This is a big leap. Not just big, it’s HUGE. Such a life-changing event as selling your whole life and hitting the road is overwhelming, and its a sizable learning experience. The goal of permanent travel or just traveling long-term is a constant project when it’s in the running. It requires a lot of attention, and always needs revisions (and omissions) of things that don’t end up getting you closer to achieving your goal, and finally boarding the plane. In addition to savings, to sell your stuff can mean a huge extra chunk of travel money in your pocket.
You surely don’t have to pick up and leave everything, though we highly recommend it. Whether you simply need extra funds to finally take your dream vacation, or you are planning a grand expat escape like Scott and I did, selling your stuff to begin a new adventure is extremely gratifying. It is freeing in the sense you are released from your material possessions and realize just how much you don’t need. It is an economic choice in the fact that you are making money off the stuff you won’t use, and at the same time paying it forward to someone who will.
After 6 ½ months of travel, and 7 countries visited on this trip alone now, there’s no sign of us fully stopping our wanderings anytime soon. Therefore, it is time we let you know how we did it. Not only that, we’ll let you know the basics on how to handle your funds and plan for such a great escape. If we can do it, you surely can too!
Step #1 : THE PREP WORK – SPRING CLEANING OVERHAUL
This is the part where you go through each room of your house, one by one, and sort through your things. Give yourself some ample time. Trash the things you no longer need, can’t donate, or have little to no monetary value to anyone. This can be anything from old documents (we loved burning those up the night before we left), to that random box of odds and ends you swore you’d use in a big art project but never did. If you haven’t used it in the past year and see no practical use for it, chances are you won’t find a buyer that will pay you for it either.
Keep going steadily in the sorting throughout the week, even little by little in the evenings and on weekends if you have to. Set aside only the things that you may be able to sell for fifteen dollars or more on eBay or in a yard sale (be careful not to overvalue things). Basically, start building your inventory! It helps to post an album on Facebook to show your friends and family what you have for sale, and give them dibs on it first. Most likely, they’ll be more than happy to help you succeed.
Something to keep in mind is that your things can be considered your assets, but don’t take them too seriously. Charge a good price for buyers. And it’s helpful to keep in mind that if you’re not using it and you know it’s worth something, then that thing is basically money sitting there waiting to be earned. Money that you can be using towards your first plane ticket, your first night’s lodging, or an entrance fee into one of the seven wonders of the world, like the Great Wall of China.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Also, think to yourself “If I was offered this thing for xxxx amount of dollars, would I buy it?” If the answer is no, then either throw it in the donate pile or lower your price. Little round price stickers and sticky notes became my best friend in all this overhaul, to keep track of what I thought we could charge. Good price notes help with the online research later, and using the price stickers as you go saves you loads of time pricing things for a yard sale (more on that in moment).
This is that first step, and if you’ve made it this far, you are well on your way. We seriously thought that we kept our possessions minimal before we started making moves towards leaving the states. When we started the overhaul, we realized just how wrong we were! We had SO MUCH CRAP.
We’re not hoarding psychos or the type of weirdos that keep every paper bill we’ve ever received in our life (like we’d want to be reminded of the bills we paid anyway), but we were seriously surprised how much useless stuff we had.
A good chunk of it was stuff that we had never even used, and things that could surely be used by someone else. Getting rid of it all is so freeing, and trust us – you won’t remember most of this stuff at all when you’re backpacking across Mexico or spending Christmas in Costa Rica.
By the time we left, we were down to just four boxes of stuff. If we were asked now the specific items we got rid of, we couldn’t recall most of it. The attachment to things is merely material, and it fades fast once you’ve taken the leap and see your travel funds growing.
Step #2: SELL YOUR STUFF ONLINE – LITTLE THINGS FIRST
This step comes second, because it can take time to sell things online. It is best to give yourself a few months of extra leeway to complete your sales before you’re ready to leave for your adventure. Cut it too close, and you may not be able to monetize on your stuff to it’s full earning capabilities! Now that you’ve sorted, pulled, and piled, you should have a good idea of what you can sell online.
You may have found you have lots of valuable little things to get rid of as well. We primarily used eBay to get rid of our more valuable things – the things that wouldn’t do well in a yard sale full of cheap old folks with firm haggling skills.
You can sell just about anything on eBay. Seriously, I saw a dirty pair of fuzzy socks on there once – with bids. The eBay platform is great to maximize the amount of your return on an item since you can set an auction (and thus land bidding wars) and set your own shipping rates.
If you’re new to selling on eBay, it’s not as hard as one might think. Consider watching some YoutTube vids on the matter if you feel especially unsure. Or, check out eBay’s “selling basics” breakdown here.
Before selling online, here’s some helpful tips to help maximize your sales:
- Take good, detailed pics of everything you’re selling. The more the better, but no duplicates. People are more likely to buy it if they know exactly what they’re getting, and can see it as if they were holding it in their own hands.
- Set the price reasonably. Don’t overkill on your prices or you’ll be passed over by potential buyers. Don’t go too low or shipping costs might exceed the amount you’ve earned. Just use the principle, what would I pay for this used thing?
- Be punctual. Check your items every day for bids and sales. Reply to emails, address customer questions, and ship your items fast. Even if you have a few good buyer reviews to start, it goes a long way.
If you have no eBay selling history or buyer reviews, no problem. I had a very low number of them and simply put in all my item descriptions something like: “Selling everything to travel the world. Feel free to check out my other items, and serious buyers only please!”
I found this to not only reassure people that I wasn’t selling faulty stuff, just unneeded stuff. It also gave them incentive to buy my memorable item above the others as they were helping me out, and some buyers ended up buying multiple things.
There’s also the matter of shipping, which can be tricky since you don’t want to pay out what you’re receiving, and therefore making zero dollars on that item. For heavier items, we paid about $5-$6 USD, and for smaller items it was around $4-$5 with the U.S. Postal Service. If the item isn’t worth the shipping cost, consider tossing it in the yard sale pile.
How to Know What to List? +The Importance of Online Research
Definitely don’t list your dirty fuzzies. Through my sorting, I found I had a Spanish Rosetta Stone set in working order with all its pieces, some gothic jewelry from a famous jewelry company in the UK, and some college textbooks, all worth a nice chunk. I had some band t-shirts and related jerseys in good condition from my high school days, that I was surprised to find people were still collecting and paying good money for them too.
“Life-fulfilling work is never about the money — when you feel true passion for something, you instinctively find ways to nurture it.” – Eileen Fisher
There were even some more stylized clothes I was able to sell on eBay – in particular my pin-up style corset tops and dresses, and they sold with the quickness. About 5 pieces sold at $15-$25 each the same week I listed them. It definitely helps to have “niche” items so to speak, and the trendier the better.
Before listing anything, it is essential to take a few hours and research your items with similar (or the same) items on eBay. This will give you a better idea of what to charge and what people are willing to pay. In this research, it’s important to pay attention to:
- How the item is described – it’s best to put in as many keywords in the item title as you can to reach more buyers
- The number of views and especially watchers (people who “bookmark” the item to see how the auction goes before making their move and placing a bid)
- The list price – and condition of the item listed at that price
- The shipping cost (what people are comfortable paying on the thing), and
- Other listings for the same item to see what is selling.
Place your prices the best you can between what is high, what is low, and how much you would pay, and you’ll see results. Stay on top of your sales and ship fast, and you’ll see exceptional results on eBay. When you get paid – put that money in a secondary savings account, and don’t touch it until it’s time to make the first booking for your trip!
We sold all of our items we had listed there in a matter of a few months, but gave ourselves about 6 months to do so just in case. Total earned: over $1,200. It’s definitely worth learning if you’re not familiar yet.
The magic that is Decluttr
Everyone has dusty old racks full of CDs and unwatched DVDs. How do you get rid of this unwanted stuff? No one wants to pay money for music that’s not a digital download straight to their phones anymore. Sure, you might have a few gems and rare signed albums for your eBay sales. But how do you get rid of the rest? And the DVDs too, the movies that you can simply stream on Netflix now? There is an answer… and it’s Decluttr. UK version: musicMagpie.
This company will literally pay you for your used CDs and DVDs, and even some books and electronics. Plus, you can ship it to them for free. It’s best to jump on this fast while it lasts, and I really don’t know how this company makes money off this. It’s unbelievable there’s still a used CD/DVD market at all, but there is. And you can finally get rid of all that dusty clutter, and help fund your travels at the same time.
How it works is simple – go through the CDs and DVDs you want to sell and make sure they aren’t damaged. Simply download the Decluttr app on your phone, and use the barcode scanning feature to scan the barcodes on the back of your items. Then get paid. Each item that scans is money in your pocket, and goes right into an inventory basket telling you how much you’re being awarded. It really is that simple.
Some things won’t scan if it’s not in Decluttr’s ever-growing system, but we could still sell these at the yard sale. It was hard for me to get rid of my movies though, because I am literally a die hard fan of cult classics and horror. However, now that we’re looping around South America, I could care less! The only similar items to these I wouldn’t sell at all? My Quentin Tarantino collection. That will always be mine! Total earned from Decluttr sales: around $150.
Step #3: THE YARD SALE
While you have your last eBay items listed and getting bids, and have shipped your old CDs and DVDs off to Decluttr and are awaiting your payout, it’s a great time to have a yard sale! Though it’s a lot of work getting tables set up and full of items, it is a great way to get rid of the last of your stash and milk your smaller possessions for all they’re worth.
It’s also a great way to get some return on your kitchen items, and other things such as Halloween decorations or small pieces of furniture that wouldn’t be worth it to post online. In addition, it’s a chance to sell the items too big to ship out for an eBay sale.
It is also better to do this towards the end of the “sell your stuff” agenda, since you’ve rooted out the more valuable stuff already and posted it online. Anything that doesn’t sell in the yard sale can be donated – the last step!
To get more visitors, advertise in the local newspaper (older folks love that section during the right time of year), advertise on Craigslist, and make a post on Facebook to let your family and friends know what goods you have. Also, it’s very important to have good signage. Brightly colored roadside signs with good directions to your sale are a must. If it’s cold out, have an indoor estate sale with cookies and coffee.
Our original plan was to hold two weekends worth of yard sales, but after just one weekend we didn’t want to put in the extra work again. We were just ready to go and be done with it, and had booked our tickets to Mexico already. Still, we could have made a little more money had we stuck with it, but we did sell most of the stuff we had out for sale that weekend.
Total earned from the yard sale: about $200 between us both. We had some old outdoor gear and hunting gear, a couple of pieces of furniture, leftover DVDs for $1 each, some good housewares, and Scott’s great haggling skills that mainly brought in the dough.
Step #4: THE BIG STUFF LAST – FURNITURE, APPLIANCES, AND THE LIKE
This is the second to last step because, if you’ve made it this far, your house is looking pretty bare! (Awesome job)! But you still need a coffee pot, a bed, a couch, and preferably a TV to watch Netflix on until you embark on your travels. It also helped to have some small comforts left during our last couple of months at home. The best way to get rid of such things as furniture, big appliances, vehicles, and the like is to list them on your local Craigslist.
Some tips for killer listings and fast sales:
- Good pictures – always good, detailed pictures.
- A good price – Craiglist buyers are never looking to spend a higher amount, so be reasonable and don’t overkill
- Reply to buyer messages consistently, and take cash only, no exceptions. Only allow buyers from your hometown as well.
Unfortunately living in a digital age these days there are scammers, and there are lots of them on Craigslist. Stay safe, and don’t get caught up in fishy negotiations. Our best advice is to have someone with you that can help you make the sale, and to provide an extra presence there for safety. It’s also a great idea to have some of those leftover kitchen items out that may be unsold from the yard sale. If a Craigslist buyer is looking for furniture, they may need other things to fill their cabinets too.
I had been concerned that our stuff wouldn’t sell fast enough as we were pushing it on timing. Believe it or not though, we sold it all within a couple of weeks on Craigslist. Scott was awesome at replying, turning down bad offers, and getting the price we wanted from the big stuff. Total earned from Craigslist sales: over $7,000 – including our vehicles. That’s a lot of cervezas!
It can be scary getting rid of the big things.
This stage is like skydiving. It is that last look out of the plane before you jump out, and realize within a second that it’s the most miraculous decision of your life. You’ve worked hard to sell everything and possibly planned the first part of your trip by now. But it’s the bareness of your home that was once full, that truly lets the reality sink in.
In our case, it wasn’t just the small possessions we had to make a sale on now. It was our three vehicles, and my entire house to sell at this point. Through all of our sorting, decluttering, eBay-ing, Craigslisting, and planning for our expat escape, we had also been making improvements on the home for months. It was extremely hard work, and a long hard road, but we made it and it was time to start letting go for real.
When the house sold (it happened fast since the housing market was skyrocketing in Colorado), I looked around at its empty rooms ready for the next family. It was a feeling of change like I never felt before. I had bought this place before I met Scott, and it was my first big accomplishment in my adult life buying it on my own. It was especially monumental because had managed to make the investment alone when I was only 23.
“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” – Maya Angelou
I was a little anxious for what our future might look like on the road, but at the same time it was SO exciting to be accomplishing a feat such as this. We could see it getting ready to unfold right before our eyes. At our last sunset at the house, I took a pic for memory and we moved our whole four boxes of stuff to my Mom’s – where we’d stay before leaving on our journey.
Do we still miss it? Yes, sometimes. Would we ever take it back? No, never. Traveling the world and living the way we want is VERY worth the sacrifice, and much more gratifying in the long run. We are sure you won’t regret it either – you surely won’t have any utility and car insurance bills to worry about anymore. If you’re willing to go through all of this in pursuit of your dreams, this is the point when you can say, it’s really happening. And the pride you feel in accomplishing it is simply immeasurable.
Step #5: THE MONEY AND THE LEFTOVERS
Anything that you weren’t able to sell, it’s time to donate. Consider giving the last bit of your kitchenware to family and friends who may be able to use it. Any piles of clothes you have left, it’s a good time to take them to the consignment shop. Even if you get just 12 bucks off them, that can pay for an upscale meal and a cerveza somewhere on the Mexican coast!
The question is though – you have the money, you’ve sold it all and stashed it in an untouchable-before-travel savings account. Now how to budget for such a journey?
If you’re reading this to save up for that next vacation, you’re all set. We’re glad we could help and safe travels to you! 😊 You’re ready to book, and unlike the rest of us, you’re not technically homeless now with no possessions!
If you’re going for the long-term life adventure, here’s how we can help:
By this time, you most likely (hopefully) have been doing research and already have a plane ticket and possibly your first lodgings booked. In our opinion, it’s best not to plan too soon (lest things get complicated and too busy), and only make reservations for your first week or so.
Of course, your plane ticket should be booked several months in advance at the best time for flight prices. If you’re old school, you may only need to book the plane ticket and find your lodgings on the spot!
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!'”– Hunter S. Thompson
Should you be planning an expedition-style trip, say, a year around the world and know all your stops, then you’re aware of how much it might cost for all plane tickets or at least a ballpark idea of how much they’ll be.
Whether you’ve laid the entire year out in advance or not, it helps to have flights bookmarked at all times for different parts of your trip. Especially if you’re not booking them at once. If anything, keep good notes on your ballpark prices!
The Bulletproof Budget Plan
We’ll have a more detailed post about money handling and the savings aspect of travel soon, so stay tuned! However, here’s a great way to budget for long-term travels, laid out in specific formulas:
Base amount ÷ months of anticipated travel = monthly budget
For example, if you think you’ll be traveling a year, divide your entire untouchable-before-travel savings balance and by 12, or 12 months in the year.
Next, subtract your ballpark plane ticket and lodgings costs (notes in hand), plus any bills you have to pay on the road, from the monthly budget above.
This is how you can be prepared for these costs. It may even be a good idea to set aside these amounts in a different savings from your base to better keep track. You may also consider setting aside a little extra and rounding up on your amounts to be prepared for emergencies.
Monthly budget after deducting costs ÷ 4 (four weeks to a month) = weekly budget.
Your weekly budget pays for food, beer, laundry, bus fares – you know, the essentials. On shorter months, you’ll be surprised to see you have an entire week of extra funds.
Optional step: Weekly budget above ÷ 7 (days to the week) = daily budget.
This extra step helps ensure you are friendly to your budget on the daily. If necessary, only take enough local currency with you for the day that’s within your daily budget so you don’t overspend.
Since you’ve already taken out (hopefully) what you need for bills, planes, and lodgings, simply use those funds for just these costs. Otherwise, you are good to GO! It helps to get a currency converter app on your phone and play around with your budget amounts depending on the country you’re visiting.
You may be surprised that the exchange rate is extremely in your favor. Through favorable conversion rates, it is possible to save extra portions of your weekly budget depending on how cheap a country is and how much you can save, only adding to your travel time.
SOME TIPS TO HELP WITH THE MOVE
Hopefully we’ve been able to help you jet set on the road to your travel dreams! Just a couple more things to help your road be a little smoother. (And you just might need the emotional support too).
Remember – materialism is a mindset, and one that’s not needed to sell your stuff.
It’s easier said than done to break a materialistic mindset. To rethink the way you see your possessions in this process isn’t easy. Especially after an entire lifetime of being exposed to extensive commercialism on the daily.
Not to mention, it makes it a lot harder when millions of people around you tend to think that the things we own are a direct measure of success. Just remember, it’s okay to let go in pursuit of your dreams. And when you put your full energy and potential into accomplishing those dreams, it’s only a matter of time before they become reality.
In the case of selling your stuff to travel the world, it helps to continuously ask yourself, which is more important? The experience of a lifetime releasing baby turtles into the ocean on a sunset beach in Mexico, or making high monthly payments on a vehicle that will most likely depreciate in value the longer you have it?
Even if you don’t make much money, it’s still possible.
If the bills seem just too high to save anything, go through your monthly costs and omit anything you don’t actually need and can do away with. It’s possible to lessen the bills no matter how much you make. We embarked on this journey and accomplished our goals with jobs that barely earned us $30,000 per year. In my last year of “conventional” work, I didn’t even break $20,000.
And, we didn’t become rich overnight with the sale of my house – the money I made off my house isn’t enough to fund 5 years of travel, or even a full two. It was simply a way to gather the funds and begin.
When going through your possessions, it can be hard to sift through your thoughts and reason with them on the value of things, but keep putting them in check! If you have three toolboxes in the garage, is it really necessary to be making monthly payments on two of them when you can fit your stuff into one? Maybe some of those extra tools can be sold off too.
Is it really necessary to keep that old car sitting at curbside that you thought you’d fix up and restore? Maybe not, especially if it’s been there since 1989. But someone else may be waiting for the opportunity and looking to buy. Just ask, do I really need this? Is it ESSENTIAL to my being in the next few years? Chances are, it isn’t.
Many people dream of taking such a plunge – to just sell your stuff and go, quit the miserable job, and never look back. It is not only possible, it is easier than you think. Making it a reality just requires a true desire for your end goal, and always keeping in mind what it will feel like when you finally set foot in that destination you have been dreaming about. Having the determination to make that step off the plane is everything.
You can definitely do this. If we can, you surely can too. We’re not rich, and we had bills like anyone else. As you see it all unfold, with each move you make however small or large, your confidence grows along with the excitement. The moment you board the plane, you’ll know for sure you’ve made it. We hope everyone in the world feels this sort of self-gratification at least once.
We humans are not damned to live within the same few hundred miles forever, and we surely don’t have to live to work either. There are other ways. Even if that is the life that makes us happy, we could all use a break! Why not sell your stuff and go?!
If there are any questions you may have for us about any of the above, we are always happy to help. Let us know in the comments below, or contact us directly and we’ll be sure to get in touch!