16 May 2020

Make Money Selling Stuff You’ve Already Got

This week, The New York Times Breaking News report delivered more grim facts: layoffs are continuing, three million jobless claims were filed last week, and our new eight-week U.S. total is 36 million unemployed.

Even with our stimulus checks, many of us need more money.

Which brings me to today’s topic: how to sell stuff you’ve already got and make money quickly. In the last blog, I mentioned having a garage sale. In this blog and the next, I’m talking about selling your stuff online.

Speaking From Personal Experience

Here are my credentials on this topic: I’ve had an eBay store for 20 years with a 100% positive feedback score of almost 5000. For 15 years of those years, people have hired me to sell their stuff online on eBay, OfferUp, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace. I sold an $8,000 bass guitar to a guy in Turkey, a metal detector ($1,500), an antique French baby bonnet ($599), a collection of 1960’s redline HotWheels ($1,800), crystal, jewelry, silver, collectible plates, furniture, and bizillions of other regular, run-of-the-mill household items over the years.

The most recent ho-hum item was a garage door keypad, which I didn’t need, but came with a new motor I had to buy. Instead of tossing it, I put it on eBay and got $20 for it.

Popular Platforms

There are lots of selling platforms out there, but Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay are the ones I use most regularly and with the most success. (For a list of 26 apps to sell your stuff on, click here to see an article by Millenial Money writer Grant Sabatier. Some apps are specific to a category of product, like pre-owned clothes.)

To sell things without shipping them, you’ll have to sell to local buyers, and I think the best platforms for that are Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp. If your first thought is, “No way am I inviting a stranger to my house to pick up that backpack I could sell,” then I agree. I don’t do that, either, unless it’s for a large item like a refrigerator. In that case, I take precautions, which I’ll tell you about in a second.

When I sell something on Craiglist or Facebook, I arrange to meet the buyer at a local busy gas station/Dunkin Donuts. I park right in front of the doors where people are always going in and out. It’s a couple of miles from my house–convenient for me, public, and safe.

If I’m selling a large item, sometimes I’ll offer to deliver it (with a delivery fee). I go by feel with that scenario. I’m naturally a helpful and compassionate person so that factors into my decisions. Otherwise, I’ll have the item outside in the driveway, with the garage doors closed so there’s no chance of someone scoping out my garage to see what else I’ve got. I’m a woman, so I also make sure that I’ve got a second person with me–either my fiance, or my grown son, or at least another woman. Arranging a pickup with a stranger at my house when I’m alone would be dumb. Don’t do that.

Craiglist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp are free. They are super easy to use, and you can create listings from your phone or your computer.

What to Sell

You can list almost anything but do check site rules to see if there are restrictions. Obviously don’t put illegal substances on, and don’t try to get away with something outside of the rules. It’s not worth it.

Ideas of things around the house that you can sell include things you haven’t used in forever, things you or your kids have outgrown, toys that have been outgrown, last year’s cell phones, kitchen items and cookware, that never-unsealed Christmas gift, gadgets/gizmos/appliances you thought you had to have but only used once, craft items for that hobby that you never gave time to, accessories, car stuff, tools, decor items. Go through your closets, the back of cabinets, the attic, the garage. You’ll be surprised at what appears that you could sell.

You may be in a financial position where you really need money–so much so that you’re willing to let go of good stuff you’re using but you could live without. In the crash of 2008, my husband and I lost our business and were scrambling to pay bills and feed our three kids. I had a very good sewing machine. I hated to give it up, but when I sold it on eBay, the proceeds covered that month’s mortgage. Some of our important possessions take on a different value when life’s basics are in jeopardy.

Selling Tips

Here are a few tips:

  • Put effort into taking good pictures. (Phone pictures are fine; you don’t need a camera.) Make sure the lighting is great, whether you use several lamps to eliminate shadows, or you shoot the item outside.
  • Take pictures of any blemishes, flaws, or damage. Be 100% upfront about the condition of the item.
  • Clean the item before you take pictures. Wiping the dust off or removing those coffee splotches will boost the appeal of your item.
  • In your description, include sizes, dimensions, the brand, the age (if relevant), and the condition. Give as much information as you have the intestinal fortitude to put down.
  • Price your stuff competitively. To see what items like yours are selling for, run a search for similar items on the marketplace you’re using. Look at the condition of those comps and then price yours accordingly.
  • Be prepared to accept a lower price. People on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace tend to ask, “Will you accept less?” or “What’s your best price?” (To which I’ll sometimes respond, “What’s your best offer?”) So either start your price a bit high and be ready to accept a lower offer or be prepared to be firm on your asking price.
  • With Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, listings expire after a certain number of days. That means, follow up on your listings and renew them. If you don’t, they will fall into the marketplace abyss, never to be seen again. You’ll be waiting for your stuff to sell but it won’t because the listing isn’t active and no one is seeing it.
  • Only accept cash payments.
  • Beware Craigslist scammers. They start out looking like normal interested buyers, and then they offer to pay with a cashier’s check and yadda, yadda, yadda. Consider the words “cashier’s check” a giant red flag and block the contact.

In the next blog, I’ll give you tips on how to sell on eBay. I was going to cover them in this blog, but I can see you glazing over.

Come back for a chat about eBay.

Thanks for reading,



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