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…
What with all the reorganizing going on all week, I’m just now getting to the good stuff…this week’s yard sale and thrift store finds!
Actually, it was pretty slim pickings this week. You know yard sale season is winding down when you have to lump yard sale and thrift store finds into one post.
This was one community sale and a Habitat stop. The only things I am remotely excited about in that pile are a 1962 printing of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and a little brass bell dated 1928 from a place called The Sheridan.
I cannot for the life of me find anything on this place. I have contacted the Penn Avenue business web site for Pennsylvania. Since there is no state on the bell, I had to make a guess. I’ll update this post if I get any info.
If the posts seem to be slacking over the past couple of weeks, it’s because I’ve been working on expanding and improving my home office space. I wanted something that says “organized and functional”, not “hoarder”. Here’s the before:
Notice in the before photo, I filled the hanging clothes rack, then slowly started taking over the floor space, creeping up the steps and right up to the door. So every time you walked in the room, there was more stuff to walk around. No, this was not motivation enough for me. I had to wait until the clothes rack COMPLETELY COLLAPSED under the weight of too many clothes before I decided to do something. And the after:
Yeah, it’s not a Pottery Barn cover photo or anything, but it is an improvement. Most everything is off the floor now and visible without digging around through a pile. This is the opposite side of the bonus room so it’s no longer the first thing you see when you walk in; there’s a sitting area there now, so we look like civilized adults and not pack rats.
Those racks were purchased on sears.com. They are working out fine now that I’ve got them situated, but I honestly would not recommend purchasing these online. They don’t ship well, the boxes arrived damaged and the outside of the boxes stated that shipping damage was not the company’s responsibility, but they would assist you in filing a claim with the shipping company. LOL. One corner was bent so my sweet husband just bent it back out and it works fine. I just feel like if you have had so many items get damaged in shipping that you have to put that on your boxes, then the problem is probably your boxes.
So now that I can breathe in this room again, I’ll be able to spend more time here posting fun finds and thrift store tips. Stay tuned!
If you’ve ever sold on eBay before, then you already know…feedback is everything! I’ve sacrificed profits for feedback several times to please a customer, because once the feedback is posted, it’s there forever. Well, it only affects your rating for 12 months, but that’s an eternity in eBay time. There are millions of sellers and 5-star feedback is one of the things that differentiates your store from the rest. Here’s a few tips for getting a sold item to the customer in 5-star condition:
1. Double check the item before you pack it. I have had a few sales I had to cancel because I saw a problem with the item as I was packing it, even though I checked it before listing. It happens.
2. Make sure you have the right size and type of packaging. If you are packing a fragile item and it’s not properly packed per the USPS guidelines, you might not be able to file a claim for damage if it arrives broken. This includes using a sturdy box or padded envelope, bubble wrap and/or packing peanuts and good shipping tape. I recommend this tape for ease of use and just the right amount of stickiness.
3. Presentation is everything. I don’t understand people who wad up an item in an envelope with nothing then send it to me, but it happens surprisingly often. I’m not big on bragging, but one of the things I repeatedly see in my feedback is the comment “well packaged”, which makes me so happy because I really try to pack items as nicely as possible. I want customers to feel like they are opening a present. 🙂 Here is an example of how I package an item to ship:
For clothing items, I use the $1 store packs of white tissue paper. Since I pack in a tear- and water-resistant poly envelope, clothing doesn’t really need any other inner packaging. I don’t want to just sling the item in the envelope and send it like that, so I first lay out the tissue on a flat surface.
Then I fold the item into a neat rectangle so it will be similar in size and shape to the envelope.
Then I fold the tissue in from corner to corner and fold it down the middle, securing with tape. I do the same thing with the opposite corners.
Now I have a neat little rectangle. I opt to put in a “Thank You” business card with the link to my eBay and Poshmark stores on it, rather than a packing slip printed from eBay which has no added value. If people ask for a packing slip, I print one of those also. I’ve had exactly 3 people ask for a packing slip in 8 years. I tuck the card into the tissue paper.
I slide it in the envelope and seal it. I only buy white self-sealing poly envelopes from these guys; they don’t cost much more and are so convenient.
This last step is probably a little OCD, but I really feel like it helps keep the item from shifting around in the envelope. After sealing, I shift the item to one side, then fold over the excess side of the envelope and tape it in place with packaging tape. I know, it’s a bit much. That feedback, though!
And here is a stack of finished packages, all ready for the post office!
4. Ship the item ON TIME. I admit to not being perfect here, but I keep the number of items that ship out after 1 business day at less than 3% so I don’t lose my seller status. A late shipment usually happens because I don’t have the right size box and have to go…***cringe***…buy one. This can be avoided by immediately looking for free boxes after you purchase the item, not wait until after you sell it.
This is basically it. Just post accurate listings with all information and photos that are clear and not misleading, then pack carefully and ship quickly, and your feedback will reflect the care that you have taken to get the item to your customer asap!
Thrift store shopping is my preferred way to buy clothing for resale since I can take my time and thoroughly look over each item, whereas at yard sales, I tend to rush because I want to get to more sales.
Everyone knows not to buy clothing that is faded, outdated, or has obvious tears or stains, but here are a few things to look for that are not so obvious:
1. Armpits – Look for deodorant stains, yellowing, fading, pilling inside and out. Even if deodorant is not visible, hold the item up to the light. Some deodorants dry clear, but have glitter in them.
2. Collar – Unfold the collar if the item has one and check the crease for stains. If it doesn’t have a collar that folds, check the tag on the back of the neck. If it’s grungy looking, you might want to pass.
3. Buttons – I button an item to make sure they are all there and not about to fall off. I don’t mind tightening a loose button on a nice item, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it if I don’t have to.
4. Zippers – Unzip and zip them all the way to make sure they are completely functioning, then close the hook and eye and make sure it’s securely in place. Now check the stitching on the seam just below the zipper and make sure it has not come unraveled. This is likely from people trying to wear an item too small and causing the zipper to come loose from the seam it is attached to.
5. Stains – They are not always obvious, and good lighting is crucial, especially with light colored items. Sometimes I can’t see a stain until I hold the item up in daylight. Check the edges of collars and cuffs.
6. Seams – I take items off the hanger, then hold it up with one hand while I run the other hand up and down the seams on each side. This works best with skirts and tops; with pants, I pull at the legs along the seams. This is how I can see if a seam has come apart and needs sewing.
7. Hem – Check the hem on skirts and pants for alterations. If an item has been altered, I pass on it because it is no longer the original size. Also check for frayed or grimy edges.
8. Safety pins – These can be found in the center of a top with a surplice neckline or inside the waistband to hold it together. If it needs a safety pin, I don’t buy it.
9. Crotch – Yep, inside and out, especially on women’s clothing for obvious and gross reasons. The state of some of the clothing that is donated to thrift stores then put out for sale is appalling. I mean, I’m not expecting everything to be pristine, but come on. Also check the fabric on the inside upper thigh area for pilling.
10. Belt loops– Make sure they are all there and all intact.
11. Pockets – Put your hand inside and make sure there are no holes. Or Kleenex, or gum wrappers, or whatever.
12. Tags– I want items that have the tags with the brand name, the size, where it was made and what it is made from. These are description fields on the eBay listing form so I want to make sure I have that information on the item before I buy it.
13. Pilling– Obviously, if the garment has overall pilling from general washing and wearing, you don’t want it. Less obvious are the inside upper thigh area mentioned above, as well as the armpit area. Nothing fixes this, so I pass on these items.
14. Smell– Since I only buy items that don’t need washing before I sell them, I have to make sure they don’t have an offensive odor of any kind. This includes cigarette smoke, mildew, moth balls, heavy detergent scents and perfume or cologne residue. I’m sure I look like a freak smelling used clothing, but I can’t have one item getting its stank all over everything else I bought that day.
That’s pretty much it. It sounds like a lot, but once you get used to what you are looking for, it’s less than 30 seconds per item.
Feel free to Pin this list for future reference, and happy shopping!
Most weekends, I luck out with the weather on Yard Sale Day. Not this weekend, which makes me sad because it was Belle Hall’s Community Sale, which is one I try not to miss. I managed to get to one sale before the rain started and scored a nice stack of clothing and shoes, including J. Crew, Theory, Living Doll, Emu and Donald Pliner for $22.00. (***UPDATE*** All but 4 of the items shown in the photo sold for a total of $150.00 That’s what I’m talking about.)
So that was the end of Yard Sale Day. I have found that even if I wait until the rain stops, most things are left out too long and they are damp, if not completely wet. There are just too many other sales out there to deal with putting wet stuff in my car. So…I killed the next 45 minutes at Starbucks until the nearest Habitat
ReStore opened. The Habitat Restores here sell books by the bag, so I was able to get a stack for $3. I also experiment with vintage and antique items here, many of which are priced below $5. I picked up a Wilton stoneware cookie mold (which I will list closer to the holidays), a Joie pumpkin shaped…something or other…(saved for fall), a Glasbake soup bowl and an adorable French porcelain strawberry bowl which is so stinking cute I am tempted to keep it. Total: $7.00. One of the books has already sold for $3.99, so I’m over halfway to making my money back. (***UPDATE*** The Glasbake bowl sold for $8.99 and the berry bowl for $3.99. Not my best ROI, but I more than doubled my money and still have the rest of these items for sale.)
So not the worst day. And now I don’t have to water the garden. 🙂
A few tips on shopping at Habitat ReStore:
They don’t haggle. There are multiple signs stating that their proceeds go to build houses and the price marked is the price.
Most locations don’t sell clothing; in fact, only one I’ve been to in this area sells it and the prices aren’t great.
I don’t know how they decide prices, but there doesn’t seem to be a set structure, so it is hit or miss. And sometimes it’s a pretty nice hit, like these candlesticks I bought for $1.00.
They use labels as price stickers, so make sure you peek under them. I bought a Lenox item there and when I got it home, there was a crack in it under the price label.
Where has this been all my life? I’ve been eating yogurt for like…30 years, and I cannot fathom how I have overlooked a yogurt with an adorable name, zero fat, low sugar and the thickness of cake frosting! Seriously, that’s my spoon standing upright in it. This is going on the permanent grocery list, for real. Here’s a coupon if you want to try it too…enjoy!
UPDATE: I just finished this and it has a tear tab on the paper label so you can remove it and recycle it separately from the plastic container…they’ve thought of everything, no?…and there is a little info on the inside on why it is so thick and amazing. 🙂
This is what a fair-to-middling yard sale day looks like for me. I went to 2 community yard sales and spent $48. A decent stack of books (the easiest thing to list), some great clothing including a few pieces new with tags, a brand new pair of Sanuks that I’m keeping along with the Swiffer refills, a new in the box pair of Anne Klein loafers and some Jamberry nail decals, one of which have already sold for $5.99. (I paid $2 for all of them). If you are wondering how to know a good sale from a not so good one, here are a few things I look for:
People who need space, not money. These people dragged it out of their house and they’re not bringing it back in. You have a better shot at bundling a stack of stuff for one price at these sales. If I ask about an item and they start giving me a back story on it, I move on, because they need money and are going to charge for sentimental value.
One price for all items of one type. If I ask how much the clothes are, the answer should be a single price that applies to every item of clothing, not “well it depends on which ones you want”. A box of books should have a sign on it with one price, not a different price sticker on each individual book. If I have to pick up every piece of clothing and show it to them to get a price, I’m leaving.
Items that look like they came out of a closet, not a shed. If items have caked on dust, rust, film or have a musty smell, they haven’t likely been touched in years. There are too many sales to waste time figuring out how to clean something without damaging it and losing money….unless, of course, there are genuine vintage or antique items in that mess, then I stifle the urge to cheer out loud and make a deal!