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Smart Cookies

Turn your trash into cash through online selling Add to ...

Jennifer Torrance purchased a pair of shoes for $3 at a thrift store. She then sold the shoes online - for $232, to a buyer in Germany. Ms. Torrance, a mother of five in Vancouver, B.C., originally started selling online as a way to get rid of some of the family clutter. After selling her first few items, she wondered what else was was lying around or socked away in boxes that should could turn into cash.

Ms. Torrance says she has an eye for finding hidden treasures to resell. Often they are items she recognizes to be worth something because her grandma had similar pieces. If it’s clothing or piles of material at a thrift store, she’ll run her hands along the pile of material to feel for the expensive pieces. She also does her research to determine the vintage pieces that can be resold for profit.

If you don’t have the time to scour the thrift stores, then stick to scouring your own home. Peter Walsh, author and host of Enough Already!, says he regularly meets people with homes packed full of unused items waiting to be turned into cash. Our closets alone are jackpots. More than half of the top 50 items sold on eBay by women are clothing, shoes or accessories.

eBay just announced it will offer 50 free auction-style listings each month to members. If you’ve never sold anything on eBay, it’s easy to start. Click here for a how-to guide. eBay is open to the world, so there’s likely a buyer for what you’re selling. You can set a price or create an auction style listing where your item may go for more than you listed. Before you begin, be aware of the fees attached to selling on eBay. If shipping your item is not practical, there are online sites you can use, including Craigslist and Kijiji, to sell to local buyers, and they don’t have any fees unless you opt to advertise your listing.

Regardless of the site you’re using, market research into the details of an item are essential for pricing properly. Timing is also important. Selling summer gear before the season starts is better than trying to sell a patio furniture set in the winter. Listing an item that has some buzz attached to it also helps. Ms. Torrance listed a Charlie Chaplain wind-up toy immediately after The Globe and Mail ran a piece about it. She even attached a homemade YouTube video of her son winding him up and demonstrating how he worked. It sold for $600. She says videos are her competitive edge. Additional visuals help the buyer get a better sense of the product and help to create nostalgia. That vintage Labatt baseball hat could go for more money if you attach a link to a commercial in the 70s. Or, if you’re trying to sell some of your aunt's vintage dresses and gloves, include a link to a recent clip of Mad Men.

The hardest part of selling online is taking the time to gather the items and research the right price. Once the money comes in for items you no longer need or want, though, you’ll be more motivated to continue clearing the clutter and collecting the cash.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group.

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