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Best Online Shopping Tips: Part 2 – Ebay

This post is part 2 in a series. Check out Part 1: Craigslist Shopping Secrets and Part 3: Tricks to saving money online.

Remember back in the dark ages of the interwebs when eBay was mostly populated by individual sellers with unique items, back before it was taken over by massive industry and lost all its character and personality?

Ebay was so young and sweet back then.

Back when we still had to “rewind” things? Back when AOL instant messenger was the way to communicate? When your AIM away message was the modern-day facebook status equivalent?

Back when we still used “compact disks?” (I still use compact disks. Whatev.)

Ebay was cool and unique and kind of like your hipster friend with the quirky glasses who can always find the most unique things at thrift stores. Now it’s like your awkward uncle whose career is something finance-related that he can’t explain and does not laugh at funny jokes. It’s commercial. It’s changed.

Ebay, I hardly know you anymore.

But that’s okay: there are still cool things to be found, auctions to win and unique home decor pieces worth searching for if you know how to win them. So today let’s continue the online shopping tips series with Part 2: How to Navigate eBay Like a Ninja. (Check out Part 1: Craigslist here and Part 3: All other online retailers here.)
Ebay search tricks: search tricks you never knew, plus how to steal auctions!

1. Make Your Search Specific

Like Craiglist, you can narrow down your search significantly and save massive amounts of time that you can instead spend rewinding your videocassettes.

Obligatory Eye Candy. Source

  • OR: If you’re searching for more than one thing, put ’em in parenthesis separated by commas to say “or.” If you want results that use EITHER the word “pendant” or the word “chandelier,” your search would look like this:
  • NOT: If your search for a fantastic chandelier keeps bringing up chandelier earrings, either find yourself some pretty jewelry, or use “-” to take out the word “earring,” like this:
  • WILD CARD: Use the asterisk * to find words that start with certain letters but end in anything. If you want to find a bookshelf, search for “books*” to find results that include “bookshelf,” “bookshelves,” “bookcases,” etc. Anything that starts with “book” will come up when you search for:

    UPDATE: Looks like ebay no longer allows wildcard searches. BOO!

  • COMBINATIONS: Use a combination of all these search terms to narrow down your search with laser-like precision, you ebay ninja you. This search: will bring up bedding from West Elm, even if the seller listed it as “WestElm,” which include any of the words “quilt,” “quilts,” “duvet” or “duvets,” but it will exclude anything that has the word “used” in the title. See how you can get incredibly specific incredibly quickly?

2. Eliminate the Competition by Looking Where No One Else Is Looking

Lets say you saw a picture in a blog post of a gorgeous Anthropologie chandelier which has now been discontinued. Sorry, here it is again:


And you’re now searching eBay for Anthropologie lighting. If you can find all the listings with Anthropologie misspelled, you’ll be bidding against fewer people, netting you better deals overall. Enter

Type in the term you want to search for, hit enter and it’ll bring up an ebay search with all of the misspelled version of that word, giving you a heads-up on all those other people who are trying to steal that beautiful chandelier right out from underneath you. It’s YOURS. GET IT.

3. Know the Market

Check completed listings to know what the item you’re looking for has been selling for. Type in your search, then scroll down and click on “completed listings” on the left to see what everything’s been selling for lately under that search. Here are the completed listings for “West Elm pintuck duvet:”

4. Know the Top Auction Ending Times

Most serious eBay sellers know to set their auctions to end at the best time. For people who are shopping at home after work, that’s later in the evening, when there will be more competition and more bids. Use that to your advantage by searching at off-peak times when there’s less competition.

5. Get New Listings in Your Email or RSS Feed

If you’re waiting for something to come up for sale, set up an RSS feed for it or have results sent to your email. Just search eBay, then right-click on the orange RSS button WAAAAY underneath the search to get an RSS feed for that search. To have search results sent to your email, follow the instructions under tip #4 here.

6. Use a Sniping Tool Like a TRUE Ninja

A sniping website allows you to wait until the very last second of an auction to bid. The later you bid, the less time anyone else has to go behind you and bid the auction higher. I never NEVER bid on an ebay auction except through a sniping service. There’s just no benefit to bidding early. I’ve been using for years. It’s free to use it three times a week, or you can pay for a membership if you want to use it more often.

You just tell hammersnipe the ebay auction number and your maximum bid, then it will watch the auction for you and put in your bid 10 seconds before the auction ends. This also works great when you’re bidding on something that ends at a time when you can’t be waiting by your computer. This is an ultimate ninja move and a HUGE money-saver.

What’s your favorite eBay shopping tip? What’s your best eBay find? (Don’t forget to check out Part 1 in the series: Craigslist Shopping Secrets and Part 3: Tricks to saving money online.)

Ebay search tricks: search tricks you never knew, plus how to steal auctions!

P.S.: Make sure you check out my yard sale tricks:
Yard sale shopping tips!
And my other money-saving hacks right here!

Let's connect


  1. Oh AIM away messages… how you defined my life in college. 🙂

    I’ve always wondered how I seemed to lose out on bids at the last second, when I was watching the clock tick down as the high bidder!! I will definitely need to use Hammer Snipe!

    Great tips, I’m loving this series 🙂

  2. You are amazing! I’m in awe or your mad shopping skills.

  3. I am also an avid ebay buyer and yes, these tips are definitely very useful in shopping online through ebay especially when you are looking for furniture for your home. 🙂

  4. This may single-handily be the most helpful article I have read in a long time. You may have just saved my wedding budget.

  5. GREAT article! I’ve never used ebay because I had no, really, how to navigate/search it and I have no patience. I’ll by trying out your tips soon. 🙂

  6. 1. You’re basically a money-saving genius.
    2. HAHAHA that someone made a website taking advantage of typos. And called it Fat Fingers.
    3. Awesome tip about the sniping. I have previously not entered bids just because I can’t be at my computer when it ends. I’ll have to remember to be a sniper next time.

  7. I used to be obsessed with eBay. Like back when it looked like the picture in your post. OBSESSED. Then my workplace caught on (guess I wasn’t the only one) and blocked the site from our computers. Now I rarely use it. I wish I knew your tips when I had the chance!

  8. kelly. for realsie. can you come over to my house and hold my hand while I do all this?? doesn’t a sleepover party at Fieldstone Hill sound fun? ebay scares me sometimes!
    an antique pershian rug, 10 x 14 pls!! coming right up????

  9. ummm the links to fatfingers and sniping might have just revolutionalized the way I look @ ebay (THANK YOU!). Of course…I’m usually just buying seeds and it is rare to see a battle over seed packets…but just in case 😉

  10. I want that chandelier now!

  11. Please tell me you found that chandelier and accidentally bought two and want to give one to your dear friend Carrie?! Great tips, now I WANT THAT CHANDELIER!

  12. Awesome advice! I had no idea about the fat fingers or ninja tool, lol. Thanks for putting all of this together. Great series!

  13. Thanks for the tips! I had given up on all but buying via “buy now”, but now I might try using these tips in an auction. Thanks!

  14. I’m dumbfounded at your amazing searching and bidding savvy. Seriously. My head is spinning. Must pin and revisit again and again …



    Really. Mind boggling, head-spinning information here …

  15. Kelly,

    I am with you. Ebay used to be so fun. Now everytime I go to bid on something it’s all professionals. My heart skips a beat when I see a lone seller with just a few little clothes for sale.

    Thanks for all the tips.


  16. This couldn’t have come at a better time as I just signed up with ebay yesterday and I have been baffled by the whole thing! Time to get my shopping on!

  17. This is so great…I haven’t put any time or energy into online shopping but I need to play around with these tips. They are similar to search terms I used to use in the recruiting field…narrowing down my search to exactly the right criteria I wanted to see on a resume.
    I’m pinning this for future reference. 🙂

  18. Girl I love these posts. The Craigslist post and now this one! I will be using some of these tips ASAP!

  19. You had a lot of great tips! I am following on Linky from Blogalina!

  20. Jami @monstermamas says:

    lol @ AIM man, I used to use that almost as religiously as I do facebook nowadays.

    I never knew the wildcard idea. I will have to try that one out! I feel so very lost on ebay these days and can use all the tips I can get. Thank you! 🙂

  21. Kelly, you are a bidding pro! Thanks for you awesome tips!


  22. It is apparent from this post that I do not have the necessary shopping skills for ebay – certainly no ninja skills! Thank you for some amazing tips and sharing so much – hopefully you will not get outbid by any of us any time soon 🙂

  23. I’ve sold on ebay for years and these are all GREAT tips. Super post =) Thank for sharing.

  24. Love your tips I am a Seller and a Buyer and I would have to say I’m a Sniper it’s alil mean but it gets you want you want. Thank You Great Article.

  25. I’m in awe! I had no idea about any of this! THANK YOU!!!

  26. I’ve sold bought (and bought) on ebay for ten years and never knew about the parentheses! I’ve used AuctionSnipe a lot, but you only get 3 trial snipes, HammerSnipe sounds great.
    Wonderful series of posts!

  27. Does HammerSnipe tell you when you’re bid has been beat and you can adjust your bid?


  28. These are great! Just want to mention that there is one good thing to bidding early…and that is if the auction has a misspelled title like you mention. Because the seller cannot revise their listing to change the spelling if there is a bid unless they cancel the entire listing… so therefore you might want to bid on misspelled listings right away so they don’t have a change to change spelling. Evil, I know…but you can get some great deals! 🙂

  29. What do you know about shipping large things (like furniture) on eBay, either buying or selling.

  30. You are fabulous! You have a wealth of knowledge (or you’re a pathological liar) and relay it in a wonderfully witty way.
    You write often about a RSS feed, I am completely ignorant on this topic; could you please talk about what it is and how to use it. I look forward to your next post.
    Thank you.

  31. Alora White says:

    Thanks for the tips! I had given up on all but buying via “buy now”, but now I might try using these tips in an auction. I have found an app for ebay auction from

    Could you please tell me is it the best app for the ebay auction sniper.



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