Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details.
eBay, The Early Years
These days you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard of eBay. Since its creation back in 1995, this highly popular online auction site has established itself as a huge resale market for thrift store flippers and those who are either cleaning out their houses or looking to open their own home-based retail stores.
After joining eBay in 2002, my first use of the site was to buy my son’s homeschool textbooks. It offered a far cheaper alternative than buying them new. At the time, the site offered mostly time-limited auctions (there was no “Buy it now” option). I remember planning days (and nights) so I would be at my computer at a specific time in order to try and win an item. And being on dial-up made those auctions so much more stressful – does anyone besides me remember the term “sniping”?
After a few years of homeschooling, I began listing my own homeschool textbooks. This helped me earn money towards books for the upcoming school year. While my homeschooling days are behind me, I still list unused/unwanted items and thrift store finds that I can sell for a profit (including textbooks). Below are some of my tips for finding and selling items as well as some of my recommended “Tools of the Trade.”
Finding Items to Sell
Your Home – What things do you want to get out of your house? Look in your cabinets, closets, and under beds. Check your garage and storage buildings. What things are lying around just collecting dust? Everyone has stuff they don’t want or use anymore. Remember, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.
Thrift Stores – These stores are fun because you can get great items at fantastic prices. While out shopping, and before purchasing something to resell, use your cellphone to look it (or a similar item) up on eBay. This will give you an idea of how well it might sell and what the typical selling price is.
Consignment Stores – Consider these as an option only if the prices are low enough to make a profit. Consignment stores pay their consignors a percentage of their profits; this can cause their prices to be higher than thrift stores. Make sure the items you purchase here are really good deals.
Yard Sales and Flea Markets – Offering similar, or often times lower, prices than thrift stores, there can be many good buys at these types of sales.
Estate Sales/Auctions – Do your homework on these. Most times, auction listings and the items that will available for sale can be found in your local newspaper and on websites such as www.estatesales.net. Also, expect fierce competition as buyers come with pockets full of money and all-out intentions of buying specific items. However, on a good day, you could really clean up on some lesser items that will do well on Ebay.
Roadside Garbage – People put all sorts of things on the curb for garbage collection. If you can sell something you’ve gotten for free, you’ve made a “sweatless” profit.
Check eBay. Before listing an item, do as you did while you were out shopping – look it up on eBay. You want your prices to be competitive and fair, and doing this will show you what price range your item (in its condition) should be priced in. eBay can even show you what items are currently “trending” – https://www.ebay.com/trending.
Keep accurate records. After purchasing items, record what you paid for them, including tax (use this amount, along with the costs of any packaging and eBay fees, to calculate your selling prices). Once items sell, record what they sold for along with packaging, shipping, and eBay fees. Keeping accurate records will make your life easier when income tax time comes around.
Stay organized. Using shelves and bins will make things easier to find once they sell.
Wrangle packaging. Boxes and packaging can get out of hand in a hurry. Flatten and stack boxes and store packaging in Rubbermaid containers or large Ziploc bags. Keep them all in one place so you can easily find everything you need to get your items ready to ship.
Leave feedback. The “Feedback” score is eBay’s way of showing how reputable its members are.
Ship quickly. Once an item is paid for, get in the mail – preferably the same day or at leastwithin 48 hours.
Timely answer questions. Potential customers should be encouraged to ask questions before buying and sellers should answer those questions as quickly as possible.
Be honest. Give complete descriptions and list the conditions of your items truthfully. If there are any issues (i.e. a book that contains highlighting or pencil marks, small holes in fabric, etc), make sure you list all that you are aware of.
Be a good photographer. Take high quality photos (especially of any problems with your items) so the buyer can be confident of what they are getting.
Tools of the Trade
Postal Scale – Use a postal scale to weigh items in the boxes you plan to ship them in. Be sure to add a few extra ounces for the packaging that will go inside the box – just don’t overdo it.
Boxes – While you can certainly buy boxes, reuse the ones you receive personal shipments in. Keep padded envelopes and poly-mailers too, as these will come in handy.
Packing Material – Have you seen the cost of bubble wrap? Saving and reusing this stuff can save you a small fortune.
Packing Tape – Package your items securely. You can avoid needless negative feedback by simply ensuring your items get to their buyers safely.
Printer – Printing postage labels from home costs less than purchasing them at the post office.
Printable Blank Labels – Printing on label paper lets you to stick the postage labels directly on the package without having to use additional tape.
Camera – Good photos help sell your items. Good lighting also helps. Take numerous photos from different angles and upload plenty of them with your listings.
Time to Earn Cash
If you are looking for a way to make a few extra dollars, Ebay might be the answer. While there are some costs involved, if you list and price your items wisely, you could earn some serious extra cash. If you enjoy looking for yard sale and thrift store deals, this would be a great way to cash in on your thriftiness.
Do you sell on Ebay? What are some tips or tricks you use? Please share them in the comments below.