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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Time to Stop!

I have an embarrassingly huge amount of inventory that needs listed, and I'm in the process of planning a December road trip!! What on earth am I thinking? I have bins (!) of great stuff to list. And when that's done, I have 3 bins (!) full of great fabrics that I've given up on ever using. I need to sort through them and get them listed. And when that's done, I have a HUGE (!) bag full of patterns (many unopened and uncut) that I need to list. And when THAT's done, I have an entire closet full of other sewing supplies (vintage threads and trims, pattern magazines, reference books out the wazoo...) that I need to go through and list.
So ... it is with a heavy heart that I am making public my new personal challenge:

That's right, ladies and gents. I have officially put myself on a shopping fast. Not a diet. A fast. I can't do anything in moderation, so diets don't work. It's all or nothing. Between now and the end of the year, I will NOT set foot in a thrift store. I have too much money tied up in unlisted inventory. This fast will be great for my bottom line, because I'll have hardly any money going out the rest of the year!

So there you have it. I've made it public. So now I HAVE to stick to it. No matter what. Heaven help me. And the people who have to live with me during my withdrawal period....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Listing Process

Amy said: I'd love to know about your listing process. There are so many steps - cleaning, photographing, researching, listing, etc. Do you do it in batches or one at a time. What do you find works best for you?


Yes, there is a lot involved in listing items on eBay. I have several different systems that I use, depending on my mood and what I'm listing. Sometimes I use the assembly line method, other times I use the divide and conquer method, other times I'm totally random.

#1 - Assembly Line: This is my preferred method, because I can get a TON of items listed in one sitting when I use the assembly line method. I mostly use this for shoes, but it works well on clothing too. With this method, I will spend an entire afternoon washing 20 or 30 pairs of shoes. Then I will spend that entire evening polishing them. Depending on what I have going on that day, I'll either spend the late evening taking pictures, or I'll wait and do that the next morning. And then of course I either edit the pictures or pay my daughter to do that. Then I'm ready to just sit down and crank out the listings.

If you're using the assembly line method for clothes, it would look a little different (unless you polish your clothes!). After I've washed and dried a lot of clothing to list, I'll take 10-15 items into my eBay room and take the pics (on my mannequin). Then I grab another pile and another. I try to do at least 30 in one session to make it worth the effort. Then I spend awhile editing the pics. Here, there are 2 different ways you could continue. You could do all your measuring/weighing at once by jotting all the details down on a piece of paper. Then take that information to the computer and do you listing from your paper. I prefer to measure and weigh as I go, so I take my pile of clothes to my table and get cracking.

#2 - Divide and conquer: This is the method I use on items that don't really need any prep work. Grab all the turntables, or all the board games, or all the stuffed animals, or all the .... you get the idea. Snap photos quickly, edit them, and get to work. It's pretty similar to the assembly line method, but there aren't as many steps. I just pull out all the like items and get them done in one afternoon or evening.

#3 - Random: AKA panic mode. This is the mode I resort to when I just can't stand the piles any longer! I grab a bin and get it all done. No matter what it is. No matter what cleaning it needs. No matter if it's efficient or not. Just get that bin done and put away. I'm sick of looking at it. This method is especially effective on those bins of items that aren't home runs. They're just so-so items, so you keep putting them back in the bin while you list the more interesting items. Or they're the items you don't want to deal with - the puzzles that you don't want to count the pieces of, or the coat that you don't want to sew the button back on. This is my least favorite method, because it usually involves all the unpleasant tasks that I've been putting off. But sometimes the piles are just so overwhelming, and the mess is so out-of-hand, that I've just got to get it done.

The main idea with any of my methods is once you start, don't stop. Don't move on to anything else until you are done. Here's an example: I took pictures of 50 tops one afternoon. I edited all of them the next day. I started listing them the next day. No, I didn't list all 50 tops in one day. It took me longer than a week, as a matter of fact. But I didn't get distracted by taking pictures of other things or listing more interesting things. When I had a few minutes, I listed one or two. Little by little, I chipped away at them. Because I had done a huge chunk of prepwork ahead of time, it was no big deal for me to just sit down and quickly write up a listing when I had a second.


What's YOUR listing method?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Here a Box, There a Box, Everywhere a Box Box!

I showed you a picture of my box closet the other day (bless you for still reading after THAT), and I thought I'd share a bit about my favorite free USPS priority boxes and what I use them for.

Did you know that USPS will deliver boxes to your door for free? You don't pay for the boxes, you don't pay for the delivery. The only catch is that you have to use them for priority shipping only. But more often than not, priority shipping is just a little cheaper than parcel post when paid online, so we're probably shipping priority anyway.

Let's start with the flat rate stuff first:

The regular Priority Flat Rate Envelope - I use this as often as possible. It's just thin cardboard, but you can shove a lot of stuff in there. I have shipped jeans, heavy sweaters, books, even breakables! If you've got small breakables, put them in a small flat rate box and slip it into this envelope. It will save you a few cents over the small flat rate box, but it will have the extra protection that a box affords. This envelope costs me $4.70 to ship ($4.95 at the post office and $4.90 without the USPS savings program).

The padded Flat Rate Priority Envelope - I use these even more often than I use the regular ones. These are good for everything that the regular envelope is good for, but what I use them the most for is sandals. As long as the shoe doesn't have a heel or a back on it, I just slip it in here and ship it for $4.90 ($4.95 without the USPS savings program). I'm not sure you can even ship these from the post office.

The legal size Flat Rate Priority Envelope - Pretty much all I use these for is larger shoe cream orders. I put the creams into a box and slip them in here. It costs 20 cents more to ship these than the regular ones, so I use the regular ones as often as I can. ($4.90 with the USPS savings discount, $4.95 without).

The Small Flat Rate Box - I almost never use these. Why? Because they cost $5.00 to ship. The regular flat rate priority envelope costs $4.70 to ship. This box slips perfectly into the envelope. So why would I ever pay $5 to ship it when I can slip it into the envelope for 30 cents less? Good for smaller breakables or smaller items that you don't want flopping around loose in an envelope.

 The Medium Flat Rate Box. This comes in two shapes: side-loading and top-loading. I almost never use these. Most of my inventory is 2 pounds or less, which means that even shipping clear across the country is only $8.20 for me. These boxes are $10.20 ($10.50 without the USPS savings program, $10.95 at the post office). So unless I'm shipping something heavier than 2 pounds that just happens to fit in these boxes, I don't use them.

The Large Flat Rate Box also comes in two shapes: top-loading and, more recently, board game shape. I have never used either of these. I got all excited about the board game box until I realized it was a large flat rate box. These boxes cost $13.67 with the USPS savings program, $14.20 without it, and $14.95 at the post office. You'd have to have some large heavy stuff to make these boxes worth it.

Now, on to the ever-confusing Regional Priority Boxes.

The regional A boxes come in two shapes: side-loading and top-loading. These boxes both ship for the same price as a regular 2 pound priority package. I was using the top-loading box ALL.THE.TIME for shipping shoes. These are the absolute perfect size and shape for most pairs of shoes. But once I signed up for the USPS savings program (this is starting to sound like a sponsored blog post....), the regional box A was actually a few cents more than a regular 2 pound priority package. "A few cents more" sounds petty, but when you ship 200 packages per month, that can add up quickly over a year. So the only time I use these boxes now is for items that are MORE than 2 pounds. The occasional hot rollers fit in here, or a heavy stack of books...  

The side-loading one I didn't use too often. I still use it for my Meltonian orders. I can fit a starter kit in here nicely, or 10-12 creams. Then I cut the box down and it slides right into a legal flat rate envelope. Other than that, I have a stack of them assembled and holding my poly mailers.

The Regional B boxes also come in side-loading and top-loading. I rarely use these, because they ship for the same as a 4 pound package. I rarely ship things that are heavier than 4 pounds, so I wouldn't see any cost savings.

The rest of the boxes I'm going to talk about are just regular priority boxes. They ship at regular priority shipping rates. But some of the box sizes are really convenient for specific things, and like I said - they are free.

These are boxes 1092, 1095, and 1097. They look the same. For all intents and purposes, they ARE the same. There are very subtle differences, 1/2" here, 1/4" there... I don't use them often. They also work well assembled and stacked to make storage shelves for poly mailers. They work well for Wilton cake pans, but I've started wrapping them in bubble wrap and shipping them first class. They also work well for latch hook kits, but if it's more than 2 pounds, you'd be better off using the Regional A side-loading box.

This is the box I use most, which stands to reason, since shoes are my niche. It's 15x8x5. It's just a little too big for most of the shoes I ship, but overall, it works well. It also works well for most hot roller sets, Care Bears with voice boxes (that shouldn't be sent in poly mailers), or tall mugs or glasses.

The priority video box is just a little bit bigger than a small flat rate box. I don't use it much, but I use it to ship up to 6 shoe creams. This box slides nicely into a regular-sized flat rate envelope. This would be a good box to use for small items that you don't want sliding around in an envelope.

The 12x12x8 is a good one to have on hand. It's good for plates, smaller square board games (like Memory or Yahtzee - just cut the box down shorter), boots, bowls, casseroles, etc....

Last but not least, the 7x7x6 is another handy one. It's perfect for mugs, but it would also be great for cup/saucers, Christmas ornaments, smaller bowls, knick knacks, or any other smaller item.

So there you go - that should be enough to get you started. Hopefully I've given you a few ideas to think outside the box (so to speak...). Go to the usps website and browse their free shipping supplies. Order a bunch. Get to know the different sizes. You can't beat free shipping boxes!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Top eBay Moments This Week

I'm writing this post a day early, so my numbers are gonna be off a bit.

I sold 64 items this week (some of which overlapped with last week, because I'm using 7 day data but it's only been 6 days since my last Top Moments post). I sold a TON of shoe creams this week. I'm pretty sure they made up at least half of my sales, quantity-wise. 

Good news! Last week, I had a negative feedback switch from the 1 month column to the 6 month column. This week, I had a neutral make the same switch. So now instead of an ugly-looking "1 neutral, 3 negatives" in that "1 month" column, I just have "2 negatives," which looks so much better.

My favorite sales from the week:

I have had 2 of these Vision Ware 2.5 quart casseroles for what feels like forever. I've had them listed for $24.99 each. I got an offer the other day for $12 each (she wanted both). Normally, I would have declined that offer, but for some reason, I decided to counter offer. I think I just wanted them gone. I counter-offered for $18 each and she accepted! I paid $6.25 for one of them in May and $5.29 for the other in June. So I turned $11.50 into $36 plus shipping. Not awful. I'm just glad they're sold. I'll have to ship them out Friday morning. I'm really looking forward to THAT packaging project. /sarcasm

Another new with tags Columbia sale. This was a neat pale green blouse with pale yellow tropical fish on it. Retail price $40. I paid $4.50 for it in September and sold it this week for $24.99 with free shipping ($2.43).

If you aren't convinced yet that microwave turntables are a good seller, I don't know what more to say or do. For awhile I quit buying them, because I already had a tall stack and didn't want to have to start a second stack. But then I sold several in one week and came to my senses. I've bought 10 or 15 in the past couple weeks that I need to get cleaned up and list. They list quickly, so I don't know what the hold up is. I paid $1.13 for this one in July and sold it this week for my full asking price of $24.99. When someone buys a turntable for my full asking price, I generally upgrade the shipping from parcel to priority, even if it costs me a few bucks. I figure it's the least I can do for them being respectful of my asking price. I get SO many lowball offers on turntables, it's disgusting. So this buyer will be pleasantly surprised to get their turntable much sooner than they expected!

Another new with tags item from the infamous yard sale. I wish I had gone for a higher price on this coat. Retail price is $60. I paid $7.25 for it in September. With all of this new with tags stuff, I have been aiming for a selling price of at least half of retail. I must have been having a slow sales day, because I accepted an offer of $27.50 plus shipping on this.
These shoes are neat looking. They sat in my store with no interest whatsoever. Two days ago, I ended the listing and relisted using the "Sell Similar" link instead of the "Relist" link. They sold the next day! I'm convinced that's a magic solution to selling old stock. I paid $3.97 for these in February. Yes, February! I was so glad to see them go this week for $30 and free shipping ($6.65).

I took this picture in the bed of our pickup truck while I was waiting for my daughter during her horseback riding lesson a few weeks ago. I usually wait about an hour and I have no cell service there (gasp!), so this particular week, I took a basket of already cleaned but not polished shoes, my travel case of shoe polish supplies, my backdrop, and my camera. During that hour, I got 12 pairs polished, buffed, and photographed. I paid $6.97 for these SAS shoes in October and sold them this week for $45 and free shipping ($8.20).

Did you sell anything this week that has a fun story behind it?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Week's Thrift Finds

I went to Goodwill twice this week. Both trips treated me well! On Tuesday, I decided to branch out into toys a little more. Despite having 4 kids, I know nothing about what toys sell well, so I took a risk on these. I suspect I paid too much for them, but I'm hoping for the best.

  • V-Tech Big Top Laptop: Paid $2.17. Completeds aren't too terribly exciting, but I should be able to get at least 5-6 times my investment.
  • Mattel See 'n' Say Says Whooo: Paid $4.23. Before I bought this, I did a quick search on my phone and there was only one listed (for $49.99 auction, $59.99 BIN). I snatched it up quickly. Once I got it home, a more careful search showed me that most people listed it with the wrong number of O's in "Whooo," and that the $49.99/$59.99 listing is definitely an outlier. Hopefully I can sell it for $20 or so, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • Blues Clues Tickety Clock: Paid $2.11. I'm thinking about putting together a Blues Clues toy lot.
  • Vision Ware 1 L spouted saucepan with lid: Paid $3.17. Definitely paid too much for such a small pot, and I knew better. I must have been distracted when I bought that.
  • Cheer Bear with Microphone: Paid 53c. Doesn't look good. Will probably list for $20 for awhile and see what happens.
  • Born Mary janes: Paid $2.99. Will list for $30 and free shipping.

I stopped in again today and again, I wasn't disappointed.

  • 3 snow-brick makers: Paid 99c each. These are for my kids. They get brittle and break, so it's nice to have extras.
  • 6 Ugly Christmas Sweaters: Paid $3.99 per sweater, $2.99 per vest. I'm hoping these will do well in our EBUG Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest.
  • SAS oxfords: Paid $2.99. I always do well with this brand. This pair is a size 9 WW. I'll probably list them for $45 with free shipping.
  • Columbia IUP fleece vest: Paid $2.99. This is a local college. I probably should have passed on it but will give it a shot at $20 with free shipping.
  • Horse & Sleigh sweater: Paid $3.99. This is for my horse-obsessed daughter.
  • New in package mushroom latch hook: Paid $4.17. I was just thinking the other day that I'm running very lot on latch hook kits. I was down to one. A dumb one that will never sell, I'm sure. I'm hoping for $30 on the mushroom one.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Keeping Track of Expenses

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am have a life-long sordid love affair with my spreadsheets. I have a spreadsheet for everything! It's about the only way I can stay sane. I had a couple people ask me how I keep track of what I spend on my inventory. The answer is easy - I have a spreadsheet! :)

My eBay spreadsheet has 13 worksheets on it. Here's a shot of my inventory one. It's pretty self-explanatory.

I have a column for the date, where I got it, what it was, how much I paid for it, the date it sold, and how much it sold for. I actually use this for several things, not just for knowing how much I paid for something.
  • Mileage: When I need to add up my mileage for the month, I can tell at a glance what days I went where. I know Goodwill is an 18 mile round trip for me, so every time I bought something at Goodwill, I know I can count 18 miles. 
  • Clearance: When I'm running a steep clearance sale, I can easily see how long I've had an item. I can scroll to the top of my spreadsheet and see what I've had around forever and clearance those items (or even pull them to donate or put in a yard sale).
  • Future Listings: I find the same inventory repeatedly. I have bought 3 Namco handheld Pacman video games, for example. When I'm listing something that I previously sold, I can look at my spreadsheet and see how much it sold for and price the new one accordingly.
  • Making Best Offer Decisions: When I get an offer for something, I can easily use my spreadsheet to see how much I spent for the item. That helps me to make a quick decision about whether I want to accept the offer or not.
  • Commissions: My sister-in-law shops for me. She has my BOLO (Be On the LookOut) list and shops in between her visits back home. She presents me with goods and receipts. I pay her for the purchases. Then I also give her 20% of the profit on anything she brought me. I need to know what I spent in order to properly figure out how much I owe her for the sale.
People make fun of me for my spreadsheets (you know who you are!), but you see... it's not just about my obsessive spreadsheet habit. This one's actually USEFUL. :)

My Top eBay Moments This Week

This week made me happier than last week. My sales slowed a bit at the beginning of the week, but I didn't have nearly as many bumps in the road as I did last week. I do have two unpaid item cases open at the moment, and I'm not optimistic about either of them paying. But great news! One of my 3 negatives in the past 1 month just got moved to the "6 months" column! Yay!

I had 56 sales this week, only 9 of which were shoes. I'm really clearing out a lot of my odds and ends. I'm seeing some freed up shelf space and hanging space. I have mixed feelings about that - it's great that stuff is selling, but seeing empty shelf space means I don't have as much inventory as I probably should. Time for a road trip??

I didn't have a lot of high-dollar sales this week, but I have a few good stories.

I bought 14 pieces of brand-name maternity career wear at a yard sale this summer. The wife was in the house and the husband was desperate to get rid of it, so he sold it to me for $1 a piece. I'm sure she'd have thrown a fit if she knew, because this stuff was seriously in like new condition. But maybe she should have been supervising :)   I only sold this shirt for $7.49 + shipping, which on the surface doesn't seem like a great sale. But I looked over what I had already sold from that sale. Remember, I bought 14 pieces for $14. So far, I have sold 7 of them for a total of $79.44. Sometimes it's not the profit margin on one single piece that I'm after. Sometimes it's okay to buy a bundle of things and look at the overall profit. If I sell the rest of the pieces for that same profit margin, I'll end up with almost $160 out of that initial $14 investment.

My sister's boyfriend's mother died recently. She had an appallingly huge wardrobe. The vast majority of it got thrown away (stained or holes) or sent to Goodwill (missing size tags, faded, but otherwise perfectly wearable). I was left with 76 items that I offered to sell on eBay for them. I looked at this sweater the other day and almost didn't bother listing it. It's just a plain, boring black sweater vest cardigan (wow - just that phrase makes it sound so unappealing). On top of that, it's probably from the late 80's, a no-name brand, 100% acryllic. But for some reason, I decided to list it anyway. It actually sold 2 days later! Not for much, but for more than they'd have gotten by selling it at a yard sale or a local consignment store. It sold for $12.99 free shipping ($3.28).

Is this not the ugliest, most dated latch hook design you've ever seen? Who, when thinking about their Christmas decor, decides that they want to latch hook a duck with a wreath around its neck? Really now. But it was new in the package, so I bought it. I paid 50 cents for it at a yard sale this summer. It sold for $14.99 to the UK during my 25% off sale this week.

On the other side of the coin, this is quite possibly the most adorable little girl's outfit I've ever sold on eBay. I paid $1.99 for it at Goodwill in October. The retail value is over $60, so I listed it for $29.99 or best offer, with free shipping. I got an offer for $15, and I countered with $25, explaining that it's in excellent condition and a very expensive outfit new. She countered with $19, telling me that the exact same outfit sold for $11 the day before. I countered with $25 again, pointing out that mine is the only one currently listed that includes the sweater, and that just the dress (used) is listed for $25+. Then the next day, it ended up being a part of my 25% off sale, so she bought it for $22.49 free shipping ($3.11). So I guess we ended up with a decent compromise. I'm certainly happy with $20 for an outfit I paid $2 for.

I found 4 of these NWT woodland camo BDU jackets at Goodwill in September. I paid $3.99 each for them and was able to list them in a multi-variation listing (they were all different sizes). I sold my first one this week for $27.99 plus shipping.

This fleece vest was from the big yard sale I've mentioned several times now. I paid $6 for it and accepted an offer for $28 (free shipping) this morning. Shipping will cost me $3.09.

I was so excited to find this unopened plastic canvas kit at a yard sale this summer for only $1! I listed it immediately and have tried several different price points. I had several watchers, but never any offers. I had a UK buyer contact me to see if I would ship to the UK and to confirm that it was truly unopened. I told her yes I would and yes it is truly unopened. She bought it full price the next day for $39.99. I had free shipping on it, but because it was an international sale, she paid the shipping. And because I offered free shipping, I don't have to pay any final value fees on the shipping!

Last but not least, my mother-in-law had a set of 3 of these. They are furniture throw covers. She paid a LOT of money for them and quickly discovered that they are annoying. She was constantly having to rearrange them and redrape them and she got tired of it. She asked me to see if I could sell them as a full set. I didn't know anything about them, but I told her sure. And there they sat. I'm pretty sure they sat for at least 3 months before I got around to listing them. I enlisted the help of our eBay Underground members. I listed the full set on October 11 for $149.99 or best offer (plus shipping). I got an offer yesterday for the $100 that we were hoping for! She hasn't paid yet, though, so we'll see....

That's it. Just a short list today. What did you sell?

What I Read With My Morning Coffee

Ok, so I don't drink coffee, but you get the point.

Anonymous said: I would love to hear if you have any favorite blogs you follow.

Yep, I sure do! Not only do I spend entirely too much time on ProBoards, but I also spend entirely too much time reading blogs. Here are all the eBay/thrifting blogs that I read, in no particular order (well maybe alphabetical order, since that's just how I am ...):
  • Big Thrifty Deal - Ginger doesn't post often, but when she does, it's usually about a specific niche.
  • Coupon Tipster - Amy writes blogs about a wide variety of topics, not just eBay. She yard sales, she coupon shops, she sells, she thrift shops, a little bit of everything. 
  • Do Not Count Your Chickens - Tina's a little quirky, but we love her anyway :)  She posts excellent tutorials and topics on everything from how to create promotion boxes to what eBay is really thinking when they offer us special promotions. (Tina now blogs at My Secret eBay Diary.)
  • Goodwill Haunting - How is it possible that I don't know her name? I love her posts about what she sold each week!
  • Money in the Garage - Dude writes about thrifting, yard saling, and selling on eBay from a male perspective. He tells some fun stories.
  • My Dear Trash - Kelly and Laura share their adventures in not only selling on eBay, but also on refinishing estate finds and selling them on Craigslits.
  • Precipice of Disaster - Adrienne has really been struggling. She wants to sell on eBay, but she's not had much luck. She does really well on Etsy though!
  • Savvy Saver Secrets - I don't know much about Janessa yet, because I'm a fairly new reader to her blog. She seems very enthusiastic about all things resale and eBay.
  • The Savvy Shopperette - Yvette doesn't post too often, but it's interesting reading about thrifting and eBaying from a Hawaiian perspective.
  • The Recycle-ista - Shannon's been distracted by Early Pregnancy Syndrome lately (Congrats!) but her energy level has picked back up and she's rolling again!
  • The Selling Sisters - Rachel and Lizzie sell on eBay and Etsy and post about their finds, their woo-hoos, and some really awesome selling tips.
  • Treasures in Thrifting Land - Becky loves to share all the cool and wacky things she finds when she's out thrifting.
  • Yard Sale Mommy - Again - how can I not know her name? She posts about ... you guessed it, yard sales! She also sells at kids' consignment sales and on eBay.
That's quite a list, and it would take me TWO cups of coffee to get through them all each morning (if I drank coffee, of course...), but I'm always looking for more.

So now it's your turn - who did I miss?? I'm sure a lot of YOU write blogs that I haven't checked out yet. Link up!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

All About Road Tripping

Anonymous wrote: I would love to here more about where you shop on your planned trips. (We only have Goodwill where I live.) 

I only have one Goodwill too. I've mentioned several times before that I periodically take buying trips. These trips really are one of the highlights of my business. I love them! I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of 4. I don't get a lot of All By Myself time. I love my family madly, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out and do her own thing for a day.

I am very lucky in that I have willing babysitters near where I do my road trips. The kids and I pile in the van early in the morning, run through the McDonald's drive through for a bagel and orange juice, and head off. I drop the kids off as soon as we get there, and then I head out the rest of the day, not coming back until the stores have all closed.

I have 2 routes that I do regularly: one in Harrisburg (day trip) and one near Philadelphia (weekend trip). I go to Philly twice a year and Harrisburg as often as I can fit it in the rest of the year (usually every 2 or 3 months). When I originally planned my routes, I enlisted the help of family and friends that live in those areas. They helped me make a list of all the resale shops they knew of. I printed out the addresses, grabbed my GPS, and off I went. I have tweaked my list over the months, because there were some that were no longer in business and others that I stumbled on that weren't on my list.

I hit Goodwills, Salvation Armies, Community Aids ... I generally stay away from the hole-in-the-wall local consignment stores, because their prices are higher than thrift stores, simply due to the nature of their business. I don't hold that against them - consignment stores are an entirely different business model.

Before my trip, I save up as much money as I possibly can (leaving it in my Paypal account - gotta get that 1% cash back!). When I'm road tripping, I don't want to have to leave any great finds behind just because I ran out of money. I usually head out with at least $300 for the day trips and $500 for the weekend trips. I know more or less what I'm willing to spend on any given item, so it's really nice to have the ability to just toss items into my cart as I go, without having to stop and think and research to see if the price is right. I know I've got the money, I know it's within the price range I'm comfortable with, so I just toss stuff in my cart and keep on rolling.

I've done both routes often enough that I know basically what to expect in each store when I get there. I have figured out which stores overprice (so I know to only watch for the half-off color in that store). I have figured out which stores have better inventory (based on the neighborhood). I have figured out the best routes to get where I want to go. I have figured out at what point I need to stop to eat because I know the next several stores aren't anywhere near a restaurant.

The one thing I haven't figured out is how to get all my inventory AND all my kids to fit in the van to come home. I usually pack the van full of inventory while I'm shopping, and then I remember I have to put the kids in there somewhere. It takes some creative rearranging, but I haven't had to leave one behind yet ;-)

It really is a dream day! I shop where I want to. I go to the bathroom when I want to, and I don't have to make sure the kids go at every bathroom we find so there are no accidents. But you know the best part?? I get to EAT wherever I want to! No McDonalds! And when I get my food, I get to eat my food. I don't have to cut up other people's food, clean up other people's spills. It's an entire day all about me!  Yes, I know that sounds terribly selfish, but it doesn't happen all that often, so I soak it up when I can :)

Just a few quick tips before I wrap this up:
  • Save your receipts. Obviously you want to save your shopping receipts, but also save your meal and snack receipts.
  • Track your mileage. This is an easy one. Just reset your trip odometer to zero before you leave your house, and write down the total when you get home. We get to deduct somewhere around 50 cents per mile on our taxes. This can add up very quickly. My Harrisburg road trips are around 250 miles round trip. That's $125 I get to deduct for each trip!
  • Keep track of your purchases. This is the hardest part of the trip for me. When I get home, it's really hard to match up which receipt went with which bag(s) of stuff. I keep track of how much I spend per item so I know what offers I'm willing to accept. You'll also need to remember to cross any personal purchases off your receipts. I take a tablet and pen with me and, after each store, I sit in the car for a minute and jot down everything I bought there. You should be able to just write on the back of the receipt too.
  • Take lots of water/caffeine. I have a small cooler I take with me. I put 3 or 4 bottles of water, 3 or 4 cans of Diet Pepsi, and some ice packs in there. The caffeine is especially helpful on the long drive home after an exhausting day.
  • Have fun! This is your excuse to go shopping ... guilt-free! Enjoy it! It's your JOB!

You Can Search Now!

Hey - lookie there! We have a search bar now! How embarrassingly easy was that?? I didn't realize there was a blogger gadget for adding a search bar. It took me about 2 seconds. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Do YOU Want to Learn About?

I need some inspiration. I want to teach you. I want you to learn. I've been selling on eBay long enough that I've forgotten what some of the basic things were that I had to learn. What do you need help with? What are you struggling with? What new aspect of selling on eBay are you afraid to branch out and try? Please give me some posting ideas in the comments. This blogging business is harder that it looks from the outside. It's HARD to come up with things to write about (except my weekly finds, sales, etc posts). What do you want to learn? And don't worry - if you ask me to teach you something I don't know how to do, I have a whole team of people to help me learn :)   No question is too easy or too hard.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another Consignment Sale!

I participated in another children's consignment sale this weekend. It's the same one I did in September, but it was in a different town. I learned a lot of lessons this time and thought I'd share them.

First off, something I should have thought of but didn't:  Town A is a lot more well-to-do than Town B. I didn't take that into consideration with my pricing. Therefore, only my lower-priced, non-brand name items sold this time. My higher-priced Gymboree stuff hardly sold at all, not even on half off day!

Second lesson: I went into this sale with high expectations. Too high. I didn't realize this was the first sale they have ever had in the new location. It was in a kind of hard-to-find location. The traffic just wasn't there. When selling at a new sale, don't get your hopes up. The sale in Town A has been there for a couple years now and it is huge! I don't doubt the Town B sale will grow, but it does take some time to get the word out. I was very disappointed, because I went into it expecting way too much from a brand new sale.

Third lesson: Minimize the driving as much as possible! This town was also an hour from me. I dropped my stuff off on Tuesday evening, went back up on Wednesday evening to shop the presale, then went up again on Sunday afternoon to pick my unsold items up. That ended up costing me about $45 in gas. (I hadn't actually figured that up until just now - ugh). I need to combine trips. Here's what I'm thinking for next time: drop my stuff off as late in the day on Wednesday as possible, then hang out in town Wednesday afternoon until the pre-sale that evening. Volunteer for a late shift on Saturday, then take my unsold items home with me that evening. Have them mail my check after the sale. That will cut the driving down by one whole trip (90 miles) and $15. Also, by volunteering, I'll get an extra 5% of my sales, so not only will I save money on gas, but I'll make MORE money at the sale.

Fourth lesson: I didn't get to make it for the half-off sale (see Third Lesson above). When I stopped to pick up my unsolds yesterday, I was amazed at how many items were left that I would gladly have bought for half price. I casually mentioned it to the woman who runs the sale, knowing full well that selling items on pick-up day would be a logistical nightmare. But she said, "Well then go buy them! I'm keeping track of today's last minute sales and will send out separate checks tomorrow." So I set my stuff down and shopped away! I spent about $50 on 13 items (all Gymboree and Hanna Andersson for resale). I was so excited about the things that I bought, that I left without my check! Yes, I LEFT MY CHECK on the counter in the store. Ugh. I emailed her. I REALLY hope she found it, and that someone else didn't accidentally scoop it up. That would really stink - all that hard work for nothing. Actually for significantly less than nothing when you consider how much I spent on gas and the clothes that I bought.

So here's the final report (you'll see why I was so disappointed):

I took 93 items and sold 42. I guess that's decent, but as I mentioned earlier, it was all my low-priced stuff.  I sold a total of $160.50 worth. The people who run the sale keep 60% of that, plus a $5 consignment fee per seller. I list half of my stuff under my name, and half of my stuff under my sister's name so she can get into the sale early as a "consignor," so that's $10 that I lose in consignment fees, plus the 40%. So my checks totalled $86.30.

Let's do some sickening math, shall we?

Total Earnings: $86.30
Total Spent Wednesday night on clothes for my kids plus 2 items for resale: $40
Total Spent Sunday afternoon on clothes for resale: $50
Total Spent in Gas: $45
$48.70 in the hole, assuming I get my checks ($135 in the hole if I never see them again)

I'm not going to count ink, cardstock, or hangers, because that is even more sickening.

So sad.

I had a good time, I enjoyed prepping my items for the sale. But I've got to either lower my prices for Town B next time, or just stick with the sale in Town A (my personal preference).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Top eBay Moments This Week

I'd like to thank you all for your supportive comments on my last grumpy post. It's very helpful to know that I'm not just being defensive, and that my buyer really was out of line.

In this week's Top Moments post, I'm not going to mention ANY of my downs from the week (believe me, there were plenty). I'm going to stay upbeat and focus on all the ups (believe me, there were plenty of those too!). I have to shift my focus. Every couple of weeks, I find that I need an attitude adjustment. My income isn't required. I need to learn to be grateful for the income I do have, and not focus on the stupido's out there.

So without further ado .. I sold 61 items this week, 15 of which were shoes. I sold a good mix of older and newer inventory this week. I am on day 3 of a 3-day 15% off shoes sale. I've sold a few, but it didn't spark the higher sales that my 25% off sale caused last week. I think this afternoon I will study my sales over the past few weeks. I think Tuesdays have traditionally been my slowest days. If that proves to be true, I will try to run a 25% off sale next Tuesday, one day only. I need to work on boosting my sales on those slow days.

My favorites - because I'm not talking about the downs, I have extra ups to talk about :)

I had one of these that my babies had outgrown, and I found a second one at a yard sale this summer for a quarter. I had them listed in one listing with a quantity of two available. I sold both to the same buyer for $10 each. Not a huge dollar amount, but turning a quarter into $20 isn't bad at all.

This was part of a lot I bought in September. I bought a Big Jim Safari Hut and all of these Big Jim accessories were in it. Naturally, none of these pieces actually went WITH the Safari Hut set, so I had to sell them separately. I thought it would be a big seller, but alas. I sold the hut for $10.50 at auction awhile ago, sold 2 pieces of accessories for $6, and sold the rest of them yesterday for $17. Again, nothing earth shattering, but I ended up with $33.50 from my initial $6.35 investment.

This guy was my daughter's. Squeeze him and he roars and says, "My name is Bufford, and I'm proud to make your acquaintance!"  He sold for $18.99 (-$2.94 shipping).

My sister's boyfriend's mother died recently. She had more clothes than I have ever seen in one home before. I picked out the nicest stuff to sell for them on eBay. I ended up with 76 pieces total. This was the first one that sold for $19.99 (-$2.43 shipping).

This wasn't a big exciting sale either, but it makes me smile. I paid $1.50 at a yard sale in June, but only because it was still in the wrapper. I sold it for $19.99 (-$6.65 shipping).

Now we're getting into the higher sellers. I thought for sure these Eccos would sell quickly because of the crazy color, but I put off listing them until it was too late for northern hemisphere spring and summer. I paid more for these than I would have liked ($9.90), but they still did alright. I sold them to an Australian buyer (where it IS spring, headed into summer) for $29.75. I had them listed with free domestic shipping, but because it was an international sale, she paid the shipping too.

These were another item from the new with tags yard sale I went too in September. They are just plain ol' men's Columbia pants. I paid $7 for them and sold them for $39.99 (-$4.75 shipping).

And another yard sale find - a Columbia 3X women's fleece vest. I paid $7 for it and sold it for my full asking price of $41.99 (-$3.28 shipping).

These sold quickly! I paid $4.99 for them on October 20 and sold them this week for my full asking price of $50 (-$5.08 shipping). I love Danskos!

The next day, I sold my black ones. I paid $8.97 for these in July and sold them for $50.00 plus shipping. I'm always willing to pay more for Danskos (up to $10), because I know they're a guaranteed $50 sale.

I sold this for my aunt. An older woman from her church gave it to my cousin, who just wasn't interested in dolls. My aunt kept very good care of the doll for all these years and asked me to sell it for her this summer, hoping for a tidy sum. I looked her up, but completeds showed that she was only selling for $5-10. I took a risk and listed her high, figuring I could always accept less later. She sold this week for my full asking price of $69.99 plus shipping! My aunt was thrilled!

And last but not least, another yard sale find - new with tags Timberland puffer coat. I paid $9 for it. I had someone message me to ask if it was authentic. I had to confess that I couldn't say 100% for sure, but that everything else that I had bought that day had proven to be authentic, so I thought so. I didn't hear back from them, and that afternoon, a different buyer bought it for my full asking price of $73.99 plus shipping!

At that yard sale, I bought 120 items for $717.75. To date, I have sold 37 items for $1030.47. I'm at a profit of $300 and I still have 83 items left to sell!

How about you? What were the highs of your week? (Remember, no lows today. Focusing on the highs!)