About the Author: Bobby is the co-founder of Making Money Fast and Slow, a blog aimed at helping young adults with personal finance and investing. He is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech.
When I graduated from college, I had a lot of stuff that I either didn’t need anymore or couldn’t fit in my new apartment – stuff like textbooks, furniture, and kitchenware, among other things. Instead of throwing them all away, I learned how to sell them and make some money. Here are some ways to do just that:
Craigslist should be a young adult’s best friend. Not only can you find almost anything you want for free or at low cost, but you can sell the stuff you don’t need anymore. It’s simple: just post a listing on Craigslist under the section for your local region, and make sure to indicate whether the item is free or for sale. Craigslist uses a variety of categories for listing items so be sure to pick the one that best describes yours. Make your description short but accurate with relevant details such as how old the item is, its size, what it’s made of, and whether it is from a non-smoking or non-pet home. Try to include a picture so that interested parties can get a preview of the item you’re listing. Within hours you are likely to receive a request or two from potential buyers wanting to know more about your item. TIPS: First, never take a personal check for payment; cash or money orders only. Second, don’t’ let a potential buyer into your home when you are alone. Craigslist is great, but there have been some issues. Safety first.
I bet you didn’t know you could sell your used stuff –and not just textbooks—on Amazon. Actually, there are a wide variety of items you can sell your stuff on Amazon, like musical instruments, electronics, and toys. If you’re willing to wait for a bigger commission, you can list your used item with Amazon for a price that you choose. Amazon will take a small commission from your sale ($0.99 per sale plus a closing fee), but it will give you an allowance for shipping, so you can often still make close to the price that you wanted for the item. On these types of sales, I recommend listing a price slightly higher than the lowest of the other listings for that item. That way, you are probably the second or third in line for someone browsing the item. If the first item sells, you’re next. If you want to get a buyer faster, put the price slightly lower than the lowest price. If you want a challenge when selling on Amazon, try timing the market. For example, textbook sales increase at the beginning of college semesters. Can you see the spike during August and January in the graph below?
eBay is also a great tool you can use to sell your stuff. In fact, it has been the online auction powerhouse for many years. Simply create a listing on eBay, set up a PayPal account, and people can then bid on your used stuff. Make sure to display a good picture and describe your product well; this will improve your chances of selling for a good price. When you list your item, you can decide to put it up for bid and choose the minimum bid for your item, and the length of time the auction is open. Another option is to put it for sale with a “Buy It Now” price, which means people can buy the item at that price without bidding. Make sure you make the “Buy It Now” higher than the price you are willing to settle for, in order to get a good deal.
If you are unable to sell or get rid of your used item (besides throwing it out), you can always donate it and get a donation deduction off your income taxes. Thrift shops and charitable organizations such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Purple Heart, the Lupus Foundation, and the Vietnam Veterans of America will accept gently used items as donations. In fact, many such groups will come to pick up the items from your home. Although you aren’t technically making money on these donations, you can deduct the fair market value of the items you donate on your Federal income taxes if you are filing with itemized deductions. TIP: Be sure to get a receipt for your tax deduction. A note on mattresses: Some states regulate the sale of used mattresses because diseases and pests can be transmitted by sharing a mattress without stringent cleaning. Although people often give away or sell used mattresses as individuals, it is unlikely you will find a thrift store or charitable group willing to take a used mattress. Remember that you can even replace your donated item with another used item by shopping in the thrift store itself. This is a great way to grab bargain deals for your new apartment or house.
How about you? What is your favorite way to sell your used stuff?