Do the math

One of the benefits of growing older and having experienced more things is you get better at estimating how things will work out. This skill is worth improving and making use of whenever you're deciding if something is worth doing.

Here's an example. Let's say you have a bunch of stuff you want to get rid of. You do, yes? Yes.

It can be tough to make the call between sell and give away. We often lean toward sell because we feel guilty about just giving away something we spent money on or which was a gift. However, it's not always the best path.

Look over what you have and roughly decide what you would price it at if you were going to have a yard sale or sell it on Ebay or Craig's List.

I don't think you can sell something without spending a minimum of one hour dealing with selling it. For a lot of things – e.g. a yard sale or a trip to the flea market – assume at least 5 or 6 hours spent trying to sell the lot of it and that you might only sell half of it. (Don't forget to include the time spent sprawling around or taking a nap afterwards because you're too tired and sunbaked to do anything else).

Now look at what you'd get paid per hour for that time.

On Sunday morning I had a yard sale and made $61. (Yay! Sushi dinner at Sebo with Joe!) But, hmmm, even though it wasn't hard (I was mostly reading a book), I did only get paid at best $10/hour for the work it took to do the sale and that's not counting the recovery time after. Worth it? Could I have just done something else to save the same amount of money and had my Sunday free? And $50 of that came from one customer whose taste, apparently, matches very well my own, or at least my old taste. What if he hadn't happened by? (I would have knocked off an hour or two earlier, probably).

So, in my case, most stuff didn't sell, but it's now all sorted out by price and it would be easy to take it to the flea market to reach a much larger audience. Here's the decision process I just went through:

What I could probably get for the remaining stuff: $250
Amount of that represented by 3 more expensive items: $125
"Best possible case" return for selling at flea market = $250/6 = around $40 an hour
"Optimistic, but more realistic" case return for selling at flea market = half that = $20 an hour
"Entirely possible" case of return for selling at flea market = only a quarter of the stuff = about $60 = $10 an hour

Now, suppose I sold those 3 expensive items on Ebay or Craig's List. Two of them could be put in a lot together, so that's $125/2 = about $60 an hour. Much better.

My conclusion: try placing those 3 big items up for sale online and donate all the rest to charity.

Sometimes, maybe often, the best choice is to cut your losses and get the non-monetary benefit of having the crap out of your way.

Author: dinahsanders

Author. Discardian. Defender of life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness. she/her

3 thoughts on “Do the math”

  1. I ran into a similar cost-benefit analysis when trying to decide whether to slog through 26 years of accumulated stuff after my mother died, or just chuck the lot (minus her paintings and photographs). I called a haulage company, and didn’t even have to move anything. They took everything, and I was freed up to deal with all the other fun things inherent in settling a loved one’s affairs after their death. It can be amazingly liberating sometimes to just cut one’s losses, as you put it.

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  2. Very smart advice, doing a cost/benefit analysis. The ROI for yard sales can be very small.
    I’ll have to do that as I clear out.

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  3. I like to do “spontaneous” garage sales with friends. Throughout the year I sort out and donate not that nice/not worth much items. Tben one of us will say “garage sale in two weeks” and we go around our homes looking for small items to sell. When you have that time line it lessens decision time, you can price your items ahead of time and set up/selling chores are shared with your friends. Just don’t buy your friends’ stuff and get more clutter!

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