I'm a diehard thrifter and garage sale addict! I love the thrill of the hunt! And I love making CASH from trash so I also resell on eBay and Etsy. I share my successes to inspire you ... and my failures so you learn from my mistakes. Please join me on this wild and crazy ride of making cash from trash!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Selling on eBay: What Does Net Margin Mean to Me?


It means PROFIT!  It means money in my pocket!  Net margin or net profit margin measures how much out of every dollar of sales you actually keep in earnings.

I recently read  about two very successful entrepreneurs and their business:  The Longaberger Basket Co. and the Pampered Chef.  They mentioned “net margin” so I decided to look into that a little more.

“Net margin” is the ratio of your net profits to your revenues.  Your net profit is your income (revenue) minus what you paid for your product (Cost of Goods Sold or COGS) and other operating expenses. Your “net margin” is then calculated by dividing your net profit by your revenue.

UPDATE (12/26/13): Net sales is your income (revenue) – income from both sales and shipping – MINUS any returns and/or allowances.  If the good is returned by the customer, it is not considered a sale, as the customer will receive a credit or money back (refund), so it needs to be deducted from the gross sales.


We all know that revenues minus expenses equals profit.  And some sellers say they won’t buy an item unless they can get 4x, 5x or even 10x what they paid.  Of course, we all know that if we pay 25-cents for an item that we KNOW we can sell for $10, $20, even $30, who cares about percentages … we know we’re gonna make money!


But there are times when I wonder about an item, especially as I start looking at higher-priced items.  If I buy it for $20 but can’t get 4x what I paid, is it worth it?  If I can only resell it for $60 or $50, is it worth it?  One seller said she bought a lot of dresses at Marshall’s clearance for $15 each.  She’s been reselling them for $35 to $40.  I wonder, is this something I should look into?  I needed something that could quantify my risk and I started looking at “net margin”.

So, let’s compare and see what constitutes a good “net margin”.  Net margins vary from company to company and from industry to industry. Walmart has made a fortune for its shareholders with a net margin of only 5%.  Grocery stores/supermarkets operate on a net margin of 1%-3%.  Even some of the most profitable retail-types have a net margin of 4.5% to 5.9%.  Of course, these large corporations can afford these very slim profit margins because they have millions of dollars in sales.


But, really, what is a good net profit margin?  Of course, the higher the better!  For me, anywhere between 20% to 40% is good and 10% up to 20% is okay. Under 5% is definitely not good, but 50% and above is terrific.

In my previous Cash For Trash post, you may have noticed that I included the net margin for each sale. My net margins ranged from 40% to 75%. 

Of course, I’m pretty sure not all my sales have such high net margins. But I do know that my net margin for my July sales was a nice 52%. So, Walmart, eat your heart out!


There is plenty of information on the internet to help you with your business – and you don’t have to be a business major to know how to make money. That’s the beauty of it all!  BTW, I highly recommend these two books:  Longaberger, An American Success Story; and The Pampered Chef, The Story Behind …

Happy thrifting and reselling!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cash for Trash: July Winners

Wow, two posts in one week!  I think I’m on a roll … LOL.  Here are my highlights for July.
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I bought several large pieces of this Franciscan Apple design at a garage sale for only $1 each.  This was a newer piece made in Portugal, but some of the vintage pieces in this design made in the USA can sell for some good money.  It sold for $38.49 and went to a buyer in Florida.  Net margin = 51%
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Illustration of a fourth place ribbon
I originally bought this at the GW for our own personal use.  It was reasonably priced at $5 and in nice clean condition so I brought it home.  It sat on the counter for awhile, and I never bothered to learn how to use it.  Then one day I ran across this post from Frank over at Fruzies blog.  It was the exact same espresso maker in black; and he’d sold it for $49!  Hmmm, this machine may not be making any coffee, but it may make me a nice chunk of change.  It sold within 3 weeks for $49 to a buyer in Indiana.  Thanks, Frank! Net margin = 40%
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Illustration of a third place ribbon
I bought this incomplete dinnerware set of 20 pieces at the GW for $12.99.  These pieces were made in England and are just beautiful.  They were also brown transferware, which is collectible.  I listed the 6 dinner plates at $12 each (plus shipping) in one listing.  Four plates sold right away to a buyer in New Hampshire for a total of $64.90.  The last 2 plates also sold recently to a buyer in Oklahoma who paid a total of $35.74. Total paid for all 6 dinner plates is $100.94.  Net margin = 58%
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If you haven’t already, be sure to add Griswold cast iron on your BOLO list.  I purchased this at an estate sale.  I purchased both this 10” skillet and an Emeril Lagasse skillet for $18.  I knew the lidded Griswold skillet would fetch a good price, but wasn’t so sure about Emeril’s.  Turns out that used Emeril skillets don’t fetch much more than $10-$15, so I kept it for personal use.  The Griswold skillet with lid sold for a total of $80.95 to a buyer in Alabama.  Net margin = 60%
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I purchased this Christmas village building early this year for only $2.39 at the SA half-price sale.  It was Dept 56 and I knew it would be a good seller; but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep it or sell it.  I finally decided to list it when I saw how much $$ this could fetch.  I listed it in July – the middle of summer – thinking it would sit in my store for a couple of months.  It sold within 6 days for a total of $85.42 to a buyer in Pennsylvania.  Christmas sells year round, even in the summer!  Net margin = 68%
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This is another DH find from a garage sale.  This tool set was brand new, never used, and we paid $10 for it.  We weren’t sure how much it would re-sell for but DH decided to take a chance.  Of course, I’m thinking $100-plus; but the original price was $79, although I think it’s no longer available in stores.  I put it up for action with a starting price of $75 plus shipping.  It ended up selling for a total of $96.00 to a buyer in Illinois. Net margin = 75%
Now that’s cash for trash!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Selling on eBay: When it Rains, It Pours

6312 (3)Have you ever had one of those weeks whern you just want to hibernate in a cave for as long as you can.  Well, last week was it for me and it started with these jeans.
Last week Monday started off just like any other day.  Coffee mug by my side, I sat at my computer and opened my eBay messages. First message was from the buyer of the jeans who said she was “so mad” because the jeans didn’t fit and was returning them.  Surprise to me, because she was so happy when she received the pants, she’d already left positive FB.  Okay, weird, but no problem … except today I get a message from her that tracking shows the pants were delivered and she was looking for her refund.  Problem is I didn’t get them.  I asked her to give me the confirmation # and address where she mailed it so I can check with my carrier.  To be continued …
Second message was from eBay telling me I was in violation of their name-brand policy – again – and now my policy compliance status was “medium”.  Oh, no, not good at all!
M8555It all started with a listing for McCalls patterns for doll clothes.  The title included the words American Girl.  However, the week before last, eBay removed the listing because it was in violation of their name-brand policy.  Their email also said I could use the words “fits”, “compatible with”, etc.  I relist with a new title that says the pattern “fits American Girl or Gotz or Corolle'”.
Thinking I was in compliance, I was totally surprised when they removed the listing again.  That’s 2 violations within a couple of weeks and my status is downgraded.  This was serious so I called eBay – my first time ever.  I spoke with the first rep; and after reviewing the emails from eBay and discussing it with me, he said he didn’t understand.  He transfers me to another rep in the Policy Compliance division.  Go through the whole thing again; and this rep explains that they do not allow the exception of using “fits”, etc. for clothing and jewelry … and that it also applies to doll clothes.  Seriously?!  I then ask him if I can use the brand American Girl if the pattern is for doll accessories, because this makes no sense at all.  The rep could not give me an answer so he checks with his supervisor.  Turns out that when I relisted the patterns, I added 3 brand names, instead of just American Girl.  They now considered this “search manipulation”.  What?!
I pleaded my case and how confusing this was not just for them, but especially for me.  So they agreed to remove the 2nd policy violation and I agreed to revise my title to “McCalls 18” Doll Clothes for your Favorite American Girl Doll.”  Although it took a week to show up, my status is now “good.” 
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After my call to eBay, it’s Monday afternoon and the day is not over.  I notice someone left me a NEG feedback – my first in over a year.  I already  had a headache and I was not happy about this.  The buyer had only 3 feedbacks and never contacted me to let me know she was unhappy.  I posted a reply to her NEG FB, but decided to also contact her explaining that I do offer returns and refunds. 
She responded saying the item was not what she expected; she said they were “jeggings”.  I knew when I listed these jeans, they were pretty worn and faded; and debated about listing them.  I did say they had moderate wash/wear, but I had no clue what jeggings are (now I do).   In hindsight, I probably could have written a better description so I decided to offer her a full refund.  I told her to keep the jeans as I didn’t want to incur the additional cost of return shipping.    This ended up costing me $1 for the jeans plus the $5.35 for shipping. 
This was bad enough, but getting the NEG FB made it worse.  I’d read posts from sellers who have had NEG FB revised.  In my message, I asked her if she would revise her FB and she agreed.  I did tell her it’s always best to contact a seller prior to leaving NEG FB because most sellers will work with their buyers to resolve any issues.  So this was a lesson learned for both of us.
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So it’s still Monday and I get a message from the unhappy buyer of these mugs.  This time, I know I messed up … and by now, I was ready to throw in the towel.  Getting a part-time job was looking pretty good!
When these mugs sold, I’d run out of packing material; and it took me a day to get to the store plus another day to pack and ship.  I was a little worried the package would take a day too long.  However, it was going by Priority Mail so the buyer would get it in couple of days. 
Many times I’ve had buyers contact me when they purchase an item asking me to ship it out right away because they  need it by a certain date.  Unfortunately, this buyer did not let me know she was expecting the mugs for her mother’s birthday on Saturday; and the mugs still had not arrived by Monday.  Okay, so she’s known her mother’s birthday was coming up for a whole year, and she waits until the week before to order something ONLINE.  Then expects it to arrive on time from California to New York.  Now you make it my problem … really?
Anyway, I send her a message apologizing for the delay, and give her the option to return the mugs for a full refund.  Or if she wishes to keep the mugs, I can give her a refund on shipping.  As I’m waiting for her response, I’m now worried the mugs will arrive broken.
The mugs finally arrive on Tuesday, safe and sound … except one mug is the wrong color!  Now she’s really upset, but still does not tell me what she wants to do.  I send a message asking what I can do to make it right.  She responds that she would like the right color if I still have the mug.  The tone of her email is now much calmer and understanding.  Unfortunately, I tell her that the 2nd set of mugs also sold and has already been shipped.  Apparently, when packing the two sets, I mistakenly switched the mugs.  What to do?
I find the right color mug on eBay and offer to buy it and have it shipped directly to her.  This was actually cheaper for me than to refund the shipping.  She responds that she talked it over with her mom, and her mom is actually happy with the colors she received.  She said if I refunded half the shipping cost, she would be happy.  That worked for me and I still made a small profit.
This is one of those times when I was expecting to get NEG FB, but so far, the buyer has not left any.

Last week’s issues were not limited to eBay.  Our dryer went out also on Monday; and the cost of repair is $300+ and a week turnaround.  In the meantime, we are hanging our clothes to dry on a small wood rack and the backs of chairs!  Hopefully, will be ready any day now.
Oh, it doesn’t end there, either.  Without going into detail, I fell -- force landed – on top of the dishwasher’s open door and eventually ended up on the floor.   Other than a bruise on my shin, I am fine.  The dishwasher is another story.  The force and weight of my body, broke the door off its hinges.  It’s pretty old and DH doesn’t want to incur the cost of repair, especially since we still need to pay for the dryer.  So we’ll be washing dishes by hand for awhile.  Good thing I have 2 alternate dishwashers – they’re called sons!

Anyway, I'm so glad that week is over!  I am also happy that  I was able to spend  the rest of the week and weekend with my granddaughters who came for a visit from Texas.  So sad they are leaving tomorrow and I’m missing them so much!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cash for Trash: June Winners

This is a long overdue Cash for Trash post! It’s been a couple of months since I highlighted my May sales; so following the same format, I am highlighting a few of my June sales. (Total paid includes shipping.)

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Award_-_Honorable_mentionHonorable mention goes to this Disney Snow White Music Box.  I bought this at a garage sale and could tell it was a quality item.  It was in perfect condition so I was surprised when the seller said she would take a $1 for it.  This went to a buyer in Northern California for a total of $42.58.

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bmet___4th_place_ribbon_by_baringa_of_the_wind-d4wmd5gThis 14-piece bamboo knife block by Calphalon Katana takes 4th place.  I always look for knife blocks at the TS, although not all blocks are created equal.  I previously mentioned Cutco in this post; but I had never heard of Calphalon.  I picked it up because it was heavy and was a well-made quality block.  I paid $4.99 for it, and it sold for a total of $59.40 to a buyer in Virginia.

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3rd place

Third place goes to these Creative Memories scrapbook pages.  We found these at a garage sale towards the end of the morning.  There were only a couple of tables and not very much left.  While I was immediately attracted to a few mugs at one table (see 1st place winner), DH was perusing the other table.  I heard DH mention Creative Memories so I went over.  There were 4 packs of scrapbook pages, brand new, still sealed.  The seller said someone had purchased the albums but left the pages.  I knew albums would sell, but I wasn’t sure of the pages.  My first reaction was to just leave them behind; but when she said she wanted 25-cents for each, I grabbed them.  Little did I know these would sell for $20 each!  These particular pages are discontinued, and buyers with the older style albums are willing pay top dollar for them.  That $1 purchase turned into two sales, totaling $80.99!  Ka-ching!

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second_place1This vintage chalkware statue of Saint Rita takes 2nd place. I never realized that these old religious statues are collectibles.  I found an Etsy seller who only sells these statues and some of them sell for some pretty good money.  Since you never know what you’ll run into while thrifting or saling, keep an eye out for these and maybe add them to your BOLO list.

I remembered that I had an old statue somewhere in the dark corners of a closet gathering dust.  I’ve had it for a gazillion years, mostly out of sentimental value because it had been in my family for years.  But I knew that if I kept it that it would continue to reside n the closet.  What was the point of that?  So I finally decided to sell it.  I had no idea its worth; so I pulled the starting price from the air and listed it at auction.  It sold for a total of $83.12 and went to a buyer here in California.

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first_placeAnd the winner … is this set of three Disney mugs.  I found these at the same yard sale as the Creative Memories scrapbook pages.  They just caught my eye and I was really happy when I saw they were Disney mugs, especially because I had never seen this design before.  The seller said she wanted a quarter for each!  Gosh, I love garage sales like this!  I listed them individually, and they sold within days for $35.98 each.  That’s a return of $107.94 on a 75-cent investment! Ka-ching!!

Now that’s cash for trash!

June and July are traditionally slow months, but this year they have been better than in previous years.  I’m glad August is here and looks like sales are picking up even more!  Hope you’ve had a great summer so far and doing well with your online sales.

Happy thrifting and saling!