Is your closet overflowing? Does your car not fit in the garage anymore? If so, it might be time to get rid of a few things.
Of course, that can be easier said than done. First of all, your garbage collector might not be amused if you deposit 30 bags of junk on the curb. Not to mention, it would probably feel like a waste to give up a glut of goods after all the money you invested in buying them.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options at your disposal to get some money back from your clutter. Sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon are great for clearing out clutter and pocketing some cash in the process. If you’re interested in getting rid of those old things lying around the home but you don’t quite know where to begin, here are some of the best ways to make money when you have too much stuff.
eBay was originally built as an online person-to-person auction website. At its core, it’s designed to allow private sellers from all over the world to post items for sale for a limited time. Potential buyers place bids, and when the time is up on the auction, the highest bid wins. The seller then ships the item to the buyer.
While auctions are still commonplace on eBay, it’s increasingly used for fixed-price sales. Retailers can even register for business accounts on eBay to sell items.
In order to sell goods on eBay, you must set up a seller account. You’re required to create an individual listing for each item you sell, and you’re responsible for managing those listings, paying attention to bids, and following up with the winning bidders.
Selling on eBay
eBay exposes your goods to a larger audience than any other person-to-person sales site in the world. It’s ranked among the 20 most-visited sites in the United States on SimilarWeb, and its viewership is not limited to the United States. eBay boasts more than a billion visits per month globally. In other words, eBay is not exactly your neighborhood garage sale.
While eBay now offers fixed-price sales in addition to auction sales (and fixed-price sales are generating an increasingly larger share of the eBay market), eBay is still, at its core, an auction site. In auction-style transactions, a posting is “live” for a limited amount of time. The lister may select a duration of 1, 3, 7, or 10 days for the listing.
More time means more potential eyes on the listing and, therefore, more bidders. However, shorter auctions create a greater sense of urgency and may motivate casual site visitors to spring into action. At the end of the auction term, the buyer who has submitted the highest bid wins the auction.
As a seller, if you have a unique or high-demand item (such as a designer purse or a rare collectible), you might get lucky enough to sit back and watch bidding wars drive the sales price far beyond expectations. However, the downside of the auction-style approach is that you may end up with a sales price that is significantly lower than you’d anticipated.
There are two ways to circumvent this:
- Starting Prices. You have the option to set a starting price for your item, though you are not required to do so. If you start too high, many bidders will be turned off. However, starting too low may negatively impact the perceived value of your item.
- Reserve Pricing for Auction-Style Sales. You are allowed to create a minimum sales price for your item – a “reserve price” – but eBay charges you to do so ($3 per item for anything priced up to $149.99, and 2% of the reserve price for items priced at $150 or more, with a $100 maximum charge).
Fixed-price sales are becoming more common on eBay, stemming from both retailers and private sellers. When you choose this option, there is no bidding on your item and a buyer can purchase it immediately at the price you set.
eBay Valet is eBay’s newest selling option. It’s basically a managed listing service that outsources most listing and shipping duties to eBay itself, greatly reducing the time and effort needed to create, maintain, and profit from your listings. Valets are big-time professional sellers that have been carefully vetted by eBay and are capable of selling more than 100,000 items per month.
eBay Valet caters to sellers with unique or high-value items. Accepted items include designer clothing and accessories, electronics, antiques and collectibles, sporting goods, and musical instruments. Non-accepted items include anything in poor condition, anything worth less than $25, bulky or fragile items, anything weighing more than 25 pounds, media (such as CDs), jewelry and watches, and anything requiring a license or code to activate or unlock.
To sell an item on eBay Valet, you print a free shipping label, box the item up at your local post office, and send it to your valet. The valet takes it from there, researching comparable item sales and creating a high-quality listing at a competitive price. For the convenience, you do have to forgo a significant share of the profit. You get 60% of the final sale price on items that sell for less than $50, 70% on items that sell for $50 to $200, and 80% on items that sell for more than $200. You may also have to wait longer for your item to sell – valet transactions can take up to 60 days to complete, with payment coming two business days after the sale.
“Buy It Now” Option for Auction-style Listings
The “Buy it Now” option is a hybrid of the auction-style and the fixed-price sale methods. Sellers wishing to choose an auction-style sales format can include a price at least 30% higher than the starting bid, called the “Buy it Now” price. If buyers want to skip the auction process, they can opt to pay the “Buy it Now” price and secure the sale.
If you want to cancel your listing, you can do so at any time. However, certain restrictions apply if you have already received bids on your item.
In such cases, sellers have the following options:
- Cancel and Sell to the Highest Bidder. You will not incur a fee if you cancel your listing and immediately sell to the highest bidder.
- Cancel at Least 12 Hours Before the End of an Auction and Refuse to Sell. As long as you’re outside the 12-hour window, you may cancel your listing even if it has bids, but you do have to pay eBay a fee equivalent to 10% of the final value. eBay waives this fee for the first cancellation of this kind in any calendar year.
- Cancel Your Listing Fewer Than 12 Hours Before the End of an Auction. If you have a bidder and you’re within the 12-hour window, you must sell the item to the highest bidder, even if you choose to end the auction early and not wait for more bids.
Payment and Shipping on eBay
If you’ve followed through with your listing and received a winning bid, it’s time to collect your money and get the item to the buyer. eBay owned PayPal for 12 years, and even though eBay spun it off into a separate company, PayPal is still the default method of sending and receiving payments on eBay.
Signing up for a PayPal account requires connecting it to a credit card or bank account. If you wish to transfer received payments from your PayPal account to your bank account, then you must attach it to your bank account.
Selling on eBay often involves transactions with people who live hundreds or thousands of miles away, which means shipping is an almost inevitable component of eBay selling. Buyers typically pay for shipping on eBay, but sellers should be aware of what it will cost so they can estimate appropriately. Be aware that extremely high shipping costs (such as 50% of the sales price) may turn sellers off, which is why big, heavy, or unwieldy items are less optimal on this platform.
As a seller, you need to carefully pack your items in a way that preserves their quality throughout the shipping process. You can create and print a shipping label directly from eBay, but you still need to bring it to your post office unless you’ve arranged for pick-up. The U.S. Postal Service provides free pick-up that can be arranged online in advance. UPS and FedEx also offer pickup service, though fees may be incurred. If you sell through eBay Valet, you avoid seller shipping fees (including UPS and FedEx fees) and can rest assured that your items are carefully packed by professionals.
When selling high-value items, you may want to pay for shipping insurance. If you’ve created a shipping label via eBay, you can purchase ShipCover insurance at a rate of $1.65 tax per $100 worth of coverage. You do need to reveal your return address on the packing slip though – unless you have a P.O. box, that essentially means telling a stranger where you live.
Advantages of eBay
- No Other Site Drives More Eyes to Your Listing. More visitors means more potential sales. eBay’s international audience is unparalleled in size and scope, which is particularly useful if you have a rare, specialty, or collector’s item that might not readily appeal to a lot of buyers. Perhaps your neighbors don’t appreciate the vintage Betty Boop vase your grandmother gave you, but eBay might just help you find someone whose collection is missing that very piece.
- You Can Sell From Home. Clearing out your storage closet and making money while wearing pajamas holds substantial appeal for many people.
- Allows You to Get Rid of Multiple Items at Once. Some eBay sellers combine more than one item into a “lot” – for example, a collection of vinyl records, back issues of magazines, toys, or clothes. However, keep in mind that lots may be a tough sell, as buyers are less likely to be in the market for a large number of goods, rather than a specific item.
- Free Listings, With Some Restrictions. You can list goods for free as long as you limit the total number of items to 50 per month. After that threshold, you’re charged $0.30 to list each item – but that fee is credited back to you if your item sells. The $0.30 fee does not apply to art and collectibles. There are several upgrades that sellers can choose to draw more attention to their goods, but each comes with a cost. For example, you can pay $2 per item to have it listed in bold type.
- Hands-Off, Professional Listing Option. eBay Valet takes most of the effort out of listing and selling your items, and may result in a better listing (and higher sales price) than you can pull off on your own.
Disadvantages of eBay
- Seller Fees. eBay charges a “final value fee” of 10% of the sale price, with a maximum fee of $750 per item.
- Limited Information on Success Rates. A “sell-through rate” is the percentage of items that actually sell compared to the number of items listed for sale. Finding eBay’s official sell-through rate is nearly impossible – it’s not published, but Auctiva once estimated it to be approximately 40%. That adds up to a whole lot of disappointment and wasted effort.
- Slowing Revenue Growth. Like nearly every other industry, eBay took a major hit during the recession. It bounced back in a big way, demonstrating 27% revenue growth in 2011, compared to 4% revenue growth the prior year. However, those numbers have slowed every year since. While eBay still reported 12% growth in 2014, that represents the third consecutive year of decreased growth. eBay’s monthly visits were about 12% lower in April 2015 than April 2011, according to Statista. That means 12% fewer potential buyers for your item.
- Scams. Scams are common on eBay, and they can affect sellers as well as buyers. Buyers may claim never to have received an item – some even go so far as to alter a tracking number so the shipper can’t confirm that it arrived. Others might claim an item has been broken or damaged in shipping and demand a refund. You can purchase shipping insurance and file complaints with eBay, but there’s no guarantee of resolutions in your favor. Potential scams are simply a risk of doing business with people you don’t know.
- It May Be Difficult to Earn Buyers’ Trust. Buyers are encouraged to leave feedback about their experience with a particular seller. If you’re not a regular seller, the lack of ratings can serve as a red flag. Many potential buyers only engage in transactions with sellers who have high numbers of positive ratings. This is because sellers with poor or low numbers of ratings may be more likely to be scammers.
eBay is good for people with a lot of product to sell, a computer with an Internet connection, and a little extra time on their hands. It’s also ideal for people who have unique, specialty, or collector’s items with a niche audience. It’s not ideal for large items (such as furniture) that would be prohibitively expensive to ship.
Like eBay, Craigslist is a website designed to facilitate person-to-person sales. However, unlike eBay, Craigslist is dependent on physical geography. It’s made up of hundreds of individual websites tailored to specific areas, and buyers and sellers engage in transactions specific to their location – many people on Craigslist sell to buyers right across town.
Thanks to the geographic component, Craigslist is a lot less anonymous than eBay and often involves in-person interaction between buyers and sellers. Sellers create posts listing items for sale, typically with a listed price – though “or best offer” sales are common – and interested buyers connect with them. Some sellers include personal information directly on a listing, but they also have the option of using a Craigslist-generated anonymous email address buyers can use. Final transactions typically take place in person.
Craigslist is known for facilitating connections outside of traditional person-to-person sales. Businesses commonly list items for sale on Craigslist, and the site also features personal ads, job listings, real estate, and services.
Selling on Craigslist
Craigslist is nipping at eBay’s heels in terms of audience. It’s listed as the 12th-most-visited site in the United States, according to Alexa. Like eBay, Craigslist has tens of millions of users per month in the U.S. and a heavy international presence, with more than 700 local sites in 70 countries.
However, since Craigslist users typically buy and sell from the site specific to their own geographic location, it’s important to keep in mind that your item is only view-able to a fraction of Craigslist’s global audience. While you can only post on your local site, buyers do have the option to search on sites outside of their area.
In spite of Craigslist’s wide reach, it doesn’t serve every location. Even if you’re technically within the fringes of a certain site’s span – in an extreme suburb, for example – you might find yourself connected with sellers who live hours away from you. Therefore, a $20 baby bouncer is likely to be a tougher sell if the buyer has to spend three hours on a round-trip to pick it up – and if you’re a seller who is offering delivery, you might spend more in gas than you can make on the sale.
Craigslist’s posting process is very straightforward. All you have to do is come up with a title and category for your listing. You can add photos and a description with as much or a little detail as you choose. Once you’ve published your listing, it’s easy to edit it as needed.
It’s free to post as many items as you want on Craigslist, with a few minor exceptions. Craigslist makes money by charging companies to post job listings in certain major markets, such as San Francisco. It also charges to post apartment rentals in New York City. Most everything else is free to post.
Craigslist shows postings in chronological order. In a large market, in popular categories (such as household goods), new posts might show up every few seconds. That means that shortly after you’ve published your post, it could end up buried behind a hundred others.
Craigslist makes it simple to renew a post and “bump” it to the top – simply click on a link in the confirmation email you received when you initially published it. However, you can’t refresh a listing until 48 hours have passed from the original posting. It’s a good idea to use as many keywords as possible in your item description – this improves the chances of someone (using the keyword search tool) landing on your post, even if it’s buried deep in the archives.
The majority of posts expire after a limited time on Craigslist, especially in major markets where the flood of postings would put a burden on Craigslist’s servers. Courtesy dictates that sellers remove items that have sold or are otherwise no longer on offer. Expiration dates vary by item and city, but general private sale listings, for example, last seven days in top markets and 45 days in other areas. Top markets include New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Austin, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, South Florida (including Miami and Key West), Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Advantages of Craigslist
- Local Transactions. By dealing locally, you avoid the hassles of shipping and insurance. Plus, you have the added advantage of selling items appropriate to your location – surfboards in Hawaii, snowsuits in Minneapolis, and tickets to Red Sox games in Boston.
- Option for “Free” Listings. If you can’t sell your unwanted item on Craigslist, you can still get rid of it by taking advantage of the “Free” section. Many people simply set their items on the curb and identify the posting as a “curb alert.” However, take note that this approach requires revealing your home address, which is a potential safety hazard.
- Limited Downside to Posting. Since there are no sales parameters (such as auctions, bids, or minimum sales prices), it’s a fairly low-risk proposition to post items on Craigslist. If you don’t get an acceptable offer, you are under no obligation to follow through with a sale, and you can delete your post anytime. It’s important to note that “low risk” refers to the process of listing and selling, not to engaging in transactions on Craigslist, which can make sellers and buyers vulnerable to scams and potential personal safety hazards.
Disadvantages of Craigslist
- Risk of Scams. Since payment transactions are not hosted on the site, Craigslist is arguably more susceptible to scams than eBay. Craigslist is vocal about warning sellers against engaging in transactions in which buyers insist on paying via cashier’s checks or bank transfers. You should always deal locally, though a possible exception to this rule is if you’re listing a specialty item and you receive an inquiry from an out-of-state buyer. Make sure to do your due diligence though – even performing a background check or asking authorities in the buyer’s location can be appropriate if the item is of high value. No matter what, don’t pay money up front to cover shipping.
- Personal Safety Hazards. Classified ad researcher AIM Group links 85 murders to Craigslist transactions, along with innumerable robberies. While the majority of people who sell and buy on Craigslist are honest, it’s still very important to take precautions. Buyers commonly require sellers to pick up an item, but that shouldn’t mean inviting someone into your home. Agree to meet in a neutral location, and never engage in a transaction alone. You also shouldn’t put any personal details in an ad itself – and if you can, use an anonymous email address to exchange information with interested buyers. According to National Public Radio, many local police stations are openly allowing people to conduct Craigslist transactions on police property in order to help ensure safety for both the sellers and the buyers.
- More Barriers to Completed Sales. As online platforms that securely broker payment and allow sellers to ship to anyone with a valid mailing address, eBay and Amazon have smoother, more predictable sales process. By contrast, much more can go wrong during the Craigslist sales process. For instance, buyers can decide to back out after agreeing to the purchase but before money is exchanged, or show up at the neutral site and drive a hard bargain in the hopes that the motivated seller will agree to a lower price. These barriers are especially troublesome for higher-volume sellers, who can’t afford to devote lots of time and effort to each individual transaction.
The lack of fees for most items makes Craigslist a very low-risk enterprise ideal for big, heavy, or unwieldy items that aren’t practical for shipping or easily dropped off for donation. It’s also a great option for breakable items that would require special packaging to ship properly. When engaging in transactions via Craigslist, it’s best to request cash-only payments, and you should always meet buyers in a neutral, public location.
Amazon is an “e-tailing” pioneer that got its start as an online bookseller back in the late 1990s. Today, it’s the world’s largest retailer by market capitalization. You can buy pretty much anything, new or used, on Amazon. Amazon is also a noted content and hardware producer, with best-selling products such as the Kindle e-reader and a growing slate of original shows.
Like eBay, and unlike Craigslist, Amazon isn’t reliant on physical geography. As long as they both have mailing addresses, any two individuals or companies can complete Amazon transactions. That said, Amazon is not solely, or even primarily, a person-to-person retail platform. Sellers need to understand that their biggest competitor is the site itself.
According to Amazon, only 40% of its total unit sales are generated by third parties, meaning direct-to-customer sales account for the remaining 60%. This competitive environment favors experienced amateurs and professionals sellers that trade in high volumes, rather than individuals clearing a handful of items out of the attic, basement, or garage.
Items listed for sale on Amazon generally have firm prices – there’s no bidding or haggling here. Payment occurs securely through Amazon, typically by credit card or EFT, and items are almost always shipped by mail or private parcel service (as opposed to in-person delivery, the default option for Craigslist sales).
Selling on Amazon
Amazon is ranked among the top 10 websites in the world, according to Alexa. In 2013, it passed Walmart as the world’s most valuable retailer in terms of market capitalization. With rapidly growing and diversifying opportunities for online sellers, it’s one of the best places to earn extra income selling unwanted items online.
You can sell on Amazon as an individual or as a professional. The former is better for those who sell in relatively low volumes and don’t anticipate earning a living off their Amazon retailing (or online retailing in general). The latter is better for people who want to earn a living (or already do) selling things online.
Selling as an Individual
If you plan to sell fewer than 40 items per month, the Individual plan is a better deal financially. You pay nothing to list your items and nothing if they never sell. When an item sells, you pay a flat $0.99 fee, a variable referral fee (usually 6% to 20% of the sale price, with a minimum of $1, but can range up to 45% of the sale price for Amazon device accessories). Media items, such as books and DVDs, carry an additional closing fee – usually $1.35 per item, regardless of sale price. Individual sellers never pay Amazon subscription fees.
Selling as a Professional
If you plan to sell more than 40 items per month, the Professional plan makes more sense. It comes with a $39.99 monthly subscription fee, waived for the first month. Professional sellers pay no listing fees. They also don’t pay the flat $0.99 selling fee, though they’re responsible for the same referral and closing fees as Individual sellers.
Listing and Selling Your Items
Before you list an item, determine which Amazon product category it fits into. This could determine which plan you select, as some product categories (such as automotive) are only available to Professional sellers. Additionally, some categories, including automotive and beauty products, are “restricted.” To sell in a restricted category, you need to ask Amazon’s explicit permission via the seller form, even if you’re a Professional seller. Some restricted categories, such as automotive, are only available to Professional sellers.
Actually listing products on Amazon is easy, though it can be time-consuming for Individual sellers with multiple items. First, search Amazon for the item you plan to sell, noting the prices of similar or identical items. If the exact product is already listed by another Amazon Marketplace seller, you can create your own listing under that product’s heading. To flesh out your listing, add high-quality images, specify quantity and quality or condition, set a competitive price based on condition and quality, and list your shipping options.
If the exact product is not yet on Amazon, you need to upload the UPC or EAN (European Article Number) and SKU, as well as a more detailed description of the product’s specifications and descriptive attributes. Following that, you must specify quantity, condition, price, and shipping. For products being added to the Amazon Marketplace for the first time, Amazon highly recommends uploading high-quality images.
Amazon listings remain on the site indefinitely, disappearing only when products sell out. Buyers can sort item search results in a variety of ways, but lowest to highest price is most common, so your items will likely be more visible if they’re priced at or near the bottom of the pack. If you’re motivated to sell quickly, take advantage of selling tools such as Match Low Price, which automatically matches your listing’s price with the lowest prices on comparable Amazon-listed items.
Payment and Shipping
Amazon notifies you when your item sells. You can either handle shipping details yourself or outsource shipping to Fulfillment By Amazon, through which third-party sellers can leverage Amazon’s extensive (and growing) network of distribution hubs.
DIY Fulfillment and Shipping
When you handle shipping yourself, you’re responsible for printing packing slips, notifying buyers that their products are ready, neatly and safely packing products, sealing up packages such that they won’t deteriorate during the journey, and sending them via the U.S. Postal Service (which lets you arrange free pick-up in advance) or a private parcel service such as FedEx. A couple of shipping options that might be helpful are Stamps.com and ShippingEasy. As with eBay, you’re responsible for postage, tracking, and insurance, though you can pass these costs on to buyers at your discretion. DIY shipping makes more sense for Individual and low-volume Professional sellers, provided they have space to store and pack inventory.
Fulfillment By Amazon
Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) is a hands-off, turnkey approach that makes sense for high-volume professional sellers. With FBA, you simply need to send your items in bulk to your Amazon fulfillment center, either with Amazon’s discounted shipping service or via a private carrier. Amazon then stores your items, ships them when they’re purchased, and lets you keep track everything with a high-tech inventory management system. Most FBA orders qualify for free shipping when the customer’s order size is large enough, and Amazon Prime members can take advantage of expedited shipping options (such as overnight delivery) that you may not be equipped to offer. FBA even fulfills orders placed through non-Amazon websites (multi-channel fulfillment).
Logistically, FBA takes a big weight off the shoulders of high-volume sellers, but there’s a downside: a slew of potential fees. Common FBA fees include monthly inventory storage fees ($0.54 per cubic foot from January through October, and $2.25 per cubic foot in November and December) and item removal (returned items cost $0.50 each, while disposal of unsellable items costs $0.15 each).
When your item sells, Amazon collects payment (typically by credit card or EFT) and deposits the seller’s payment into your seller account, less any sale or fulfillment fees. Amazon automatically cashes out seller accounts every 14 days, provided they have a balance of at least $1. You can request payouts to your personal or business bank account as often as every 24 hours, but Amazon reserves the right to hold some funds in your account to cover chargebacks and refunds as necessary. Transfers from your seller account to your bank account usually take three to five business days.
Advantages of Amazon
- Greater Trust in the Platform and Its Sellers. Amazon refers to itself as “a brand millions trust.” That’s no idle boast – as a huge company known for competitive prices and rapid shipping, Amazon has earned the world’s trust and respect. Whereas eBay sellers’ success is heavily determined by the quality and quantity of their ratings and reviews, Amazon buyers place their trust in the platform itself. This makes it easier for new, inexperienced Amazon sellers to gain a foothold on the platform – and to start making money on it.
- Fewer Scams. The public has good reason to trust Amazon: it’s highly secure. Since Amazon hosts all payment transactions, even those occurring between third-party buyers and sellers, the risk of fraud is much lower than on Craigslist. Additionally, sellers that use Amazon Fulfillment Services don’t have to worry about common buyer scams, such as fraudulent lost or damaged item claims.
- Growing Market. In contrast with eBay, which has seen anemic revenue growth and actual declines in visitor counts since its initial post-recession recovery, Amazon is posting consistent sales and traffic increases, month after month. Though Amazon sellers are becoming more numerous, the pool of buyers is expanding, and individual buyers are spending more and more. More people and dollars on the platform mean more opportunities to sell – and, more likely than not, more money flowing into your pocket.
- You Can Sell From Home. You don’t have to meet Amazon buyers in person, so you can list your items and receive payment from the comfort of your own home. Even if you have to visit the post office to send packages, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of driving across town (or farther) to meet buyers.
Disadvantages of Amazon
- Some Product Categories Are Restricted. Sellers with Individual plans don’t have free reign on Amazon. Amazon requires sellers to obtain approval for items listed in certain categories, such as cosmetics, while other categories (including automotive) are exclusively available to Professional sellers. This incentivizes regular sellers to make the leap to Professional status, but is a potential hurdle for occasional sellers with no desire to go pro.
- Higher Fees. Amazon’s fees are generally higher than eBay’s, and definitely higher than Craigslist’s. This is the case even for low-volume individual sellers, who must pay $0.99 referral fees for every item they list. By contrast, eBay doesn’t have a listing fee for sellers who list fewer than 50 items per month.
- No Auction Option. Amazon doesn’t offer an auction-style sale option. This limits the financial upside on popular or hard-to-find items, as there’s no chance of a bidding war between motivated buyers.
- No Free Listing Option. If you’ve tried and failed to sell an item and simply want it gone, you can’t use Amazon for the digital equivalent of putting it on the curb. That’s a downside relative to Craigslist, whose ever-popular “free” option is a great way to get rid of junk you can’t store, sell, or give to the trash man.
Amazon is a trusted intermediary that’s ideal for higher-volume sellers, especially those with multiple copies of the same product. Thanks to a streamlined transaction process and an awesome fulfillment system worthy of the world’s largest retailer, it’s easy to scale quickly with Amazon if and when you decide to transition from offloading unwanted stuff to earning real side income (or even quitting your job and earning a full-time income) as an online seller.
While eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon dominate the used item buying and selling market, there is an increasing number of alternatives:
1. Local Facebook Groups
Many municipalities have one or more Facebook groups devoted to selling, trading, or bartering for items. Members can post photos, descriptions, and prices for unwanted items, allowing others to engage in discussions with sellers in the comments section.
The association with Facebook may cut down on potential scams, since names, photos, and other identifying details are involved. It’s essentially the social media equivalent of miniature garage sales.
Thrift shore shopping has enjoyed a major resurgence over the last several years. While thrift stores often sell items that have been donated, consignment stores sell items on behalf of individuals.
Consignment stores typically function according to two primary models:
- Purchase items from individuals outright, usually for somewhere between 10% and 50% of the estimated sale price
- Pay the consigner a percentage of the sale price – often close to 50% – if the item sells within a certain time-frame (typically 90 days)
You usually receive a higher percentage of the sales price by working with a consignment store that operates using the second method – however, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get any money at all by going that route. If you don’t pick up your unsold items within a certain time-frame, the store will likely donate them.
While donating your unwanted items doesn’t directly put money in your pocket, it’s worthy of consideration for several reasons:
- It’s Charitable. Find an organization that accepts donations on behalf of whichever cause is closest to your heart.
- It’s Simple. Many organizations place restrictions on the items they can accept for donation. For example, you can’t donate paint, chemicals, or large household appliances to most chapters of Goodwill. Still, it gratefully accepts a much wider variety of items – and a wider range of quality – than most buyers on Craigslist and eBay. In short, Goodwill is not picky. And some organizations, such as the Disabled American Veterans charity, even provides free curbside pick-up of items.
- It’s Tax Deductible. If you donate to a registered nonprofit 501c(3), there is a good chance you can write off the value of the donation on your annual tax return. Make sure to check with the organization to confirm this, and get a receipt – itemized if possible – for your tax records. If your donation is valued at $250 or more, you need written documentation from the recipient that you did not receive anything in exchange for it. If your donation is valued at more than $500, you may need to provide documentation (such as receipts) proving how you acquired the property in the first place. Check with a tax professional before making a donation valued at $500 or more.
Selling used and unwanted items not only puts money in your pocket, but it’s also a very “green” environmental practice. When someone acquires a used item instead of purchasing new, they’ve reduced the carbon footprint inherent in sourcing, producing, and distributing an item. Plus, by giving an unwanted item a new home, you’re keeping it out of a landfill.
The method you choose for selling or discarding your items is up to you, but make sure you put your personal safety above any potential monetary gain. Your life and health are worth more than the $20 you hope to get for that old blender.
What other methods can you suggest to make money on used goods?