Debt payoff strategy: selling your stuff

By Emma Lunn

If you have piles of debt, you might be able to dig yourself out by selling the piles of stuff you have around the house. In fact, those piles of stuff may be the reason you got into debt in the first place.

Yet being a successful salesperson requires time and effort. Here are some tips for getting the most money for the things you don't need.

Where to sell
A number of websites can help you make money by selling your possessions. eBay is arguably the best known site and sells items through auctions. Other sites include Amazon and Gumtree, while a handful of niche sites concentrate on books, games and music.sell-your-stuff

"Consider using different sites for different things,"  says Jasmine Birtles, a financial expert and editor of She's written a number of articles about eBay and also uses the site regularly herself. "Amazon is good for books, CDs and DVDs, Gumtree is good for bulky items that people need to collect and for giving away things for free, and eBay is good for a whole variety of things including even broken goods."

For the uninitiated, although eBay is an auction site, there is also a "buy it now" option if you're after a quick sale. To sell items, you'll need to set up an eBay account with a user name and password. To sell things, you'll need to enter some extra information, including your debit or credit card details for verification purposes.

Once your account is up and running, you can list items for sale either though auction or "buy it now."  Then sit back and watch the money come rolling in.

Insider tips
Birtles has sold a slew of items on eBay -- decorative door handles, a printer, a few pairs of shoes, several books, CDs, DVDs and a full set of motorcycle gear among them. The rewards? Making extra money and freeing  up space in her home. The biggest challenges? Pricing the items and figuring out postage and packing costs.

How you list an item can make a big difference in the interest the listing generates and the amount of money you get.  Make sure you upload a picture and provide a full description of the product. The title of your listing should be a term buyers would search if they wanted to find your item.

Before the auction starts, you'll need to decide on a starting price. If you're happy to start the bidding low -- to attract buyers -- but want to make sure it reaches a certain amount, some sites let you set a "reserve price" to protect the item. The reserve price is the lowest price the item will sell for.

Before setting your price, Birtles recommends researching similar goods to find out what other sellers are charging.  If you're new to online sales, you can also get an idea of a reasonable price for postage and packing by checking others' listings.

Once the item is sold, your work isn't done. You'll want to do all you can to improve your rating -- which will make people more willing to buy from you in the future. Wrapping things safely and nicely is a good move, and it can be nice to enclose a card or note to the buyer. On eBay, both buyers and sellers can send and receive feedback, and some users prefer to do business only with people with positive feedback. So, if you want to become a successful seller, it can be a good tactic to buy some items first and ask the seller to post some good feedback about you.

As you get more comfortable with selling goods online, don't forget to be wary of those eager to take advantage of you, Birtles warns.

"There are a lot of scammers on the internet and they particularly circle around these social selling sites," she says. "You have to have your wits about you."

If you sell goods online regularly, it's also a good idea to check your tax situation. The tax office won't be interested in you if you just sell the odd thing here and there. But if you are effectively running a business, you might owe taxes on your income.

See related: Blogger Q&A: The Diary of a Frugal Family; One in five need over a year to clear debts



Published: 8 March 2012