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Earn Income From Selling Your Stuff

By Kevin M

Just about everyone has stuff sitting around the house doing close to nothing, but some of it could put some money in your wallet, or better, your bank account.

On an otherwise uncommitted weekend, convince yourself you’re moving soon, and will need to pare down your collection of gadgets and baubles to the smallest pile possible, by picking out and removing the items you can most do without. Then clean them up, figure out about how much you might sell them for through a variety of channels, and store them away in a safe secluded spot so that they don’t blend back into the trappings of your life.

That being accomplished, it’s now time to figure out the best way or combination of ways to sell it all. There are a number of ways to do this, but three prominent ones come to mind:

Garage sales

Garage sales are probably the easiest way to sell your stuff—all you need to do is gather it, price it, put it on tables, place some signs around the neighborhood, and potential buyers will find a way to your home.

They’re usually held on Friday and Saturday, from early morning to early afternoon, though you can run them longer if you are continuing to get lookers who are buying. Spring and fall are the best seasons, and better weather makes for better sales.

You will need to advertise midweek and the day of in your local newspaper, unless there is a street wide or neighborhood sale drawing people in, and those are usually the most productive.

Garage sale transactions normally happen in cash, so keep a supply of cash in singles for change; $50-100 is highly recommended. You’d probably be well advised not to accept personal checks, since they can bounce AFTER the issuer has made off with your merchandise, and the amount collected will probably be too small to justify legal action.

Price your merchandise to sell, but be prepared to negotiate. Buy labels and price most of your inventory, but it will be best to bundle and sell small items as a package where ever you can.

It’s been my experience that people don’t buy the stuff we’re selling that we think of as “good”. Instead they buy the things that we’re almost embarrassed to sell, so put out what ever you have, no matter how substandard or downright crappy you may think it is. Other people having garage sales have reported the same experience; I don’t know why it works that way, only that it does, so plan accordingly. But take heart, you probably can sell the better stuff on eBay anyway (see below).

It would not be out of line to make several hundred dollars on a single garage sale, if you have a lot of merchandise, the weather is good and the buyers are out. We’ve generally found $100 to $300 to be the typical range, if such a thing exists.

Consignment sales

These are businesses that take your merchandise without buying it from you then put it on sale in their store and split the proceeds with you when it does sell. If you shop at consignment stores you should look to sell through them as well.

This is not a place to try to sell your junk, as they typically will sell only gently used items. But it’s far superior to taking on the cost of selling single items through the newspaper, fielding a bunch of phone calls (or worse, none at all) and entertaining lookers at your house who may have no intention of buying what you’re selling unless you practically give it to them.

Establish a relationship with one or more consignment shops in your area, that way when you have better used items to sell you’ll have a ready outlet to do it in.

Selling on eBay

I may not be telling you anything you don’t already know here as many people sell on eBay all the time. We’ve sold a decent number of items on eBay, and are usually surprised to get more money for them than we expect. EBay seems to attract the type of buyer who is the exact opposite of the kind who frequent garage sales.

What you want to sell here are higher priced items (those you think you could get over $20 for) because there are fees involved. Items should be in good condition, and readily shippable for a nominal fee, which the buyer will usually pay as part of the transaction.

I’m not going to give a lot of specifics here because selling on eBay is a subject unto itself, and has gotten both more expensive and complicated over the past few years. But if you want to get some deep information on this subject, I highly recommend getting a copy of Marsha Collier’s latest edition of Starting an eBay Business For Dummies. It’s an excellent, easy to understand guide from someone who really knows the system, which is what eBay really is.

I must emphasize that you make sure it’s the latest edition of the book because things are changing all the time on eBay, and you will need the most up to date information in order to do it right and to maximize your return.

Converting it to a side business

If you’ve developed a new found life of thrift—as many people have in the past few years—you should be coming across bargains regularly when you shop, and that can provide an ongoing inventory source for a budding online sales business.

The more you do something, the more you become familiar with how it works and with what it works. By becoming familiar with bargain shopping you are actually putting yourself in a position to gain access to inventory which you can sell in order to make more money. In a way, it’s the flip side of frugality—taking the buying skills you’ve honed to save you money, but capitalizing on them as a source of income!

In a very basic way, selling your stuff can be the start of an at-home or side business if you approach it in a meaningful way and as an ongoing venture. If you have a knack for spotting bargains, it may be just the niche you’ve been looking for.

Have you ever tried any of these ways to make extra income selling your stuff? How did it work for you?

( Photo courtesy of cytech )


13 Responses to Earn Income From Selling Your Stuff

  1. Everyday Tips says:

    I have sold a bit on ebay, but I found I can actually get better prices selling things on Amazon. (I mostly sell books though.) What I love about Amazon is not having to upload pictures or deal with deciding on shipping. Although many hate the amount of money Amazon will reimburse you for shipping, media mail usually makes it affordable.

  2. Kevin M says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. We’ve bought on Amazon and been very pleased, but never sold. Most of the books we have we prefer to keep for reference purposes at least. But I’ll have to look into selling there as well.

  3. Len Penzo says:

    I am a big fan of the having an annual garage sale, Kevin. We team up with my mother-in-law for a two-day bash, usually on the first weekend in December, and we make a real killing. The big sellers are always kids clothes and toys – especially right before Christmas.

    We’ve found that it’s best not to accept significantly lower counteroffers until after about noon on the first day. There are people that make the rounds early who will make some really insulting offers; what they do is try to low-ball you and then turn around and sell your stuff at THEIR own garage sales the following week! Yep. You can tell them because they tend to focus on the bigger items like electronic televisions and lawnmowers, and they have a take-my-lowball-offer-or-leave-it attitude. They also tend to drive pick-ups loaded with stuff from other sales.

    Best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  4. Kevin M says:

    So true, Len, all of it! The kids clothes and toys are always the favorite, and yes, the bargain shoppers coming in early with pickup trucks loaded with stuff from other garage sales are regulars in our neck of the woods as well.

    I’ve often thought they may sell it at flea markets and swap meets since most communties will only allow you to have so many garage sales in one year.

  5. Our subdivision has an annual garage sale, which helps in attracting people to the sale since there are a ton of houses involved.

    Also, ebay is a great way to make a little cash – my wife and I sold a bunch of stuff on ebay when we were trying to get out of debt and scrounge up some cash – we made several thousand dollars by selling our junk!

  6. Kevin M says:

    Yeah, you can’t beat it when the whole subdivision is having a garage sale at once. Those have always been the best for us. Also eliminates the need for advertising, especially if the subdivision is located in a high traffic area.

    You need to write a post about the 1000s you made on eBay!

  7. Aury (Thunderdrake) says:

    Consignment’s a nice little gig to follow if you got a way to get your product mass produced; in this scenario, on a small scale. A great way to pull in a few bucks as a side show. And who knows? It could follow into intellectual property!

  8. Kevin M says:

    Aury – I hadn’t been thinking of consignment as much more than an outlet for certain merchandise, but you’ve taken it to the next level. I wonder if anyone is out there doing that now…

  9. Derick Jones says:

    This is excellent. I will pass this information onto students at our U-2-Me online learning community. I am sure they could use these tips. We all know that they need the extra cash to pay off their loans. Awesome ideas. Thanks!

  10. Kristof says:

    Thanks a lot for the nice article but for Ebay they have high listing fee and success fees. And on top of that you have to bear paypal transaction costs also. I find ebay fruitful only if you are selling something with high margins or your own suff. Else the effort vs return is low.

  11. Kevin M says:

    Kristof–Good points. The post is a bit dated and the fees have gotten worse since publishing. I have to agree, unless you have sources of VERY low (or free) merchandise to sell, Ebay will be a tough venture. Another factor is that the number of competing sites has increased, so Ebay is no longer close to being THE online resale source.

  12. We have a bunch of stuff in our basement but just decided to give it to charity. We have a drum set and how the heck do you put that type of item on ebay and then ship it somewhere?

  13. Hi Steven–With large items I’d go with Craigslist, not eBay. My son just sold a drum on Craigslist and got some good money for it. Also, no fees on Craigslist, and no shipping! Perfect for large items.

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