Getting Out of Debt – Selling Your Stuff Works…Kinda

Getting out of debt usually requires more than just selling your stuff. You really need to consider more effective alternatives.

If you’re one who is focused on getting out of debt, one technique is to sell your personal possessions. It’s something many of us have done. In fact, I’ve purchased many an item from a neighbor trying to raise money for his basic needs. I’ve always questioned this approach because no one has an endless supply of “stuff” to sell. What happens when you run out of items to sell? Besides, the things that are easy to sell are most likely those that are the most useful, and it’s those items a person might care to keep.

The point is simply that selling things can help you raise money, but if you’re selling your personal possessions (not items that you acquired for resale) then eventually you run out of things to sell, and then you need to turn to an alternative way to pay down your debt.

It’s probably much wiser and easier to start off with a more viable alternative that doesn’t have a limited inventory of things to sell. Here are things that come to mind, in the order that I would consider them:

More work – chances are, there are extra hours or additional tasks at your place of employment that can garner you additional income. If the increased income is substantial, you can set most of that aside for getting out of debt.

Higher paying work – use your current skill set and experience to see where else in the marketplace you might be employed, but at a higher rate of compensation. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of looking around to see that you can get higher return on your investment of time and effort. Like Yogi Berra said, “It’s amazing the things you can see, just by looking.”

Second job – no one likes to work multiple jobs, but if it’s a necessity for some, it certainly can be an option for you and others like you who are focused on getting out of debt. The trick is to make sure the demands of one don’t interfere with the demands of the other, nevertheless, it can be done. My sister worked two jobs for more than 20 years, and that’s how she made a comfortable life for herself.

Sideline employment – when we were kids, we cut grass, worked odd jobs and did other things around the neighborhood to earn money. There’s no reason why that can’t be the case today as well, only now, you’re probably much more highly skilled. Perhaps you can paint a house, do some welding, install shelving, tile someone’s bathroom, custom decorate cakes, shop for and deliver groceries to shut-ins, or clean a chimney in the neighborhood. You never know until you venture out to see what people need. This approach could lead you right down the path of higher paying and self-directed success in the form of self-employment.

Sell value added items that you create – a couple of the cornerstones of making money are to: 1) create something from scratch; and 2) add value to something already created such that it’s worthwhile for someone to pay you to do it. As examples, you can: take scrap wood and make carvings; buy craft supplies and make key chains, bookmarks, or earrings; use your art supplies to create works of art for sale; buy T-shirts and transfer paper and make custom designed apparel; or, buy supplies at the grocery store and make specialty cookies that people will pay a premium for.

Self-employment – if your current employment is focused on tasks that have relatively low overhead, and direct costs are paid for by your customers, then you might consider starting your own enterprise as a way of getting out of debt. It’s hard work, but it generally provides much higher potential for income, and you become your own boss. This is the path that I took to extract myself from the jaws of debt, and my only regret is not having ventured into the world of self-employment many years earlier. The day I started working for myself, the “pucker factor” went much higher, but in exchange I doubled my income, got management off my back, became the sole director of my future, and was able to focus on getting out of debt and getting back on my financial feet.

Dip into savings – a stash of cash in the bank is waiting to be put to good use, so perhaps this is time to make use of it. You do have something set aside for that “rainy day” don’t you?

Of course, If it’s poor decision-making that landed you in debt, you’ll want to change your behavior pattern first, and make those changes permanent. After all, you can’t bail financial water out of your boat while you continue to drill holes in it. Even if debt wasn’t directly your fault, there may be other changes necessary in your life to help avoid financial trouble again. As part of my getting out of debt plan, I moved to a state without income tax, and that saved me lots of money each month — enough to pay for rent, groceries and utilities — allowing me to bank all of what normally was my take home pay.

If none of the ideas here appeal to you, I’d suggest you sit down with people who have pulled themselves out of “too much month left over at the end of the paycheck” and learn about what course of action they took and what alternatives might be best for you. Experience is a valuable teacher, and there is no sense ignoring what others have done to be successful. These “veterans” will know firsthand about the challenges they faced and what alternatives might offer you the greatest potential for success.

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About Clair Schwan

7 Responses to “Getting Out of Debt – Selling Your Stuff Works…Kinda”

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  1. Travis says:

    Valid point, Clair – selling stuff alone is not going to get someone out of debt – but it can certainly help take a chunk out of it. Also, sometimes it’s not just the sale price of the item itself that helps someone’s financial picture. As we were making major lifestyle changes on our journey out of debt we sold our hot tub. Sure, the sale price was significant, but even more significant was the savings we now realize in our utility bill – it was KILLING our electric bill…especially in winter! It’s also fair to say that actually paying off debt isn’t necessarily a guarantee that someone will stay out of debt. A person really has to examine how they got into debt in the first place, and change the underlying behavior. My wife an I have been working very hard on that over the last few years, and without that awareness I have no doubt we would have just started re-accumulating debt.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      Travis, you’ve touched on another reason I don’t like selling things to eliminate debt…too often it puts ready cash in someone’s hands, and that often isn’t targeted towards debt reduction, but easily spent on other things as the money trickles in. If you have to work harder or longer for the additional income, and it gets deposited in the bank, it tends to be spent much wiser than the cash one might get from selling possessions a little at a time.

      Also, it’s just too easy to buy something with the idea in mind that it can always be sold again. If one is thinking along those lines, it’s probably best to rethink the purchase altogether.

  2. Paying off our debt early can truly give us more comfortable and debt free lifestyle. Selling old stuff can earn more money that will help you to get out from debt.

    Paying off your debt, will give peace of mind and freedom as well.

  3. kirazona says:

    You’re forgetting the fact that most people have stuff laying around they don’t need or use. I like selling stuff because it’s a 1-2 punch. I get the cash, and declutter at the same time. What I’m left with is the things that I love and/or use.

    Sure you can’t sell stuff indefinitely, but that big dent makes a difference. If it’s enough to kick debt #1 to the curb, you can take the minimum you were paying on the first and apply to the 2nd. At the beginning, many people sell stuff they won’t miss to get the (snow)ball rolling.

  4. Chrysilla says:

    Selling one’s stuff won’t necessarily get someone entirely out of debt, but every little bit helps. And if they manage to get rid of a large number of possessions in the process, that might make it easier to move into a smaller and less expensive dwelling place. Or use the newly freed up space to create a home office/workshop for the recommended side business, with a bit of extra start up capital from the junk sale. Or rent out the former ‘junk room’ depending on the home. I would also investigate having a junk sale before dipping into my savings.

  5. Clair Schwan says:

    What becomes abundantly clear when considering all the comments is that the entire process of getting out of debt is most likely a multidimensional project that needs a bit of careful consideration and planning. Clearly, there are parallel paths, companion activities, synergies, and some spin-off benefits that one might not normally consider if they rushed into it. Funny how it seems so simple to get wrapped up in debt, yet not always so easy to get untangled.

  6. Clair Schwan says:

    I’m a big fan of self-employment for many reasons. First, you’re the boss. Second, you can make so much more money. Third, it’s really not all that hard to beat the big guys when you team with others, undercut their prices, out perform, out deliver, and speed by their clumsy organizations in all respects. Talent, service and quality are always in demand, and as a onezee, that’s exactly what you can deliver.

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