Selling Things on Craigslist

Jul 14, 2009

I am a big fan of garage sales. In fact, I’m going to eventually write a blog post on them. But, let’s face it, people do not expect to pay a lot for anything at a garage sale. If it’s more than $3, no matter what the item is, people will tell you that you’re asking too much! So, the question remains, what do you do with the items that are worth more than you’d get at a garage sale? My answer: Sell them on Craigslist!

Ever since our third child was born last summer, my 6-year-old daughter, Jordan, and I have been planning our first “real” family vacation. We want to go on a cruise. We also recognize that it will be a few years before we can “happily” take her younger brothers. (All the parents out there understand what I mean. It’s not a vacation if your children are too young to do anything except annoy those around you with their screaming!) Thus, we need the money to go on a cruise, but we also have a few years in which to earn it.

An important issue, to both me and my husband, is that our children learn the value of money and how to save it. Many times, I have wished that, instead of taking geometry in school, I had been offered a class in personal finance. Now, that would have helped me in life. But, since such classes are generally not offered in schools these days, we need to teach these valuable lessons at home. (In addition, I knew that the way we were going to be making a lot of the money for our future vacation was by selling my daughter’s old clothes and toys. I didn’t want her to freak out when she saw them go out the door. I wanted her to be “invested,” so to speak, in the process.)

So, last summer, my daughter and I created a “vacation chart.” We printed out a photo of our family and cut out our heads. Then, on a piece of construction paper, we drew each of our bodies and glued the heads on top of each “person.” I numbered each family member like a thermometer. Each member’s body was worth $1000. I explained to Jordan that, when we made money selling things, we would color in the “bodies,” to the appropriate money line. (I didn’t think the vacation would cost $5000, but I figured it was better to plan for more than I thought we would need. And then, if we had left-over money, we could go on two trips!) My daughter was super excited about this plan! No one loves to color more than a 1st grader!

After that, we began sorting through her “stuff.” The first thing I tackled was her clothes. I had saved every single clothing item she had ever worn in her life – with the thought, and perhaps, the hope, that I would someday have another little girl to dress. But, after the birth of my last child, a boy, I knew that I would never have another little girl and thus, it was time to part with those clothes.

Selling these clothes was a slow process. I had a ton of them. I don’t know where they all came from! They were all organized by size and so, one size at a time, I sorted through them and began to sell. I first picked out a few items, from each size, that were sentimental to me and put them aside to keep (can we say “future granddaughter?”).

Once I was done with that, I began putting the clothes in four separate piles and labeled those piles from $1-$4, depending on the type of outfit or piece and the brand and condition of the item. I just kept all of the piles in brown, paper grocery bags, writing the price and size on the side of the bag.

Once that was done, (and mind you, I only did one size at a time and sold that size before moving on to the next one. If I hadn’t, these clothes would have taken over our house!) I took a few photos of some of the nicer items. I then put an ad on Craigslist (with the photos) and explained that I was selling my daughter’s clothes, most were in excellent condition, and how I had priced them. I invited people to come over and “shop” through my bags. And boy, did they ever! When all was said and done, I had made over $800 selling my daughter’s old clothes (and a few small baby items). And, I want to make it clear, these were not expensive children’s clothes. There were some brand names, and by that I mean, “Baby Gap,” “Old Navy,” “Carters” – maybe a few from “The Children’s Place” or “Gymboree.” Most pieces, however, were from stores like Target and Walmart.

There’s no doubt that selling these clothes was a slow process and it took me most of the summer. I had to list, and re-list, my ads. You have to figure that when an ad is a week old, not many people read it any more, assuming most of your items must be sold by now. And, I painstakingly sorted through all of the clothes – washing many of them, if they had stains. No one wants to buy stained clothes! I also had to set up times to meet with the people who wanted to buy the clothes. (For safety reasons, I tried to either do it when my husband was home, or a friend was over. Or, I met the people in my open garage or in my driveway.)

Once I felt I had “exhausted” Craigslist and could sell no more of the clothes there, my neighbors and I had a garage sale and I made a little bit more money on my leftover items. (Though, as I’ve said, you never get as much for an item at a garage sale as you can on Craigslist. People are willing to pay more if they are searching for something in particular.) When the garage sale was over, what clothes were left (and we still had quite a few) were donated to Good Will (and we then deducted that donation on our taxes.)

I’ll admit. It was a lot of work. But, in the end, it was worth it! By the time we were done, my husband’s “body” was nearly colored all the way and my daughter was thrilled to be seeing something good come out of parting with all her old items! As I write this, we have saved a little more than $2000 for our future vacation, primarily by selling thing we had around the house, and no longer have a need or use for, on Craigslist.

I recognize that many people out there will think that all of what I did was just too much work. You just can’t possibly be bothered with the hassle. But, I challenge you to really think about it. I am a stay-at-home mom. I am (generally) not making any money while I am home with my children. Thus, any extra effort I can make, (especially if I can get my kids involved in the process) that involves bringing in extra cash into our household, is worth it to me. And, if you pick a goal and name it - such as we did for our vacation fund – then it makes the effort seem worthwhile and, dare I say it, even a little fun!

Now that I am done selling my daughter’s clothes, my Craigslist selling has not ended. We have large closets that we built for our garage and one of those cabinets is specifically designated for things I’m selling, or going to sell. Whenever a child outgrows an outfit (or I clean out my closet and find clothes I no longer wear) or the baby stops playing with a toy, I take a photo of it, list it on Craigslist and put it in the garage cabinet (so it’s out of our way and yet, in a centralized location.)

I have also become the “go to” person for my friends and family members who want to sell things. Recently, my inlaws moved to Texas from New York. Their new house came with a refrigerator, but they wanted to buy their own. They had arranged for Lowes to take away the old, perfectly-fine, fridge when the store dropped off the new one. My husband said to them, “Are you crazy?” and then handed the phone to me. I told them I would sell the fridge for them on Craigslist. My mother-in-law said, “Fine, but you have five days to do it. If it’s not gone by the time the new one arrives, I’ve giving the old one away.” I had planned on doing it as a favor for them, but my mother-in-law insisted that if I sold it, we would split the profit. I listed the fridge at a low price ($200) because I didn’t have much time to sell it (usually, I price high and lower it if I can’t sell and item for that amount). The refrigerator was gone and out of their house in three days and we both made $100 in the process.

As my husband says, I can sell virtually anything. I have even been known, in the past, to find things on the curb for our city’s “bulk trash collection day” and resell them on Craigslist. I don’t do it often, but if I see something of value and I think I can sell it quickly, I’ll grab it.

So, get moving! Sort through your closets, and your kids' closests, and log onto Craigslist. Trust me, you'll be happy that you did!

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