A few years ago I began a journey towards minimalism. And not the weird kind where you sleep on the floor and only have one plate and one fork, but a kind where I question all my possessions and get rid of the stuff I don’t need.
I had read a few books that were getting me inspired and then I had the great pleasure of spending some time with Joshua Becker who is one of the premier minimalism authors out there. Spending time together was refreshing on a whole lot of levels, but as far as this article is concerned he helped spur me on to take major action in this direction.
I honestly got rid of all the stuff solely for the benefit of having a clearer mind and fewer distractions. Do I really need 18 button-up shirts or 23 pairs of shoes? I decided that I didn’t and since getting rid of 75% of my clothes, I now am left with only the stuff I really love and everyday I enjoy what I wear and don’t feel guilty about that shirt that I bought but never wear because it is a little too big.
Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a minimalism post, go read Joshua’s blog for that.
But, the wonderful side benefit of all this is that I made $2,145 in 30 days selling stuff that I didn’t even want any more!
How I did it
Since we decluttered every room in the house, I chose to focus on items that I expected to make at least $25 from. If I didn’t think I could sell it for that, then it went to a local thrift store for a tax write off.
Additionally, as I was decluttering I was asking myself if I knew anyone who would love this particular item. If someone came to mind, that item became a gift (a seed sown) to bless that person. It is really fun when you can give something that you were going to get rid of anyway and make someone else smile!
All in all, I sold the items using 3 different websites:
I will go into details of each below.
This video outlines the process that I used:
This site allows you to type in an ISBN number of a book and it tells you how much each of the 44 top book-buying websites will pay you for your book. As you can see in the image below, this is what some of the sites are offering for the Total Money Makeover.
I had built up a pretty large library of books and decided that I only wanted to keep the most essential books. I got rid of probably 600+ books. Since time is valuable, use their app to input the books a whole lot quicker. You won’t want to type in 600+ ISBN numbers – I promise.
I found that as I scanned the books a few of the book buyback companies seemed to continually be popping up. So, for simplicity sake I ended up just sending all the books (that were worth anything) to 3 different companies. So I wasn’t always getting the highest payout on a particular book, but I wanted to minimize the number of shipments that I sent out.
For each of the book buyback companies that I used, all I had to do was print a simple shipping label from my computer, throw all the books into a single box and then drop it off at the UPS store. Shipping was free and I was paid via Paypal within 2 weeks.
I was trying to figure out which books had value and why and I never could really nail it down. Some of my highest value books were new, some were old, some were rare, and some were popular. But I can say with confidence that most books you scan will be worth $0. Of the 600+ books I purged, probably 500 were worth $0 and went to Goodwill.
If you want to see how it works, grab a book and you can try them out here.
Bookselling Total = $179
Selling on Craigslist is so easy it is unbelievable. All I did was use my phone to take pictures of the items I wanted to sell and then I used the CPlus Iphone app to create the listings in minutes (you can also just email the pictures to yourself and create the listing on your computer as well).
As you can see in the image above, you just hit the “post to classifieds” link and then just follow the simple instructions. Less than 5 minutes later you should have your listing up and running.
With pricing, I like to search craigslist to see what others are selling similar items for and use that as a gauge of how to price the item. If you really want to sell it quickly, just price it lower than everyone else. It is that simple.
Also, everyone on Craigslist wants to get a deal. So add some wiggle room into your price and when they ask you if you are willing to negotiate, just knock of 10% or so and most times everyone is happy.
A warning: unfortunately there are a lot of scammers who use Craigslist as their platform of choice. It is unfortunate because I have met so many wonderful people on Craigslist. Regardless, I would advise you:
- to ONLY buy and sell with cash. No checks, money orders, western union, paypal or anything else. Cash only.
- to meet in a public location (like a gas station) when making the transaction.
Personally, I refuse to let the scammers win. 99% of the people using Craigslist are nice people like you and I, and I refuse to let the few bad apples ruin the platform for me.
TIP: you will almost always get a higher price for an item if you sell it on Ebay rather than Craigslist because you are advertising your items to the whole world rather than just your neighborhood. That said, heavy and large items often make more sense with Craigslist because you can avoid shipping charges.
These are the items I sold on Craigslist and what I got for them.
|Studio Lighting Kit||$90|
|Graco Contempo highchair||$80|
|Black entertainment center / TV stand||$50|
|Crate 4×12 Guitar Speaker Cabinet||$60|
|Chiminea (Fire Pit)||$30|
|Werner 8 foot fiberglass ladder||$70|
|Black & Decker Mini-Fridge||$90|
|Mountain Bike 26 X 19-Inch –||$90|
I have done a lot of Ebay selling over the years and it also has become VERY easy to list items. It used to be a lot more time-consuming and cumbersome, but it is almost as simple as listing on Craigslist. I wrote a post about how to sell on ebay and even how to start an Ebay business that you can check out if you need more info.
Check out those links for more details, but I will say that it is probably worth your time to search for the item you are wanting to sell to see if people are buying it. You can used the advanced search area to select completed listings and this will show you if your item is actually selling and what people are paying for it.
Ebay now allows you to pay for and print shipping labels directly from your computer. Then all you have to do is drop them off at UPS, Fedex, or USPS.
These are the items I sold on Ebay and what I got for them.
|Old Cell phone||$102|
|Guitar Effects Pedal||$137|
|Carvin Electric Guitar||$317|
|Sony Bookshelf Speakers||$55|
|Lace Sensor Guitar Pickup||$60|
|Fralin Guitar Pickups||$212|
Wrapping it all up
I didn’t track how much time I spent on all this, but if I had to guess I would probably bet 7-8 hours spent taking pictures, creating listings, packing boxes, driving to post office, meeting with craigslisters, etc. Even if I am off on my calculations and it took me 10 hours, that nets out to over $200/hour ($2145/10 hours) and that ain’t too shabby!
I honestly was pretty blown away at 1) how easy it all was and 2) how much money I made from it. So hopefully it inspires you to dig in and see what you can sell. If it does, let me know how it goes for you!
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The title is important because people see it first, and you’re expected to pack a lot into it. There are a lot of descriptive elements you might want to include, and obviously they won’t all fit. This is a list of possibilities, and my suggestion is to answer them all, then pick the most impressive 3-5 items and make those your title.
- What your item is. (Obviously.)
- The brand.
- Outstanding features. Does it do anything special? Does it somehow save money or time compared to other appliances in its class?
- Specifics that can’t be altered. If it’s gas or electric and can’t be converted, just say so. For everyone who passes on by because they can’t use it, there will be lots of people who click it because that’s exactly what they need.
- Age of the item.
- Condition of the item, i.e. “good” or “like new.” Again, be honest. This person is going to be in your home picking up the item when they notice anything you’ve neglected to mention. They can walk right back out again.
I personally would leave the model number out of the title because it always looks like gibberish. Save technical stuff for the ad and keep the title in language you’d use if you were telling a friend about your item.
Writing the ad
- Remember the suggestions for the title that you didn’t use? Your ad should immediately jump into those. Tell the color, if you didn’t put it in the title. List other features. Talk about your own experiences with those features. Did they save you time or money? Give you an advantage other appliances don’t? Was the motor especially quiet? If the special features the manufacturer lists didn’t impress you, I wouldn’t mention them (unless you’re sure they’d be of interest to someone else).
- Tell how old the item is, and how heavily it’s been used. If it’s had 11 years of heavy use in a seven person household, you might as well address that in your ad and turn it into a positive because people are going to ask before they bid. Tell them, “It’s stood up to 11 years of heavy use with us and the five kids, and the only thing to need repairs was this part, which was replaced just a year ago.” Assuming you haven’t priced your item too high for what it is, people will be impressed with your honesty and full disclosure and want to deal with you. If your item is just plain broken or damaged, be honest and say so – there are lots of DIY people who will take them off your hands at a fair price.
- Give the dimensions of your items so people know whether they’ll fit in the space they have. This is essential with furniture and appliances.
- Tell them you’re willing to demonstrate the item works by letting them see it in action when they come to pick it up or have a look at it. (In my case, no one asked for such a demonstration – the offer was convincing enough.)
- If your items are in perfect working condition (as mine are), mention why you’re selling them so people don’t suspect the appliances are lemons you’re trying to ditch.
- Provide links to specs on the item, or online reviews from third parties. I think this really helped sell my items quickly. Even if people don’t click the links, they’ll be impressed you were confident and thorough enough to refer them to reviews or specs.
- Your contact info. Craigslist automatically generates a temporary email address which people can use (it forwards emails to the address you provide Craigslist). This is the most anonymous way to go, and it’s what I chose because no way am I posting my home number on the net for every telemarketing bottom feeder to find. The emails started within an hour, so you really don’t need to include a phone number. You can give that to your buyer later. It’s a good idea to include a short paragraph telling people to use the above email address to contact you, because first time Craigslist users may only look inside the ad for contact information. If you don’t want to expose your email address to your potential buyers ever, create a disposable Gmail account (or some other free provider) to use strictly for your Craigslist transactions, because once you reply to an email from them they’ll see your real email address.
- Don’t make it sound difficult! Most people will assume you can only accommodate their pickup of the item on an evening or weekend. There’s no need to include a lot of off-putting details about this in your ad. You can discuss those specifics with them later.
- Don’t sound superior! I have no idea why some people put “Serious inquiries only, please” and similar phrases in their ads. I didn’t get a bunch of prank emails from clowns! In fact, I only got about 6 emails altogether, and they were all polite and obviously serious about negotiating a deal with me.
Tips for Staying Safe Buying and Selling on Craigslist
I think it’s obvious to most people that dealing on Craigslist comes with risks. These risks can be alleviated by being overly cautious and following some simple rules.
- Meet in Public Places – Most things being sold should be small enough to sell at a public meetup location. The local library, a coffee shop, or the mall are all public places that will work. The odds a buyer or seller will try to rob you in a public location is far smaller than in a private location such as your home.I admittedly have had buyers come to my house to pick up products. They were all for products worth less than $100, but I should have met them at a public place just to be safe. If you must have the buyer come pick up an item, make sure you are not home alone.
- Communicate via the Masked Email Thread – If you’ve used Craigslist you know that a masked email thread is created when you email someone or someone emails you. For those who don’t know what I mean by a “masked email thread”, Craigslist has an internal communication engine that does not include the actual email addresses of the email participants.While I know others who freely give out their cell phone numbers over Craigslist, I always prefer the anonymity of masked emails. There really is no reason that all communications can’t be completed this way, all the way up to the actual transaction.
- Don’t give more info than is needed – Giving the minimum information necessary to the buyer or seller you are conversing with is a simple way to stay safe. If someone doesn’t need your address, don’t give it to them. If someone doesn’t need to know when you are at work or not, don’t give it to them.For example, do not respond to someone with “I work 7-5 each weekday so you won’t be able to pick up the couch until after 5. We also will be out of town this weekend so hopefully we can get this done before then?” It seems like common sense, but it’s so easy to trip up and give a complete stranger more info than they need.
- Trust your instincts – If you have a bad feeling about a transaction, end it!. In the story I described earlier in the post, my friend had a bad feeling about the deal. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut and wait for another buyer or seller.
Craigslist can be a great place to buy and sell products, especially if your side hustle requires you to unload inventory or perhaps is even centered around “flipping” products. With that being said, safety is the most important thing to keep in mind when dealing on Craigslist.