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Seven Secrets to Selling Your Stuff for More Cash

Tips on being frugal and raising extra cash are a dime a dozen these days and, chances are, you’ve heard them all before. We all know what we need to do to save money (or earn more); sometimes we just don’t know how to do it. One of my favorite tips for getting some extra cash is selling stuff you don’t use (or can live without). Not only will you make money to save or pay off debt; you’ll declutter your home, too! Here are a few secrets for selling your unused stuff quickly while still getting the best price possible.

Sell your stuff in the right marketplace. The two most common ways to sell unwanted stuff are on Craigslist (or similar local classified ads) and eBay (or similar online auctions). Of course, if you have lots of stuff you want to unload at once, a yard sale or flea market could be an option, too. Assuming you’re only going to be selling a few things at a time, however, Craigslist or eBay are probably your best bets. Thus, your first decision is which one to use. It depends on what you’re selling.

Obviously, if you’re selling anything that’s inexpensive but bulky or heavy, skip the online auction. The shipping (whether you or your buyer pays it), will simply cut too much into your profit. You’re better off selling low-cost but easy-to-ship items, online, however. The reason is buyers are less likely to get in their car and drive to you for an inexpensive item than they are to bid on it online. Finally, if you are selling something that is collectible or extremely unique; stick with online auctions. You’ll get the best price for the item by reaching the biggest number of prospective buyers; something you can’t do by limiting yourself to a local marketplace.

Include multiple photographs and a detailed description. Take the time to get several high-quality photos of the item that’s for sale, and describe its condition completely—including flaws. You’ll save yourself time later answering people’s specific questions and weeding out tire-kickers.

Write like a salesperson. Other than objectively describing your item’s condition, get creative in describing why a buyer would love your item. Have fun, and stand out. Say that sofa you’re unloading on Craigslist is “so comfy you’ll pick fights with your spouse just to sleep on the couch,” or that the slightly used blender you’re selling on eBay “makes margaritas that would make Jimmy Buffet proud”.

Set a time frame. One of the best ways to get something sold is to make buyers think they have a limited time to buy your item. eBay does this automatically with its auctions, but establishing a time frame on Craigslist can be immensely helpful. Say something like “leaving town this Friday; must move this before then! Call me tonight or tomorrow.” Not only will this encourage buyers to act quickly, it will save you from fielding calls about the item for weeks. Of course, anytime you imply the need for a fast sale you have to be careful not to make buyers think you’ll take a much lower price…

Always put an asking price and “or best offer”. Why would you want to open the door to negotiation? Because your asking price should be slightly more than you actually want to get for the item. When you sell a item using classified ads, assume prospective buyers are going to haggle with your whether you put “OBO” or not. If you inflate your price slightly but don’t put “OBO”, however, some people with think your price is too high and never contact you at all. You at least want the chance to sell your item to as many people as possible. If a few come a long and low-ball you; simply decline to sell to them and wait for a higher offer.

Finally, it’s almost always better to sell items yourself. With the exception of slightly-used clothes that you can unload a consignment shop, it’s well worth it to take the extra time and effort to sell used items yourself rather than selling them to a store or dealer. Just as car dealers will offer you as little as 50% of the value you could get for your used car in a private sale, stores will do the same for just about anything you want to sell them; after all, they need to make their profit, too.

Have you been successful selling unwanted items for cash? What are your favorite strategies?

Published or updated on May 6, 2009

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. Avery says:

    I totally agree your point,I will digg deeper when I have enough time.Thank you very much.

  2. That reminds me, I have a bunch of stuff I need to sell. Thanks!!
    -Dan Malone-

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