Do we really need more stuff? Sometimes the answer is yes. Hobbies and interests change over time, useful items break beyond repair and need to be replaced, etc. In the past I just would have purchased what was needed or wanted, after days or weeks of research! Now that we are more focused on early retirement and what is truly important to us, I have a new approach to consumption – Want Something New? Sell Something Old!
For us, there are two significant drivers for this approach:
- Downsizing – Our two sons are essentially adults now and will (hopefully) be out on their own soon. Our current home makes no sense for a couple + dog, so we need to start shedding possessions. We don’t plan on moving for a few years, so the downsizing process should be relatively painless if we start now.
- Discretionary Income – We currently set aside some of our discretionary income for expected purchases in the near term. I’d like to get to a ‘net zero’ point where purchases of new (or used) items are paid for with the proceeds of selling our unused items. That will allow more of our discretionary income to go towards savings and investments.
We’ve had decent success with this approach over the past couple of years. Please read on to see how we’ve been able to rid ourselves of unused items and make some $$$ in the process.
I’ll typically list items on eBay that are easy to ship. So that usually means smaller items that will fit into an existing box that I saved from an Amazon shipment or will fit into one of the small, medium, or large USPS Priority Mail boxes. Anything larger than that is just too much effort and the shipping costs will likely be a significant deterrent for a bidder.
After identifying some unused items to list, I’ll check out similar items that have sold recently on eBay. This gives me an idea of how much I will potentially make and determine if it’s even worth listing. For example, one of our son’s had a TI-83 calculator that he wasn’t using anymore for school, but the recent auctions for that calculator weren’t resulting in much money. So I decided to hold onto it and put it into our yard sale pile – hopefully another student in the neighborhood may need it. Looking at sold listings also helps determine a good starting bid price.
Looking back through our eBay sales, we’ve sold a variety of different items that we no longer used. Seeing that our teenage sons no longer play with Lego and Playmobil toys anymore, auctioned off to the highest bidder (it was crazy what some people were willing to spend!). That trumpet from years of middle and high school band? You guessed it, proudly being played by someone from the Netherlands no less.
Being an engineer and an avid runner, I have numerous electronics that I’ll use for a few years and then upgrade to something newer. Full admission here: I’m working on calming my inner voice that tells me that I need updated electronics. The last time I purchased a new GPS running watch, I told myself I could only get it if I sold enough items to cover the cost. Within a week I had sold my old running watch and a few other unused electronics and had enough money to pay for the new watch.
You’ll want (perhaps need?) a PayPal account for the eBay payment and fee process. Speaking of fees, eBay takes a 10% commission on the sale and there isn’t a listing fee assuming you aren’t listing more than 50 items per month. Once the highest bidder pays for the item, their payment will be credited to your PayPal account. The bidder will pay for the item and any associated shipping costs. I typically pay for the shipping, USPS or FedEx, through eBay and receive a slight discount for doing so. The shipping cost is immediately deducted from your PayPal account. Then you just need to stop by the post office, UPS, or FedEx to ship your package.
So overall it’s a relatively painless process. The most difficult part for me is finding a box to use for shipping.
As I mentioned in our DIY or Hire a Contractor post, I used to have a pretty serious woodworking hobby. Although I’m not artistic at all in the traditional sense, woodworking allowed me to explore my creative side – not to mention saving a good bit of money on numerous home improvement and furniture projects.
However, over time my interest and commitment to woodworking decreased. I would walk through the garage and see all the tools I had accumulated collecting dust; unfortunately not dust from projects. I had moved on to new interests and hobbies, so it was time for someone else make good use of these tools.
Selling an 800 pound table saw on eBay didn’t seem like the best idea, so I decided to checkout Craigslist. I had never sold or purchased anything on Craigslist before, so this was a new experience. Basically it’s an updated version of the newspaper classified ads of yesteryear. A nice benefit of Craigslist is that there is no listing fee or commission to pay.
I suppose you could provide your phone number in the listing, but I only communicated with potential buyers over email. Craigslist uses a two-way email relay, so neither the seller or buyer share their actual email address. This alleviated some of my privacy concerns as I certainly didn’t want to share my email address with millions of people and end up on a billion spam email lists. As the seller, your email will look something like email@example.com and the buyer will have an email similar to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I did need to overcome one significant concern – sharing my home address and having the buyer come to my house. The tools I was selling were simply too large and heavy to transport to a ‘neutral’ location. I still have some reservations about that, but I didn’t have any issues with the buyers. One other thing to consider with Craiglist, as opposed to the auction format on eBay, is that you should expect some haggling on price. It’s up to you if you want to stand firm on your asking price or accept less.
letgo / OfferUp / 5miles
I haven’t used these services yet, but they seem similar to Craigslist. Basically local classified ads with an emphasis on smartphone app integration, social media, and user ratings. I may give one of these services when I sell a bike that my kids don’t ride anymore.
Have any of you tried these services yet? If so, please comment below and share your experience.
Those items that don’t make the Craigslist or eBay list end up in our yard sale pile. We don’t expect to make much on the items we sell at a yard sale, but getting rid of unused items (like that elliptical that was used a fair amount) is worth more than the money. And as the saying goes, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.
We typically try to align our yard sale when a nearby church has their community yard sale once or twice per year. We benefit from their advertising and the weather is usually great. Although we haven’t done this in the past, we are going to donate any proceeds we make from the yard sale to the nearby church.
Some items go straight to the donation pile. This includes things such as clothes and books. Also, any items that don’t get a new home through the yard sale are donated. We typically drop of books to the local library and other donations to the Salvation Army.
Although you may think while you are focused on stashing away for early retirement, you should seldom buy new things unless something you use all the time breaks. There are ways that you can still buy an occasional ‘want’ if you look for opportunities to fund the purchase by selling your other unwanted items. Sometimes, we have resold things for more money than the original purchase, but often times we just recoup some of the original purchase price. Items that can’t be sold easily go to a new home through donations.
We are sure many of you have used the above named services. Are there any situations that really stand out in your memory? Maybe you made a lot more money on something you sold than you were expecting? Or have you every sold something ‘old’ in order to buy something ‘new’ that you wanted? If so, what was it?