How to buy for cheaper on eBay or Amazon (from a former eBay seller)

I am using makeup as an example, but buying for cheaper on eBay is applicable to almost anything.

You just have to be willing to trust the seller, watch out for deals and bid accordingly and at the end, I will tell you how I normally shop on eBay.


I love Sephora, don’t get me wrong. But when you factor in how much the products cost and that most Canadian prices are at least 15% to 30% more expensive when you convert from USD to CAD, it kind of puts you off buying any kind of makeup, no matter how good or cool it is.

For instance, the following has been on my Wish List for a while:

  • Urban Decay 24/7 Liners in Rockstar and Stash = $20 CAD each ($17 USD)
  • Tarte Cheek Stain in Tipsy = $39 CAD ($30 USD)


As a Canadian, this is not an option for me at all.

That said, you don’t have to just buy through Amazon themselves, they also have Amazon Marketplace, and some sellers will have listed products at a lower cost than the suggested retail price.

You could always sign up for Swagbucks and start searching to score points that you can cash in to use towards $5 gift certificates on Amazon.

This is near-to-free, but it takes some clicking and elbow grease. Read my review here.


This is a goldmine for us international folks, but Americans can benefit as well:

  • Exchange parity from CAD > USD in effect as of late
  • USD retail prices are 15% to 30% cheaper than in-store for Canadians
  • Prices are even lower than suggested retail prices in-store for everyone

For my Tarte Cheekstain in Tipsy for originally $30 USD or $39 CAD here’s what I found to be the prices on eBay

(Click on it to make it larger)

Since Canadians have to pay more for shipping, the savings goes down for us, even assuming parity or near parity in the exchange rate.

This is why I include shipping in my calculations, because I could walk to the store for free, so why not factor that in?

Still, 35% – 50% savings just by buying it on eBay is no joke!

I know a lot of you are nervous about shopping online, especially on eBay but here’s what I’ve learned over the years as an eBay seller and buyer.

UPDATE December 2010: I’ve just received my Tarte Tipsy Blush and it came sealed, slightly messy (the product melted a bit, it’s not a big deal).

Bought it for a total of $18.30 (the CAD was at par) versus the $39 I would’ve paid in store.


Do a general search & don’t get caught up


  • Go in with the price you want to pay.
  • Don’t bid over what you expect to pay, just in the heat of the moment.
  • Search in general and then narrow down your search to a reasonable set of listings
  • Use FatFingers to score eBay deals of misspelled listings*
  • Add items to your Watch List and compare them.
  • If you’re quick with a good connection, eBay snipe but be willing to lose.
*No they aren’t paying me anything. I really do use the site.

Keep in mind that people can’t spell and/or they make mistakes. Their loss in the search engine rankings is your gain.

Try FatFingers to help you find those typo eBay listings that no one will ever see on their search, and score great deals.

If you want to buy a certain brand, just search the brand name. If you want something specific in that brand name, use the category filters on the side of the search, or add another simple word.

Example: Tarte Tipsy Cheek Stain 1 oz.

A lot of sellers don’t list their products as such, so I’d suggest starting by searching: Tarte

If you get a LOT of hits (over 5000), then add in the name of the colour you want: Tarte + Tipsy

Then if you still get 2000+ hits, try adding in the size you want: Tarte + Tipsy + 1 oz

Once you have your list, log into your account and add them all to your Watch List. Then you can compare the products, figure out the best price and what you expect to pay.

Always do your research. If you are paying $45 for something that costs $39 in the store, you’re getting ripped off.

You should at least bid up to just under the amount you’d pay in-store, including shipping, and leave it alone. Or check the Buy It Now option and if it’s a good price without the bidding required, just buy it.

Ebay sniping is generally discouraged, but it kind of gave me a rush 🙂

It’s pretty cool to get something you want, just because you bid one cent over the other person in the last 5 seconds of the auction.

This is a dangerous game, because sometimes the other person is smart and bids 2 cents over, or a buck over just to secure the deal.

Look for a reputable seller with good feedback


  • Feedback numbers = The higher the better
  • 99% – 100% Range = Buy with confidence
  • 97% – 98% Range = Be Cautious
  • Neutral Feedback = Treat it as bad as a Negative
  • Read the Negative and Neutral Comments
  • Check to see if the seller responded to those comments
  • Check the date range of when the feedback was left

Usually if their feedback is 1000+ and is in the 99% range, they’re good sellers. If they are POWER SELLERS, then they’re really reputable because it means they ship a lot of product, sell a lot, and actually do it as a real, genuine business.

Once they dip down to 97% – 98% is where you should be really cautious, but don’t rule them out.

Any lower than 97% and unless they have thousands of generally good feedback, forget about buying from them.

At this stage, you should probably take a look at their Negative Feedback to see what disgruntled buyers say in their comments, and look out for whether or not the seller replies to those comments.

You can click on any of the comments in each category to read what the deal is.

Also, you should look at the date range because if they have been receiving negative feedback in the last month to a year, it’s not a good sign that they’ve changed their ways.

Neutral feedback is also not good as well, what you want is to see solid green feedback all the way across.

If a seller takes time to explain the situation by replying to the comment, you can feel slightly more reassured that they do care about their business but perhaps got saddled with a picky buyer (something I have experience with).

If the deal is too good to be true, it’s probably a scam


  • Sometimes a deal can be TOO good
  • Be cautious of any seller
  • Check where the goods are originating from

Found a genuine Chanel bag for only $250?

Proceed with caution. I’d really be super careful of TOO good of a deal on eBay. There have been cases of buyers building up super positive feedback consistently for a year, only to go on some wild streak and screw all of their future customers past a certain point.

What they do is build up a great reputation so you buy from them, and then they start listing expensive goods, lulling people into a false sense of security with their feedback, and then skip town with your money.

Be smart, and ask yourself if it’s really possible to buy a $3000 bag on eBay for only $250, considering it isn’t from someone’s personal closet, may be a scam, may not be the real thing, and so on.

I’d also be wary of certain countries.

Always check where the goods are coming from, read their profile, read the feedback and make your own judgment on it. I wouldn’t want to see you lose any money.

Read the listing carefully

For us international folk, read the shipping and payment terms.

For instance, sometimes sellers won’t sell to Canada.

Why? I have no clue, we’re so friendly and we have maple syrup, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), good beer and beavers. See?


  • Read the listing CAREFULLY
  • Understand what you are actually getting
  • Condition of the item: new, used, like new, slightly damaged
  • How much shipping costs (sometimes sellers fleece you)
  • Return policies: Do they have one?
  • Exchange policies: Do they have one?
  • Money back guarantees: Do they have one?
  • Whether it comes from a pet-free smoke-free home (seriously big deal)
  • When are they going to ship it? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
  • How are they shipping and packaging it?
  • Certificates of authenticity (for brand names or antiques)
  • How their listing is laid out (disorganized = proceed with caution)

Basically you want to read the fine print.

Sometimes they write “like brand new in box” or “like NIB” (New in Box) but it really isn’t because like doesn’t mean anything.

What you want to read for is what you’re getting, in what quantity of (don’t assume it’s the full-size of anything, check the ounces or mL), and whether those really beautiful pictures on the page are of the actual item.

Keep in constant communication


  • Keep on track of what you are buying and when you bought it
  • Talk to the seller beforehand
  • Check to see a seller replies within a reasonable time frame
  • Don’t wait too long on good faith that everyone is a good person
  • A month and a half of waiting is unacceptable, even for internationals
  • Email the seller before leaving bad/neutral feedback

Send a message to the seller. Check to see how fast they reply (within 48 hours – 72 hours is a good sign).

Once you purchase something, check to see when they ship it, and keep your eye out for it.

If it goes past 2 weeks to a month, send another note to the seller saying: Hey, where’s my stuff?

If they reply within 48 hours to 72 hours, it’s another good sign.

If they blow you off or try to give you the runaround, proceed with caution, give them a week or two more, and then start the process to report a deadbeat seller.

The key is to always track what you are buying.

If you are really unsatisfied with what you got, give the seller a chance to refund you or make it better before quickly deciding to leave bad or neutral feedback.

As a former eBay seller, I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to not be able to fix the situation.

If it’s good feedback, go ahead and leave it so the next person can buy with confidence.

If you want to sell on eBay

Check out my guide here: FB’s Guide to Selling Stuff Online and for my so-called credentials, I really was a former eBay seller as a business. More in my teens, but nonetheless these are all the businesses I’ve owned.

In a nutshell of how to sell on eBay:

  • Take pictures. Lots of pictures.
  • Detailed descriptions of the item including measurements and size.
  • Sell it.
  • Detailed shipping, payment, refund, return and exchange policies.
  • What payments you accept.
  • Keep in constant communication.

Questions? Comments? Extra helpful tips? Please share!

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.