Friday Rant: Big Box vs. Craig's List for Spring Cleaning

It may seem to be a bit early to be thinking about Spring clean-up, but if you live in the Northeastern U.S., you already know my motivation. The past few days have provided a most welcome reprieve from one of the ugliest cold winters in recent memory (apologies to our readers who love the slopes). The temperature almost reached 70 degrees today in Philly and I can see the ground in my yard for the first time since early December -- it isn't pretty. Thoughts of yard tools, grass seed, closet reorganizing and basement cleaning abound. So why not plan a trip to one of the big box hardware stores this weekend and get ready for the big melt down? I have a better idea.

I happened into one of those stores this week looking for a simple surge protector. Time is money, right? So I asked the greeter which way to go. He misdirected me. So did the next apron wearing floor representative. I finally found the correct isle myself and I'm not in big hurry to revisit big orange or big blue.

With at least thirty days to go before anyone will begin their Spring spruce ups in earnest, I strongly suggest reading through Craig's list for just about everything you might need. It is about as pure a market place as you will ever find and the majority of sellers will gladly bargain. "Used merchandise" you might be thinking -- yuk. Think again. Not only can you zero in on sellers in your neighborhood and locale, many items such as gardening tools, patio furniture, grass seed, fertilizer, closet organizing systems and even paint and painting tools are not only not used, they're unopened. People are enticed to buy stuff in stores all the time, take it home and never use it.

I'm an avid reader of Craig's list on coffee break and at lunch time. If you find something of interest, don't call straight away unless the item is uniquely irresistible. Wait a week or so and in return for writing a friendly email and a short Saturday morning drive, you'll likely end up saving between 60 and 90% over the retail cost. And if you're looking for a back-up grill or yard seating, it's great fun to take the kids or grand kids along and pay them a few bucks to clean the items up and watch you make them look new with a can of spray paint.

I realize this isn't everyone's cup of tea -- dealing with "strangers", going to their homes etc. -- but I can tell you from personal experience that the vast majority of sellers are everyday nice people who just don't want their unused items in a land fill. And if they're not, you'll pick up on that right away from their pre-communication via phone and email.

Give it a try. You can save a whole a bunch of money and sales tax too.

- William Busch

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