Thursday, March 1, 2012

Buying Old Junk - Business VS Hobby - Is That Item Truly A Bargain?

You are going to find that passing up on what you initially see as a bargain, and highly "profitable" inventory is a constant struggle.

Why pass up a 25 cent buy that you are pretty sure is worth $15 in a store?  Well, read on, and you will find out.

Some days resisting the urge to buy every "deal" you see will be far easier than others. If you are like myself, our addiction is the hunt and the big rush we get when we find some cool treasure, especially if it was CHEAP.

 After awhile, like any addiction, it takes something more and more spectacular to give us the same "rush" we crave.

But, when it is a significant part of our income/business, also, we need to temper that treasure hunting addiction with common sense and good business acumen. 

Yes, that ornament is only priced at 25 cents, and it is salable for $15 in a shop or online, but is it truly worth the time? And the cleaning? The supplies you use for cleaning? The time spent on cleaning? Time spent photographing it? Editing the photosListing it online? Fees for listing it online? Emailing and answering questions? Invoicing a final buyer? Packing? An the packing materials? Time spent packing it? Mailing? And the gas to the post office? Time spent standing in line at the post office?  Emailing the buyer to say it is in the mail,and sending tracking info? Customer service after to make sure it arrived and they are happy with it?

A the markup on that item was a theoretical profit of $14.75.  But there is an argument to be made that it actually cost you money to deal with that item. 

So, that 25 cent purchase may well have turned into a loss when you factor into the equation all your other expenses.

I struggle with this daily. I have lots of "low end" inventory.

However, I don't buy that many low end items purposely for resale, anymore. Only the odd quarter from my pocket are spent on an item that is only worth $15.

I have lots of that sort of "shelf filler" already.  But, I still acquire that sort of merchandise for other reasons,  by other methods, an din other situations.

When I am out picking, sometimes spending $5 on a $20 item is what you need to do to get in the door.

Making a pile of quarter priced items at a second hand shop can show I am a serious bulk buyer. Might even eventually lead to the "good stuff" in the back room, and/or make a long time and good contact in that area. Perhaps end up with referrals to some of their sources, for items that are priced too high for them, but are bargain priced in your view.

Local thrift stores I go to, I do spend some of my quarters. Some places are run as money making enterprises in support of charities, and are worth supporting. I'll get my twenty five cents back, hopefully, and end up breaking even (once I factor in the $14.75 worth of expenses I have incurred by buying that item!)

For me, it is sort of the equivalent of any expenditure for items of "pleasure" buying a soda at the convenience store, a coffee & donut at the local Timmies (Tim Horton's) , popping it in a video game, dropping it in the coin slot of a slot machine, etc.  IN the case of "in support of such and such charity" thrift stores, it is akin to buying a overpriced giant chocolate bar from the local neighbor kids who are raising money for a new bunch of basketballs.

The difference is that I can write it off as a purchase of inventory.  I slaked a bit of  my thirst for a "score" and made the world a better place for only 25 cents!

That is how I rationalize it, anyway! 

That said, I now pass up more "bargains" than I buy. China and glass items are one of those things I pass up more and more, unless the potential resale value is significant, or it is something I am curious about, and/or  want to research it as part of my ongoing self-education in a variety of collecting areas.  I also do buy the odd thing just as a 3-D reminder of an event, place, etc. A souvenir of that stop, and a bookmark in my memory to stop by there again.

Plus, there are those items I buy solely for some of their "parts". A lamp I can cannibalize for a part or 2 to make another salable. The parts may be obsolete, but still are not intrinsically valuable. Even of they are still available new, it is cheaper and/or more convenient to buy the junk lamp than make a trip to the hardware store, or order it online. Plus, the "patina" of age is already there, and the replaced part of the repair/restoration doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.

I get plenty of the $5 to $25 items in box lots at auctions, etc. Even now that I strictly limit my garage sale purchase, thrift shop buys, etc, those $5 - $25 items still  pile up, and I still need to be careful as to how I deal with them.  My accumulated knowledge means I buy more than the newbie, as I recognize more of those 25 cent items as being worth far more than 25 cents. So, the struggle will be eternal. More you know, the more you can buy, because you see more bargains on the tables than the part-timer standing beside you at that garage sale.

I certainly still do not make tons of money when it is all said and done.  I'd be lucky to make $10 an hour.....which is less than minimum wage, here.   If it was ALL about money, I'd be able to do very, very well with a 9 to 5 job.  Heck, on the "oil patch" in this area, even a kid fresh out of high school can get a job with a starting wage of $25 an hour (+benefits)...PLUS they get a pretty new 4x4 company truck to drive.

However, I am "happy" with what I do.  One of these days my chosen profession and skill set I have created, honed, add to and constantly improve on, will all pay off big....

Or so I hope! 

And now it is time to get back at it. I have a stack of boxes to deal with, full of things with 25 cent price tags. 

Pass me that bottle of Goo-Gone, will ya?


  1. This is an awesome post! I am a "newbie" at all this, but I guess it is a good thing sometimes! There are things that I have also picked up, and regretted afterwards, and I am not quite sure what to do with them... I guess my newbie eye does save me some money sometimes, though! Just found your blog, now following!

  2. Great post! I am constantly having this argument in my head. I give my self the pep talk every week. I Must buy higher dollar, higher quality to yield a higher return. But I just can't stop picking up those "shelf filler items" Old habits die hard, as they say.

  3. A great post, a very relevant (to me at least) subject! I have curbed my NEED to buy everything for 25 cents that I see & just bring home those things that I think will look nice in my shop or are a bit unique & quirky. How many milk glass vases can one person acquire before the sight of them makes 'em crazy, really?

  4. I'm pretty much a newbie and am guilty of the cheap 25 cent thrills. The info in this post is very honest- I am gonna have to edit my purchases more. Thanks :)

  5. I admit I will spend a bit more for an item if I believe in "the cause." I am a sucker for any little kid selling at a yardsale.
    Very true that you will not get rich on the dollar or less items, but it still beats that 8am - 6pm job that did not make me want to leap out of bed in the morning.