I’ve recently written about the differences between frugality and cheapness. We took that further by talking about incorporating a mentality of “everything is for sale“—an attitude to buy with the intent to later sell.
But how do you actually go about selling your stuff locally? What apps do we use?
It always surprises me to hear how often friends and family will simply throw away perfectly good used furniture, electronics, and housewares.
Why opt to destroy something that could be used by someone else?
Why unnecessarily add to the environmental load on our planet?
Jenni and I are certainly far from perfect in this regard—it’s frustrating to see how much waste goes in the garbage (instead of the recycling bin) each week. And sometimes we feel a little lazy and take the car for a trip across town when we could bike. But we should seek to improve!
While I’m often the one that winds up adopting the unloved stuff of friends and family, it’s still striking that people don’t “automatically” know how to take simple steps to sell, donate, or give away their stuff.
It seems natural to me since I’ve been selling my old used thing to pay for my new and improved things since I was about 14 years old. I still have my Heatware account with feedback from the year 2000 (a 24X CD-ROM)!
Even if you really don’t think your old things have any value, why not give it go and see if they’re sellable?
If it’s really worthless why not donate to Goodwill to get the tax deduction or put it up on the freebies section of Craigslist?
Follow me down the surprisingly simple path to learning how to get rid of your old “junk” which might just have a diamond in the rough, too!
Valuing Your Stuff
One problem people have when attempting to sell their things locally is that they just don’t know what it’s worth. While it’s fairly easy to look up the price for something brand new and still sold at a big box store, it’s much harder to figure out what something that is a few years old and used is worth.
I’ve got a few simple tips to help you figure that out:
- Check your competitors
- Use eBay’s completed sales listing
Check your competitors
Take a look at the platform you intend to sell your item on. Simply search for the same item you have to see what other people are selling that same thing for. Not only will this give you an idea for what a fair price might be, but you can also cut your competitor’s price by a buck to become the lowest price.
While you’re at it, take a look at their listing to see if they include details you hadn’t thought of. See if you can provide better photos or more relevant information for a potential buyer.
One-up the competition!
Use eBay’s completed sales listing
eBay offers a “sold items” filter when you search. This is one of my favorite ways to figure out what the market value is for a thing. You may be thinking:
“But Chris! I’m selling my thing locally!”
No problem, a good rule of thumb for the comparable local price is to take 15% and shipping expenses off the total cost of the sold listing. eBay’s fees are about 10% plus another 3% for PayPal’s transaction fee. You’ll be giving the buyer a better value locally and you’ll earn near what the eBay seller did.
If you can’t find any examples of your thing locally or on eBay’s sold listings and you really don’t know what it’s worth, that’s okay. Why not just take your best-educated guess? Worst case scenario, you’ll waste a little time putting a listing together (they’re free!) and waiting to see if a buyer pops up.
You can still donate, giveaway, or trash it later after all.
Best Way to Sell Your Stuff
There’s a variety of ways to sell your old stuff online and meet locally to make the actual exchange.
There’s the old standbys:
Then there’s the modern apps to sell your stuff:
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg though it represents the larger venues. For example, lots of people love Poshmark though it’s focused on a specific category of items: clothing and accessories. It’s also more appropriate for non-local sales where you’ll have to handle packing and shipping.
Platforms and apps that require you to ship to the buyer are for a different article.
The Web to the rescue
Before the days of eBay and Craigslist, consumer-to-consumer sales were frequently done via the newspaper classifieds. Listings generally weren’t free.
These days, eBay does still offer local pickup listings and you generally don’t pay fees until a sale is made. It’s a good choice if you’re in no rush and want a listing to live somewhere for a while. That’s especially true for higher dollar items (think collectible furniture) that might attract interest outside your region where someone is willing to drive to you for the deal.
Still, there’s better choices for all but very niche circumstances than eBay’s local pickup.
Craigslist: the Web’s classifieds
For most categories, Craigslist remains free. You can create an anonymous account in a couple of minutes. The site still retains the look and feel of the web in its earliest days with a very simple design.
I feel like Craigslist doesn’t have a great reputation, but I’ve never had any trouble. Just be aware that many, many different things and …types of services are sold on Craigslist, so it does have a varied audience.
While I’ve not had issues, Jenni did list some shoes at one point and was asked for some feet pics to go with them.
The anonymity of Craigslist has its pros and cons, for sure. Be sure to check out the safety section below, and that applies to any local transaction meetings!
Craigslist’s market share of local consumer-to-consumer sales has been reduced by Facebook’s big push into local sales.
Facebook Marketplace: sell your stuff to your friends
Facebook has a large audience, can use existing profiles to help build trust, and has its own built-in messaging system. They’ve even created a seller review system.
If you’ve already got a Facebook account, I’ve had plenty of success selling our old stuff on the Marketplace platform and would recommend it. Having Facebook’s signup system helps prevent spam “interest” emails. Facebook profiles behind every message help to keep everyone a little more honest, too.
You can even spend a few bucks to “boost” your listing if it makes economic sense to do so.
Apps to sell your stuff
Ah, the power of modern technology to make you rich.
In the 2000s it was the sudden availability of everyone to sell things online: the explosive growth of the online flea market with eBay. These days, it’s the growth of apps that make unloading the cruft around your house a snap, locally.
OfferUp and Letgo sales apps
OfferUp and Letgo are very similar apps that compete in this space. Their aim is to make it as easy as possible for someone with a smartphone to pop open the app, snap a picture as the basis of their listing, input a price and maybe categorize or title the item. The focus of their listings is in the photo as the app uses a visual list of what’s for sale to help buyers find what they’re looking for.
It’s certainly the easiest, lowest barrier to entry among the choices available to you to make a local sale. That said, I don’t find them to be great choices. Buyers tend to be less interested in the details (since again, it’s focused on visuals). They look to spend a bit less money as the apps have negotiation systems built into them.
I think they’re great choices if you’re in a hurry to make a sale or sell a lot of stuff. A good example where they fit well is if you’re moving house and need to reduce your clutter quickly.
These apps to sell your stuff feel more like a garage sale.
Be wary of attempts to convince you to make your listings available nationwide which will require shipping, potentially fees, and risk with your buyer.
Nextdoor’s For Sale & Free section
Nextdoor is a much more interesting case. The platform is well-known as a “Facebook for neighborhoods”. It’s something like what used to be your local paper, but run by your neighbors, with a forum of conversation. That lends itself well to a “classifieds” section.
While visuals are important, there’s more of a focus on titling and description. Listings seem to be a little more “sticky”, too. OfferUp and Letgo listings seem to slide away pretty quickly.
Creating the Sale Listing
Once you’ve figured out the value of the things you want to sell and the best venue(s) to sell them on, it’s time to work on the sale listing itself. Remember, this is an advertisement: put your best foot forward.
Eye-catching photography for your stuff
You should take a moment to photograph what you’re selling with good lighting, a steady hand, and a full-frame. Your smartphone is plenty good enough to take quality shots for your listing, the key is in getting lots of angles and good lighting.
- Make sure the item fills most of the frame of the photo
- Include any manufacturer markings
- Highlight damage or indications of anything missing
Try to take your item pictures against a contrasting background which tends to be white. I like to use a large piece of poster board or a white sheet for extra-large items. If all else fails, your nearest sidewalk on a sunny day makes for a pretty good choice.
Titles and descriptions in your listings
While you were researching competing listings, you probably found a good listing for your same item. Take a look at how they’ve titled the listing and follow a similar process. My posting titles generally look something like this Madlib:
<Condition> <Item Name> <Model Number> <Variant> <Year> <Completeness>
So, you might wind up with something like this:
Like New Apple iPhone X Black, 256GB 2017 Retail Boxed
Your item description should include an extended version of the title.
- Describe any issues, deliver the exact model information with any extended identifiers.
- Itemize any accessories included, especially things like instructions or the packaging.
- Consider including the manufacturer’s production description if it might be helpful to the buyer when browsing.
Setting the deal parameters
Lastly, you might want to describe how you’d like to meet up and deal in general. A lot of people making local deals will expect a little haggling in my experience. Since I price things at market values I have researched, I put in my descriptions “price is firm”.
In addition, I mention a suggested safe location to meet up which tends to be the nearby grocery store. It has benches, cameras, and bright lighting along with an easy parking lot to access.
I also state the best way to reach me (usually the venue’s messaging system so as to not expose my phone number) and that I will reply to any questions quickly.
Lastly, I like to add that “if you see this posting, it’s still available”. That seems to cut down on the number of messages simply to ask if it’s still available. Just be sure to take your listings down when you’ve made the sale!
This idea of local person-to-person sales has become so prevalent that police stations and public spaces around the country have been designated “safe transaction zones”. Cameras record vehicle license plate information coming in and out along with other angles providing recordings of the person-to-person transaction itself. This offers at least some form of security for the two parties involved.
While we tend to use the entry area of a grocery store nearby, we have at least a handful of these designated zones within walking distance of our house. It seems safety is a big stumbling block for people considering selling their things themselves locally, it’s great to see municipalities trying to make the process safer.
Personally, I’ve been selling old electronics, computers, and extra stuff around the house via Craigslist for over a decade. I’ve yet to have had any issue with a local deal and I’ve made many dozens of transactions as the buyer as well. I don’t know precisely how many sales I’ve gone through, but I’d say it safely exceeds one hundred. Now, that’s just my anecdotal experience. Safety should be taken seriously.
Of course, most of the negotiation has already been done long before the meeting takes place. It’s common to talk about the condition of what’s being sold, ask detailed questions, and even negotiate price right within the messaging system of the app you’re using. In this way, the meeting is more just a formal physical transaction—the exchange of cash and the item sold.
Making the Sale
Once you’ve got quality photos, a descriptive title, and a description that’ll help make the sale, make your posting live and …wait for a buyer!
When they reach out, reply promptly and be personable. Person-to-person financial transactions are awkward, it’s not something we do every day. You can really improve the experience for your buyer and make an easier sale by just being friendly and approachable.
Being more comfortable an open about money with strangers can help you communicate better with friends and family about money. It’s good practice and a key component to building your position of financial strength.
Set a date, time, and location to meet. Try to agree on the price beforehand. One way I bring this topic up is to simply ask the buyer if they’ll need change. I only accept cash. I like to tell the buyer to message me about 30 minutes in advance of our scheduled time to confirm they’re still on schedule.
Make sure you have a way to communicate with the buyer in case there are any last-second snafus. Most of the apps have good built-in messaging systems but there’s always text messages if you’re comfortable exchanging your number.
A Side Income From Your Old Stuff
Once you’ve got a few listings under your belt, you’ll be used to the workflow for creating postings on your platforms of choice. You can build it into a routine, a habit, as you acquire upgrades or improvements. We’ve incorporated this into our routines as you can see in our last monthly balance sheet as a bit of local sale income showed up.
We should strive to be happy with what we have. Sometimes our Stoicism will run weak and we’ll incorporate new things in our lives. You should do your best to maximize the value of your old things when this happens. Try to avoid further environmental and financial costs to the society around you by giving your old stuff a new home that isn’t the landfill.
Building the habit of selling your old stuff will add a little more wealth to your bottom line, getting you that much closer to—or help maintain—financial independence.