Our family has never been a fan of having or shopping at garage sales, but since the emergence of ebay and then craigslist, we’ve used online resources to easily make a few hundred dollars a year – by selling our stuff.
If you’re ready to make anywhere from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars, make sure that you are prepared. Here are the steps to getting the most money for your stuff:
- Get mentally prepared. In other words, get ready to part with your stuff. It’s kind of like going through your closet for a goodwill run. You keep thinking, “that shirts like new and I like it, so I’ll keep it”, but in reality, you haven’t worn it in five years and you probably never will. The same concept applies to finding unused stuff to sell. If you haven’t used it in five years, then you can probably safely sell it, but you have to be mentally prepared so that you can be objective in identifying things to sell. Consult your spouse, friend or neighbor for help making some of these decisions if you are having trouble.
- Be creative finding stuff to sell. You can start with the traditional, easy to find household items like clothing and toys (if you have kids). However, don’t stop there. Be objective and thorough and you can find lots of unused stuff. Here are some ideas: tools (especially power tools), trailers, computers, video games, movies, furniture, books, anything designer (like sunglasses, handbags, shoes), kitchenware, used flooring or appliances from a remodel, electronics, camping equipment, boat motors, software, sports paraphenalia, wedding stuff, or anything else you keep packed away in boxes and never use. After you’ve thought about the stuff you can sell, do a thorough search through all of your belongings, finding any boxes that haven’t been opened in years. Look in your garage, closets, storage areas, kitchen cabinets and throughout your house.
- Photograph and document your stuff. Start by making a list of all the items you want to sell. Get all of the product information, serial numbers, models, manufacture dates and any other descriptive information you can find. The more information you have, the more comfortable a buyer will feel. Next, find a well lit area and take several clear, bright pictures of each item.
- Post your ads. There are thousands of worldwide and local websites, newspapers, neighborhood newsletters and bulletin boards that you can post your stuff for sale. Look at each item to decide where to post it. For example, if you have something that is valuable, easy to ship, and a buyer doesn’t need to see it firsthand before buying, ebay would probably make you the most money. If you have an item that is too large to ship or that must be seen before bought, then craigslist or a local classified might be the best option. If you have a niche item that only appeals to a few, then you should put the ad in as many places as you can.
- Time your sales. If you are selling gardening equipment, sell it in the Spring. If you are selling a snowblower, sell it at the start of Winter. Not only will you get more interest in your items, but you’ll get more money when they are in demand. If you are selling an item that doesn’t get much demand, don’t worry, post the ad once per month and you’ll eventually find a buyer. For example, my father was selling an old canvas tent (40 years old). He posted it for months and no one expressed interest. Then, suddently 2 people wanted it, including a person that offered more than his ad price.
- Find the right price. Don’t just price the items you’re selling at the price you think they’re worth. Look at comparable sales prices on ebay, craigslist or at a thrift store. If you bought something for $100 a few years ago, don’t ask $90 for it. Be realistic, but don’t price things too low. If you think you can get $25 for an item, ask $30 or even $35. Most people on craigslist will offer less than you ask, so it will leave you some room to negotiate, or you might even sell it for the higher price.
- Repeat. Once you get used to selling items and start feeling comfortable, find more items to sell. You’ll realize that you don’t miss the things you sold and that they were taking up room in your house. The more you sell the easier it will be to sell other stuff that you weren’t quite ready to part with.
- Create an account or measure. Either create a savings or investment account to keep the money you’ve earned, or even store it in an envelope in your house and then use it for a special fund. If you don’t want to bother with this, at least keep a journal of all the stuff you sold so you can add up the amount of money you’ve made. You’ll be surprised at how much money you can collect selling your stuff.
- Use your money to buy other stuff. We would keep an envelope titled “craigslist” on our bulletin board. Then, when we wanted to buy something for home or for the kids, we’d find it on craigslist and use the money from the envelope to buy it. From all the transactions, you learn how things should be priced on craigslist and you also learn how to find a good deal, which saves you money. And remember, money saved is money earned!