• My Secret Envelope

    I have a secret envelope, and it is hidden in a special place. At one point last year, this envelope had $2,500 in it. The money that goes into it does not come from a paycheck or tips from a part time job. The money in this secret envelope comes from selling items we no longer need around the house.

    This envelope is my envelope. I get to choose where to spend the money. It has funded some really nice things like a new chair for the office and upgraded tile for the new shower. I was never excited about selling stuff online until I created this envelope. There is something about watching the money pile up in it and using the money to knock out the next goal that keeps me posting items for sale.

    It was another forum member who taught me that you can sell just about anything. Through emails she would share her selling successes. She sold a dining room table on Craig’s List (CL) and bought another one she liked better for less. After a couple of years, she decided that the second table wasn’t fitting her space so she sold it at a profit and used the money for another CL table. The concept of trading out furniture intrigued me. I was also intrigued when her husband sold the old cedar shingles off their roof plus avoided the costs of hauling them away. After hearing many stories of their selling accomplishments, I knew I needed to get more serious.

    I posted our old kitchen hinges and pulls on CL. My husband poked fun at me telling me they would never sell. Imagine my shock when several people wanted them for $25. Two rugs brought in $500. $1,000 for the antique armoire, $400 for a used whirlpool tub, $40 for a used toilet, and many smaller household items kept adding to my envelope. That little envelope has funded many items on my wish list.

    I knew I had graduated to my friend’s league when I got new counter stools for the kitchen. What I wanted in quality was going to cost about $200 each and I needed four. I had enough money in my little envelope to buy new ones but did not want to clean it out for one wish list item, so I setup a CL alert to notify me of all black counter stools that went up for sale. I missed out on a few because I did not move fast enough, but one day I got an alert for six counter stools that were exactly what I wanted. I bought all of them for $250. I did not even ask if she would break the set. I knew I could make money on the extra two. I kept the best four and sold two for $125. I sold the saddle stools they replaced for $75. In the end, the new stools cost me $50. My special little envelope barely noticed the difference.

    I am not a master at selling items. My friend is. Here are some of things I can share that I have learned along the way from her, from my husband, and from experience.


    1. Be safe and meet people in public places. I often choose the local police station or grocery store parking lot that is near me. Most people are relieved when you tell them you prefer to meet in a public place. Whenever someone is coming to the house for a large item, I make sure someone else is home. I keep my pepper spray in my pocket during all sales.
    2. Keep it simple and accept only cash. Keep enough cash around to make change. My secret little envelope has small bills for change.
    3. Research pricing by acting like a buyer first. If your item is common, under price everyone so your item sells first. That is how we sold the toilet. It was $10 lower than all the others.
    4. Always post pictures. I ignore any posts without pictures which means others do too. The more pictures the better. A picture of a piece of furniture in the attic does not get the same response or price as a picture of a piece of furniture in the family room. Move the item to a main living area, make it sparkle, and then take pictures.
    5. Prove authenticity with pictures of markings, painter signatures, certificates of authentication, appraisals, etc.
    6. If the item you are selling still sells retail, look it up and get the features and benefits from another site and paraphrase them in your ad. Include the retail price so buyers know what a deal they are getting.
    7. Disclose flaws. It builds trust and saves time.
    8. Bump CL items every few days to keep them active. If something is getting stale, take it down for a couple of weeks and re-post. I had a $400 rug for sale for months. I took it down for one month and re-posted. It sold the next day. I cannot tell you how often this technique has worked.
    9. When someone contacts you about an item, try to close the deal the same day or you increase your odds of losing the sale by more than 50%.
    10. Include measurements, brand, color, sizes, in all ads.
    11. Price to negotiate. People like getting a deal. I ask people to "meet in the middle" of their offer and my asking price. That seems to work with most buyers.
    12. Learn to spot the scammers and ignore their requests. These are the ones that offer you more than you are asking and will have someone deliver a certified check or send emails that look like a robot assembled them.
    13. Try to sell anything legal. Right now I have fancy, used trim tiles for sale. If they don’t sell, I have only lost some time and I will post them on Freecycle. My daughter was sure no one would want her iPod that no longer held a charge. She sold it for $125 to a guy who wanted an extra one in his car. Since it would always be plugged in, he did not care about it holding a charge.
    14. The lower the price, the closer to me I require buyers to travel. If something is $25 or less, I ask them to meet me in the parking lot of the grocery store near my home. If it is higher, I will travel further. One time I had someone want me to deliver a piece of furniture because they did not have a truck. We did it for an additional fee.
    15. Post items on multiple sites. There are phone app sites like OfferUp and LetGo. Join a Facebook garage sale group. They are quick and easy for the seller. My experience is that people on these sites are much more flaky and leave you hanging. I don’t go out of my way for anyone on these sites but I have made some good sales on lower priced items and home décor. I often look at these sites just to see what is selling and what the original asking price was.
    16. Ask people their location first. After going back and forth with one lady about a pair of red pumps for $5, she bailed when she found out my location was on the other side of town. Lesson learned.


    Create your own secret envelope to stockpile the money. Give that envelope a name. Maybe it is Mr. Vacation fund or the Kohl’s credit card fund. When you make a goal and give that money a name, you will be surprised how valuable all your stuff looks.


    If you are new to Debt Free Fanatics, and want to learn more about techniques for getting out of debt, we encourage you to register and participate in our forums. Our members have been managing their money for years and are happy to offer advice and instruction on how you can manage your money better and get out of debt.