How I Made $545 in One Week Selling Free Clothes I Got on Craigslist
I’ve been selling on eBay for years.
It started with old clothes that didn’t fit, and after gaining some experience, I started checking out thrift shops, garage sales and bulk lots on eBay for items I could buy and flip for a profit.
However, this method had some risk: What if I bought something I couldn’t resell?
The “Free” section of Craigslist was my answer.
I started checking listings every day. Within a week, I found the first promising post: five boxes of men’s clothes, shoes and ties (many designer and new with tags) out on the street, about a mile from my office.
Before I picked up the boxes, I took a quick look through each one and determined three had items I could probably resell.
Once I took them home, I spent about an hour sorting through everything.
Here’s a breakdown of what I found -- and how I turned it into $870 worth of cash, tax savings and free clothes.
Free Clothing for my Fiance: $200
Before I listed anything for sale, I let my fiance look through the boxes and keep anything he wanted.
He ended up taking two pairs of like-new Ralph Lauren khakis, a Ralph Lauren sweater, three silk ties and an unopened travel kit.
The retail value of all of these items likely would have been well over $200, but I based this estimate on what he would spend for similar clothing at places like Nordstrom Rack.
Donation to Goodwill: $125 Tax Savings
Next, I sorted through the boxes and separated items into two piles: resell or donate.
Since the clothes were all brand-name and classic styles, the donation pile included pieces that looked too worn out to resell or anything with minor rips or stains.
I dropped these off at Goodwill and made sure to ask for a receipt -- they generally give you a form they’ve signed and dated and you fill in the rest.
I later looked up the median fair market value for each piece using TurboTax and estimated the total value at about $475, which lowered my tax bill by $125.
Selling on eBay: $545
Before listing the rest on eBay, I did some research and looked at prices for similar items that had recently sold.
I then listed my items as a mix of both auctions and “buy it now” prices. I generally list lower-priced items I expect to sell quickly as auctions, which I did with all of the shirts.
I usually reserve “buy it now” for items that will take longer to sell or are worth higher prices -- think high-end designer handbags, jewelry, clothing and mixed lots and similar items.
But since I had so many ties and eBay doesn’t allow duplicate auctions, I created six separate “buy it now” listings, one for each of the six colors. On each one, I noted I had multiple items to sell.
I may have been able to get slightly more for each item if I’d priced them a bit higher and been willing to relist things a few times if they didn’t sell immediately. However, one of my goals was to get rid of the clothing quickly and minimize clutter, so I priced everything to sell.
I also made sure to take good, clear photos, and searched sites like Macy’s and Eddie Bauer for manufacturers descriptions and detailed measurements of each item.
When selling clothes online, including more detail is better. Buyers want to be sure the items will fit before making a purchase.
After taking all of the steps outlined above, most items sold within a week at the following prices:
- 100 silk ties sealed in original packaging: $4 each
- Nine polo shirts (Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, etc.): $5 each
- 10 dress shirts (Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, etc.): $10 each
What Else Could You Find for Free?
While this one ad was an exceptional find, if you check Craigslist regularly enough, you’re likely to find some good stuff!
I’ve been checking daily and have seen tons of free clothes, working TVs, exercise equipment, furniture, household goods and more.
Now that it’s yard sale season, I’ve even seen listings for people are giving away all of the items they couldn’t sell.
For better results, try looking at listings in big cities within driving distance and make a day or weekend trip out of it.
Check wealthier towns, check often and be prepared to grab items quickly -- before someone else does!
Your Turn: Have you ever sold free items you’ve found on Craigslist? How much did you make?
Kerrie Urban is a freelance writer and fashionista on a budget, obsessed with finding great deals!