This is nothing new, but when times get tough and you need the extra cash, it is time to start selling stuff. The All-and-Powerful Dave Ramsey says to “..sell so much stuff the kids think they’re next!” (Okay, I won’t quote him again…promise!) But, we’ve done it all from garage sales to online auctions. Some are more successful than others, but they can all be used at different times. There will be different blogs on the topics of garage sales and consignment sales. It’s not that those are not important…I am just not the expert in those areas…my wife is…and its my turn on a topic…so stop poking me! (Not you. My wife.) What I actually meant was: patience is a virtue so allow me to carry on.
There are many ways to unload your stuff, one item at a time. We have found that the easiest, and cheapest mean for online selling is Craigslist (www.craigslist.org). 1) It’s free to list any item on there, 2) you have total control over the description, price, etc and 3) its hugely popular.
Now, back in the early day of online auctions (i.e. eBay mainly), it was costly to list an item and shipping was always a hassle. Plus, because the item was rarely sold locally and had to be shipped, there were limitations on what you could sell. And, what really killed it for me, I got tired of competing with the collectors, stores, and sellers with dedicated stockpiles.
We then decided to give Craigslist a try for buying and selling items. Items we’ve bought and sold range from dining room tables to computer equipment like wireless routers. Some things are easier to unload than others, but it all generally goes once the price is right.
Allow me to offer a few words of wisdom:
- If you are worried about spam or unwanted solicitations in your email, it helps to set up a separate email account (like yahoo, hotmail or gmail) just for your Craigslist postings. It helps to keep your Craigslist emails separated from your personal accounts. It is important to check it constantly or risk missing out on a sale.
- Always include pictures of the item. Sellers know they are buying used, but they still want to see it. Take your own pictures using different lightning and flashes to get the best and most realistic representation. Include links from online stores to provide more detailed descriptions and FAQ or online manuals for future questions.
- Be descriptive, but not oversell the item. There is no reason making it sound better than it is…the seller could just walk away when they see the real item and end up wasting your time and, possibly, missing other potential buyers.
- Pricing is the most important thing. Do some pricing research on Amazon, eBay, Craigslist and other places to put your item at a competitive price. Negotiations are expected on all items, so be prepared for it. Agree with your spouse or partner the lowest amount you are willing to go on an item. Honestly, it helps bouncing ideas like that off of others you trust. In the past, I’ve held on to an item over $5 and also given something else away for practically free. Having an agreed upon plan helps avoid those situations.
- When people are saying they are interested in your listing, give them a deadline of when to respond or buy. It’s a rookie mistake to put all of your eggs in with a single buyer, blow off others, and end up with no sale at all. State that its first-come, first-served, but that is only within reason.
- If you are traveling to the seller’s location, especially with larger items, state if you want to increase the price to include a delivery charge. It’s a common practice, and for those without trucks or other means, they are willing to pay more to have the item delivered. Plus, its hard for them to say ‘no’ to the item if its being delivered. I have sold a cheap table and chairs in the past where the gas of getting the items to the buyer’s house took a great deal of my profit. But it was an older woman on a fixed income that could really use some company…so I didn’t feel too bad about making so little on the deal.
- I always try to meet in a neutral area, ideally a public parking lot (grocery store, Wal-Mart, CVS, etc). I’ve never had a bad experience buying or selling, but there is no reason to bring them to your house unless absolutely necessary. If possible, bring someone else along with you. At the very least, let someone know where you are going and who you are meeting. If you end up on a milk carton, an email of phone number could be a key piece of information for the investigators… I may have watched too many episodes of CSI. “It’s a deal he paid with his life” <puts sunglasses on dramatically> Just a joke…most deals last less than 2 minutes without threat of physical harm.
- Only accept cash. Everything else is a headache and not worth the trouble. Checks can be stopped and cashier’s checks can be forged. Cold, hard cash for an item. I’ve heard stories of those that grab and run, so make sure you see the cash before handing the item over.
Over the years, I have sold a like-new fridge for $400, a dining room table and chairs for $200, iPods for $150, front storm doors for $20, and broken computer monitors and outdated electronics as low as $10. Some of those covered moving costs while others were used for gas in the cars to get us to the next paycheck. All of these were items that were taking up space in the house or garage and we successfully turned them into much-needed cash.
It’s easy to overlook the treasure you already own while there are many people out there just looking for a deal to save some cash. In all honestly, most of these transactions are win-win for both the buyer and seller.
Craigslist is way too nerve-racking for me! It might residual feelings leftover from bad experiences on our earlier online auctions. So I mostly leave Craigslist to Jack but have handled a few transactions and emails myself. So in addition to his great eight tips above, below are my eight impractical tips to help you too!!
- Real life photos are great but don’t ask your neighborhood bikini girl to pose with the item. Otherwise buyers will be disappointed upon meeting you.
- Do not post a video of you utilizing the item. Nobody looks that good exercising on a rowing machine except Chuck Norris.
- Meet in a public place but do not wear a trench coat And even if it saves you precious pocket room, do not fasten item for sale to the inside lining of said trench coat.
- Do not use Scary Movie voice synthesizer to answer the phone. It will not end well.
- Change your car horn to “shave and haircut…two bits” to blast when you arrive at their home. Everyone will smile upon your arrival!
- If confused if the potential buyer has a heavy accent or is heavily inebriated, the time of the day or night of the call might be a good indication.
- Monopoly money is not that funny to most people.
- Before riding off to exchange the item for cash, be sure to alert your partner or spouse first. Sure there is this safety issue. But never underestimate the feelings attached to the item. I still wish I had a chance to say “good-bye” to my college car. Sure it was getting up there in the mileage and had met more deer than Santa’s sleigh, but it also carried great memories of many “firsts.” First move to big city, first day of graduate school being lost in said city, first trip as husband and wife, etc…. Of course Jack’s response was “(small laugh)…. oh, you are serious” and then silently hand over the cash to me.
We look forward to meeting you Craigslist in the near future!