Today I’m discussing how to make money on your unwanted stuff. There are lots of options to do this both online and in person, and each one comes with its own set of pros and cons. First, I’m going to discuss two large online marketplaces: eBay and Etsy.
You are probably aware of this massive online auction site where you can sell virtually any item and reach a huge pool of potential buyers. You can offer your goods auction style, where buyers bid on your item, or at a fixed price. If you opt for an auction you can set a minimum price (known as a reserve), or an amount that allows someone to “Buy it Now”. The competitive structure of an auction may garner a bigger profit for in-demand items. If you are willing to bargain, you can let buyers make you an offer (known as Best Offer) on your fixed price item.
Selling on eBay can be straightforward or complex, depending on the options you choose for your sales. If you are just starting, be aware that some buyers may overlook new sellers who have few ratings. Fees are high on eBay: up to 10% on completed sales.
Etsy, a large marketplace for handmade and vintage items, has been around since 2005 but is still new to many. Unlike eBay where sellers offer up anything and everything, Etsy shops have curated collections of items. For this reason buyers are more discerning and you can sometimes garner higher prices here than on eBay.
Etsy buyers are expecting a storefront experience, and the most successful shops create their brand, take care with their presentation of goods, and promote within the site and on social media. If you don’t want to set up perpetual shop here, it’s probably not worth the trouble. Your vintage items must be at least 20 years old to sell on this platform. Fees are relatively low: 20 cents per listing and 3.5% per sale.
For an example, you can check out the Etsy shop I run with my boyfriend here: 80s Playhouse
Bottom line: Both eBay and Etsy require work up front to photograph, describe, and list your items. You also have to pack and ship your items, and communicate with your buyers. Ask yourself if the amount you are likely to get for your item is worth the effort involved.
Next, let's look at Craigslist and Facebook.
Craigslist is like a huge online garage sale. You can list your items with photos and a description in any of their categories for free, and communicate privately with interested buyers. Messages are routed to your email through Craigslist, so your personal address is not shared. Since the site is limited to the local area you can meet up with buyers instead of shipping your items to them.
Like a garage sale, buyers on Craigslist are expecting low prices. In my experience, individuals can be unreliable and you may spend a lot of time communicating back and forth. Always exercise caution when inviting strangers to your home to pick up an item; a safer option is to meet in a public place.
Facebook Selling Groups
Many selling groups have popped up on Facebook in recent years. Groups for general merchandise, like Garage Sale-acuse, are usually local, while groups for specific categories of items, like kids clothes, crafting supplies, or tools, are open to all of Facebook. Similar to Craigslist, you can post items for free and then communicate with interested buyers through the site.
Pricing in the garage sale Facebook groups will be low, but you can then meet people locally to exchange items and cash. You may make more in specific interest groups, but you will have to manage packing and shipping. PayPal is a safe and easy option to receive payments from buyers who live far away. Read the rules of the group before posting (usually the first post on the page), and scan through some listings to get a feel for proper etiquette and procedures.
Bottom line: Both Craigslist and Facebook make it easy to post items to sell and communicate with buyers. While you probably won't get top dollar for your stuff on either platform, the convenience of local pickup may make it worth your time.
Finally, there are consignment/antique stores and garage sales.
Consignment / Antique Stores
For good-quality items that are from known and desired manufacturers, consignment or antique stores can be a good option to explore. Most clothing consignment stores will only take seasonal merchandise, so call ahead to find out what they are currently accepting. Don't be offended if the shop owner is not interested in your stuff: they know what sells, and are very selective about the things they accept. Some stores will pay up front for your items, while others wait until they sell to provide your cut. Because the store is managing the sale for you, expect to only get a portion of the item’s worth.
Garage sales can be a way to unload a lot of low-value merchandise, and they are also a good option for getting rid of large items (like furniture) without having to bother transporting them. Advertising is important to get people to come to your sale, but this can be done for free on sites like Craigslist and Facebook. The time investment for setup, pricing, and running the sale is high for the amount you are likely to get for your items. Remember, people attend garage sales looking for steep bargains, so price things accordingly and consider reducing them further as the day wears on. After it’s done, be prepared to pack up your stuff and take it directly to the donation drop-off, otherwise it may find its way back into your home. For more tips on running a successful garage sale, check out this post.
Bottom line: Consignment and antique stores do the selling for you, so you just have to drop off your stuff. They only accept very select items, however, and they keep a portion of the profits. A garage sale brings people to you, but those people will not want to pay a lot for your things. The time investment required for a garage sale may not be worth the money you are likely to make.
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