Get Out of Debt in 9 Steps # 3- Turn Your Junk into Cash

If you have been living beyond your means for a while and spending frivolously with credit cards, you probably have a lot of ‘junk’ in your house that you don’t need and never should have bought in the first place. It’s time to get some of that money back! This isn’t easy, and it can take a really long time (I’m still working on finding stuff I bought frivolously and getting it sold), but it is well worth the effort. I have made roughly $800 since starting on this step and I still have more junk to get rid of.

There are several ways to sell your stuff and I will offer a few ideas here.

  • Mention it to friends and family – you don’t want to nickel and dime your loved ones so this may or may not work for you, but there is a good chance that people you know will want to buy some of the stuff you have. This can save you time and shipping expenses.
  • Yard sale – I’ve never tried this, but obviously yard sales go on all of the time. Your success here will probably vary by the community you live in and how much time you feel like investing in the process. Check out this comprehensive list to see if you can handle it.
  • Craigslist – Again, I have not done this myself, but I know many people who have and it is obviously a very popular resource. Check out this link to learn more
  • Ebay – Probably the most popular way to buy and sell used stuff these days. You can search for tips on selling with Ebay and you will certainly find a lot of information. One thing I have noticed though, no one really seems to agree on the ‘best’ way to be an Ebay seller. I recommend picking a process and trying it, but be ready to change your methods and learn as you go.

I don’t want to turn this into a how-to article on selling your stuff since those articles are plentiful on the Internet. Instead, I want to focus on how to go about finding the stuff to sell and why you should consider certain things.

The easiest way to start is by looking for the stuff you have hidden away in closets, the garage, or storage. There is a good chance if something is hidden away already you won’t miss it if you sell it. A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t used something for 6-12 months you can safely get rid of it. Of course you will need to make these decisions based on your needs. I find it very helpful to look at the item I am considering getting rid of and think if I would rather have it or rather have the cash in my emergency account or the extra money paid on my debt. Emergency funds and debt payments will trump most things, but you also need to consider how much cash the item you have is going to bring in- I’m not generally going to bother with something that is only worth a few dollars so that item becomes a candidate for charity or the garbage.

A wonderful benefit of this process is not just the cash you can raise by getting rid of junk, but you will also be simplifying your life. The junk we have accumulated has to be moved, cleaned, or stored- that takes time and energy. This brings us back to living simply and de-cluttering, topics brilliantly covered in Your Money or Your Life. You should really read that book if you haven’t already. I have reached a point that I am annoyed by seeing clutter or junk that I don’t need in my house and I am constantly moving things to boxes for donations, sales, or garbage.

One major downside to selling your junk is the time it takes to get it done. I spent several hours listing things on Ebay for a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff, followed by the hassle to package the items and bring them to the post office. Personally, I find those tasks highly annoying but I made the time to do it because I wanted the cash and I also consider it partly as paying for my mistakes of the past and using it as a reminder not to make frivolous purchases in the future. If you are really busy and don’t want to invest the time, you might try finding someone to do this for you- teenagers in your family might be a good option since they likely know Ebay well and will be happy with a small commission. There are also businesses that take your stuff and list it on Ebay for you. You’ll have to decide how much of the cash you are willing to sacrifice for your time.

It’s up to you to decide how ‘vicious’ you want to be with getting rid of your junk, but so far I don’t miss anything I have sold and I keep adding things to my box of stuff to sell. Spend time thinking about your wants versus needs and decide where your priorities fall.

Some people are very serious about selling on Ebay and there are a number of ways to run an Ebay business to earn an extra income. We aren’t taking it to that level for purposes of getting rid of some junk, but it’s something to think about if you have the time and desire to find another source of income. This can be a test run of sorts to see if maybe that is a viable option for you some day.

This step is great to do early in your Get Out of Debt phase because it can give you a nice head start on saving your starter emergency fund, catching up on late bills, or getting a quick start on making extra debt payments. I strongly encourage you to take the time and try to be a bit brutal on your first pass through the house to find stuff to sell.

Good luck and come back for the next step in the Get Out of Debt series- Creating an Emergency Fund.

9 Steps to Get Out of Debt

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42 thoughts on “Get Out of Debt in 9 Steps # 3- Turn Your Junk into Cash”

  1. I only got into Ebay about a year ago (evidently after their fees had risen significantly) but I had great success selling the junk sitting around our house. It was so cool that the stuff I no longer attached value to, somebody else found value in. Even with the fees and associated costs, I still made a nice chunk of money. I thought it was kind of fun too. I’ve had over 100 auctions now and the advice I would give to someone just starting out are: Communicate with the people, they like to know what’s going on. And pack the items well to avoid damage, and ship promptly. It really is a relatively easy way to eliminate the clutter and make some money too.
    Nice post Frank 🙂

  2. Hey Dawn,

    Thanks for sharing your advice, you added two excellent points. I agree 100%, communicating and shipping ASAP goes a long way toward making your buyers happy. I have managed to maintain a perfect feedback score over many years on Ebay. Things have gone wrong, but I worked with the buyers to get it resolved and avoid a negative rating.

  3. Interesting post.

    If I could add one suggestion – I did a post a while back on looking around your basement + garage for extra renovation materials that can be returned. Obviously this won’t apply to everyone but if you have done some renovation in the past and have extra materials or if you were planning a reno (and never got around to it), it might be worth returning the stuff. Most of the big home stores will give you a store credit for stuff without a receipt as long as they still stock it.


  4. Hi Mike, that’s a great tip! I don’t have anything like that right now, but I never would have thought the stores would offer credit for the leftovers.

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