Seven ways to become an Ebay bargain ninja!

Ebay is one of the best places to find secondhand and preloved bargains. Buying secondhand reduces waste and carbon. It used to be easy to find the secondhand and preloved stuff on Ebay but now it’s a bit harder. This article will give you the seven best tips to become a bargain ninja and find exactly what you want on Ebay (if it can possibly be found).

First, if you’re looking for something generic (e.g. “black skirt”), make sure you’re only searching for things that are “used” not “new”. Otherwise you’ll be presented with a million mis-priced badly-made “new” items from abroad with 30-45 days delivery. If you’re looking for something branded, this shouldn’t be an issue as 99% of real brands don’t sell on Ebay, and Ebay is very good at clamping down on fakes.

Ebay doesn’t actually work to give you the search results in the best order for finding what you want, and hasn’t for about ten years, since they changed the way they showed their results. Back in the early days of Ebay, items were automatically sorted by “time: ending soonest” so if something was about to end, you’d see it right away and be able to jump on a bargain.

Now, however, they automatically sort by “best match” which is usually neither best nor a match for your search term. I did complain to them when they changed this and I got a patronizing mansplaining nonsense reply which basically said “we don’t care what customers think we’re doing this anyway”. The default sorting of the search results is basically the worst way to try to Ebay. It’s disorganized and means you’ll miss items that might be exactly what you want at the price you want to pay. There are two MUCH better ways to sort search results and I suggest you do one at a time.

Buy it now

Filter the results so you’re only looking at “buy it now” then sort by newly-listed. Things that have only just been listed sometimes are available at a lower price than the rest of the “buy it now” items. As people buy secondhand items, they disappear from sale, so seeing the newest listings is the best way to find the good stuff before someone else gets it.

Auction

Filter by “auction” then sort by “time: ending soonest”. Things that are available at auction sometimes get to the end of their allotted time and no one (or only one person) has bid on it. Snap it up when it has only a minute or two left to run (this is called sniping, by the way, and some people think it’s bad form, but HONESTLY it’s a f**king auction site not an etiquette party, there are no points awarded for letting someone else win your child’s Christmas present).

Don’t waste your time bidding on things with more than an hour left to run unless you’re going to be in bed or at work when the item ends. Everything before that last hour is effectively meaningless posturing because the real price the item will end at won’t become apparent until the very end of the auction.

Bidding far in advance is also a bad plan for another reason: Artificial inflation of the price from fake bids. Basically, some unscrupulous sellers on Ebay will get their friends or family to bid against you on the item to try and get you to increase your bid. Ebay has taken steps to clamp down on this over the years but it’s still happening.

Save your searches.

This can speed up finding the items you’re looking for when you’re spending more than the one day looking for something. Just hit the “save search” button. If you can’t see it, be sure you’re logged in properly. However, if you want the gift to be a surprise, don’t do this on a shared computer (probably best not to let your children have access to your Ebay account anyway).

Vary your search terms

Be sure to change your search terms. Just because you know an item by a specific name doesn’t mean that’s what other people call it.

A prime example of this is any branded handbag or shoe. You might know a specific pair of shoes as Irregular Choice Cookies for Santa, but someone who bought them secondhand or threw out the box might only know they are Irregular Choice shoes (or not even know the brand name). Also, they might have listed the size in European sizes or UK sizes.

So in this case, start with a narrow search for exactly what you want. “Irregular Choice Cookies for Santa size 39”. This will show you any exact matches. If nothing comes up, widen your search. A search for “Irregular Choice size 40” (without the name of the shoe’s style) would give you a long set of results to trawl through, but it means you’ll catch all the shoes which have been correctly listed as Irregular Choice under your EU shoe size. IC shoes are sold in EU sizes so this is the most logical second search. Then, if that shows nothing, change the term to “Irregular Choice size 6”, which is the UK size closest to a 39.

Lastly, if you still can’t find them, try describing them by their most distinctive feature. “Cake heel shoes” might give you something. By this point, however, you are unlikely to find anything, so the best move is to save your search and try again later or tomorrow. Using this search method, you can find pretty much anything you want, no matter how rare or unusual, on Ebay. However, it is very time-consuming.

Time your searches

The vast majority of people list their items at the weekend, so Friday evening until Sunday evening is when you are most likely to find newly-listed items and items that are about to end. If you only want to spend a couple of hours on Ebay looking for something, Sunday night between 4pm and 8pm is when most items end. This all means that if you pick the right time, you will have more choice and potentially get the item for a better price. However, the flip side of this is, more people are buying on Ebay between Friday and Sunday night, so you may have to compete harder if you’re buying something at auction.

Check out the seller’s other items

If you’ve lost out or if you’re looking for a complete set of something (e.g. Teletubbies dolls), click on the seller’s username (not his feedback number) then hit “view other items” or “visit their store” and scroll through their other items for sale. They might have more varieties of the thing you’re looking for (they might have nothing). Don’t spend time doing this before you bid on a last-minute item or before grabbing a buy it now bargain, however, or you could miss out on the original item!

Pay promptly

Always pay sellers as soon as possible so they can send you the item quickly and leave you positive feedback. Customarily, sellers should leave feedback first because your part in a transaction is over as soon as you’ve paid. I don’t waste time leaving feedback for sellers unless I’ve received feedback from them first because some sellers don’t bother and it’s annoying. If you’re always returning items or if you open Paypal disputes for stupid reasons, sellers can and will blacklist you from shopping with them in the future. Remember, there are plenty of online seller forums and groups where Ebay sellers can talk to each other, and they will share your username with each other if you’re a bad customer. You should treat Ebay sellers with the same respect you’d use in a charity shop or other face-to-face setting dealing with real people.

This is part of a series on buying ethical Christmas presents. Find the others here:

How to find ethical gifts for children and teens

Complete guide to buying designer clothes from charity shops

Should I change to reusable nappies?

This was the question I was asking myself two weeks ago. Also, how do you clean poo out of reusable nappies? Which reusable diapers are better, 1-part or 2-part? What is a booster? Are bamboo boosters better or microfibre boosters? No seriously, WHAT is a booster? How often do you change a reusable nappy? How do you even know when to change a reusable diaper? Are reusable diapers worth it? Which reusable diapers should I buy?

So. Many. Questions.

There was smoke coming from my Google Search box for a day or two.

But the first decision to make was the one I’m writing about in this article. Whether or not to make a change from disposable diapers to reusable nappies (or real nappies as they’re called in some groups).

You might have noticed it’s been hard to get nappies in the shops lately. That was basically what prompted me to go on this journey. It’s a sustainability mission, but it’s also a quest of necessity. Baby can’t use the toilet, yet, so he needs something to keep him dry.

The first thing I noticed about reusable diapers is how expensive they were. The second thing I noticed was how many brands of them were available. The choice was a little overwhelming. I’m pretty sure if I had 21 kids (and counting?) I wouldn’t have enough wet bums to try every available type of reusable nappy on the market. Like even Sue Radford couldn’t have enough kids to try them all out. Who are those Americans with a boatload of kids? The Duggets? Duggars? Duggens? Who knows. But I bet they haven’t tried all these reusable nappies either.

So anyway, let’s recap what I learned in the first few minutes of trying to find out about reusable diapers: They’re expensive and there’s a lot of choice.

Largely, they all seem to come down to two main types of nappy: There’s the two-part ones, with a white towel-looking inside part and a “wrap” that goes over it to keep baby dry, and then there’s the “all in one” types, which, against all probability, are not a one-piece nappy because they aren’t watertight so you have to put “boosters” inside them to line them. Sometimes “all in ones” are called “pocket nappies” or “pocket diapers” instead.

I was shocked at the price so I did some calculations before going any further. The average supermarket packet of size 4 nappies has 50 diapers in it. For the cheap ones, that’s about £2.99. For Pampers, it’s £9.

If you buy Pampers, for each pack of Pampers you buy, you could have bought a reusable “all in one” nappy. Two packs of Pampers is the equivalent of a two-part nappy and wrap combo.

If you buy supermarket own brand nappies, for every THREE packs you buy, you could have bought a reusable “all in one” nappy. Six packs of supermarket nappies is roughly one two-part nappy and wrap.

Then you need to consider the extra money you will spend washing them. A single wash cycle should cost between 16p and 30p in electricity. We don’t have metered water so I can’t comment on that. Laundry powder will add another 10p approximately. If you put the nappies in with a washload that was going to be cleaned anyway, you’re not really spending more money. They’re pretty small, and unless your baby has pooped, you probably don’t need to wash them separately.

I’m not going to lie. The ick factor with reusable nappies was definitely an issue. At some point I’m going to have to write an article about how I got over the ickiness of cloth diapers because it was a big deal for me and a (rare? lol) moment of growth.

But let’s look at the environmental aspect. 3 billion disposable diapers are thrown away every year. That’s 2-3% of all household waste. Like, if you put together all the old people,  childless singletons, middle-aged families with teenage kids AND parents with babies, and count ALL of their waste, diapers are 2-3% of it. And nappies are, of course, lined with plastic. Which takes gajillions of years to break down.

I never really thought about this before I had a baby. Even when I was pregnant it wasn’t something that crossed my mind. But as soon as I saw how much space those tiny plastic parcels take up in the trash, I was completely shocked.

Guys, the space those tiny plastic parcels take up… it leaves me feeling a little queasy to think about it. For several months we were fighting to fit everything in the bin. It still didn’t occur to me to use cloth nappies. Then I saw a friend’s baby photo with a beautiful cloth nappy. It looked nothing like those triangles of towel roughly pinned around my baby sister whose delicate skin was then suffocated with crinkly, noisy plastic panties.

It looked comfortable, and soft, and fresh, and… nothing at all like I imagined.

And I began to think maybe little Jellyfish might be comfortable in them. So I asked on Facebook, and was amazed at how many of my friends (literally everyone I know who has little ones) used cloth diapers. I ordered some the same day (a mix of one-part and two-parters) and they arrived a few days later.

That was two weeks ago. It has taken a bit of mental adjustment but I’ve started getting used to them now. It helped a lot that Jellyfish instantly adored his nappies and seems to find them more snuggly and comfortable than disposables. I’m not sure they would be great if we were travelling anywhere because we would have to take the cleaning bucket and find washing machines every couple of days, but for at-home use they are considerably reducing our waste. Our black bin (the trash can that takes all the non-recyclable items) is a lot less full now and that’s a really good feeling. I wish we’d bought reusables sooner.

Do you use reusable diapers? I’m going to write more about them in upcoming articles.