In Dallas all my mom friends participate in Facebook online yard sales that are amazing and convenient (the whole leave it on your porch gig is nice)— but I’m not on Facebook and trying to avoid it, so alas, it’s Craigslist for me.

    Two things I wanted to mention. eBay is wonderful for used children’s books, especially out of print and older ones (basically all the good stuff!).

    Also, if you want to laugh hysterically and see some great Craiglist stories, you have to check out Victoria Elizabeth Barnes (website is http://www.victoriaelizabethbarnes.com). She is a hilarious storyteller and her Craigslist stories are just amazing. She is restoring an old Victorian home. You must read her Craiglist posts (she even has a separate section on her blog where they are organized)! Trust me. They are greatness.

  11. Abigail says:

    I have a question about the typewriter too- Do you mind sharing what style or any details of ones to look fo?. My daughter has asked for the same thing and I have looked on craigslist and there are a few for around $50. You price range helps, I just wonder if it is fine as long as it is actually usable. So any help is appreciated!

    • Anne says:

      We found her a Smith-Corona in decent working condition. I did some googling before we bought it and found a few websites dedicated to antique typewriters—finding them, buying them, repairing them, troubleshooting them—and that was really helpful as we looked.

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