I spent a couple of years gathering piles of useless crap from auction sites that I really didn't need, and in that time I found some very effective tactics for winning auctions with minimal fuss and far less anxiety (and very often, much less money). If you are the type who likes to buy things from eBay, but tend to get outbid at the last second, or want to avoid 'buddy upbidding', or otherwise lose auctions that you would prefer to win, this node will help you win more auctions, and in general save you a lot of money. And on auctions that you don't win, you'll have the childish satisfaction of driving the price of the winner higher than any you would have paid.
In short, you will very likely enjoy your online auction experience more with these simple tips.
Step 1: Opening
Find your auction. Go hunt down some trinket or doo-dad that you just can't live without. Alright, I'll wait... Are you finished yet? Ok, great, now don't bid on it. First, make certain that the end of the auction will occur at a time when you will be both awake and available to spend a few minutes on eBay. Then log in and place it on your watch list. This is gitm's first axiom of auctions: Bid not, lest ye be surely and hopelessly outbid. More often than not, placing an early bid will do nothing but cost you more money if you win the auction.
This step is really very simple. Decide what is the maximum price you would comfortably pay for the item in question. I generally use my emotions as a guide. If I think of a price for the item, and I have to think twice, it's too high, or I don't really want the item for sale. Pick a price you are comfortable with and stick with it.
If you are really bored, keep an eye on the items in your watch list. If they go over the price you have set, you can, without any bad feelings, go ahead and remove them from your watch list.
This brings me to my second axiom: Do not ever waver, even a little, from the price you have set. If you can keep from wavering, lost auctions will merely be overpriced, and you can move on to the next with a shrug.
This is the critical phase of the game. To be most effective, you will want to have access to high speed internet, or if you must use a modem, either turn off images so the page will load quickly, or get a stopwatch that is synchronized with eBay time.
This step can begin as early as an hour before the end of auction, but generally is settled in the last 30 seconds. Start it as early as you like, but make certain you are there for the last 5 minutes.
Fire up two instances of your browser of choice, and arrange them so that you can see the contents of both. Log into eBay on both of them and with one, monitor the actual auction page. With the other, set up your bid using your maximum price. Do not submit the final bid, but keep it one click away. Also bear in mind, this will not set your actual bid, but merely the maximum you will bid. Many times your winning bid goes nowhere near the maximum you have submitted.
There are people who think getting the high bid somewhere in the last hour will guarantee them a win. Sometimes this is true, but very often, it's the person who waits until the very last few seconds that gets it. Remember this: someone may want your item more than you do, and may be willing to pay more, which is why you don't want to give them any opportunity to outbid you.
Hit F5 to reload the page (or observe your stopwatch) regularly once you get into the last minute or so. Sometimes you'll see people with less dedication, or itchy trigger fingers, throwing out bids at 60 seconds or 30 seconds. Unless the bid goes over your maximum price, maintain your resolve and resist the urge to submit your bid.
Wait until you are under 10 seconds (I personally always hit it at 8, just in case I get lag on the submit) and submit your bid. Very often, by the time you reload the auction page, it has ended and you have won. Sometimes you won't win, as the maximum bid of the previous bidder was higher. No sweat, they wanted it more than you. Sometimes someone will bid in the last 3 seconds. Comfort yourself by understanding that they are even more pathetic than you. Most of the time, though, you will win, and you will do so at or below your comfortable price, while avoiding the silliness of trying to 'outbid' (read: overpay) for the item.
The third and final axiom of auctions is this: The one who proves themselves to have the most free time will usually win.