Mid Week Q &A: Our Friend Wrote a Book

It's summer and our eBay sales have been slow. This comes every year and it's never fun for sales to hit a wall. But these days what we do is use this slow time for sourcing, experimenting, listing, and relaxing. People will always start buying again so we are loading out store up.

But let's talk about the future. We interviewed our friend, JL Collins, a couple months ago about investing for retirement. As self-employed business owners with no safety net, it's always in the back of of mind about what our future will be like when we're older.

He actually just published a book called The Simple Path To Wealth where he clearly lays out all his years of experience and wisdom into an easy to read 'investment instruction manual' with some fun stories thrown in. We got to read an advanced copy and highly recommend it.

Our blog is about how to own your time. To do this, you need money so we looked around and saw that scavenging was a fun way to earn a living. What Jim provides is the next step. What happens when you actually have more money than you spend each month?

I'll give you the spoiler to the book. Jim’s single best recommendation is to put your money in Vanguard’s VTSAX is a total stock market index fund. That’s really it. Start now and let your money make money and keep making money. But Jim’s book is really so much more. It’s all about how to think about money, our time, our short existence on this earth, and how much time we want to think about money.

I love what Jim says in his introduction: “Here’s an important truth: Complex investments exist only to profit those who create and sell them. Further, not only are they more costly to the investor, they are less effective.”  This is the same approach we’ve had on Scavenger Life. Keep it simple. List it and Forget it. Wealth comes by taking things in tiny steps, day by day, and letting success build up over time.

It comes down to holding only a single Vanguard fund over your entire lifetime. This means betting on the entire US economy will be good over a long period of time. If you think the zombie apocalypse is coming, then definitely invest in guns, walls and food. But throughout the ups and down of this country, we are still a strong nation.  And as Jim says, “The market always recovers. Always. And, if someday it really doesn’t, no investment will be safe and none of this financial stuff will matter anyway.”

Blogs about financial independence and smart retirement has been bubbling up in small online communities for about ten years now. But now it's becoming mainstream. Just watch this segment from John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" where he does a great job illustrating the advice that Jim's book lays out (Thanks Brian for the tip!). You can skip directly to minute 18:00 for the quick advice on how to invest:


So please check out The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins if you're freaking out about the future and need something to read this weekend.


Scavenger Life Episode 263: How To Run an eBay Business by Yourself

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

Ryanne's birthday was this weekend which is why we're bringing you an interview with a Scavenger Supreme. 

We met Ben of VooDoo Vintage for the first time recently when we stayed in New Orleans. Even though we already knew some of his story from Wendy when she interviewed him three years ago, it was fun when Ben took us on a scavenger tour of New Orleans where we visited a number of estate sales. With a truck full of goods, we went back to his apartment and shipped stuff together (like true scavengers should!).

Ben makes a living through selling on eBay and a couple other streams of income (as a message therapist and landlord). He mainly scavenges at estates sales which seem plentiful in New Orleans. Ben also works alone which can be difficult since eBay requires an enormous attention to detail each and every day. In this conversation, Ben shares how he's figured out how to work solo and be very efficient in his scavenging and selling.

In Ben, we found a kindred spirit since he also has been ruined to ever getting a full-time job. We talked about traveling, sleeping late, and real estate. As always, Ben will be answering any questions in the comments below. Hope you had a good week!

Scavenger Life Episode 262: How to Tackle Your Unlisted items aka "Death Piles"

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

Since last summer, we have been working on piles of unlisted items that had taken over our house, front porch and storage areas. If you're a scavenger, it's very easy to buy more than you can list. We call them "death piles" because it's so depressing to have this junk taking up space and making us feel overwhelmed.

When we started our eBay business, we would go scavenging three or four times a week. Sometimes more! We were so amazed at what we could find for cheap that it felt like free money. Plus we were worried that each day we didn't go scavenging meant that awesome, cool items were being bought by other people. We were missing out! So we bought and bought. Sure we were listing and growing our eBay business, but we could easily bring home 40-80 items after a morning of scavenging, and then maybe list 20 items on a good day. Do the math. More was coming into our house than going out. We've even rented storage spaces, but this is hiding things. If the items aren't listed, then they're never sell. These items are just a drain on our energy.

As we've evolved as scavengers and business owners, we've learned to have a longer term vision. Unless the US stops it's voracious appetite for "stuff", we know that there will always be more stuff to scavenge. We're never missing out. In the past couple years, our scavenging has become adventures. Even entertainment. We seem to find the best stuff when we let serendipity take over.

We now list everything we get within a week or two of it entering our house. At the same time, we've been listing the "death piles" that surround us. We're not perfect, but it certainly feels more manageable. Our death piles are disappearing. Sanity grows.

In this episode, we mentioned the following links:
  • Ben told us about this museum that found a priceless Nazi code machine on eBay for $10.
  • Bonanza is turning 8 years old. We synced our eBay store up to them a while ago and it's a nice small stream of sales for no effort.
  •  Cyndi from Amazing Taste says:
Did you know you can apply to have your Paypal fee lowered?  There is a tiered system for $1 - $3000, $3000 - $10000, and $10000 and up. 
Here’s how to apply for the Merchant Rate:
Log in to your PayPal account.
Click the Business Profile icon beside "Log Out" and select Profile and settings.
Click My money.
Click Merchant fees under "More financial settings."
Click apply now near the bottom of the page.
Complete the Merchant Rate Application and click Submit.
  • Dan and Lisa of NewVintageNY are hosting a collector's show and flea market in Albany, NY. They're free admission for any scavenger who shows up and says the secret word: "Trash Elf" . Here's more info.
 Hope you had a good week!

 Our Store Week June 5-11, 2016
  • Store #1
  • Total Items in Store: 3806
  • Items Sold: 32
  • Cost of Items Sold: $71
  • Total Sales: $889.21
  • Highest Price Sold: $80 (Knee Brace)
  • Average Price Sold: $27.78
  • Returns: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $200
  • Number of items listed this week: 72

  • ----------
  • Amazon FBA Store
  • Number of items sold: 23
  • Amazon total sales: $473.92
  • Amazon FBA Fees: $295.58
  • COGS (shipment to FBA included): $30
  • Net profit after COGS: $148.34

  • Bonanza:
  • Sold 3 items for $80
  • ----------


  • Store #2
  • Total Items in Store: 1010
  • Items Sold: 12
  • Cost of Items Sold: $21
  • Total Sales: $419.28
  • Highest Price Sold: $68 (Cutco knife)
  • Average Price Sold: $34.94
  • Returns: 0
  • Number of items listed this week: 16

Scavenger Life Episode 261: Yearly Update from Mikey & Wendy of TheGoodLifeLab.com

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

This week we're doing our yearly update with Mikey and Wendy. They were our inspiration to moving out to a rural community and finding ways to live outside the normal 9-5. We, in turn, turned them onto scavenging and eBay as a way to earn income.

They helped us start this podcast and you hear them on many of the early episodes. You can listen to our previous conversations with them over the past several years.

Mikey and Wendy still live in rural New Mexico, still sell on eBay, and have gotten involved in many new projects (like running regular ultra marathons). The process of evolving is the most fun part of this lifestyle. You can follow along with their adventures on their blog, The Good Life Lab.

Hope your week went well. Enjoy!

Scavenger Life Episode 260: How Much Do I Need To List To Make A Living On eBay?

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

"How Much Do I Need To List To Make A Living On eBay?" This is one of the most common questions that people ask us. The person knows they want to quit their job, they're ready to courageously take the jump, and all they want to know if what they should do. All we can ever say is: "it depends", or "read our Manifesto".

This question especially becomes urgent as the slow summer sales begin and new sellers get totally freaked out because they aren't making the same money they did during the busy holiday season. We point folks to a podcast we did last year on The Scavenger Equation. In the simplest terms, the amount of items you need to sell depends on how much your expenses are each month. If you live an expensive life with heavy debt, you need to sell a whole lot of old shoes. If you are frugal like us and have no debt, selling becomes a much more casual endeavor.

If you ask this question to a hundred eBay sellers, you'll get a hundred different answers because we each have our own equation. Some scavengers have five kids and another on the way. Some have no kids and only have a cats to take care of. Some of us are just out of college and need to pay off student debt, while others are in retirement and just supplementing social security income. No one can really tell you how much you need to sell on eBay to make a living. You have to do the dirty work of working out a realistic monthly budget, cut out as many expenses as you can, and start listing.

In this episode, I mention this article about a whole batch of new online services that help people sell their stuff. These are the high end folks! They'll always be leaving stuff for us Scavengers to find and sell.

 Our Store Week May 22-28, 2016
  • Store #1
  • Total Items in Store: 3698
  • Items Sold: 23
  • Cost of Items Sold: $91
  • Total Sales: $857.65
  • Highest Price Sold: $150 (vintage headboard)
  • Average Price Sold: $37.28
  • Returns: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $100
  • Number of items listed this week: 84

  • ----------
  • Amazon FBA Store
  • Number of items sold: 14
  • Amazon total sales: $145.27
  • Amazon FBA Fees: $75
  • COGS (shipment to FBA included): $10
  • Net profit after COGS: $60

  • Bonanza:
  • Sold 0 items
  • ----------

  • Store #2
  • Total Items in Store: 882
  • Items Sold: 10
  • Cost of Items Sold: $22
  • Total Sales: $431.61
  • Highest Price Sold: $90 (leather garment luggage)
  • Average Price Sold: $43.16
  • Returns: 0
  • Number of items listed this week: 20

Scavenger Life Episode 259: Who would wait 30 days for an item on eBay? 110 people.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

We love our routine. Wake up. Make coffee. Start on our eBay tasks. Take breaks throughout the day for lunch/snacks. No one telling us what to do, but always making sure things are get done. It often doesn't feel like work. Just puzzles that have to be solved that somehow magically make us money week in and week out. We bet on ourselves and it's paying off.

While we were away for almost a month, we sold 110 items. All but one buyer was willing to wait for their item. All we did was change handling time and sent reminders when someone bought an item. So yes, people love same day shipping, but people will wait if you set the correct expectation.

This week we mentioned the following links:
Our sales were slow and steady this week. Sometimes that's all we can ask for.

Our Store Week May 15-21, 2016
  • Store #1
  • Total Items in Store: 3635
  • Items Sold: 13
  • Cost of Items Sold: $25
  • Total Sales: $816.84
  • Highest Price Sold: $200 (coral bead)
  • Average Price Sold: $62.83
  • Returns: 1
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $100
  • Number of items listed this week: 0

  • ----------
  • Amazon FBA Store
  • Number of items sold: 14
  • Amazon total sales: $320.87
  • Amazon FBA Fees: $127.68
  • COGS (shipment to FBA included): $30
  • Net profit after COGS: $174.15

  • Bonanza:
  • Sold 2 items for $150
  • ----------

  • Store #2
  • Total Items in Store: 871
  • Items Sold: 7
  • Cost of Items Sold: $10
  • Total Sales: $180.43
  • Highest Price Sold: $40 (fireplace bellows)
  • Average Price Sold: $25.77
  • Returns: 0
  • Number of items listed this week: 34