Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Making money off other people's junk :o)

Update: Research pays! Thanks to Carmon's tips about this bookselling blog and additional information perusal, I've figured out that Micah and I will probably do better selling books on a set-price site like Amazon Marketplace than on Ebay auctions in many cases. It's a great starting place for other info about the book market too! I'm happily intrigued and engrossed:o)

As I described in this post, we've recently been trying a little experiment to see if we could buy some things for cheap and resell for a profit online. We like to garage-sale and check out auctions and other thrift shops and markets, so we thought that it would be fun to make a little money from this hobby.

Over the past two weekends, we've visited some garage sales and purchased about $16 worth of merchandise. We listed most of it on Ebay. For those who might be interested, here are some things we've learned so far:

  • Clothes, name-brands included, are a no-go. We happened upon a garage sale where a mother was practically giving away heaps of name-brand baby and little boy clothes. We snatched up several items, including some adorable denim overalls, and listed everything on Ebay for under a dollar apiece. None of the clothes received a single bid. Also, I found a pair of name-brand women's jeans that usually retails for $90.00 on the clearance rack at a discount store. I purchased them for $15.00, thinking that I might be able to resell them for at least $25 or $30. When I got home and researched, I discovered that I wouldn't be able to sell them for any more than I paid for them, so I returned them to the store. Perhaps it is possible to make money online off of clothes, but you really have to know what you're doing. The Ebay clothes market seems to be saturated.
  • Know your shipping costs! I'm ashamed to say we guessed on what shipping would cost (since we don't own a package scale) and were way off on some things. Package shipping costs must have gone up along with the postage stamp. A couple items actually cost more to ship than the total payment we had received from our buyer! So it ended up costing us money rather than making us money to "sell" them our merchandise. We will be buying a package scale so that we can give accurate shipping costs in the future!
  • Research to find the cheapest source for packaging materials. In our case, we discovered that buying envelopes and boxes at Wal*Mart is not the cheapest way to go. (We discovered this after spending $16.00 to buy about 4 boxes and about 10 padded envelopes.) My mom reminded me that boxes can be gotten for free at Wal*Mart if you call and find out when they usually finish stocking their shelves, then show up and ask to take some. She also told me about a shipping materials store where envelopes can be purchased in bulk for about half the price of Wal*Mart's. If you are shipping something Priority Mail, remember that the post office will deliver Priority shipping materials free to your house.
  • Specialize! We picked up some random odds and ends for cheap that we thought might be useful for someone. Even though they did sell, these are the items on which we most underestimated the shipping costs (some of them were rather heavy!). Most of these items ended up costing us money. If we had charged the correct shipping costs, we doubt anyone would have bought them, because they weren't worth that much. We made our best profits on books that we bought at garage sales for .25-.50 and some unique or classic children's toys. (For instance, some colored dominoes we bought for $1 and sold for $9, and a set of old Lincoln Logs that we got for free and also sold for $9). So we have decided to stick with books, classic toys, and anything that we know to be collectible.

So, here were the results of our experiment so far: Almost half of the items we purchased for $16 either didn't sell at all, or we didn't even bother to list them after doing our research. We now know not to buy these types of items again!

For the items that did sell (about an $8 investment on our part), people paid us over $40 (not including the shipping costs we requested). We WILL be buying many of these types of items again!

Unfortunately, our profits from this go-around are minimal because of: bad shipping cost estimates, spending too much on expensive shipping materials, and the purchase costs and listing fees for items that didn't sell. Next time should be better! There is definitely a learning curve to this little side-business:o)


Blogger Samantha said...

Thanks for sharing that info! Please keep us posted on other ways you are working from home. My sister is going to begin working part-time at her job(right now I take care of her kids full-time), and I'm hoping to find a way to make extra income from home. My dream is to work from home, but I don't even know where to start:) So I love hearing about other peoples experiences. Also, if you have any books about starting home business please share. Thanks again!

10:34 AM, March 21, 2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

You might try consigning the baby clothes. I have picked up a bunch for my little boy for a quarter apiece, and plan to consign them when he is done with them and when I can bear to part with them.
;-) I think that you might get double your money back on them or more. I always try to get classic stuff, little jeans, and onsies, that don't look dated. Also tasteful basic good condition maternity clothes can be consigned. I have a lady here that will take everything I can give her,a nd she buys things outright from you.
Hope that helps--things might be different here in SC though.


P.S. You didn't happen to pick up any boy's size 12 month denim or khaki shorts did you? I'd be interested in a couple more pair.

4:27 PM, March 21, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Kathryn, consigment is a great idea! Thanks!

Hmm, no, I'm afraid I don't have those type of shorts! :o)

1:42 PM, March 22, 2006  

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