My system for getting deals from online classified ads

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Everyone wants to find a good deal on Craigslist or one of the other online classified listing sites. But most people just go about it “hit or miss” and hope to be lucky and come across an amazing bargain. For me, I want to make this process as easy as possible, and also increase my chances for getting a deal before someone else does. Here’s how I do that.

classified ad bargains


(Note: if you want to use this system yourself but would rather have me set it up for you, I can do that remotely. Just email me at

To show you how I do this, the example I’ll use is the process I implement every day: my search for bikes.

My wife and I work with an organization called Blanket Tampa Bay, which provides clothing, toiletries and other necessities for people here in this area that are experiencing homelessness. Every Monday night we see 100-150 people and provide them with a hot meal, clothes, personal items, etc. A few months ago, I thought it would be a great idea to work on getting some bikes for these people. So many of them just walk everywhere, so a bike is a huge help. Just having some form of transportation opens up more job opportunities as well.

So I have gotten several bikes donated from local people by posting on Facebook, etc. But to continue getting more, I have to go online and look at the online ad sites where people are selling bikes. I have found that if someone is selling an adult bike in decent shape for $30 or less, there’s a fair chance that they’d be willing to donate it to a good cause. So far I’ve been able to bring 3 bikes each Monday for the last several weeks.

BUT – that means if there’s a good bike for sale at a low price, I need to be the first one to contact the owner, before someone else just goes there and buys it. For that, I’ve developed a pretty efficient system. And you can adapt this same system for whatever YOU want to buy – whether it’s a bike, a car, a computer, or anything else that’s for sale from a local person.

For this process, I use 4 online classified ad sites:

Facebook Marketplace ( –
This is my favorite.

OfferUp (
Also a good site, pretty close to FB Marketplace.

Craigslist (
Classic classified ads site, has some pros and cons.

LetGo (
Definitely my least favorite, but there are some bargains on there.

And to view all these sites the way I want to view them, I use the Chrome web browser.

So far, no big secret really. LOTS of people use these sites to find things for sale. The difference is HOW these sites get used.

For me, I have very specific search criteria. I want to see bikes for sale that are $30 or less, and are within 20 miles of my location. So anyone can go on a site, do a search for the word “bike” and then set the search filters for price and location. For most people, they do that manually. Which means sometimes they don’t do it – they just type in “bike” and hope to get lucky. That means they’re going to miss some of the ads, which is good for me. The ads that they miss, I want to definitely see.

So here’s how we set this up.

Open Chrome, and make sure the Bookmarks bar is being shown (you can do this in Settings). On the bookmarks bar, do a right click and choose “Add folder”. We’ll call this folder “Bikes <30” since it will only show us bikes that are under $30.

search folder


Now, we go to Facebook Marketplace. I type my search term “bike” and see all the bikes displayed.¬† Then I go over on the left column and set my location to Safety Harbor, Florida. I also set my maximum price at $30, and the distance to within 20 miles.

search filters


So now my search results are much more specific. If I wanted to, I could also put in a “minimum” price of maybe $5. That’s because in this search, I’m also going to see things like bike air pumps, bike seats, etc. which of course I don’t want to see. But that’s optional.

Now that you have the search set up the way you want, you just need to drag that website address into the “Bikes <30” folder. Look up in the address bar where you see the padlock or the word “Secure”. You can click and drag that to the folder and drop it there. Now that specific search on Facebook Marketplace is in that folder – you just need to go there and open it (but there’s a specific way to do that also, which we’ll cover in a minute).

Next up is OfferUp. We’re going to do the same thing here – set the search, set the filters, and once that’s all in place we drag that site to the same folder. For some reason, I set my distance in OfferUp to 10 miles. I really can’t remember if I had a reason for that or not, but that’s what it is.

offerup search


Then we do the same thing with LetGo. I really don’t like LetGo, mainly because you have to actually click on the ad in order to see the price. And, you can’t filter for maximum price. So the search results are just a big list of bikes, most of which don’t fall into my criteria. But sometimes I do come across a bargain on there, so I include it.

And finally we have Craigslist. We will add the Craigslist search to the folder as well, but with this one we’ll be able to be a lot more specific in our search results.

For the other sites, since I’m searching for low-priced bikes, a lot of the ads that come up in the search results are kids bikes. So I have to just scroll past all those ads and just look for pictures of adult bikes. But with Craigslist, we can do a more specific search.

Here’s how I set up my Craigslist search. Go to Craigslist for my area (the Tampa Bay area of Florida) and click on the “Bikes” category. Add maximum price and distance from my zip code, and click “Update Search”. And now, I can enter the filtering words in the search field. You do that just by typing the “minus” sign followed by the search word (no space in between).

For example, I don’t want to see any ads with the word “girls” in it (because most bikes advertised as a “girls bike” is a bike for a kid). So I type: -girls

Same thing for the search words boys, girl’s, boy’s, childs, child’s, kids, kid’s and whatever else might eliminate some of the ads that don’t meet your criteria. I’ve found that this set of search filters narrows it down pretty nicely for me:

craigslist filters


And Craigslist has another feature that is really handy. Most people don’t use it but it can give you a HUGE advantage in finding deals faster than other people. You have the ability to save your search in your Craigslist account, and then tell Craigslist to EMAIL you whenever a new ad is created that matches your search!

At the end of your search field, click on “Save Search”:

save search


In the next window, make sure the “Alert” box for that search is checked:

search alert


There have been cases where an ad is posted, I get an email within minutes, and I contact the seller and immediately go and look at the item being sold. So I’ve purchased the item before most other people have even seen the ad!

And now the final step: making this super easy in Chrome.

You have your folder on the Chrome bookmarks bar, with all 4 of your filtered search stored there. So whenever you want to do a quick search, you RIGHT click on the folder name, and choose “Open all 4 in a new window”:

4 search tabs


When you do that, a new Chrome window will open, and that window has 4 tabs already created – and each one is one of your special searches:

4 search tabs


All your filtered searches, right there for a quick check whenever you have a spare minute. And since all of these are open in a new window, it has no effect on your original Chrome window. When you’re done checking for bargains, just close this window and you’re back to whatever you were working on.

That folder is always there on your Chrome bookmarks bar, so it’s convenient to do a quick check at any time, and in a lot of cases you’ll see a new listing before a lot of other people see it. Anything you can do to get an edge like that over¬† your “competition” will help to ensure you’re getting bargains more often!

And check this out – just now I clicked to take a look at my “Bikes” folder, and this came up –

bike bargain


Just listed 2 minutes ago! Pretty sure I’m one of the first, if not THE first to see it – which means I already have a better chance of grabbing that deal.

Do you have any tips on shopping the online classified ad sites? Share them in the comments below!

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