Personal Finance

Your Stuff Is Just Stuff

Around here we’ve hit the peak of the fall yard sale season. I headed out this weekend to check out a few and came away flabbergasted by the prices some of the sellers were charging for their stuff. I’m an informed consumer and I generally know the prices of the things I buy. I know what an item costs new, on sale, or used. And many of these sellers were charging new prices for used items. There’s nothing wrong with this if you can get that kind of money, I guess. If you can find enough suckers to buy your stuff, more power to you. The problem is that many of these people were not moving any merchandise. People were driving up, taking one look and driving away. Not exactly the recipe for a successful yard sale.

I see this on programs like Clean House, as well. People ask too much for their stuff. They think that because it’s sentimental to them, or special in some other way, that it must be worth more money. The trouble is, your stuff, while priceless to you, is just stuff to everyone else. It is stuff that has a market value. It does not matter to the buyer that the item was carried over from Ireland by your grandfather (unless it’s a true antique). It doesn’t matter that your child read his first words in that book, or took his first steps on that blanket, or loved that stuffed animal like a brother. It doesn’t matter that you love all the DVD’s in the collection you’ve put up for sale. All that matters to the potential buyer is the price, the quality, and whether or not the item meets their needs. Buyers generally know how much items cost in the stores and no one in their right mind is going to give you $15 for a DVD that’s so old it sells in the $5.00 bin at Walmart.

It’s the same way with larger items like cars and RV’s. I frequently look at used RV’s since it is a passion of mine. I’m always flummoxed by sellers that are listing RV’s for twice the Blue Book value. I know what’s happening: They’re trying to sell the RV for what they owe on the loan, not at the fair market price. There are also some sellers who play the sentimental card. “Oh, it was my first RV (or car) they claim, and I just love it so much.” But you can’t move a car or RV by doing that. A buyer who knows his stuff (and that should be almost anyone who is looking to plonk down $20K or more on a car or camper) won’t bite. They’ll ask you for a lower price and if you won’t budge, they’ll go elsewhere. At some point you have to accept that you’re not going to get enough to pay off the loan and either keep the item or figure out a way to pay off the difference. You have to accept that, even if your children were conceived in that car or camper, no one else will pay you top dollar for a vehicle that’s not worth it. Your memories don’t matter to buyers.

When you want to sell your stuff, whatever it might be, you have to price it according to what the market will bear. You have to leave sentiment and loan balances out of it. You can’t ask for more than the item is worth on the market. No one is going to pay $20K for your used car with 50,000 miles on it when the new one down the road is selling for $22K. No one’s going to pay $10 for a paperback book that’s selling at Amazon for $4.99. Unless you luck into a sucker, your stuff will stay your stuff forever. Price your stuff at market value and it will move. Price it a little below market value and it will move even faster.

7 thoughts on “Your Stuff Is Just Stuff

  1. Yup. I have stopped going to garage sales because 1. I don’t need any stuff and 2. the stuff that I was seeing at garage sales was so over priced that to even dicker was useless. I can live without any more stuff. In fact, I am getting rid of stuff. But I am not having a garage sale. The cost of my time and effort wouldn’t cover the cost of the sale so I am donating. It feels much better.

  2. Stuff is just stuff. My wife and I regularly assess if we still need this stuff, and if not, we sell it! We recently went through our DVDs and other junk, and made a nice bit on Amazon!

  3. I agree, how much stuff do we need? Just because it is cheap does not mean that we need more stuff and clutter in our homes. Stuff does not equal contentment and we need to realize that in our culture. More is not always good.

  4. I generally am looking for three things ate yard sales, books for me to read and as I can read an entire book in a day I’m not going to pay big money for it especially since I have other sources for books, craft supplies on big markdowns and shirts for my husband who needs XT-long. He is self employed employeed and can wear what he wants-in summer T-shirts and winter flannel shirts. He also tends to use what he is wearing as a rag so I don’t spend much for them. Other than that I am astounded at all the stuff people are trying to sell. tons of toys and Christmas decorations lead the list. It seems like once you have your decorations why would you need more?

  5. Started going to yard sales this past summer again after not doing it for years and I’m sure I hit a few hundred of them. I swear every one of them had xmass decorations also, ha-ha. You are so right, stuff really is just stuff, yours isn’t special. I note too many people are asking too much for their junk. A pet peeve of mine are the ones who won’t put any prices on their junk, like you want to barter for it with them; always puts me off. I feel I made out well, however. Bought a good-sized TV for $10, a VCR player for $2 and I now have a ton of video tapes, most of them for 49 cents each, some never opened (my local thrifts are full of these also), nice puzzles and paperback books for a dime each. I’m real easy to please entertainment-wise. Found a great complete set of dishes very cheap (was tired of my own), a nice office chair for $3, etc. Everything I picked up I’m happily using. Because things seem so plentiful right now, I look at this whole process as making exchanges. I kind replace my stuff when I get tired of it and donate what I don’t want (stuff in good condition) to the Goodwill. I’ve even found two churches that give things away monthly and hit them occasionally, kind of exchanging my stuff there also. I love it.

  6. I find loads of bargains every weekend – especially on kid stuff! Just stay away from the “estate sales” which tend to have higher prices.

    It doesn’t hurt to ask for a lower price, negotiating is expected. And when you shop toward the end of a yard sale, sellers are more inclined to discount items because they don’t want to haul them back to the garage!

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