How to Sell Stuff You Don’t Want

Were you buried by an avalanche the last time you opened a closet door? Does your garage hold everything under the sun except your car? Do you need to raise some money to pay off bills? Whether you’re cleaning out your house or bill collectors are cleaning you out, selling stuff that you don’t need or want is a great way to raise some extra money.

Local Advertising:

There are many ways to advertise an item for sale locally. One obvious place is the classifieds of your local daily newspaper. Check into different rates for the different papers in your area. The larger metropolitan newspapers will most likely charge more than your town’s weekly paper but the circulation of a major paper will be much greater.

There are usually other local classifieds publications as well, such as bargain shopper papers, auto and real estate guides and others that either charge very little or sometimes nothing at all. Check out the newspaper rack at a local convenience store or market to get an idea of all the classifieds options that are available in your area.

Newspapers aren’t the only place you can get cheap local advertising. Many grocery stores have message boards near the checkout where you can fill out a form and list your item for free. Look around during your daily activities for places you can publicize your item for sale. Church bulletins, work newsletters and pin up boards at the library are just a few. Also try to think of who might want to buy your item. If you’re selling an old couch that’s been in the basement for a few years try hanging up a flyer on your local college campus. Targeting your potential buyers can pay off in a big way.

Some local cable television systems offer classified advertising on a specific channel. This type of classified ad is usually more expensive than a newspaper ad, but if you’re selling a high dollar item like a car or boat and want as much exposure as you can get, cable classifieds can be worth the money.

When you are advertising a specific item for sale don’t forget about using one of the oldest methods available, word of mouth! Tell everyone you know about what you are selling, friends, neighbors, co-workers, the guy who cuts your parents’ lawn, anyone. Try sending out an email to everyone you know. You never know who might be interested in buying your item, or whom the person you tell might tell.

Try offering your friends a commission or percentage of the sale if they find a buyer for you. That way you can have your own army of salespeople keeping their eyes open for you.

Unload It Somewhere

Consignment Shops:

Just because you looked great in the lime green halter-top 20 years ago, it might not be that flattering now. And that guitar in the basement that you thought was going to bring you rock fame and fortune brought you blistered fingers and a hatred of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” instead.

Items like this are perfect candidates to sell on consignment. Consignment shops are full of clothing, antiques, collectibles and other household items. Selling items on consignment offers you exposure to buyers, an easy way to sell and it gets your stuff out of the house! The typical consignment agreement is 50/50 with you and the owner of the shop splitting the final sale price.

While clothing makes up most of the merchandise at consignment shops, other specialty shops offer consignment as well. There are many new and used music, jewelry, furniture, and collectible shops all over the country where you can bring an instrument or item to sell on consignment. Many will also buy the items from you outright. You won’t get as much money as you would selling to another person directly, but it’s a lot quicker and easier than trying to find a buyer yourself.

Pawn Shops:

Contrary to popular belief, pawnshops do carry more than guns and jewelry. TV’s, VCR’s, DVD players, video games, computers, CD’s, movies, furniture and just about anything else can be found at the local shop. If you’re looking for some quick cash a pawnshop can be a life saver. But if you are interested in getting the most money for your stuff, you’re better off selling by another method.

Unlike consignment shops, when you take an item to a pawnshop you don’t have to sell it outright. Pawnbrokers will give you a cash loan based on the value of your item, ranging from 25-75% of what the shop would charge if they had to sell the item. When you pawn something the contract generally lasts between two and four months. At the end of that time if you haven’t paid back the loan the shop keeps your collateral and sells it. There are no marks on your credit or any collection actions taken against you. But whatever you took into the shop to pawn is now property of the shop. The transaction is considered complete with the shop selling your item. In the view of the pawnshop, the loan to you was paid for already when you gave them your item. If you pay back the loan on time, however, you get your item back.

Selling an item at a pawnshop is extremely easy if you don’t want to get it back. Simply put, you walk in, tell the clerk you want to sell your item, they look it over then give you cash. The downside to this is pawnshops don’t make any money by giving you full value for your stuff. Many will tell you that they routinely give 50-75% of what they would sell it for in the store. In reality you will get 25-50% of the value.

If you’re thinking of selling at a pawnshop you need to ask yourself if getting cash quick is more important than getting what your item is worth.

Flea Markets:

Flea markets have been as popular as ever lately with bargain hunters and sellers alike. If you have a lot of items you need to sell, setting up a table at a flea market could be a good idea. Many times the cost is only five or ten dollars for your own table. Look for schools, churches or other organizations offering tables at their flea markets.

If you have one or two items that you want to unload, taking them to a flea market could work in your favor. Talking to flea market vendors can be a good way to get rid of collectibles or specialty items. While vendors are there mostly to sell their stuff to you, if you have something they might be able to resell, you could walk away with some cash. Just make sure they don’t lowball you!

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Yard Sales:

Yard sales, garage sales, tag sales, whatever you call them they can generate a lot of money if done right. Some people make thousands of dollars by having yard sales, the key is to prepare, advertise and be ready to sell!

Most people think that having a yard sale is just setting up a few tables, putting an ad in the paper and watching your stuff sell. Those are the same people who barely make any money! To make a yard sale truly successful, it takes a little more work and elbow grease.

Before you begin planning your yard sale, make sure that you’ve met your community’s guidelines. Some require licenses, others don’t.

Start gathering up items from around your house a few months before you plan on having the sale. This gives you time to round up everything you want to sell without being hurried. It also gives you some time to change your mind about selling certain items that you might want. Set everything aside from your other belongings and make sure everything is nice and clean, you’ll make more money when your items look their best. Who wants to pay 5 bucks for an old lamp that’s covered in 10 years worth of dust?

After everything you want to sell is gathered up, it’s time to price everything. Don’t overvalue your stuff just because some of it might have sentimental value. You may have gotten that ashtray on your honeymoon but 10 bucks is a little steep, especially if you “borrowed” it from the hotel! It’s best to have each item clearly marked to avoid having to answer how much an item is every time you turn around. Some items might be better to price in a bin. For example, putting up a sign that says “Everything in this box $1 each” Creative pricing works good as well, like four toys for a dollar or a bag of clothing for 3 dollars. By keeping things clear your buyers will have an easier time shopping and you’ll have a better day selling.

Be creative in presenting your merchandise. Laying everything out on the ground doesn’t look good and it makes it harder for people to see the items. Make sure you group your items together on tables or hang clothing on racks. If you don’t have enough tables ask a neighbor if you can borrow one, if you need a clothing rack try putting a shower rod across two ladders. If you sell a lot of items from one table, fill in the gaps with items from another. Presentation can really go a long way.

Now that you know how to set up the perfect yard sale, you need to spread the word! Placing an ad in the newspaper will get the yard salers to your door. When writing your ad, try to be as brief as possible yet clear. It’s best to list the types of items you have for sale then your address, date and time. Advertising in the newspaper the week of your sale is generally sufficient time to get the word out.

Putting up signs is a great way to draw attention to your yard sale, as long as people can read them! Make sure they are made of a strong material to withstand the elements, cardboard pizza boxes work well. Write with a waterproof ink or paint and make sure the printing is large and easy to read. Arrows pointing in the direction of your sale make it easier for people not from your neighborhood to find it. After the signs are up drive by them yourself to make sure you can read them. If you can’t, then no one will!

If you are going to place signs around your community make sure you are following local laws. Some communities do not allow stapling or attaching signs to lampposts or street signs, it’s best to check with your local authorities. Most importantly, if you do put up signs, make sure you take them down after your sale has ended!

Yard Sale Tips:

  • Place interesting items closer to the road to attract people driving by
  • Offer to sell drinks to your customers. On hot days they’ll appreciate it and stick around at your sale longer buying more stuff!
  • Have plenty of cash on hand to make change and keep it well guarded
  • Have lots of plastic bags around to pack up items you sell and newspapers to wrap any breakable items.
  • If you are selling anything electronic, run an extension chord out into your yard so people can test the items without having to go inside your home.
  • Invite neighbors or friends over to have a larger sale.
  • Check online for more yard sale tips


Online Classifieds

If you are placing an ad in your local paper, see if it includes submission to the newspaper’s online classifieds. Some local newspapers will automatically list your item online, others require an extra fee. Online classifieds are a great way to reach your local market on the Web and they have some conveniences such as searchable listings. And unlike most local newspapers, local online classifieds are usually free to view, meaning your potential customers don’t have to buy a paper in order to see your ad.

If you’re not interested in paying for an online listing there are free classifieds pages available online. One such site, freeclassifieds.com, has many different categories for you to list your ad in. Search the Web for other classified sites based in the area where you live. Many communities have Web sites with free classifieds as well.

Online Auctions

There are many different online auction sites, some are more specialized offering items for a niche market, others are more broad-based. The biggest online auction houses are eBay, Yahoo Auctions and Amazon.com Auctions. The most popular of them all, eBay, is the auction Web site I will concentrate on here.

Selling on eBay requires you to be a registered user of eBay, and to pay fees for selling your items through them. The fees are minimal and reflect the opening bid price for your item and a percentage of what the final price is. For current listing and closing fees visit eBay.com.

Online auctions work very much like traditional auctions, but they are spread out over a few days instead of a few minutes. On eBay, you can specify how long you would like your auction to last, from three to ten days. You set a starting bid amount and interested parties may view your item and place a bid. At the end of the auction the highest bidder wins the item.

Here’s how a typical transaction goes down. A seller lists an item and sets a starting bid price. Buyers will be able to view the item, read the written description and place bids on it if they want to purchase it. When the auction is over, an email will be sent to the highest bidder and the seller confirming the details of the auction. The buyer and seller communicate by email to arrange payment. After the seller has received the payment, he ships the item to the buyer.

Contrary to what many people think, you really don’t need to be a technical guru to place your items up for bid in an online auction. Most auction sites have an easy to follow step-bystep process for listing your item as well as tutorials on the technical process for item listing. There is also software available that pretty much automates the whole process. Take a look at other people’s auctions on eBay, many of them will contain links to software companies and services that assist the online auction process.

One technical aspect of online auctions is picture taking, and it is an important part of selling on eBay. Although having a picture of your item isn’t necessary, chances are you’ll have more people interested in your item if they can see it. You can use a digital camera to take the pictures, scan in a regular photograph or have your pictures put on a CDRom for you when you get them developed. Currently, eBay allows you to place one picture in your item listing for free and charges a minimal fee for other pictures that you would like to include. But if you have some technical savvy you can get away with adding other pictures for free, ask a friend who knows how to post a Web page!

When writing your item description make it clear what your shipping method will be and how much you will be charging. You can choose the United States Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, or any other method you like. Insurance should be an option for the buyer, but it is also a good idea for you so you’re not accountable if your shipment gets lost or damaged.

A general rule for shipping charges would be the actual cost of shipping plus any packing materials or boxes that you needed to buy in order to ship the item. After your auction is over, add the final bid price to your shipping charges and that is the total that you need to charge the winning bidder.

If you are selling large items like furniture, appliances or automobiles consider allowing the buyer to pick up the item instead of trying to ship it. The shipping charges on a car can be extraordinary!

Internet Auction Selling Tips:

  • Use a low starting bid to get people interested, but no lower than you would accept for the item.
  • Check into prices on similar items to see what they are going for
  • Take good pictures, if you can’t see the item clearly neither can your buyers
  • Write detailed descriptions of your item
  • State your payment and shipping terms clearly
  • Be honest in your written description, lying about your item’s condition can come back to haunt you and could be illegal

Auction Payment

Payment for auctions can take many forms, the most common being check, money order and electronic transactions through an online payment service. The most popular method of paying for auctions these days has been the online payment service PayPal (www.PayPal.com). PayPal is owned by eBay allows you to accept and make credit card payments to others over the Web. Opening a PayPal account is free, but there are minimal charges for accepting credit card payments. Check the PayPal Web site for the current fees involved.

If accepting payment over the net isn’t your thing, you can always accept checks or money orders through the mail. BE CAREFUL WHEN ACCEPTING CHECKS!!! If someone sends you a personal check as payment, make sure you wait until the check has cleared before you ship the item. This usually takes ten days when you include the return check period and the time to be notified by your bank. Make it clear in your item description that you will be waiting until checks clear before shipping. Money orders are considered safe and many sellers ship the item right away after cashing the money order.

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Other Online Sales Avenues


Amazon.com is known as the Wal-Mart of online shopping. From electronics and books to baby clothing and lawn furniture, they pretty much carry everything. They also allow you to sell your used items right alongside the brand new ones through their “Marketplace” feature.

Let’s say someone is searching for the Stephen King book, “It,” and you have a copy for sale. When Amazon.com displays their page for the brand new copy, there will be a link for the customer to buy it used from you if desired. You pay no listing fees and Amazon.com only charges you a fee if the item sells.


This is another Web site where you can list items for sale, mostly electronics, DVDs, CDs and books, but other items can be found there as well. Half.com is basically a collection of used or discounted merchandise. People would browse or search the categories just like any other shopping Web site and your merchandise would be listed alongside others selling the same items. There are no fees to list your item for sale, but there is a commission fee if your item sells.

Sold Everything Yet?

You now have the knowledge necessary to sell anything you want! From a traditional yard sale to the digital garage sale, you can make some serious dough if you put your mind to it.

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