I have a love/hate relationship with PCSing. It's exciting to get to a new place, arrange our new house, and explore new things to do. But it can be expensive! There's restocking the condiments, finding new wall art because my couch is against the wall for the first time, buying a microwave for the "updated" kitchen, and having to pay all the lovely "new member" (read: more expensive) registration fees when I join area museums or sign my kids up for gymnastics, soccer, or whatever lessons.
After a couple moves, I finally realized I was literally tripping over sources of extra cash. We have a built-in opportunity every couple years to clean out all the junk we've accumulated, and we were not taking full advantage! But with three kids under five, I did not have time to organize, advertise, and run a garage sale - and I was too tired, anyway.
So, I turned to the computer.
Online selling is a whole different animal than your normal yard sale or consignment shop. At those places buyers can physically see and handle an item, browse other items, and make impulse purchases. Online, you have to convince people that your item is good enough for them to get off their couch and into their car to come pick it up.
So here are three tips for selling your stuff online:
1. Decide where to list it.
There are several places to list your stuff: Craigslist, Facebook groups, and community newsletters, but my personal favorite is Call Dibs. It's a new, free app and website to buy/sell goods, nationwide and overseas, exclusively within our military community. Unlike the upload-caption-bump-drama-check "others" folder nonsense from selling on Facebook groups, it is simple. Just take a picture, describe it, price it and it posts in your local market. Buyers can find items by location and category, click on your profile to see your other items currently for sale, and all communications (offers, questions about the item, coordinating a meeting) are done through private messages. I felt a lot better giving out my address knowing I was dealing with local military, and if there was a buyer who wasn't a couple streets away on base, it was convenient to meet up at the commissary on my next trip.
And a bonus: I didn't have to search for new groups once we moved and needed items to make sense of the new house. I wasn't familiar with the area yet, so being able to meet up on base was helpful, and I was able to connect immediately with other MilSpouses. Win-Win! Regardless of the site you use, I have found that between fellow MilFams, we tend to need the things people were getting rid of and vice versa - and prices are very fair, as we do generally want to help each other.
2. Make it pretty
You'll get a lot more interest in that pretty dress (and more money for it) if it doesn't look like you plucked it out of a crumpled heap in the back of your closet. Same goes for that filthy art table. It doesn't need to be sparkling, but take a minute to run a damp sponge over toys and furniture to get rid of dried spit up or dirt. Put clothes from storage in a dryer with a wet towel to smooth out some wrinkles and freshen. Using a clean, solid colored background like a white sheet or hardwood floor makes a big difference, too. It's also helpful to write the sizes and price on an index card and place it by the items in the photo for easy at-a-glance shopping. Keep your descriptions short and specific. (Example: "Dark wood, circular table with chairs and built-in leaf. Seats 4-6. Small scratches on surface. $50.")
3. Set your pricing carefully
Be realistic: you are not going to make all your money back, even on a new item. Bundle deals can help you sell more quickly, and can end up making you more money than trying to sell off individual pieces - a lot of 10 onesies can go for $1 each or $7 for all, or if a buyer is interested in several of your items, offer a $5 discount off the total.
The beauty of online sales, especially using something like Call Dibs, is that you can do it anytime that's convenient for you. You can start months in advance and sell it off little by little. Lower the price and relist as necessary. If it doesn't sell, either save it and try again at your new location, list a free box on your curb, or donate to charity. But hopefully, you'll at least have made some money to buy "new to you" items at your next duty station!
Have you had success selling your things online? How did you do it and what are your tips?
Lydia is the Military Content Manager for Adjacent Applications, blogger for Call Dibs, and full time mom of three. A Navy Wife of eight years, Lydia married her high school sweetheart, and they are currently on their sixth tour in Washington, D.C. She has a background in Elementary Education and additional certifications in 8-12 English and Physical Education, and is always ready for chatting over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.