It’s another scorching hot July weekend here in Charleston, my least favorite time for yard sale shopping. The humidity, bugs and cranky people add to the fun of trying to find yard sales at all, let alone a good one.
The worst is when you go to an advertised community sale and maybe 4 houses participate. Which happened today, so I honestly thought the day was gonna be a wash. I was done at the community sale in 20 minutes with nothing but a single pair of decent looking Skechers to show for it, and figured I’d just go ahead and get the grocery shopping done. On the way, there were a few random sales, but nothing good.
So I pulled into Aldi…which opens at 9am. I did not know this. It was 7:45. Ugh. I try one more part of town where there are usually yard sales every week, and found two good ones…one moving sale with $1 clothing and a bunch of brand new beauty supplies. I got 13 Arbonne trial packs of skin care for $8, a Free People tank and a couple more clothing items. The day was saved! Next stop had small boxes everywhere. One had a new package of Method brand floor swiffer cloths so I asked how much. This lady says, “I’m not fooling around with ones today. The whole box is $5.” See what I mean? Cranky! Seriously, she would not sell me that item separately. Since the rest of the box had a neck pillow and random plastic bowls, I put it back. Then I see a lady inspecting a box of yard sale gold….Wen hair care. I pretend to take great interest in whatever item was right next to her and will her to put that box back down with every fiber of my being. Success! It was in another “$5 box”, so there was also a Regis salon tea tree shampoo/conditioner set and a sealed container of Olivarium by Perlier, among other things. So I go to pay the lady a five and she goes and gets the swiffer cloths and adds them to my box. Yay! What started as a bad day turned out great! I spent a total of $16 for everything, and the Wen hair care alone should sell for $30 or more.
When I first started selling on eBay 8 years ago, I really thought I was just going to sell books as a hobby and to make a little spending money. Aside from the fact that I love books, I found them to be the easiest thing to list – just type in the name and a description comes up for you (this was before I had a smartphone to scan barcodes, lol). They were easy to ship, had the cheapest shipping rate (media mail) and were easy to store until they sold. Or didn’t sell, I wasn’t that concerned, frankly.
I still sell books for all those reasons, but after this became a part time business endeavor and I went from Calliope Books to Calliope’s Closet, I had to learn a few things along the way to cut costs. At first, I was buying fancy padded envelopes for everything. That lasted about a minute, since those envelopes were sometimes as much as the item I was putting in them. Then I was getting cases of paper envelopes and adding my own bubble wrap. This was a smidge cheaper, but the paper envelopes would tear sometimes, and although I still use bubble wrap on some items, it can be expensive. I was lucky to find a company on craigslist that regularly gave away used bubble wrap and packing peanuts. This was a big savings, but also time consuming since the wrap would have tears and tape still attached that would have to be removed before I could use it.
When our kids got older, so did their bills and I had to put my hobby on hold and make an actual living. I started working a job full time where one of my tasks was to list on eBay. I learned a ton about packing, shipping and pricing items to sell. I have since left that job, but took a lot away from the experience and now use the things I learned for my own eBay store. I raised my prices slightly to keep up with the market, started charging the correct amounts for shipping and I now spend as little as possible on packing and shipping materials.
If you are just starting out, here are a few simple ways to cut back on expenses…
1. Limit the use of bubble wrap. I only use bubble wrap on these items: books, shoes, oddly shaped items like this, and fragile or liquid items which also get packing peanuts and a box. Why books? Because I had a man order a book from me that requested it, stating that when you drop a book inside an envelope with no padding, the corners get dented in. Since my greatest fear as an eBay seller is negative feedback, now I wrap all books in bubble wrap.
2. Put the bubbles facing out. Bubble wrap will go further if you face the bubbles away from the item rather than inward. Try it now! Get a book or other object, cut or tear off a sheet of bubble wrap large enough for the item. Wrap it with the bubbles facing inward first and note where the edges meet. Now turn the bubble wrap facing the other way and wrap it again in the same place and see where the edges meet now. It goes a little bit further this way, which means buying less and saving more.
3. Use tissue paper for everything else. I buy 35-sheet packs of plain white tissue at the dollar store to wrap clothing, accessories and smaller items. I want all my items wrapped in something before I put them in an envelope, and tissue paper helps keep the item neatly folded during shipping.
4. Use poly envelopes. When I have to pay for poly envelopes, I buy from these guys. They are lightweight, strong, waterproof and the cheapest envelope that I’ve seen. The 9×12 size will fit most of the things I sell, but I also keep a few XL 19×24 on hand for items like jackets that are over one pound and will have to ship priority but won’t fit in a flat rate and I don’t want to add weight by using a box.
5. You can get more in a flat rate envelope than you think. I know, flat rate envelopes look like they hold sheets of paper and nothing else. But by flattening down the corners a little, it will make a pretty nice sized pouch for jeans and sweaters that have to ship priority rate. (Here is the link to see how it works.) Flat rate envelopes are about 60 cents cheaper to send than padded flat rate, and that adds up pretty fast in a month.
6. Get FREE shipping supplies on eBay. By maintaining a Top Seller status, you receive $25 in credit towards the purchase of eBay branded shipping supplies every quarter, but you have to read your messages and use the link in the message to get the credit. Since I bought a ton of poly envelopes when I relaunched my store and before I had reached Top Seller status, I haven’t needed the envelopes to try them out, but I have gotten 2 cases of different sized boxes for free.
7. Cut the excess weight off of boxes. Sometimes you have to ship an item in a box and it weighs in at juuuust over a pound, which means priority rate instead of first class. Here’s a trick for that: each end of the box has four flaps to close it. You really only need two, so you can take the two that would have been on the inside where you don’t see them and cut them down to about an inch or so from the edge, leaving just enough to keep there from being a gap on the edge. Then tape the other two flaps down as usual. Repeat on the other side of the box, and voila! You can cut the weight down enough to get in under 16oz.
8. Tear your packaging tape in half. Since I don’t do enough volume to justify a label printer just yet, I still print my labels on paper and tape them to the package. To save on packaging tape, I try to use half as much to tape on my labels. If you are using the tape with the dispenser, the blade will make nice little notches across the edge of the tape, making it easy to tear in half lengthwise. This way, I use two pieces of tape instead of four for each label.
9. Activate all your offers. Every month, eBay will post promotional offers on your dashboard for free listings in specific categories. Some of them have to be activated by you before they will apply to your listings, so make sure to check the available offers before you sell an item and activate them.
That’s a pretty good list to start with. I’m sure more experienced sellers can tell you more, and I would love to get any tips I don’t know about, so feel free to post in the comments!
I doubt if there’s anyone that hates shopping at Walmart more than I do. Today, however, I picked up my first ever online grocery order from them, and I must say, it was pretty sweet. Never have I seen a lower price on eggs than Aldi at 49 cents a dozen, but I was able to get 36 eggs for $1.27 with the online order at Walmart. Our favorite ice cream – Halo Top – is $1.50 cheaper there than at Publix.
On the down side, they don’t carry all our brands, you can’t use coupons and the produce availability was a little limited (I couldn’t get a pint of blueberries). They also subbed two ice cream flavors that were out of stock for two different (but similar) flavors in the same brand, with the option to decline them for an adjusted total.
Still, the idea of getting Walmart’s low prices without having to set foot in their store ever again is very appealing. You get a front and center parking spot, they bring the groceries out to your car and load it for you, and the staff member we worked with was very friendly and helpful.
Plus they gave us a little shopping tote with some freebies in it for trying it out! If you’ve been on the fence about this and wondered how it is…I definitely give a 9 out of 10 for convenience and price, and an 8 for selection. Here’s a link for a $10 off coupon code they gave me to share if you want to try it out…
Live and learn. But hey, you don’t know what you don’t know, right? And what I didn’t know was that higher end previously owned shoes in nearly new condition are a hot item. How did I stumble upon this nugget of wisdom? At a bustling little heap of chaos I like to call Goodwill Outlet. Yes, that is a thing. It’s basically all the things that don’t sell in a certain time at Goodwill or don’t get in there at all due to overwhelming supply. Everything is dumped into shallow bin style rolling tables and rolled out on the floor. People are lined up to see what’s in the new bins, and when I say “lined up”, I mean poised and ready to knock you down to lunge for all the good stuff. This kind of shopping is not for the faint of heart.
To help prevent injuries and make the fight a little more fair, an announcement is made over the intercom asking that everyone step out of the aisles while they bring out the bins, which are covered with a tarp. Not until the wheels of the table are locked into place will the tarp be removed and shoppers allowed to touch anything. The bins are sorted (mostly) by clothing, shoes, bags and housewares. The competition is pretty fierce for clothing and even more so for bags, but the shoes? You risk losing a limb in that madness. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like that Animal Planet video of piranhas eating a duck.
So after wondering why all the excitement over shoes that have already been worn, I did a little digging and discovered that on eBay alone, at any given moment, there are around 1,950,000 pairs of used shoes listed in the US. Whaaaat? If you filter that search by clicking “sold”, it’s about 750,000 pair over what I’m guessing is 90 days, that’s usually as far back as a search goes on eBay. Narrow it again by prices from $1 to $500 – because let’s face it, you may find one rare pair of Kobe or Yeezy or Jordan Nike’s in your lifetime, or even a pair of Manolo’s worth $5,000, but that’s not the norm. That search brings up 720,000 pairs. So I decided to try to get in on the action.
Now I’m not selling $500 shoes, and I doubt anyone with a brain will be throwing anything like that in good shape in with their yard sale stuff. I do, however, find a few pairs on occasion that are worthwhile with a decent ROI. Here are some examples:
I don’t wear Dansko’s myself, but there is a loyal following and they are known to last a long time. I paid $2 for the ones pictured and they sold for $30.
These are great shoes, I’ve owned a pair before and they are well made and last forever. I have these set aside to list in the fall, but I have sold other pairs for upwards of $30.
Donald J. Pliner
This was not a familiar brand for me, but I thought I’d give it a try and sold these for about $12 with a $1 investment. I sold a pair of the same brand loafers for $16.
Honestly, does J. Crew make anything that people won’t buy? These super cute patent flats were $1 at a yard sale and sold for $15.
Sometimes it’s the style, not necessarily the brand. I’ve had Adrienne Vittadini items listed before that didn’t sell well, but I knew these wedges would be a winner. Paid $2, sold for $18.
Another brand I wasn’t familiar with, but I’m glad I tried it. I sold a pair similar to the ones in this stock photo for $16.
These are just the brands that I’ve had the most luck with so far. I’ve had a few duds, too. I spent $5 on a brand new in the box Anne Klein loafers that aren’t getting much eBay love. A like new pair of girl’s soccer cleats sold with only 1 bid. So you never know.
Feel free to comment with your favorite shoe brands and I’ll keep an eye out for them! Happy shopping!
I’m starting a new category today called “Things People Leave in Books.” I usually buy a pretty good sized stack of books when I thrift or yard sale shop, and every time, there is something left in one or two that the previous owner used as a bookmark. Sometimes it’s a napkin or a gum wrapper or whatever scrap of paper was within reach when they needed it. Sometimes…it’s the funniest stuff. And more often than not, the book they leave it in makes it even funnier.
This one is probably my favorite. It’s a handmade booklet by a child about a king named “Knig Sam” who was always happy, but one day got “rilly sad” because “thay almost took away his keran” Lol. This was left in a book titled “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity”. Make of that what you will.
This is the backing from an ECG electrode that was peeled off, with directions for use. Where exactly are you when you have time to read a book and perform an electrocardiogram procedure? Book title: Fooled by Randomness.
This is a postcard with a picture of a turtle wrapped in a bandage. Turtle. In a bandage. The book is The Happiness Project.
That’s the best of “things people leave in books” for this week. Feel free to comment with any unusual findings of your own!