Cash in Your Closet

I posted awhile back about my engagement and how I would be saving money over the next several months for my wedding dress. The task was a little daunting at first, despite rolling in the dough from my high-paying public school paycheck. My plan of attack was multi-faceted. I would offer discounts in my Etsy shop to promote sales, I would cut back on my Starbucks affair, and I would take on a rather sizable project I had been planning on tackling for awhile… cleaning out my closet.

At first I didn’t know how lucrative that last idea would be. If I don’t want to wear it anymore, who would? I tend to wear my clothes until they are on their last leg… or sleeve. I have one J.Crew shirt in particular that I wear at least once a week that should probably be retired to the pajama drawer. That said, I was skeptical that any item in my closet would fetch even a handful of pennies. But, I went to work anyway. Pulling literally everything out of my closet, my goal was to be perfectly honest with myself. Will I ever wear this again?

The result? More space in my closet, less room in my wallet! It feels amazing.

Think this is worth a shot? Here are some tips:

  • Set a goal. It helps if this goal is more than “a new car!” I find that generalized or overly simple goals like this lead to failure and self loathing. The idea here is to motivate yourself to stick with the plan, not to punish yourself if you decide you really do want to keep that dress you wore on your anniversary. Instead, your goal should be more along the lines of: “In three months I want to have a down payment for a car… in cash,” OR “I want to make 50% of my car payment every month from supplemental income. Months one and two are in my closet.” That way you avoid sobbing over your Vanilla Soy Latte thinking I bought this coffee and now I can’t have a new car. That’s just not healthy. It helps to have specifics, numbers, and a timeline. My goal was the idea of not having to pull out the credit card when I purchase my dress. Weddings are expensive and stressful enough already, I didn’t want the guilt of my beautiful dress weighing on my mind as I walked down the aisle.
  • Break out the champagne. Okay, this may sound silly. But I had no less than 3 mimosas the night I cleaned out my closet. I listened to Taylor Swift and sipped my favorite beverage as I asked myself, When was the last time I wore this? and Is this really me? It kept the mood light and my spirits up. Make this task a party for one!
  • I do mean a party for one. If you think having your best friend there for moral support will help you stay objective, then by all means invite her over. Just try not to give her everything you are getting rid of… unless she wants to pay you for it. There is no harm in donating a few items to the well being of your friendship, but if she walks out the door with everything you throw out, you won’t have anything to sell. Sad. Also, please don’t try this with your significant other present. First of all, they may catch on to that shoe obsession you’ve been hiding throughout your relationship. More importantly, everything you try on will “look great.” Let’s face it, when it comes to that special someone, nothing could ever make you look fat and you look just as good in those American Eagle “flares” as you did in high school. In short, this is a task best done solo.
  • Think about the wardrobe you want. Sure, you’re saving for something in particular. But that doesn’t mean you need to walk around naked. And you shouldn’t. Ever. Keep the items you love, and the ones that are necessary. Then, think about replacing some of the items. Think: Do I even like these three button down shirts I wear maybe twice a year? Or would I be better off with one really nice shirt for important meetings or interviews?
  • Consider about the big picture. I had a Kate Spade bag in the back of my closet that I adored. Problem was, in the few years I’d had it, I could count on one hand how many times I’d used it. I wanted to keep it. It was Kate Spade, after all. But when I looked at the big picture, I realized that the purse I rarely used or even thought of was going to help me pay for the most important article of clothing I would ever purchase. Mimosa in hand, I put the bag up on eBay and it sold for $100. Not bad.
  • Find the best place to showcase your items. Personally, I use eBay. It is fairly hassle free and there is a lot in place to protect you from scams and shipping hassles. One thing you want to keep in mind is how much you are willing to pay for a commission. Yeah, I know, it kind of sucks (for lack of a better term- my 6th graders would gasp). They are your items, you are the one doing the work to sell them, you should keep all the money, right? Well, unless you are ready to stand out in your driveway garage sale style, or you have the smarts to build your own website, link to PayPal, and advertise to gain site traffic, you really aren’t doing all of the work. The commission is worth it. Do pay attention to the percentage some sites take though. I found one that seemed like a great option… until I realized that they take 20%. Point is, do your research. You may love eBay like I do (it is unusually thrilling to watch active bidding on your items) or you may like the more personal aspect of going into a local consignment shop.
  • Finally, be reasonable. There is a difference between “gently used” and “worn out.” No one wants to spend money on jeans that have holes in all the wrong places, or that white t-shirt with the disgusting pit stains. Those items belong in the dumpster, or -if it’s a sentimental piece- in the back of you closet in a box. Some things are better off being donated to Goodwill. Like faded t-shirts from big-box stores, or low price items that you don’t have enough of to sell as part of a lot. Similarly, you need to price things fairly. Yes, you may have paid $150 for that cashmere sweater five years ago. And sure, maybe you have only worn it three times. But it is still technically “used,” not to mention that it may also be outdated. The important thing to keep in mind here is that at this point, any money you make off that sweater is going to feel like profit. So price it to sell, not to get your money back.

Now, everyone has different luck when it comes to selling used items. Many variables go into determining if an item will sell and what it will sell for. You may have great success the first time you list something! You may also have to reprice and re-list an item several times before it comes across the screen of the right buyer. So don’t get discouraged, keep that big picture in mind.

I have honestly had a blast raising money for my wedding dress. Hopefully you will be able to take these tips and turn them into cash!