How I Paid Off Over $100,000 in Debt With the Help of eBay and Garage Sales – And How You Can, Too!

Hello! Enjoy this blog post from a blog friend of mine. Veronica has an AWESOME story to share and hopefully this post will help teach you how to sell on eBay. Have you ever hosted a garage sale where people arrived 2 hours early to look through your old junk? Did they seem overly eager…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: August 17, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Hello! Enjoy this blog post from a blog friend of mine. Veronica has an AWESOME story to share and hopefully this post will help teach you how to sell on eBay.

Have you ever hosted a garage sale where people arrived 2 hours early to look through your old junk? Did they seem overly eager to snatch up what you deemed to be garbage?

If this sounds familiar to you, those people probably weren’t hoarders-they were ‘flippers,’ and that old ‘junk’ you just sold to them for 50 cents might have just paid their bills for the month.

My name is Veronica, and I am one of those flippers.

My husband Andrew and I are both full time health care professionals, garage sale ‘flippers’, bloggers, and seekers of financial independence. We have been paying our bills with the help of garage sales, estate sales, auctions, and eBay for the past few years, and have made quite a dent in our once-staggering amount of debt!

To date, we have completely paid off $96,500 in student loans, our $15,000 wedding, $5,000 in credit card debt, a $6,500 car, and over half of our mortgage- $76,600 and counting!

No, we didn’t receive an inheritance or win the lottery.

Our secret? An extremely frugal lifestyle supplemented by re-selling second hand items on eBay. The second hand items come from the weekly garage sales, estate sales, and auctions that we attend.

While most people are sleeping off Friday night’s indulgences, we are up on Saturday mornings at the break of dawn with our fanny pack full of cash, standing in line with other ‘flippers’ at the sales to compete for treasure.

It’s a battle of knowledge and skill; the ability to recognize antiques, collectibles, designer names, and more determines how much money you can make. It may sound a bit comical, but there’s an entire underground community out there whose members make their livings off of other people’s ‘seconds’.

So far this year, my husband and I have made about $13,000 by selling on eBay part-time. There are a few important strategies that have proved quite beneficial to us, and I am about to share them with you.

The first key to success is…

Master Your Craft

Identify your interests if you want to know how to sell on eBay. Shoes, vinyl records, designer clothes, jewelry, glassware, sports equipment, electronics, artwork, or toys are just a few examples of entire genres that you could specialize in.

Choose something that you already enjoy, and you will probably find that you know a whole lot more about the area than you previously thought. It also won’t feel like a chore to read about the items and do some preliminary research

Once you decide upon a niche that suits you, sort through your house, go out to garage sales and thrift stores, or check Craigslist for cheap or free items in your niche to obtain and begin researching.

Do Your Research 

For all of you who cringed at the word ‘research’ and immediately thought of the library, index cards, and citations, relax. It’s eBay research – no books required.

The first thing I do with a new item is try to find that exact item listed for sale on eBay by searching a few general descriptor words and scroll through the resulting pictures until I find something similar. Once I find an item that looks like or is the one I am trying to sell, I search again using only the title words from that listing to find more targeted results.

From that quick search, you can gain two very important things: how much similar items are listed for, and how other sellers are describing the item.

In order to perform this research on the fly, it’s important to…

Related: 11 Best Ways To Sell Used DVDs Online And Locally

Make Your Smart Phone Earn Its Keep

My husband and I don’t pay for our smart phones anymore – they pay for themselves every month and then pay us back ten-fold because we have learned to use them to our advantage.

With the eBay app installed on our phones, we can quickly perform research while anywhere, and extremely fast. I can pick up an item at a sale and learn exactly what it is and what it’s worth on eBay before I put it down. We have made countless dollars by this use of our phones’ capabilities and also saved money by knowing when to pass on an item that was over-priced.

You would think that everyone would be using this tactic, but it surprisingly still gives us an edge as many older flippers have yet to master the smart phone’s capabilities. The majority of competition in our area consists of retirees who go to these sales as a way to stay busy. In fact, I’ve only witnessed about two other flippers using their phones in the same manner we do. The competition is behind the times, and you need to take advantage of that!

We also use our smart phones to post our items directly to eBay, taking all of the pictures with the phone’s camera and using the app to upload everything. This wasn’t a viable option a few years ago, but now that cell phone cameras have evolved to a much higher quality, it works very well. It takes much less time to post an item for sale on eBay now through the phone app compared to the tedious job of downloading photos to a computer and posting from there.

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Keywords Are Important If You Want To Know How To Sell On eBay

Just like SEO for you bloggers out there, keywords are very important in your eBay listing when learning how to sell on eBay. Use every descriptor word possible in the listing title – the title doesn’t have to make sense or even read like a proper sentence.

I used to make the mistake of posting cute titles instead of maximizing my keywords. When my items weren’t selling as well as other sellers’ identical items, I caught on and started using the same jumbled keyword titles that worked for them.

The results were immediate. With more direct keywords and less fluff in my listings, more people viewed my items. I started receiving more bids on my items, which translated to increased sales.

The next step is pricing your item fairly, and that correlates with one of our most important pillars of success…

Let People Make Money Off Of You

It seems counter-intuitive, but a very successful antique dealer taught us this lesson early on.

It is a very difficult thing to do because everyone likes maximum value for their items, but allowing others to make a profit off of youensures your success. By relinquishing 10-15% of your potential profit and allowing someone else to share that profit, you will secure happy, repeat customers, your inventory will turn over quickly, and you can then buy new inventory with your profits to do it all over again, thus making more money in the time span it would have taken you to sell the original item for full value.

The basic principle here is that the opportunity cost of sitting on an item for a longer period of time is greater than the reward of an extra few percent in profit. Most of the time, we find our inventory so cheap that a 10-15% price reduction from competitors’ prices still allows us to have an excellent profit margin. We recently found a designer bracelet at a garage sale for a few dollars, and found it repeatedly selling on eBay for over $400. We posted it for $350, and it sold within a few days. We watched other sellers re-list the same item for weeks at higher prices, and they are still sitting on that inventory.

The hardest part about this strategy is letting go of the need to recover maximum value out of everything. My best advice here is to relax and don’t be greedy-you will be more successful overall by allowing others to share some of the profits.

Now that I have shared with you some of our most important strategies for eBay selling success, I hope you are able to jump into the eBay flipping world with confidence! It’s never easy to start something new, but it can be a very lucrative and fun hustle on the side.

Come ‘sale’ with us!

Author Bio: You can follow Veronica and her husband Andrew’s adventures in second-hand flipping at www.secondhandmillionaires.com or on Twitter @2handmillionair

Are you going to try your hand at flipping as a result of this article? Are you interested in learning how to sell on eBay? Why or why not?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Alexander Vishnevsky

    Thank you, Veronica, for your very useful tips about selling on eBay. I’ll try to bring them to life. Maybe your tips will help me to revive my unsuccessful (yet) profile on eBay. Good Luck!

    1. You’re welcome! I hope these tips help your eBay selling profile re-awaken! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Love this! I’ve used eBay and the eBay app a lot, but only to sell my own junk from around the house. I’m super impressed with how awesome you guys are doing on debt repayment, by the way! Sounds like a small amount of time invested has totally paid off for you ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks, Dee!
      It’s great that you sell your stuff from around the house instead of throwing it all away. Us frugal people sure know how to recoup any money we possibly can!

  3. I would add that it’s important to use the search for recently sold items. I once sold 2 items for less than half their value but 1. it wasn’t my niche, and 2. I was looking at current bids of similar items rather than recently ended auctions. Oops!

    1. Yes, Kalie, that is also a very important strategy. Knowing how to look through the sold listings helps you to determine your price. I always get a little bit nervous when an item sells too quickly, because we’ve made mistakes in the past with pricing and let things go for much less than we should have. That’s part of the game of eBay, however, and we’re constantly learning and trying to improve our selling tactics. Thanks for your input!

  4. Amy @ DebtGal

    This is so inspiring! I used to sell things on eBay, but it was mainly my own stuff. The thing that always seemed like the biggest frustration/challenge, was dealing with the shipping. I think I would invest in a postal scale if I was going to start selling, again.

    1. Thank you, Amy! I agree with you on shipping being a challenge-it’s still my least favorite part, and it’s why we stay away from larger items. We do have digital scales to weigh our items, and we also purchase postage through eBay and print it out from our laser printer so we don’t have to wait in line at the post office every day. It saves us a ton of time doing it that way!

      The USPS also has Priority Mail boxes in many sizes that ship for a flat rate, no matter what the weight of the object is, and the boxes are FREE at your local post office! Their motto is “If it fits, it ships”. We use those sometimes, too, if the object is heavy and would cost more to ship in a non-Priority box.

      eBay is quite helpful with its shipping cost calculators for the purpose of determining what your least expensive shipping option is.

      I hope this helps encourage you to get back into selling again! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I tried selling on ebay and hated it. It’s just not my thing! But I’m happy for anyone who can make it work!

  6. Hi Holly,
    EBay selling is not for everyone. It requires a lot of time to research and post sometimes, and dealing with shipping, returns, and potential scammers can be a huge turn off to those new to eBay selling. Since we sell mostly small, higher-priced items like jewelry, we get a decent ROI on our invested time and energy.

    1. Jodie

      Yes, you do have to be careful of scammers. It can be very frustrating when ebay allows someone to scam you. It happened to me. The scammers bought a jewelry set, then refused to pay. She said that 1. The item wasn’t what I posted in the picture, and 2. That she never got it; So ebay never paid me. So ,much for “Seller Protection”.
      The best way to protect yourself from getting scammed by “Buyers and eBay” is to limit who you will allow to buy from you.

      1. There are ways to reduce problems like this, one is to limit where you ship to. I block all war torn countries and 3rd world countries. I refuse to use a third party shipper when shipping my items. I look through old feedback, and if i feel uncomfortable about the sale I just cancel it, eBay might not like that, but bottom line is it’s your item and your money on the line. I also always add tracking, so the buyer can’t say they never received the item. The buyers are always required to mail the item back to you in original condition and provide tracking too. If you don’t get your item back you don’t have to issue a refund. Lastly I always videotape the opening of a return package if it is a high value item. Hope you have better luck in the future!

        1. Jodie

          Great advice. Thank you.

  7. Poshmark is working well for me as I declutter. The idea of flipping is fascinating. There are a few people who tried to buy my items to flip, but now I see that they aren’t getting any bids on them. You definitely have to know what you’re doing and understand the markets. I love your blog and enjoy following you guys on Twitter!

    1. Thanks Penny! We enjoy your blog as well ๐Ÿ™‚
      We haven’t tried Poshmark yet but we’ll have to look into it when we start going through our clothes in an upcoming minimalist-fueled closet cleanse.

  8. Thanks! We hope this article helps you get started on the right foot!

  9. I haven’t ever used eBay, but I have made quite a bit of money by flipping things on Craigslist.

    1. I have never actually used Craigslist before. For our larger items, we just used a local auction house.

  10. That is amazing! I was just making $200 a month selling my old stuff on ebay to bring in a little bit extra each month. Very inspiring for me to keep looking for large tickets items to sell. Thanks for posting this!

    1. The more you get out there and learn, the more items next time you will be able to recognize to turn a profit. $200.00 is a nice profit, congratulations Jen!

  11. Kevin

    I note that you don’t point out the impact of taxes on your sales. Taking taxes into consideration, you may over $3k or more in taxes. Are you setting that amount aside as you go?

    1. Excellent point Kevin! When we first started we did not set anything aside and that was a mistake! Since then we do, but it is difficult to know exactly how much we will owe until we actual take all the deductions into consideration. Mileage, cost of the item, eBay fees, and so on.

    2. April

      Is there a limit in what you can make before you have to pay taxes on your ebay sales??

  12. Thanks Steve! We appreciate the support!

  13. Some people still fail to believe they can earn a 100% living off of being an affiliate of eBaY, or selling stuff full-time on eBay and earning more money potentially then a person with an MBA or Ph.D working a day job. It’s all about effort, faith, and putting faith to work. Not just talking about it, but showing who has the real entrepreneurial muscle for the hustle. Agree?

  14. I’m sure that is possible, and I would love to be able to do that! It is a great side hustle/hobby for us, but trying to completely live off of our eBay sales would be very stressful. I have a Pharm.D, and if I could make more money on eBay than full-time employment in my profession, I’d have to be selling some pretty expensive stuff!

  15. Wow! Very impressive. I used to try and sell stuff on eBay for fun and profit, back when the whole “get rich on eBay” thing was popular. Needless to say, it didn’t work out for me. :/ I’m sure it would’ve if I was more persistent, disciplined, and savvy. Now I just use eBay to get rid of books, old movies, etc. I invest that money right back too!

    1. I don’t know how many people GET rich on eBay anymore, but it’s an awesome way to add some spending money into your cash flow and recoup the costs of old stuff. Kudos to you for selling what you don’t need anymore instead of just throwing things away, and it’s even more awesome that you invest it! Way to go! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. I love this post it is very interesting especially for who would likr to use ebay without knowing where to start,, thanks for all the informations!!!

  17. Thanks, Janet! Sometimes we need to get creative to figure out how to reach our dreams.

  18. Thanks! Glad you like it! I hope this helps you become successful on eBay if you are thinking about trying it.

  19. Mr Hairy

    Interesting article. A few years ago I inadvertently started flipping boats I picked up for free or for a few dollars, adding value and selling for a profit. I can’t remember why I stopped. The money wasn’t great, but it was a lot of fun.

    1. It’s important to sell something you have an interest in, especially when just starting out. If you can find a hobby that will make you money instead of spending your money on it, more power to you!

  20. Bryan

    I tried this for a while but with some success. I got frusterated at the randomness of it all. I realize it is because I wasn’t specializing in anything. I would look for ANYTHING. It seems so simple but having a focus on some specific area, especially something I like, sounds so much more fun and effective.

    Thanks for the tips!

    1. Yes, focusing on one thing at first is a key to success. It can be very overwhelming and frustrating to walk into a thrift store and know there’s money to be made, but you don’t know where to start. For about 2 years, we only did jewelry until we had a good handle on the business. We then started branching out when we found things by chance for very little money. We would research that item and items similar to it, and before we knew it, we had new specialties to add to our mental cache.
      I hope you get back out there!

      1. Bryan

        thanks for this insight

  21. Laura Beth@How to Get Rich Slowly

    Hi Veronica,

    These are awesome tips for selling on Ebay! A good way to earn some extra holiday cash. Enjoyed the post!

    Thanks,
    Laura Beth

    1. Thanks! We can all use a little more cash this time of year. I like to buy gifts for people, but it’s also my favorite season because our eBay stuff sells faster! ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Brittney @ Life On A Discount

    Great tips Veronica! I had a garage sale myself this summer with items I wasn’t using and things that other friends didn’t want (but didn’t feel like hosting their own yard sale). I made $75 in 2 hours. I learned quickly that by allowing the flea market flippers to get a few dollars off, I could sell the items more quickly. It sucked to lose a few dollars, but it was better to get rid of the items and make some money!

  23. Awesome job! Letting people make a little money off of you is such an important aspect of second hand selling! We’ve been to sales where the sellers wouldn’t budge on prices, and they sold almost no merchandise because they wouldn’t let any of us flippers profit. Congrats on your garage sale profits! That’s a nice hourly rate!

  24. Selling on ebay? I am giving it a try as I need to be debt free before the end of the year. And, I think I can do it by doing this. Thanks Veronica.

    1. That’s fantastic news! I’m glad that this article has given you the idea to get started selling on eBay, and I hope that your items pull you out of debt by the end of the year like you want. This is a very active season for eBay, so start as soon as you can! I wish you all the best. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. I’ve definitely heard of this before, but you have to be very intentional to make it work. You have to do lots of research and know what you are doing. You also have to motivated to post stuff on Ebay and get it sold right away so you don’t end up with tons of “stuff” in your house. It’s interesting, but I couldn’t do it.

    1. Yes sometimes it is much easier to buy the stuff and just ‘collect’. I try not to pressure myself to sell the stuff too fast. As long as it’s small and didn’t cost much, I am ok with holding it for a little before I sell it. I try to make the whole process as stress free as I can.

  26. Abby

    eBay has lots of opportunities to earn you an extra cash or part time/full time income.

    I’ve been on ebay for 2 years now, and enjoying the ride:)

    Thanks for info, always a pleasure

    Abby

    1. It is certainly worth a look for those who haven’t tried it. 8-10 years ago it certainly was not as user friendly. What do you sell?

  27. Esteban

    I have so many things I never even touch but I know are quite valuable. I should really start looking into getting rid of some things.
    What better way than to use this strategy you outlined, to sell them on eBay.
    Thanks for this!

    Esteban

    1. Anytime! I hope it can be a valuable resource.

  28. I’ve seen a tactic like this before on a tv special or something and it intrigued me. It seems like a fun way to make a little (or a lot?) of money on the side. It’s like a micro version of that show “Storage Wars” where the pawn shop owners bid for storage units then sell what is inside for a profit. It always seemed like if you put in the time and effort, it could be lucrative. I guess you’ve proven that!

    -DP

  29. There are so many things that you can make extra money with, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you mention time and effort. It isn’t so much about what side hustle or venture you attempt, I think it is all about the time and effort you put into said venture.

  30. Wow, pretty cool. I did a much scaled down version of your enterprise for a while. I ultimately got tired of packaging sold items and standing in line at the post office. I suppose this could be minimized though by choosing more easily shipped items to re-sell.

    Congrats on your dedication to retiring debt, very admirable!

    1. Hi Kurt,
      Packaging and shipping is our least favorite part, so we understand your frustrations! It is also one of the reasons that we stick to small items. One way we’ve learned to make shipping more efficient is how to weigh the packages and print our own shipping labels at home, and we even get a discount on the shipping by purchasing it through eBay versus the post office. Shipping this way isn’t only less expensive, it saves us tons of time by not having to wait in line at the post office. Since everything is pre-paid and pre-labeled, we walk in, drop off the packages, and leave. You can even schedule a pick up from the post office for this purpose if you ship Priority.
      Thanks for the kind words!

      1. Great tips, thanks. You guys are pros!

      2. Jodie

        Packaging is sooo frustrating. It would be so helpful if you elaborated on this subject in a separate article. i.e. what supplies to use, and where to get the supplies, how to package the stuff, and most important, How much the packaging costs.
        Thank You

        1. Great idea, I will work on something like this.

  31. It’s an awesome feeling when you post something and it sells within a few minutes or hours, but then you begin second-guessing yourself if you let it go for too little! Hahaha. Ultimately, you have to remind yourself that it’s not doing you any good sitting around the house, and it’s better to have the money sooner rather than wait weeks or months for the item to sell for 10-20% more. I liken it to the law of diminishing returns. More time invested in the item doesn’t yield you an equivalent amount of return.
    We’re glad you liked the article! ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Diana

    Thank you for sharing your story, Veronica! It’s very inspiring and gave me some ideas what I can do to pay off my debt [I believe it’s 300K due to school, home, and new car I had to buy due to my accident] after the remodeling is done.

    1. You are very welcome, it is my pleasure! It sounds like you are going to have an amazing story to share once you pay down all of that debt! Best of luck!

  33. Great article. This didnโ€™t even read by me before. I might give it a try. Thanks for the article ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. Jessie

    I know you talked about this a little bit but I was wondering if you would go into more detail about paying taxes. My husband has been selling video game stuff on eBay and making a little bit of extra money. We decided if we put our minds to it we could buy make even more money. At what point do you have to pay taxes on your profit and what is your system to putting it aside? Also, do you stick to one type of product or do you thinks okay to sell all different types? And one last question, so u pay for a business account on eBay or do you just use a general account?

  35. Barbara

    Veronica,

    Thank you. That was a great article with fantastic tips:)

  36. Hi thanks for the article I really enjoyed reading it I currently sell on eBay I have about 100 100 items I’m Dana 9671. Just wondering if you could take a look and maybe give me some advice or so I just cause I haven’t really been trying really hard to make in this like my full-time because I only make 725 an hour I’m a single mom I barely get any child support I’m on the waiting list for assistance but thanks again for your time

  37. Theda

    Great article! I’ll give it a go and see how it goes.

  38. Brittany Brown

    I have been thinking of taking ebay full time so this is great advice thank you!

  39. A while back, I saw some things in Goodwill I know were of good value I could resell online for a markup profit. In fact, this would be an ideal side hustle inside of the affiliate marketing side hustle. Buying and selling online across selling platforms while writing lots and lots of content for DNN as the main side hustle. This is why I love the internet because there’s all kinds of grand opportunities to make money online 24 hours a day. So far, I sold a pair of Nike Air Force One sneakers and Polo Ralph Lauren sneakers both for $100 each. That’s a pretty good start thought I didn’t think @ the time of trying to sell then on eBaY.