Some Spending Money for the Holidays: My eBay Experiment

My new goal for the next few months? Downsizing.

I’ve only got about four more months with Columbia, Mo., as my home base. Then I’ll be spending some time in upstate New York and at home, then 10 weeks interning in NYC. Then… well, who knows? But I don’t expect to buy a house or rent a large apartment for at least another two years.

So I’m trying to get rid of stuff: clothes, furniture (haha, I own only this circular chair thing that doesn’t even fit anywhere in my current bedroom), old electronics, more clothes, shoes, accessories I never use, old notebooks (honestly, these are the hardest. WHAT IF I NEED THOSE NOTES ABOUT GAME THEORY?), books (also terribly hard to let go of. I was planning to get rid of some before break but they’re still in a paper bag in my car) and at least some random knick-knacks.

I inherited a pack rat gene from my mother, who couldn’t even bring herself to throw out most toys from her children – the last one will graduate high school this year but there are still a ton of GI Joes and children’s books in the basement. The logic for her is more about giving it to the grandkids, but there’s also a sentimental element. I have a box full of papers, trinkets, cards and pictures from four years at college which I’m loathe to get rid of. The original idea was to make a poster or something but I’m not sure even that is worth bringing along on my future adventures.

BUT – I decided to start getting rid of things. And so far it’s been fairly easy and moderately profitable.

This is a breakdown of the  money I made from selling things on eBay. Fees are PayPal seller fees. I didn't include itemized eBay listing fees.

This is a breakdown of the money I made from selling things on eBay. Fees are PayPal seller fees. I didn’t include itemized eBay listing fees. So $41.27 for a couple hours work. Not bad, I suppose.

Here are some things I learned using eBay to sell clothes, books and electronics:

  1. If your goal is simply to get rid of the item, check out the listed price of other sellers and list them a couple of bucks below. Worked like a charm – I unloaded my old cellphone (which was barely charging), a recorder that isn’t compatible with Macs and a cute flash drive that I never used.
  2. Beware shipping costs. So, I went into it thinking all clothes weigh basically nothing, right? Wrong. So, so, so wrong. I lost approximately $10 on shipping items for more than I got paid for them. But I figured that out right quick and upped the flat shipping fee on all those clothes. Of course, I sold only six of 10 clothing items listed so far. And I made less than $5 total from clothes. Which brings us to…
  3. Don’t waste your time. I mean, I did all the listing of all the items one night when I was bored and hyped up on coffee, so it’s not like I really thought I’d make a ton of money. Looking back, I think I probably would’ve been better off simply donating the clothing. Except maybe for big brand-name items, that’s probably the best strategy. My next step is to take the unsold clothes and some other accessories and clothes to a thrift store and see if I can get anything for them. If not, there’s a Goodwill down the street.
  4. Electronics are by far the easiest to sell. All of them sold right away or were bid up pretty high. Of course, I was reselling these so long after they were bought that I have no idea what was originally paid, but feel like I made some money anyway.

So I’ll continue to downsize, but I’m thinking about other options besides eBay. The comfy chair that’s been in the corner of my apartment since moving in will probably go on Craigslist since I can’t deal with shipping it. I’ll check out thrift stores for some of the jewelry and clothes I have first before trying to list them on eBay.

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