We all buy things we don’t need or never use, things that truly fit the description of “stuff”. Find out how to sell your stuff and use it to get one step closer to financial freedom.
“I’m going to buy that treadmill! It’s expensive but it will force me to start exercising and will be worth the price tag in the long-run.” That’s what I told myself before shelling out $280 for a treadmill at Walmart.
Three months later and the treadmill had been used maybe ten times and was buried under a pile of clothes and boxes. It had turned into what I refer to as “stuff”.
We all have stuff lying around that seemed like great buys but turned out to be something we never used and really didn’t need. It may even be stuff that got a lot of usage but has been forgotten after something newer was bought.
You don’t have to sit there and regret wasting your money. Your stuff can actually help you on your path to financial freedom.
How to Sell your Stuff: What and Where
We live a fairly frugal lifestyle in the Hogue house but I found a whole list of “stuff” in just a few minutes.
Starting in my office and staring me right in the face is a stack of books that I will never read again. I really enjoyed Henry Kissinger’s book Diplomacy but it’s nearly 900 pages long and I’m about 99% sure that I’ll never read it again. I’ve also got an old office chair that I didn’t like and replaced but is still sitting in the corner.
Looking through the rest of the house found TVs in several separate rooms, these are rarely used and only act to isolate the family from each other. There are old tech gadgets scattered around the house, things that have been replaced or upgraded. Our son’s room is full of toys that he’s outgrown or no longer has an interest in them. I also came across the most expensive coat rack we’ve ever bought, that treadmill.
Online auction site eBay used to be the favorite for turning stuff into quick cash but Craigslist seems to be the preferred choice now. You might be able to reach a bigger audience with eBay but the shipping costs just aren’t worth it for a lot of smaller ticket stuff. Use eBay to check out prices of things you want to sell but I would list them first on Craigslist.
Craigslist is a great resource to sell your stuff because it’s local so there are no shipping costs. Craigslist has built a good reputation for finding inexpensive items so it gets a ton of traffic everyday. It’s free to post your stuff for sell and you can hide your actual email address. The process of selling something on the site is really easy.
- Search for your local site with “Craigslist [your city]” in Google
- Click on “Post to Classifieds” on the top-left of the screen
- Select the type of posting, i.e. for sale by owner
- Choose the most relevant category
- Your actual email address will be hidden using the Craigslist mail relay
- Include title, price and other details
- Upload a picture of the item
- Verify your listing through an email
The drawback to Craigslist is that your posting can get buried under others very quickly, especially in larger cities and for popular categories. This means you may have to re-post your items a few times before you get many offers. You are allowed to renew a Craigslist post every 48 hours, which will move it to the top of the for-sale listing.
Craigslist is so popular that many people have made decent money with buying and selling items on the site. I detailed the process of how to make money online selling on Craigslist in a prior post, highlighting the steps to buy merchandise that you can turn around and resell.
Beyond Craigslist, you might want to consider selling your stuff through local consignment shops. These businesses resell your used clothes and other items and take a cut of the total sale. It can be a better way to sell clothes or other very inexpensive stuff. For used books, most cities have a Half Price Books or a used book seller. You won’t get more than a few bucks for each book, at the most, but it can add up and it is money for something that was just collecting dust.
The two sources to sell your stuff I would absolutely avoid would be pawn shops and garage sales. Pawn shops make their money from people that need quick cash and have no other option. They are going to offer you much less than you could get through Craigslist or another source. I was practically raised on garage sales and still like them for finding kids clothes and the occasional deal but for selling your own stuff, garage sales are a waste of time! You will end up sitting outside all day to make maybe $50 max. You are not going to get rich selling your stuff on Craigslist but at least it won’t consume your entire day.
How to Sell your Stuff: How
The process to sell your stuff online is fairly standard. I’ll talk through the process of selling your stuff on Craigslist here but it can really be applied to eBay or any online site.
The most important part of your advertisement is the title. Without a good title, people won’t be tempted to click through and look at what you’ve got for sale. Resist the temptation to “trick” people into looking at your ad with lots of exclamation points or asterisks, this will just annoy people. Do not use all capital letters in your title, it’s the equivalent of online shouting and will turn buyers off.
Instead, write a clear and concise title that describes what you’ve got for sale. Include a few adjectives to give it persuasive power.
Look to the retailer’s description on websites where the product is sold new for help in writing your description. Explain why you are selling the item and that it is still in good condition with lots of life left. Make your description easy to read with short paragraphs and bullet points.
Photos of your stuff to sell are absolutely critical but you don’t need more than five. It’s best to use your own picture of the item instead of one from a retailer’s website. Posting a retailer’s image will make people wonder if the one for sale isn’t in good enough shape to photograph or if it’s even a legitimate posting.
Try taking at least two or three pictures from different angles and using a white sheet as a background. If you’ve got a lamp, set it up so the light shines on the product for a brighter, clearer picture.
Check out what other people are selling the same product for and know how much it costs new. This will help when someone tries to low-ball you with a ridiculous offer. Have a bottom price you will accept in mind and be ready to tell the buyer you cannot go any lower.
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How to Sell your Stuff and Turn it into Financial Freedom
So you’ve gone through the trouble of cleaning up your old stuff and selling it online or through consignment and you’ve got a few hundred dollars in your pocket. Is it even worth it to sell your stuff and can it really help you reach financial freedom?
Would it be worth it if it meant an extra $3,700?
You won’t get much selling your stuff, maybe a few hundred dollars if you’ve got some big ticket items, but it can go a long way if you use the money correctly. Just $350 used to pay down credit card debt, at the average credit card rate of 13.0%, saves you $3,700 in interest over 20 years assuming you continuously keep a balance on the card. Even investing the money at a long-term return of 7.5% on stocks and that $350 will grow to $1,486 over two decades.
You won’t retire wealthy simply by selling your stuff but it can add up to good money for stuff you won’t even miss. Besides paying down high-interest credit cards or investing the money, you might consider using it to jumpstart your home business. Selling your stuff to start your side-gig turns it into a stream of cash that could pay off big time.
After you’ve de-cluttered your life and sold the stuff you weren’t using, think hard about buying new “stuff”. The idea to sell your stuff wasn’t so you could run out to go shopping but to secure your financial freedom. It doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself nice things or live a minimalist lifestyle but just spending money on things your will really use instead of impulse purchases.
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.