The beginning of the year is a great time to get personal finances in order. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey and his financial advice. Getting a grip on finances means knowing where the money goes, finding ways to save money, and making more money than you spend. Last week I wrote about how we save money by visiting our local library. This week I’m writing about one way our family makes some extra money – selling stuff on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.
What can you sell?
I believe anyone can easily sell extra items using services like eBay and Craigslist. In 2013 I started picking up free items and “flipping” them for cash on Craigslist. Almost all of us have excess items in our homes that we can cash out. So, what sells fast?
- Consumer electronics – used mobile phones (even broken ones), game systems, vintage electronics (ex. – VCRs), computers, etc.
- Furniture – chairs, coffee and side tables, bookshelves, file cabinets, NOT desks
- Kids toys
Small electronics are easy to sell on eBay – more on that in a bit. Larger items like furniture need to be sold using local marketplaces like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc. Kids toys and tools can be sold using either an online market or a local option.
Here are some items that don’t sell, in my experience…
- Clothes – unless they are HIGH end with a very desirable name on the tag.
- Large furniture – desks, couches, entertainment centers, armoires
Here is my #1 tip for selling your used stuff – Price it right. Your item might be ‘just like new’ but you are not a retail store. Folks on eBay and Craigslist are looking for a bargain, so you have to use bargain pricing. Do a quick search for items similar to what you’re selling and undercut current prices by 5% to get your item gone quickly.
My Top Tips for eBay
In 2014 I started buying items in auctions and flipping them for cash. I started with storage locker auctions, like you can see on the TV show. It was fun but the bidders were paying crazy cash for lockers full of trash. Later that year I transitioned to buying from local surplus auctions. In 2015 my sales volume became large enough that I needed to form an LLC for tax and legal purposes. McKenzie Sales LLC does business as Jon’s Cache and primarily sells surplus items on eBay. In 2017 I sold and shipped 991 items on eBay, so here are my top tips…
- Great photos are more important than a lot of text. Most of my eBay listings have minimal text that only provide descriptions about item condition. I don’t explain what the item is or how to use it.
- I don’t try to upsell my items with favorable descriptions but instead opt for an honest assessment of condition.
- The more you list, the more you sell. Also, the more you list the easier it gets. Your first eBay listing will probably take 15-20 minutes to complete. I can take photos of an item and have it listed in under 5 minutes. Practice makes perfect!
- A quick way to get started listing on eBay – search for your item on eBay and find one with a descriptive title. That item will have a ‘Sell one like this’ button in the listing. Click that, add your own photos, update the description, set your price, and add your shipping options. Done!
Watch out for shipping and fees. Shipping items is surprisingly expensive so make sure you’re charging enough. Check out similar listings to see what they are charging for shipping. eBay also has a shipping calculator tool to help you. Shipping tape, boxes, and packing material can add up too. Don’t forget that PayPal takes 3% of your total and eBay takes anywhere from 5-12% of your total sale.
Want to learn more about selling on eBay? Check out this detailed guest post from a few years ago.
My Top Tips for Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.
The most important thing with local selling is safety! I suggest never having people come to your house to pick up an item. Pick a public place to make the exchange. I like the parking lot of our local Target. Many police departments also have designated spots outside headquarters for meeting up to sell an item. Take a friend with you and have a fun time meeting someone who wants to buy your item. Depending on your workplace, you might consider having someone swing by your office to meet in the parking lot to make a sale.
Certain categories of items tend to be a target for criminals – jewelry and high dollar electronics. I would suggest selling items of that nature on eBay to avoid potential danger and to reach a bigger market. I have never had a safety issue when meeting someone to make a local sale.
I think a free secondary phone number like Google Voice provides is a great way to communicate via phone call or text while protecting your personal number. I have written about this topic before and you can read more about it here. (Note, the Google Voice service has gotten a lot better since I wrote that post.) Facebook Marketplace offers messaging via Facebook Messenger. Remember that a basic view of your profile information is viewable through your Facebook Marketplace ad.
Great photos are still really important for selling your item in a local marketplace. Realistic pricing is also very important. Both Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist have the option to renew ads after 5 or 7 days. Renewing an ad puts it back at the top of the list of ads.
Be prepared for people to setup a meeting and then ‘flake’ (not show up) on you. I have found this to be especially true when I am selling video game systems or similar items. Certain categories of items lend themselves to flakier people 🙂 Some people will ask you to drive out of your way to meet up for a sale. I won’t do that because there are too many things that can go wrong – no show, deal falls through, etc.
I have found selling items online and locally is a fun way to make some extra cash. These various marketplaces also offer a great way to reduce clutter in a home and keep things from winding up in the landfill. Have you tried your hand at selling online or locally? I’d enjoy hearing some of your success stories or abysmal failures…I have both…leave a comment below…