6 Ways To Turn Trash Into Travel Cash

The average American household has a whopping 300,000 items, a two – car garage that one third of us can’t park a car in because there isn’t room.  We have basements and closets jammed full of ‘stuff’.  There are approximately 50,000 storage facilities in the US that is more than the total number of Starbucks and McDonalds combined*!  All of this said, if you’re like the average American, there is ample opportunity for converting unused items into cash that can be spent on travel and experiences.

Having purged storage units as well as basements and closets of stuff, here are my top 5 ideas for converting trash to cash with the highest financial return and least amount of time spent….

1. Consign:

There are so many items that can be sold via consignment including clothes, shoes, et al. however where we’ve had the most success is with the bigger ticket items.  Most of us have larger items like furniture that are no longer our style, not being used or need to pare back due to moving, separating or combining households. Over the last two years we’ve made several thousand dollar selling furniture items at a local consignment store called Kristynn’s Consignment.  It’s simple and it’s safe.  We drop the items off, the owner prices them and it’s a 50/50 split.  Works brilliantly.  100% of what we’ve dropped off has sold and with little effort on our part.  To save money, we’ve purchased barely used high quality furniture here as well.  Furniture is just one example we’ve consigned good quality camera equipment, outdoor gear, bikes, among other things.  Search google with ‘Consignment’ followed by the category of item you have to sell and you will be surprised how many options exist in your area.

2. Resell online:

Here are my favorites.

  • Craigslist With respect to Craigslist, I’m shocked at how easy this is and how far people will drive for a bargain. We had one person drive over an hour to buy a used juicer for $100 bucks and another we drove an hour and they drove and hour to meet up to exchange a $6000 piece of equipment that we helped a family member sell.   Here’s a key tip:  LISTEN to people and if you learn a little about what they are interested in you can be prepared ahead of time. Camping enthusiasts inquired about a tent.  After chatting with them briefly we assembled all of our camping gear that we no longer wanted and by the time they arrived we had it all displayed and offered a bundle price and they took it all!
  • Next Door is an free private social network for your neighborhood. This app lets you stay in touch with your neighbors for a range of topics which happens to include the ability to sell things locally thereby keeping you safe while donating or reselling items closer to home.  I put a treadmill on this site and within 15 minutes had a taker.
  • Offer UP is a mobile app used for buying and selling locally. Think hybrid between Craigslist and eBay.  It’s growing at a fast clip.  Super convenient to use and you don’t have to give out a phone number because people can message you instead.
  • Poshmark is a mobile app for buying and selling clothes and accessories. Spent a fortune recently on a dress for a family wedding and knew I would never wear it again.  Listed it on Poshmark for 50% of the purchase value (note:  Poshmark keeps a 20% commission).
  • Estate Sales. For a major downsizing I would recommend online auctions. This will enable a way of selling a lot of items due to downsizing, moving, divorce bankruptcy or a kick start to living a ‘lighter life! member sell.

3. Recycle:

Recycling drop offs will pay money for certain materials.  In our case, we’ve made money donating scrap metals like old trampoline frames, steel, metal pipes, aluminum + more.  There isn’t a ton of money in this though it feels great to get rid of the items and to make some money while knowing it’s not going in the landfill!

4. Trade in programs:

Amazon has a trade in program where you can send things in and get a gift card for buying new items. H&M has a trade in program where you bring your clothes in store and they will give you 15% off.  Many product companies and retailers offer trade in programs so inquire.

5. Garage sale:

OK hear me out here.  We made $2000 at a garage sale last summer.  Now up to that point I’ve not been a fan of the yard sale.  My thinking was it’s a ton of effort and not worth the return.    The paradigm shift is that your success depends on HOW and WHEN you do the garage sale.  Turns out our neighborhood has a two-day sale every summer and they advertise like crazy online, with street signage and in the local paper so the awareness is high, the number of neighbors who participate is high and therefore the traffic through the neighborhood is unbelievable!  By 7am there are cars lining the streets and people milling around.  Last year was our first year to participate and we were blown away by the amount of stuff we sold. Another tip is to NOT price your items.  People tend to offer you more than you expect for the items they want and meanwhile not tagging everything saves you a ton of time.

6. Donate:

Donate to ARC, Goodwill, Habitat, etc.  The tax writes off is worth it and it feels great to unload unwanted items knowing they don’t go into the landfill.  If you bring $1000 in clothes or furniture to Goodwill or Salvation Army and you are in the 25% bracket that receipt may be worth $250 in tax savings.

It goes without saying in addition to the financial benefit of converting trash to cash there is the JOY that comes from freeing up space in your home and in your life.   You have less to clean and a home that is more enjoyable to relax in.

What are your best trash to cash ideas? Tell me in the comments below.  I would love to hear from you.

‘*sources in the first paragraph:

LA Times (300,000 items)

Dept. of Energy (32% have room for one vehicle)

Huffington Post (McDonald’s boasted 14,350 restaurants in the United States in 2014. That’s a big number. But it pales in comparison to the number of self-storage facilities dotting the country: more than 48,500 at last count) Wiki shows 58,000


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