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My 'side project' is pretty conventional, but it surprises people to learn how much I've earned from it with very little effort. At least once or twice a week, I use my lunch break to walk to the local thrift store. I look up items on eBay as I browse and buy anything that would net me $20+ (basically to cover my lunch). I stick to the 'hard goods' section (things like electronics, games, DVDs, home appliances, books, etc). I avoid clothing which is difficult to browse quickly, difficult to list and difficult to find comparable items. I also avoid anything that would be unwieldy to carry home or ship.

The first year I started doing this, I grossed about $20000. Last year was bad. Our thrift stores shut down because of Covid. In late June of this year, I started back up slowly because our thrift stores came back. My gross for the last six months is $3,238.63. And again, because of Covid, I've stopped going daily like I was which cut into my fun money.

Last year I bought a brand new pinball machine from my thrift store finds.

Some tips:

If you can go every day, you only have to look at the 'new' stuff which saves lots of time.

The eBay app has a barcode scanner so you can look up anything that's in its original packaging by just scanning it.

Don't pass up anything vintage looking that's still sealed (even if it looks worthless). I sold nearly $100 worth of new in package vintage incandescent bulbs a little while back. I got the lot of them for like $10.

Save all the boxes you have coming to your house in advance of starting this. You can't sell stuff that you can't easily box up and ship.

Never use the post office or UPS/FedEx store. You can get a significant discount through pirateship.com (free to use, offers steep US Postal and UPS discounts) or even eBay's own shipping.

EDIT: A few more tips...

Once you're shipping at least one thing a week, buy a label printer like a Rollo Thermal Printer. It will save you lots of wasted time and energy in printing out, cutting the shipping label to size, taping it to the package securely, etc.

Invest in a good industrial shipping tape gun (not those cheap little plastic ones), get good brand-name shipping tape and a couple of large rolls of bubble wrap... also, start saving the packaging that comes into your house from your online purchases to be reused.

Get a bunch of 'newsprint' packing paper for packing up your stuff.

Basically: don't cheap out on supplies.

Stay organized. I use a set of plastic bins in the basement to store my items once they're listed.

As someone who used to have to buy everything secondhand, this makes me sad. I can't tell you how exciting it was to find something that you wanted but knew you couldn't afford going for a reasonable price at the thrift store. I feel like by buying up all of those quality items, you're depriving people in less fortunate situations from experiencing the same sort of happiness.

Concert tickets, graphics cards, game consoles... apartments and houses...

If it can be scalped, it will be. I'm not sure if the people who like to say "free market" would consider this a negative or a positive.

agreed, this is scummy. thrift and secondhand stores exist to serve a certain underprivileged segment of the population. not to facilitate arbitrage. but to each their own.

If we want thrift stores to act as some kind of welfare institution we shouldn't let everybody shop at them.

I’m on the fence about whether this is scummy. On the one hand, it is diminishing an institution that families like my own relied on to have halfway-decent things for our home. On the other, thrift stores could sell these things themselves and have more revenue to support charitable causes if that’s what they should be doing. I don’t think GP is a scum bag, but when a VC backed iPhone app shows up to gig-economize mass thrift store raiding and selling online I’ll be bothered.

That said, I don’t think “we shouldn’t let everybody shop there then” is meaningful. Means testing is itself expensive and would likely penalize the very people who need thrift stores. Some things depend on the members of a society having a shared sense of what is and isn’t decent. Halloween candy is free but if I organize gangs of kids to empty out every candy bowl and sell it online, Halloween won’t be any fun.

A lot of the quality stuff in thrift stores is bought by professional buyers and resold. I'd guess 90%+, it could be country dependent. It's part of the thrill to find underpriced items and make a good profit. If there are still a lot of bargains to be made at your local thrift stores, expect these bargains to disappear when pro's discover them or when stores discover that they underprice. Whatever is still left as a bargain is simply your niche knowledge advantage.

I recently found pirateship and it is indeed significantly cheaper than retail shipping prices. I told my mom about it and she refused to believe it isn't a scam!

How does pirateship work? Where do the savings come from if they're still using USPS under the hood?

I believe they just get a commercial rate from the USPS and they add a small percentage onto each transaction for themselves to make their money.

USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. all charge consumers "retail" prices that have very high profit margin for them. Businesses negotiate significantly lower rates that are closer to the real shipping cost. Pirateship acts as a broker, allowing people to access those lower negotiated rates.

They use Cubic pricing which Usps offers to high volume customers.

Same here, though I'm more keen on finding free items on the curb and/or posted on FBMP and CL. I also buy a fair amount from those places as well. We sold a Jeep Wrangler interior carpet set for $175 + shipping that we picked up for free from FBMP.

Right now making about $500/month with $150 going to a 10x10 climate controlled storage unit. At the door going into our unit is a dumpster and we found about 5 huge bags of toys that my wife is going through and listing. We've sold about $30 worth of free stuff from that single dumpster.

In July 2021 I did really well but was going balls to the wall with it and probably made close to $1000 that month. But I got burnt out quick and slowly started getting back into it. My wife has pretty much taken over it as her part- to full-time job (once she gets started on something she can't stop). She has successfully listed about 5 items a day for the past month.

Absolutely correct about the thermal label printer. Bought a brand new one for a fraction of the cost off of FBMP ;-)

I bought a tape gun and wasted more tape than what actually got on the box so ditched that.

Agree with don't skimp on shipping products. Makes life way easier.

So if I understand correctly, you buy things at the thrift store that are offered online for at least $20 more, to then do the same?

I just make sure that I will net $20 before I commit to purchasing an item from the thrift shop. This is:

  final eBay sale price
  - eBay fees
  - shipping // unless you have the buyer pay actual shipping 
  - the cost I paid for the item
  my net profit (hopefully more than $20 for my time and effort)
last week this happened:

two refrigerator filters new in package ($3.99 each) - selling on eBay for about $40 each - retail for about $50 each. My total sale price was $69.95 for both (I undercut the lowest listing by a dollar or so and offered 'free' shipping)

My shipping cost was about $5. My eBay fees were about $10 - they take quite a chunk. $70 - 25 = $45 profit

I probably could have held onto them longer, charging a higher price and not offering 'free' shipping, but sales have been slow because I haven't been buying much so I made them too good to pass up.

$45 for about 20 minutes of hustle isn't terrible. It took me all of 3 minutes to list them on eBay. I plopped them on my kitchen table, snapped a picture of them, searched for the same item in the 'sold' section of eBay. Clicked 'sell one like this' link, filled in a price, selected a shipping option and clicked 'post'.

How are you tracking everything for taxes?

Looks like 2021 and earlier, there's a cap of $20,000 before you need to report to IRS using Form 1099-K. Assuming the author is from the US, they may have stayed below this limit and not needed to report. However, beginning in January 2022 the limit is dropping down to $600 before needing to be reported using Form 1099-K.

Yep, I haven’t exceeded the reporting amount yet. Hopefully my tax situation doesn’t get overly complicated. If it does, I may need a new side project.

I know someone who does something similar from estate sales and has cleared 100k+

In Florida, estate sales price their stuff such that it is hard to flip. And by estate sale, I'm talking about the companies that come in and price everything, organize the items and are running the cash register.

If it is an estate sale run by the individual owner this is usually good and nothing more than a garage sale where everything is sale including the proverbial kitchen sink.

This is a really cool idea. I don’t live close enough to a thrift shop to justify this on more than a once-a-week basis unfortunately. I might have to start trying this though!

Do you know of any discount places to get the packing material you use? Would be funny if you found a thermal printer at the thrift shop.

Funnily enough, the digital scale I use for all my shipments was a thrift store find! I don’t know about discount shipping supplies. I sourced nearly 100% of my supplies from Amazon. I did have to invest in some nice vinyl album mailers after adding vinyl records to my repertoire. There is definitely a large up front cost for shipping supplies to avoid using those pack and ship places and their high prices.

surprised to see DVDs sell. I don't think I've played one for many years now, haven't even had the capability to play one!

Yep! Definitely look them up when you see them. There are lots of rare and hard to find ones... I focus on things like Criterion, box sets and anything that looks 'odd'. I picked up a five disc Anchor Bay set of WWII movies for $4 and they sold for nearly $15 each.

Don't skip on CDs, VHS, Cassettes or vinyl records! Though be sure to check the condition and that the correct disc is definitely in the case before you buy it.

Vinyl records are difficult to grade, so I would avoid them unless you can play them and reliably grade them OR they're sealed OR the surface on both sides appear immaculate. Sadly, they usually just add to my already overstuffed vinyl collection instead of winding up on eBay.

VHS and audio cassettes are hot right now as well, so if you see some classics, definitely give them a look on eBay before you pass on them. They usually have a barcode.

Typically someone will drop off their whole collection at place, so consider buying items to sell in a 'lot'.

A complete hardback Harry Potter book set is $100+! (usually $2 a piece at my thrift shop) I almost have a complete set from my many trips to the thrift store, so pick them up when you see them!

I think a lot of people like the hobbyist collection aspect of DVDs. There's also a pretty significant contingent of people who want access to films that have no (or no consistent) streaming options. Also, lots of films and TV shows that do not have licensed content.

> grossed about $20000

What was the net?

Probably somewhere around 13,000 I would guess. I haven’t been keeping track as it is still just a fun hobby-ish venture. I enjoy the thrill-of-the-hunt more than the money-making aspect. Though if the tax situation makes it complicated I may have to reconsider. It did net me a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pinball machine!

Bankruptcy sales can be profitable too using www.inforuptcy.com

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