Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Selling on eBay

This winter my husband and I decided that our big project would be going through all the boxes in the basement and clearing out stuff.    We hit upon the idea of  selling on ebay, which we have done off and on for a number of years.
The added incentive was to have my cousin and her husband come over and teach them how to sell online too.  It has worked out amazingly well.   We have kept each other motivated and have fun at the same time.   Karl takes such professional pictures that makes selling anything easy.   The photo's do all the "talking."    Once a week we  get together take a bunch of pictures, talk and laugh and then have dinner together.   And in the meantime the boxes are slowly disappearing and we are making some extra money as well. A definite win win!   Our "store"  http://www.ebay.com/usr/danterri.

We have learned so much together and I wanted to make a record of all of it so I don't forget.  So in no particular order here is my brain dump on selling on eBay.

1) Notebooks -  Having a notebook just for selling is great for staying organized especially for  researching the items I want to sell. My method is to write the name of the item at the top of page and use that page just for that, no more hunting through pages of notes. 
As I research online (ebay, google...) I make notes on description words, model numbers and anything else that stands out to use for when I am posting the item for sale.  I also note a dollar range and measurements.
On the side I write down the pictures numbers / date taken to make those easy to find.   After the item is listed I put a big check mark on the top. It is satisfying to check them off one by one.  Later after it sells, I note how much we sold it for.  I just started my 3rd notebook.

2)  Facebook Groups -I have found some wonderful groups on Facebook that have made the experience this time around so much better!   The best one with helpful folks and always a positive attitude is called The Thrifting Board.  With this group you can post pictures of items that you need help with and since they have so many members others will chime in with their advice.  We have learned LOTS about selling and good customer service. I highly recommend it!    I now know what BOLO's are (Be On the Look Out).  These are items that are regularly seen at Thrift stores, garage sales. etc. that I normally would have just passed right up.  I have learned that some of these are worth more than you would think.   I have tried a bunch of them and am so thankful for the knowledge that others have shared with me.   Some of the BOLO's I have learned about are coffee mugs,  Needlecraft kits and stuffed animals.    Of course the flip side of all this information is that it makes me want to rush out and buy more things to sell!   And as the initial goal was to clear out the basement it seems counter-intuitive but it has worked out quite well.

3)   Selling -In the past we just did auctions only. We still do them for the first time we are listing items, especially if we are not sure what price to ask for it.   But gradually we became more comfortable with trying BIN (buy it now) and BO (best offer) options on eBay. I have learned how to make counter offers.  We have also learned how to use online shipping labels that save a lot of time.   The only  thing we have not become comfortable with yet and that may change down the road, is selling internationally.   One step at a time.

4)  Pinterest -This has been a great way to organize Resources.  All those wonderful pages with information about identifying silverware patterns, hat styles, jewelry makers and so on that would have got lost by book marking them, are now on a board on Pinterest.   I have also learned that it can be a great marketing tool.   For instance I had a number of items that related to weddings.  So on the advice of TTB (the thrifting board)  I made a vintage Wedding board.   The idea is that you pin a number of items related to the topic and after every 4th one you add one of your own ebay listings and keep going.  Putting together the wedding board was fun and I really got into it.   It has also been a good place to keep track of BOLO's. 

5)  Packaging - My husband has become a master packer!  Most of the positive feedback we get mentions the great packaging.   We use as much recycled material as we can.  Saving boxes from anything has been a great way to save money.  Bubble wrap, tissue paper, newspaper, brown grocery bags, plastic grocery bags are all used.  A new one I just learned about but haven't tried yet is pool noodles. You can cut these up and use them to hold fragile items like plates or to line boxes with it.
We are always on the look out for packaging materials at stores.

6)  Storage - Once I list an item then it is moved upstairs and kept safe until it is sold.   I have plastic bins that I have found at the thrift stores and I put a paper on the top listing the items that are individually wrapped inside.  Another great discovery was berry crates that we found at Costco.  These are heavy duty cardboard boxes that stack very nicely.  I try to keep like items together so for instance have all my jewelry in one and toys in another.  The raspberry crates are a nice small size.   I am still working on keeping track of the stored items.  Ideally I should have the bins/ boxes numbered and somewhere either in my notebook or on a spreadsheet a note about where the item is stored.

7)  Record Keeping - As eBay only stores a list of items that have been sold for the last 60 days I am coming up with a system to keep track of the sales.  If we ever get to having a store I believe there are ways to keep track of these on the site.  In the meantime I am using google sheets for the purpose.  I am trying to keep records of the name of the item, how much we paid for it, what it sold for, shipping costs and dates for each one. 

8)  Pictures - The better the pictures the less you have to describe your item.   Most listings let you have up to 12 pictures for free so we try to take enough shots to use all those.  We do all angles, insides, bottoms and close ups of tags/ markings. Also any defects or special features.   We have had fun "staging' these shots to make them look their best.  For glass items it is better to try to use sunny days where natural lighting makes them just shine.  We are so thankful to Karl for his professional shots and knowledge!!  This year I learned that if I highlight the first picture I want for my listing then hold down the shift key and click the last picture (if they are in order) then it will select them all and load them one after another. Big time saver!

9)  Descriptions -  I have learned from Diane to copy and paste my title into the description post. I've discovered that the title doesn't have spell check so by copying it I have found spelling errors I might have missed.
I try to use up all the available spaces allotted for the title and get all the pertinent information. Each letter in the title should began with a capital and take out all punctuation (it messes up search engines).  By copying the title into the description box I can just add more info for each part of the description.  I try to have just bullet points so they are easy to read.   To make your listing mobile friendly use at least 14 font size and align it to the left.

10)  Finding items to Sell -  This is the part I think is the most fun!  We like going to thrift stores  year round and garage sales in the summer.  I have always loved treasure hunting.   Now I feel like I have graduated to being a more informed shopper.   The ultimate tool for this is a smart phone or notepad.  Then you can research items while you are shopping.  Some day soon we hope to have one.  In the meantime  I just go with my gut reaction.     My method for thrift stores is to go through the store and really concentrate on a few areas during the "hunt".  I put anything I might be interested in my cart.  When I am done with that then I go through the cart and start really looking at each item and deciding what I want to buy.  I try to keep the BOLO's in mind and I am learning to trust myself more.  If I really like it then I figure that someone else will like it too.   Garage sales are a little more work but you can find some great deals.   The other more obvious place to look for items to sell is at home.  Once you have made a few sales you start looking at your belongings in a different light!  It has changed how we think about our stuff.   We have made it into a part time business and are are loving working from home.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Grandma's Library

I love childrens' books!  I  have been collecting them for years.  
It all started 30 years ago when our daughter was born.  I soon discovered that she would sit contently in my lap and let me read to her when she was a baby.
We started out with simple board books that matched her attention span.  Then we went to short sentences and if they rhymed she liked them even more.   So began my search for good books.
Little did I know that it would become a fun life time hobby!

We did go to the library too but since little children can be hard on anything as fragile as paper, I wanted to start getting some books for her own.    I shopped at thrift stores,  used library sales and spent hours crouched down on driveways at garage sales looking for good books.  

Six years later our oldest son was born and the search continued.  He liked cars, trucks and trains so those were added to our collection.   Nine years after that came our youngest son and I continued the tradition of starting to read to him when he was a baby.   As they grew the books became longer and we would graduate to chapter books.  It became our bed time ritual to have them all tucked in bed and I would read out loud to them.   Even when they became adolescents they liked to be read to.
We have shared many laughs over a book.

When my youngest son out grew some of the books I thought about clearing them out to put in our yearly garage sale.  I did sell lots but there were some that I couldn't part with.   I decided that I would keep our favorites and box them up and save them for them to share with their own children.
I imagined reading it to my grand children and hearing them laugh at the same parts that their Mommy and Daddy liked when they were little.

When I started to have nieces and nephews I would buy them books too. If nothing else I wanted to be remembered as the Aunt who gave them books.  

About 5 years ago we hit a time in our lives when money was very short.  I sadly realized that I might have to stop buying children's books.  It had become such a habit that my cousins would tease me when we went thrift store shopping together and I would head straight for the bookshelves.  They nick named me the crazy book lady.    How could I give up something that I enjoyed so much?

Thinking it over one day I came upon the solution.   I could still buy them if I could sell them and help with our finances.    Oh joy!    A year before this our daughter was married and while she and her husband were visiting I showed them the book case that had all the books I was saving for their children.  My son in law looked at them and smiled and said Grandma's library.   So when I decided to start selling books on Amazon that is the name that popped into my head for my store. 

Grandma's Library was born!  I went on happily looking for books.  The wonderful thing is that since I had been looking for books for so many years, I could easily spot those  that I had never seen before.  These are usually the best ones to sell.  There are hundreds of copies of all the favorite ones like Dr. Seuss and they are not worth much online.   Without realizing it I had gained some knowledge of children's books. 

Two years ago our first grand child was born, a beautiful little girl.   And the tradition continues.  I have bought her lots of books and will continue to do so.  And just this last summer we are now the proud grand parents of the sweetest little boy.   More books coming. 

Grandma's library online has done well. I like thinking that I am helping to spread my love of good books to other little children.  And I love that I now am blessed to do so with my own grandchildren.
My "library" on Amazon   

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Stone Soup

When the cold weather hits I haul out my crockpot and start making soup.

No Matter what the recipe is I usually start by adding 2 large onions, 5-6 cloves of garlic, 2 large carrots, 3 stalks of celery with the leaves and fresh parsley.     I use a small food processor for the onions, garlic, celery leaves and parsley and when I am done I rinse the bowl of the food processor with a little water to get every last bit of veggie goodness and add it to the pot. It always make me feel very frugal.   

What has saved many an otherwise ho-hum pot of soup is a jar of Better than Bouillon in my fridge.  Just add a heaping tablespoon or two and it tastes better every time.   I have given jars of it as gifts, that's how much I like it.  Somewhere I read about a woman who feels the same way about  Italian Seasoning, she said she puts it in everything and so I crush some in my hands to get the most flavor and add it too.

Next I add some type of protein - meat, barley or beans.  Beans!.  There is this awesome little Mennonite store by my Mom's house that sells all sorts of beans in bags for a very reasonable price.   I like to buy all different colors and then mix them together in tall storage jars ( it looks pretty on the shelf too).
  A friend told me that her kids will eat any soup with Red Lentils in it because they make the soup creamy.  So that is one of the beans I add to my mix.

I like that I can throw this all in the night before and let it cook on low while I sleep. 
In the morning I take a peek and if necessary add some more water and it is ready to eat by lunch.

While I was chopping up the veggies tonight I was thinking about the children's book Stone Soup.   In that story a stranger comes to a town and the people there will not share their food with him.     .  He offers to make them the best tasting soup they ever had and they are eager to try it.  He asks for the biggest pot that they have and fills it with water.  Then he adds an ordinary stone to it.   After the water has heated up he tastes it and says something like you know what this soup needs?   And proceeds to ask for first onions, then carrots and on through a list of ingredients that each of the neighbors, one by one,  runs and eagerly gets to add to the soup.  I love that they are all working together and are not aware of what this stranger is teaching them about sharing.   In the end the soup tastes just right and they are all amazed that a stone could make such good food.      It makes me realize that food is meant to be shared.