How to Use eBay to Turn Clutter into Cash

I am obsessed with turning clutter into cash. Those of you who have been reading for a while may remember my post about Consigning Clothes Online. Those of you who read my sister’s blog may remember my Spring Cleaning post, where I had some suggestions for ways to get rid of your clutter and earn some cash. Now that spring has really sprung in the Northeast, I’m back in the spring cleaning mood, but I have zero experience with the number one way to turn clutter into cash: Ebay. So, I asked an expert to school us all on how to use Ebay to turn clutter into cash. I hope you enjoy this guest post from Dollar Flipper as much as I do.

I’ve been buying and selling on eBay since ~2006, but I’ve only turned re-selling into an actual hobby this past year. For 2014, my goal is completely funding my Roth IRA ($5,500) using only this side business of flipping items on eBay.

Dollar Flipper Mascot

No no, I don’t take art lessons, but thanks for asking!

Rebecca was kind enough to invite me to her awesome blog and send me a list of questions someone might have when they are interested in selling on eBay but aren’t really sure where to begin. You know there’s money to be made on eBay but aren’t sure about that first step. Although I could probably write an entire post about each of these, I’ll try to keep my answers to the point. With these questions, she’s basically let the post write itself! :) So, let’s get down to our Q & A:

1. What items sell well on eBay?

This is kind of a loaded question – a ton of things sell well, you just need to be able to figure out what. To start, I’d take a look around your own house. What do you remember paying a bunch for? Do you have a really nice dish set you don’t use anymore? That DVD or Blu-Ray box set that you got for Christmas that you still haven’t touched? A closet full of video games? Neat punk rock or hip hop records? Expired, sealed ink for a printer you don’t use anymore? Old stuffed animals that still have the tags? Vintage 70′s dresses made in India?

Almost anything sells on eBay. The important thing to remember is that you want it to be easy to ship and worth your time, especially when you’re getting started. Since I deal in a larger volume than most, I won’t sell an item unless I’ll make at least $5 in profit.

2. How much does it cost to use eBay to sell my items?

eBay gives you 50 free listings a month (auction or Buy It Now). This lets you get started without shelling out any money upfront. You literally don’t need any money in the bank. The only thing you’ll need are eBay and PayPal accounts. Any fees that eBay and PayPal charge are based on the price that you sell the item for, and these charges come out of the money you are paid by the buyer – -PayPal takes their fees instantly, and eBay invoices you at the end of the month.

3. How should I price my items?

The best way to find out how you should price your items is looking at the completed listings for your item. More importantly, you should be looking at the sold listings of your item!

Fiesta Dinner Plates eBay Sold Listings

My wife and I sold our Fiesta mugs that were just sitting in our cabinets on eBay. Made some money, but dishes are a PAIN to ship!

eBay also has both an iPhone and Android app that you can use when you’re out and about. I don’t only use it for re-selling purposes. It’s also useful for price comparison when you’re out shopping.

4. How should I price my shipping?

Back in the day, sellers would inflate shipping costs and lower the item price. To combat this, eBay lowered their overall fees but now takes a percentage of the total sale (price + shipping). The reason I mention this is that shipping isn’t as important as it used to be. It can’t be used to reduce your eBay fees any longer.

I always look at similar items that have sold, but in general, I’ll try to sell items with free shipping. This way, the buyer knows exactly what they’re going to pay. Having free shipping on an item also gives it green “Free Shipping” underneath its title on search results, hopefully drawing in potential buyers. I build the cost to ship the item to California into my price (this is the most expensive shipping I can expect from my East Coast location).

Note: I do use calculated shipping for heavy items so someone who’s close to me won’t get screwed by paying an extra $20 for shipping.

5. What information should I include in my eBay listing?

Your best resource here is also completed listings. You can always copy the text from a similar item that sold into your listing. When you’re looking at an individual listing that sold, right underneath the picture, there’s either a “Sell one like this” or “Sell it yourself” button which will import all of the title, keywords, and miscellaneous info like brand, year made, etc. into your own listing. After doing that, you have to just make sure that all of the information is correct and accurate.

Important things that people forget are measurements, especially in clothes. We all know that sizes are not uniform across brands. Hell, they’re not even uniform once an item’s been washed. Trust me, no one wants to see me in some sausage suit of a t-shirt that I got off of eBay because I didn’t know the measurements! And I would put money on the guess that other buyers want to avoid that just as much as I do.

6. Will people buy from me even if it’s my first eBay sale and I don’t have an eBay reputation?

Yes, they will! Everyone needs to start somewhere. Some sellers do have requirements for their buyers, but I’d like to think the buyers aren’t as savvy. If you really want to increase your rating as an eBay user easily and quickly, buy some stuff first. The eBay reputation is a total combination of your purchases and sales. As an added bonus, that annoying new member icon will disappear after your first 30 days. So if you are just at the stage where you are considering possibly selling stuff on eBay eventually, you can always create an account now and use it later when you need it.

7. Are there any other tips you have for first-time sellers?

To start out, try to stick to items you can fit in padded mailers like these ones from Staples. These are #0 DVD sized mailers. Most video games, DVDs, and CDs can easily fit into them. Having something that will fit in this size mailer just reduces any packaging hassles when you start out. These mailers rarely need any extra tape at all. Other mailers are fine too, but dealing with boxes can be such a pain and makes the whole experience less enjoyable (and more expensive).

My first item that I sold on eBay was a Hungry Hungry Hippos board. Trying to find a box that fit it was near impossible. I actually had to buy one 4 times the size and cut it down. This meant that I lost a lot of my potential profit due to shipping. I still made some profit, but it definitely wasn’t the full potential. Personally though, it was a good lesson to start off with, and one I’m hoping to save you from having to learn yourself.

My last piece of advice is to try to stay away from selling cell phones unless you’re willing to deal with the possible huge hassle. You can re-coup a ton of money on your old phone if you’re switching to a new plan (we paid for our new Moto Xs on Republic Wireless by selling our old iPhones on eBay). The big issue here is that you have to make sure you don’t get scammed. Mostly it’s just common sense, but it’s still a situation where others can and do try to take advantage of you. So, if you are new to eBay, you may just want to steer clear of cell phones until you are more seasoned and comfortable with the process.

eBay really is a great avenue to give people what they want and sell things you no longer want. Remember – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I like to think that I’m relocating things that people no longer want to others who will really love and cherish them! Here’s a great example – I just sold a vintage cardigan sweater, and the response I got from the buyer was “Looks just like one my dad had!” The smile I got would have been worth it even if I didn’t make a profit on that one!

Vintage Pickering Cardigan Sweater eBay

Definitely hits home for any Mr. Rogers fans too!

If you have any questions about re-selling in general or about a specific item, you can drop me a line at my blog Flipping A Dollar, Twitter, or Facebook!

-Dollar Flipper

A Disease Called Debt

3 thoughts on “How to Use eBay to Turn Clutter into Cash

  1. Pingback: Getting started on eBay - Guest Post @ Stapler Confessions | Flipping A Dollar

  2. I guess I need to get over the thought that no one would want my stuff. Here in Canada we use Kijiji, more than E-Bay. My daughter sells a lot of stuff on there. We have bought a stove and fridge off it at different times. Maybe it’s more for local buying and selling but I’m not sure. Shows how clued out I am to selling stuff on-line!

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