Let the countdown begin

In April I got a flyer from a neighbor announcing a neighborhood garage sale at the end of June.  It’s been three years since I hosted a sale so I’m ready. I’d be stupid to pass up an opportunity like this.  I have lots of work to do to get prepped.

This past weekend I bought out three totes (yes I know I bought way too many) of Polly Pockets and accessories for my daughter to sort into semblances of the original sets.  I’ve been prodding her to find other items she’s ready to get rid of and she’s motivated because she’ll get to keep the proceeds.

I’ve been re-posting items on Craigslist , Ebay and Amazon in the hopes they’ll sell at higher than garage sale prices.  (I netted $28 on Amazon selling a Tiffen Circular Polarizer that I couldn’t sell for $8 at my sale three years ago.) I’ve been affixing price tags on clothing, old games, toys, CDs, video games, anything I’m ready to get rid of.  I hate going to a garage sale where things aren’t priced.  Luckily I had picked up some new price tags at the dollar store back in March.  I’ve also been grouping like items (books, CDs, etc.) to make it easier when I setup for the sale.  I have bright yellow paper to print some pricing signs (Books $1 or 6/$5).  I also started a tote for FREE items to entice people to get out of their cars and check out my sale.

My neighbor is taking responsibility for advertising the sale so I don’t have to worry about signs and such but I will still post an individual ad for my garage sale on Craigslist in order to drive as much traffic as a I can. I need to line up extra tables so we can have as much elevated surface area to work with.  I’m planning on using our pop up canopy to offer shelter to items outside the garage.

I’ve still got lots to do but I feel like I’ve made good progress.  Only 17 days left…

More Ways to Give it Away

Since this coming Saturday, May 14, is Give Your Stuff Away Day, I thought I’d suggest alternative options for redistributing items you own but no longer want.  You can post your free items on Craigslist (there’s a Free category under For Sale ) or  Freecycle and let them know they can find the items at the curb. If you’re having a garage sale it’s always good to have some items to give away for free.

There are other choices less obvious choices for giving items away, some of which I found in the May 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

Books – Try donating them to your local library book drive where they’ll be sold and the proceeds will go to support the library.  You can also donate books  to schools through Swap.com’s Swap4Schools program.  There’s an organization, Books for Africa,  dedicated to sending books to children in Africa.
Furniture Habitat for Humanity‘s Restores resale outlets accepts donations of building materials and other household items.    You may also be able to donate some of your furniture items to local agencies like the Goodwill and Volunteers of America.  They may even come to pick it up.
Cellphones–  The Wireless Foundation collects and recycles unwanted wireless devices otherwise destined for the landfill.    Cell Phones for Soldiers takes donated cell phones and sells then to a recycler and uses the money to buy talk time for soldiers.  You can print a pre-paid mailing label on either site.
Computer equipment and software– The National Cristina Foundation directs donations of used computer equipment to non profit organizations, schools, and public agencies throughout the United States.  Computer donations benefit Computers with Causes charity organization in the United States. Their charity Computer Donation program participates in a zero-waste recycling program

Do a little homework and you might find a great new home for those items you don’t want.

Amazonian rules

I started getting the warning notices from Amazon a few weeks ago.  This year, like every year I’ve been a seller on Amazon, they are enacting the Holiday Selling Guidelines in Toys and Games, which means I get booted from selling toys or games for the holiday season.   Why are they doing this?  “We want to ensure that our sellers in Toys & Games provide a high-quality customer experience” which I guess you can’t be expected to do if you don’t meet their criteria:

  • First sale on Amazon.com must be prior to 09/20/2010
  • Seller must have processed and shipped at least 25 orders during the 60 consecutive days preceding 11/1/2010.
  • No greater than 1% short term order defect rate as of 11/1/2010.
  • No greater than 2.5% pre-fulfillment cancel rate for the trailing 30-days preceding 11/1/2010.
  • No greater than 5% late shipment rate for the trailing 30-days preceding 11/1/201

I understand they are trying to protect their customers, but the little  guy (me) takes the hit.  I meet all of the criteria above except the second one.  Over half the items I am selling in my Amazon store fall into the toy category, which means they’ll get deleted next month.   During the holiday season I usually focus on trying to sell my items on Craigslist since my profit margin is usually better than on Ebay.  I have much more success selling toys at this time of year, whether it’s on Craigslist, Amazon or Ebay.  The one aspect I find annoying is that I have to go back and re-list all of the items after the blackout period is over.

So don’t think about starting to sell toys on Amazon this holiday season.  It’s already too late for you to qualify.

Give it Away on Give Your Stuff Away Day

I was happy to hear of a grassroots movement started by a Rochester area man called Give Your Stuff Away Day.  Mike Morone  of North Chili has designated Saturday May 15 for that day.  I probably only live a couple of miles from Morone so I’m amazed I’ve never heard of his efforts.  Morone is hoping that people take the time to go through their belongings and set any items they don’t want at the curb on that weekend for others to take.

My friend Lori has been decluttering her house for a while in preparation for putting it on the market.  She knows that if she sets things at the curb it is usually only a matter of a couple of hours before the still useful items find a new home.  Of course how fast things move depend upon your location and the desirability of items left there.  Usually after a garage sale I have items I just want to get rid of so I’ll put them near the street in the hopes that someone stops and takes them.

I think Morone has a great idea. He’s been successful enough in his efforts to get the Governor of Connecticut to proclaim May 15 as Give Your Stuff Away Day.  He also has a Facebook page.  Morone has posted guidelines on his website for types of items to not put at the curb (you should also check with your local municipality to see what can’t be left at the curb).  He has suggestions on what to do with the items that are still there at the end of the day (Craigslist, Freecycle) .  This is an easy, low stress, low effort way to declutter.

That Saturday might be a great day to drive around town if you’re in the market for some items.  You might even find some things you can turn around and sell.  Seriously consider participating if you have been wanting to get rid of stuff.  Help promote his effort by Tweeting about it or posting a link on Facebook.  Help make a difference!

What to do with that gift card you got for Christmas

So Aunt Emeline gave you a gift card to Starbucks and you don’t even drink coffee or tea.  So what are you going to do with that gift card?  I have lots of suggestions for you.

  • Regift it – Just make sure that Aunt Emeline never gets a whiff that you did it.
  • Sell it or trade it on Craigslist-Search for “gift cards” on craigslist that other people might be trading.  If you don’t see what you like, post your gift card and offer an exchange or sell it for cash.  If selling you might need to discount it so people will buy from you rather than the vendor.
  • Sell it on Ebay – Gift cards for popular stores and restaurants tend to sell for near to face value.  Start bidding low (99 cents) and offer free shipping to entice buyers.
  • Donate it – Some charities look for donations of specific gift cards , like grocery store or office supply store gift cards.  Check with your local charity to see if they will accept your gift card.  Get a receipt so you can deduct the value on your taxes.
  • Trade on Card Hub on Facebook – Become a fan of Card Hub on Facebook and post any cards you want to trade or sell.

There are many gift card sites out there that will buy your cards at a discount and sell discounted cards to you:

  • GiftCardRescue – At this site you can buy discounted gift cards as well as sell your gift cards or merchant credit.  This site will give you anywhere from 60-90% of the face value of the card.   Over the holidays I bought a couple of discounted cards from this site.  You can buy them from 7-18% discounted off face value.  You can even create a wish list of merchants whose cards you are interested in so that when the site receives one they’ll email you.  
  • Plastic Jungle – List gift cards on Plastic Jungle, or cash in cards with a minimum balance of $25 for up to 85% of the card balance. You can also exchange your unwanted or partially used gift cards for purchasing power at stores like Amazon.com, or donate them for the benefit of your favorite nonprofit organization.
  • Swapagift – If your gift card is worth $25 -$200 and the card merchant appears in their Merchant list, they’ll buy it.  They also have merchants you can visit who will give you cash on the spot.  (There are none in western NY unfortunately. )   You can buy giftcards from their sister site giftcards.com.
  • MonsterGiftCard – This site uses a point system which allows customers to buy, sell and trade gift cards with any other client on Monster Gift Card.com.  The point system allows people to make trades with out matching exact values.
  • Giftcarddonor – Gift cards are donated at GiftCardDonor.com and resold on GiftCardsAgain.com.  The charity you choose  receives 75% of the revenue — and you save up to 20% off cards you buy.
They invented a unique “Monster Point” system which allows Monster Gift Card clients the freedom and anonymity to buy, sell and trade gift cards with any other client on Monster Gift Card.com.

Pricing for local selling

Back in October, in my Tricky Topic blog, I wrote about the art of pricing things to sell.  In this blog I’d like to focus on pricing for selling locally, as on Craigslist.

As I mentioned previously, you want to research what the item goes for online (Ebay, Amazon) and locally (Craigslist, classified ads).  When people buy online they usually pay shipping costs, so people may be willing to pay more for an item locally since they won’t need to pay for shipping.

Determine a price you’d be happy to sell your item for, we’ll call it the HAPPY PRICE. Your HAPPY PRICE should not be more than what the going rate is online (including shipping), unless it’s something significant to the local community, like tickets to a concert.  Your HAPPY PRICE also shouldn’t be a lot more than what people are offering similar items for locally.  Figure out what your minimum  price is for the item, we’ll call it the LOWEST PRICE.

One of the nice things about listing items on Craigslist is that since it’s free, you can keep your item listed for as long as you want, with the hope of getting your asking price.  Your listing will expire after a set number of days, usually about 30.  My plan of attack is to start my listing at my HAPPY PRICE.  If after a few weeks I am getting no bites, I will lower my price.

If you want your new price to be seen, it is best to delete your item listing on Craigslist and resubmit it at the new price. This will put your listing at the top.   If I know the price I’m asking for is a bit of a stretch, I may also add the phrase “Willing to accept offers” in my listing so people know that I am negotiable on price.  Of course, this approach works best if you are not in a big hurry to sell an item and you are not paying for your listing.  Continue to lower your price over time until your item sells or you hit your LOWEST PRICE.

If it’s still not selling after lowering the price, you may need to consider whether your timing is wrong for the item you are selling.  For example, you probably won’t be able to sell a pool in the middle of winter, no matter how low your price might go.   If you’ve had your item listed for a while and you’ve had no takers, consider taking it off the market for a while.    You might have better luck in a few weeks or a few months.

If you are paying for your local listing, I suggest you set your asking price to one that is most likely to sell, probably closer to your LOWEST PRICE.   You may also need to do this if there is deadline by which you need to sell your item, like a concert date.  Otherwise your item may not sell and any listing fees may eat up much of your profit.

A Tricky Topic

One of the trickiest parts of selling things is determining the price.   You want to price things so you’re not giving things away but you don’t want to ask so much that no one buys.  The approach to pricing is different depending upon how you plan on selling.   I will go into more detail on pricing for garage sales, selling locally and selling online in future blogs.   I do want to talk about common issues with pricing here.

I highly suggest you research prices regardless of where you are selling an item.  You should find out what the cost of the item was new.  You should also find out what the going price is for these items.  I suggest checking for these items on Ebay, Half.com (movies, music, books and games only), Craigslist, Amazon (entertainment items, toys and household) and your local classified ads.

On Ebay, you’ll want to check if your item is selling and for how much.  You can do that by searching for the item.  See how many of those items are listed and what price is being asked.  See if the items have bids on them.  You can also check recently ended auctions by selecting Completed listings in the Preferences > Show only option on the left hand side.   Completed listings are listings that have ended within the last 15 days, whether or not the item sold.  If there are a lot of the items listed and no one is bidding on them then this is probably an indication that your item will not sell online.

Search Craigslist and your local classifieds to see if there are similar items for sale.  That should tell you the local going price.price

Generally items will command the least amount of money at a garage sale. If the going rate online or locally is fairly significant ($10 or more? decide for yourself) then I suggest you try selling it online or locally prior to a garage sale.

If you’re considering selling online then you’ll also need to research shipping costs.  You can get a rough estimate of shipping cost by checking out the  Calculate Postage tool on the US Postal Service website.  You can do something similar on the UPS website.  You’ll need to estimate the weight and dimensions of your packaged item to get a good estimate.  Generally when selling online you can get the buyer to pay the shipping cost but sometimes you’ll want to entice more buyers by offering free shipping, meaning you will pay that cost.  Shipping large items is not always practical which may mean you want to stick with selling your item locally.

The condition of the item will also determine price.  Obviously new items will command a higher price than used, regardless of how you are selling it.  Also consider what you’d  be willing to pay for the item if you were in the market to buy one.

As you can see, setting the price is an art, not a science.

Expensive Calculators

Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus

Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus

This might be a little late for those of you whose children might already have started school. Here in Rochester, NY most kids return to school on September 8.

If your child is going into high school, they may need one of those expensive graphing calculators for math.  I had already decided I wasn’t going to pay $100 for a graphing calculator.   Amazon shows the list price as $149.95!  Heck, for a few hundred more I could get a netbook.

My son needed a Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus for 9th grade math.  My husband spotted a TI-84 Plus in the Walmart ad for “only” $99.  He said I should go check it out.  It didn’t sound like such a good deal to me, even for Walmart. I immediately went online to Ebay to check out prices.  I found that used TI-83 Pluses were going for about $50-60.  I also checked out Craigslist

Sure enough I found some on Craigslist, though they were running about $10-20 higher than Ebay. I even found someone in my town who was offering one for $60.  I contacted her and said that they were going for $50 on Ebay and I’d prefer to buy local, could she knock the price down to $55?  She countered with an offer of $50!   I had it within a day.

Don’t just jump on the first price that sounds good.  With a little bit of homework you can potentially save some significant bucks.  I’d recommend taking the same approach for college textbooks, though I know it’s a little late for that.

When my son is done with the calculator his sister will use it.  After that, I will sell it on Craigslist or Ebay and try to recoup some of my costs.  In the end, I hope I’m only out about $20 for it.

Picture It

When I have bunches of similar items that I want to sell I have a very effective way to do it.  I got this idea from a woman who was trying to sell some leftovers from her garage sale and she posted a link to an online photo album showing the individual items along with prices.

For example, I just listed a bunch of books for sale on Craigslist and the Rochester Online Classifieds (ROC).  I took pictures of all of the items I am selling.  Using free Kodak EasyShare software I added captions to all of the pictures that include the price of the item(s) pictured and a description, including the condition of the item(s).  I then uploaded the pictures to an online Kodak Gallery album.  In my listing on Craigslist and ROC I include a link to the online album.

The benefits of using an online photo album are:

  • Unlimited pictures (Craigslist limits you to 4 pictures and ROC limits you to 400k total email size)
  • Better picture quality.  Craigslist downsizes pictures so the quality is not as good and ROC limits you to only small pics
  • Buyers are more apt to buy multiple items if they see them altogether
  • As items are sold, you only need to remove the pictures from the album so the listing is still valid and requires minimal work.
  • If you have additional items you want to sell, you only need to add a picture to the online album.
  • It makes it easier to repost your listing as you do not need to attach pictures again to an updated listing.

You can use any online photo hosting site that lets you create albums to share.   Besides Kodak Gallery, you can use  Flickr or Picasa Web albums.

Tip:   It is best if you can reduce the size of the pictures before uploading them to your album.  It make for faster uploading.  I usually do this using photo editing software.  I like to use IrfanView,  or you can use Picasa, both of which are free for personal use. You may also want to crop the pictures as well as reducing them.

For a couple of examples of my online sale albums see:

Note: All of the websites I mention in this post are free, with the exception of Kodak Gallery.  Kodak Gallery requires a yearly minimal purchase ($5+) to host pictures.

I Deliver

In preparation for the upcoming garage sale I had my kids go through their books one more time to get rid of any they didn’t want anymore.  They came up with quite a few.  I grouped them by series, took pictures and posted them up on Craigslist and another local online classifieds, Rochester Classifieds Online, both of which are free.  I got a quick response from a number of people.

I live in a suburb on the west side of town, Chili.  The Rochester Classifieds Online (RCO) was started by a gentleman who works at Xerox in a suburb on the east side of town, Webster.  Many of the people who use RCO live and work on the east side of town, which is about 30 minutes from where I live.  I generally do not like to drive to Webster just to sell someone something for $5 and likewise they don’t want to drive out my way just to buy something for $5.  Right now I belong to a gym in Henrietta, a suburb south of Rochester.  So when I advertise items for sale I list both Chili and Henrietta as my location, which opens up my market to more people.

Thursday I went to Henrietta to work out and then completed 6 sales.  One woman met me in the parking lot of my gym.  One buyer worked at a furniture store. Three buyers worked at Xerox in Henrietta.  I delivered one set of books to a  woman who works in a bank office in Henrietta.  So in the span of one hour and about 3 miles, I made 6 deliveries and sold $112 worth of books!  Two of the people I sold items to were repeat customers.

By delivering right to people’s doorsteps I gained the following benefits:

  • I demonstrated great customer service by delivering right to people’s doorsteps
  • I did this on a schedule that was convenient to me
  • no one needed to come to my house, so I didn’t need to hand out my address

So I can truthfully say, I DELIVER great customer service.