How to Sell Your Stuff (Better)

 

Think of how much stuff you’ve accumulated over the past 2 years. Now think of what it would take to sell it all while getting a reasonable return on your investment.

As part of the Exile Lifestyle project, I’m currently undertaking the monstrous task of selling everything I own that won’t fit inside a single carry-on bag. Spoiler alert: it’s a logistical nightmare. There are some simple things that you can do to prepare for such an eventuality, however, that will result in you getting more return on your sold stuff.

Invest in Quality, Not Quantity

There are so many reasons to buy a few high quality items over many low quality items and I couldn’t possibly cover them all here, but one of the major reasons is that a high quality computer/car/desk/mobile phone/etc will last you much longer than the bargain bin equivalent. Keep in mind that high quality doesn’t mean the most expensive brand on the market.

The key is to do your homework before each and every purchase (which is what so-called ‘Prosumers’ or ‘Mavens’ do already). Some brands are ‘premium’ in name alone…they are of the same or lesser quality than their cheaper competitors, and their superiority lay only in their branding. On the other hand, there are some brands that are definitely worth paying extra for. Your priorities will determine which is which, but in general go for the brand that has better customer support, higher-quality materials and a more consistent reputation for quality and durability (you’d be surprised how many people buy Apple monitors over Dell monitors, despite the history of problems customers have had with them. I love Apple computers, but you couldn’t convince me to spend hundreds more on a monitor that contains the same general components but with less functionality).

Purchasing higher quality products achieves two main goals: the product will last longer, giving you more use for your dollar, and the product will have a higher resale value. Do a search for used Honda and Toyota vehicles online and you will find that their resale value, even when they have been driven near to death, is extremely high. This is because both brands have shown themselves to be purveyors of long-lasting products with high levels of performance and little maintenance required.

Next time you are out buying speakers, figure out which brand is the ‘Honda’ of the bunch and buy something of theirs.

Buy Low, Sell Low

Something that has driven many dates crazy (especially in the free-balling neuvo riche city of Los Angeles) is that I’m always on the lookout for a deal. It’s an old habit that I developed in college after I started my first business (read: when I was super poor) and it has served me well. If you watch the right websites close enough, you’ll realize that just about everything that’s available to buy goes on sale at some point, though some companies and genres of products more than others. I usually don’t buy big-ticket items unless I can get them 20-50% off sticker price, and I rarely have trouble doing so.

The big, dirty secret is this: the electronics and clothing industries (for example) have ridiculously huge markups on most items. High-end clothing is especially guilty of this, with a shirt that costs the company $2 to make being sold for $80, it’s no wonder they don’t flinch at dropping the price down to $40 for a few weeks (especially knowing that many people won’t even realize there is a sale going on and will still end up paying full price).

To keep up on what I call the ‘real price’ of things, there are a few sites I quickly scan every day. One is Dealnews, which is essentially a great big list of things that are on sale right now. They have editors that scour the web for sales, coupons and special offers, which they present along with all the information you need to take advantage of the discounts.

Another site that I check every day is Slickdeals, which is similar to Dealnews in that they display the day’s best offers, but different in that they have a very active and knowledgeable community that decides what goes on the front page. Working for nothing but street cred, the denizens of Slickdeals invariably find whatever is hot each day and discuss why it’s a great deal (or why it’s not worth the hype) in the forums. If I’m looking for information on a product or brand I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll usually check Slickdeals in order to get educated quickly.

The long-term benefit of keeping up to date on the real prices of things is that you can buy at a much lower rate than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Then, when it’s time to sell that item, you will very likely make your money back (or more) while still giving the buyer a better deal than they would find anywhere else! Win-win!

Pay it Forward

There are some cases where no matter how great your stuff is, you won’t be able to sell it and make back anywhere close to what you paid for it (you might be leaving too quickly to set up a deal, trying to sell high-end merchandise during an economic downturn, etc). In these cases, you have to make a choice.

You could sell the item for less than it’s worth, potentially giving someone out there an early Christmas while pocketing a latte’s worth of cash for your trouble.

The other option is to find an alternative way to be compensated for your merch. You could trade that old XBox for a massage from a therapist friend, or let that antique desk lamp go in exchange for a nice home cooked meal from a light-deprived colleague.

You can also go to a site like Swaptree, which allows you to easily trade your books, DVDs, video games and old albums (people still have ALBUMS?) for new books you haven’t read, games you haven’t beaten, DVDs you haven’t seen and music you haven’t yet ripped onto your computer.

Of course, there is always something to be said for paying it forward and just giving your stuff to someone who needs it. If you give stuff away not expecting to get anything in return, you definitely won’t be disappointed, but you will certainly be pleasantly surprised if that person finds a way to help you out sometime in the future. I have a friend who would call this ‘putting change in the karma credit bank’ while I just call it treating others how you would like to be treated.

I’ve been using a combination of these different tactics to sell my stuff, and I’m about halfway through the process (with a little under two months left before I leave). An idea that I haven’t tried (but am seriously considering) is having a ‘Garage Sale Party’ in which I’ll invite my friends over and (along with drinks and foodstuffs) have all the stuff I’m selling out for perusal. During the party, if someone sees something they like, they can make an offer for it. The idea is that I’ll be able to see all my friends (a luxury, since I won’t be able to see them after I leave) and will be moving closer to my goal of selling all my stuff at the same time (contented with the knowledge that each and every item will be going to a good home).

What have you done in the past (or are considering doing in the future) to sell your stuff? Any tactics that have worked particularly well? Any that have failed miserably? Share your stories and ideas in the comment section below!

15 comments

  1. Wow…looking through both dealnews and slickdeals right now. Great sites, thanks for the heads up! I think a Garage Sale Party is a great idea. The next morning, you could hold a regular neighborhood sale for all the items that weren’t bought by close friends. Do you have any experience with eBay? I’ve bought a handful of items, but never sold anything.

    • Those sites rock! I’ve done a ton of selling on eBay, it’s not hard but there are obvious things to make it a good experience, as long as you are particularly descriptive and set a “as low as I’ll sell for price” in your head…you should be happy with the experience.

  2. Wow…looking through both dealnews and slickdeals right now. Great sites, thanks for the heads up! I think a Garage Sale Party is a great idea. The next morning, you could hold a regular neighborhood sale for all the items that weren’t bought by close friends. Do you have any experience with eBay? I’ve bought a handful of items, but never sold anything.

  3. Great material, as always.

    I do have a suggestion to ad: Some of us (mostly musicians) have non-commodity goods that are difficult to move using the tips above. Commodity instruments (entry-level guitars, entry-level keyboards/organs) are easy enough to eliminate by conventional means, but….

    As a classical organist, however, the situation changes. With goods of this nature, I’ve consistently found that the local dealer for the product to be an ideal way of selling off old stuff… even when it’s 30+ years old. These kinds of items intrinsically retain value over long periods of time, and the dealer will usually either sell used items directly or connect you with interested individuals who can’t or don’t wish to buy new.

    Just my $0.02.

  4. Great material, as always.

    I do have a suggestion to ad: Some of us (mostly musicians) have non-commodity goods that are difficult to move using the tips above. Commodity instruments (entry-level guitars, entry-level keyboards/organs) are easy enough to eliminate by conventional means, but….

    As a classical organist, however, the situation changes. With goods of this nature, I’ve consistently found that the local dealer for the product to be an ideal way of selling off old stuff… even when it’s 30+ years old. These kinds of items intrinsically retain value over long periods of time, and the dealer will usually either sell used items directly or connect you with interested individuals who can’t or don’t wish to buy new.

    Just my $0.02.

  5. @Alan: glad you’re enjoying those sites as much as I do! Let me know if you end up hosting a Garage Sale Party, too…I’m still seriously considering throwing one myself.

    As for eBay, I’ve bought some stuff there recently (the carry-on bag and camera that I purchased for this project, in fact, came from sellers on eBay), but I haven’t sold anything on there in many years. From what I can tell, it seems to be a haven for people with online shops, but not quite as beneficial for the individual these days. This is, of course, me speaking from relative ignorance on the subject, so hopefully someone with more recent experience will chime in and enlighten us!

    @Will: very good point! I can definitely see how moving an organ would be tricky (the instrument, not the body part, though I’m sure both would be a bit difficult to get through customs), and I think you’ve given a really solid solution to the problem.

    Here’s a question: what kinds of things do you do to keep your instruments in tip-top resale shape? Any tips for the actual sales conversation with the dealer?

  6. @Alan: glad you’re enjoying those sites as much as I do! Let me know if you end up hosting a Garage Sale Party, too…I’m still seriously considering throwing one myself.

    As for eBay, I’ve bought some stuff there recently (the carry-on bag and camera that I purchased for this project, in fact, came from sellers on eBay), but I haven’t sold anything on there in many years. From what I can tell, it seems to be a haven for people with online shops, but not quite as beneficial for the individual these days. This is, of course, me speaking from relative ignorance on the subject, so hopefully someone with more recent experience will chime in and enlighten us!

    @Will: very good point! I can definitely see how moving an organ would be tricky (the instrument, not the body part, though I’m sure both would be a bit difficult to get through customs), and I think you’ve given a really solid solution to the problem.

    Here’s a question: what kinds of things do you do to keep your instruments in tip-top resale shape? Any tips for the actual sales conversation with the dealer?

  7. I’m in the process of doing the exact same thing. I offloaded most of my furniture six months ago before moving interstate, and now rent a furnished apartment until I finish work (which is tomorrow incidentally- woohoo!). The items I’m selling at the moment are the last bits and things that I’ve needed in my new home but won’t need once I’m living out of a backpack. I’ve sent a list to friends and colleagues and I’ve said that I don’t need money but will trade for a voucher of some sort (book/movie/wine)that I can use later on when I’ve returned from travel OR they can come to my farewell tomorrow night and buy me a cocktail (or three!).

  8. I’m in the process of doing the exact same thing. I offloaded most of my furniture six months ago before moving interstate, and now rent a furnished apartment until I finish work (which is tomorrow incidentally- woohoo!). The items I’m selling at the moment are the last bits and things that I’ve needed in my new home but won’t need once I’m living out of a backpack. I’ve sent a list to friends and colleagues and I’ve said that I don’t need money but will trade for a voucher of some sort (book/movie/wine)that I can use later on when I’ve returned from travel OR they can come to my farewell tomorrow night and buy me a cocktail (or three!).

  9. @Tresna: congrats on finishing up work! One step closer to being a little bit more minimal and a lotta bit more free.

    Smart to allow people to pay you in favors when you return. It’s a good excuse to get together with people, and it will make your visits back home that much cheaper and more festive.

    Keep me updated on what you’re up to! I’ll be watching your blog too, so keep good notes for everyone else to follow!

  10. @Tresna: congrats on finishing up work! One step closer to being a little bit more minimal and a lotta bit more free.

    Smart to allow people to pay you in favors when you return. It’s a good excuse to get together with people, and it will make your visits back home that much cheaper and more festive.

    Keep me updated on what you’re up to! I’ll be watching your blog too, so keep good notes for everyone else to follow!

  11. I made a short list of things we could sell the other night.  We being my wife and I.  I actually noticed a bunch of things that I wouldn’t even know how to sell. A lot could be given to goodwill or something but getting some return would be ideal.

    We don’t have a goal of putting everything in a carryon but we would like to allow for abundance in new ways – not more stuff – but wealth and the ability to give.  

    The trading of stuff for services is interesting! I’ll have to think about that and people I know. Then I can at least ask if they would be up for a swap. 

    I don’t really want to deal with Kijiji but it is probably where I’ll start.

    Thanks for the information!

  12. Pingback: How to sell your stuff better in West Auckland

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