As spring rolls upon us, for the savvy saver the season can sound like the ring of a cash register—if you can capitalize on the unnecessary clutter that you have accumulated throughout the year. In a country that spends $22 billion on storage rental units each
year, it’s fair to say that we have tons of junk to cash in. So, instead of tossing unwanted and unused items, follow this blueprint to turning your clutter into cash.
Step 1: Create a Plan.
To jumpstart your new “out with the old and in with more money” mentality, you’ll need to be very strategic. Before you start your treasure hunt, get clear about the purpose of the money that you will make. Set a specific financial goal to keep you focused. The point is not to trade stuff for more stuff; it’s to help you to achieve a worthwhile goal. Imagine raising $1,000 to establish an emergency fund or being able to put a $500 dent in your credit card debt.
Step 2: Get Organized.
As you work through your urge to purge, keep your treasure hunting tools handy. Take around a Sharpie pen, note pad and colored sticky notes to help you stay organized. Create a color-coded system up front and label items accordingly. For instance, yellow sticky notes are for donation items, green sticky notes are for items that are for sale.
Step 3: Throw Out Some Old Items.
Don’t skip over unused items. Your plan to declutter isn’t just for “unwanted junk,” but also for objects that you still claim you “may” use “someday.” If you haven’t used something for 12 months or more, toss it. The longer you wait, the more money you’ll lose as the value decreases. Once you have all the items in order, take another look and make sure there’s nothing you can recycle and repurpose. Don’t throw out or sell something at a deep discount only to turn around and purchase something similar. For example, you might be able to paint an old wooden ladder and use it as a display shelf instead of investing in that new bookcase you’ve been eyeing. Check out sites like hgtv.com or diynetwork.com for loads of creative ideas for converting old household items into dynamic and unique pieces.
Step 4: Sell Your Goodies Online.
Now, the fun begins! Go online and get to listing some of your unwanted stuff that you think someone will buy and watch your trash magically turn into cold, hard cash. Use websites like ebay.com, craigslist.com and etsy.com. But don’t be lazy. Your chances of making quick sales greatly increase when you put a little thought and time into creating your listings. Start out with catchy and descriptive headlines to get a prospective buyer’s attention. Do your research and write an in-depth description of what you’re selling. Try to use the exact name of the item and any technical terms and specs from the product’s original manufacturer’s website. Explain the item’s condition, making sure to include any damages, no matter how small. Include several pictures. Also try gazelle.com, which buys used electronics directly from consumers. After answering a few simple questions, you’ll get an offer on the spot. You can choose to be paid via check, Amazon gift card or even PayPal upon the item passing inspection. Get linked to ready-to-act buyers on sites like usell.com. And don’t leave out any unused gift cards you come across. It’s estimated that in the $90 billion gift card industry, an average of 10 percent of gift cards go unused annually. If you find any on your cleaning spree, check out plasticjungle.com or cardwoo.com and turn unwanted gift cards into cash. Depending on the demand for the card, you can earn up to 90 percent of the value.
Step 5: Sell Locally.
Whatever doesn’t sell online, you can still cash in on offline. If you’re in possession of truly rare items or particularly high-end clutter, an auction can be your answer. Experts who run them can determine how much your goodies are worth. You’ll be appreciative for the time that it may take, if the auction can sell an antique painting for $500 versus the $25 you’d likely settle for in a garage sale. As you look over all of your clutter, you’ll most likely have a ton of clothing. First, find a high-end consignment store, one that only buys name-brand clothing and accessories. They’re more likely to pay top dollar. Then find one that is more concerned about the season or time of year. If you select two, you’ll increase your chances of bigger returns.
Step 6: Donate the Leftovers.
After two weeks of doing all you can to sell your more valuable items, host an “everything must go” garage or yard sale, and don’t forget to list it on yardsalesearch.com. Commit to getting rid of everything, and don’t worry about top-dollar offers. Just focus on achieving the financial goal you declared in the beginning. Whatever does not sell that day still must go. –Patricia C. Washington
Patrice C. Washington is the author of Real
Money Answers for Every Woman. Visit her
blog, SeekWisdomFindWealth.com, where
she gives women practical advice on personal
finance and entrepreneurship. Follow her on