Sharon M. shared some of her personal finance journey with us this week. Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.
About a year ago, I had to downsize from a 5200-square-foot house to an apartment. After my husband was laid off, we decided to sell our home rather than go through the heartache and credit problems that happen when people can no longer afford to pay their mortgages. As a result, we had to find a way to get rid of many of the items we had accumulated over the years.
Some things I tried didn't work well, i.e., trying to sell items with classified ads. Here are some of the strategies that did work. Most of them helped us make extra money, which in turn helped to alleviate the financial stress we were going through at the time.
Have a garage sale.
When we first decided to move, I did what most people do: I sold items I knew I couldn't or didn't want to take with me. I invited my neighbors to join in and sell their extra stuff, and because we had a multi-family garage sale, we attracted plenty of customers. Everyone made money, largely because we decided to advertise for free on Craigslist.
Sell your extra “stuff” online.
I love books, and I had a lot of them. Many of the books I had, I had read just once and then put away in my home's library. As I have room for only a couple of bookshelves in our apartment, I had to get rid of the majority of my collection. You can use Amazon, eBay, and similar sites to sell books, along with Powell's, which is a huge secondhand bookstore that does the majority of its business online. I sold my rare books on eBay and used Powell's to sell most of the rest.
I also used eBay to sell some antiques, high-end cookware, and collectibles that I didn't have room for. This was a little challenging as I did not have an established seller reputation; however, it was fairly convenient and I managed to recoup quite a bit of cash.
Sell jewelry you don't wear.
With the financial problems that we faced a short time ago, we decided it would be best to liquidate many of our more expensive items, most of which we weren't wearing anyway. I tried to sell a few items on eBay, but since I had a new account, and our watches and jewelry were relatively expensive, I didn't attract a single buyer. I ended up selling a few of the bigger ticket items on a site a friend told me about, where sellers are allowed to decline bids if they don't meet expectations. A diamond ring I had from my previous marriage, my husband's Rolex, and several pieces of estate jewelry I had collected over the years wound up being “worthy” of Worthy. They took a small commission after selling my items for me, and they were very easy to use.
Use Freecycle and other giveaway venues.
When all else fails or if recouping an investment isn't important to you, give your stuff away! It's better than paying to store all that stuff, and it definitely beats throwing perfectly good items into the dumpster. Freecycle is an online network made up of people who either want to give things away or who need certain items. It's free to use and is available in many communities. We used it to get rid of heavy furniture we had no room for, saved the alternative cost of paying to store it, and earned the good deed for free.
We are slowly getting back on track, thanks to our decision to downsize rather than attempting to save our house. We now live a fairly frugal lifestyle, eating dinner out only on special occasions and using other strategies like making coffee at home, packing our lunches, and having “staycations.” It's taken some mental adjustment but, in the end, we've learned valuable lessons we will continue to use as we focus on improving our financial outlook.