How We Are “Selling” Our Way to a Vacation

Guest post from Andria of Simply Frugal Living

The last time I saw my grandmother was six years ago when my husband and I were on our honeymoon. We now live on the other side of the country and our two boys have never met their 90-year-old great-grandmother.

The Challenge

We are determined to make the 2,300 mile trip to visit her this year, and to do it debt-free!

The price tag for the trip is about $2,000. We are not going to use our savings or a credit card. We are going to sell our way to California, and simultaneously accomplish one of our goals for 2012: de-clutter, organize, and simplify our home.

I tend to be a neat freak, but in the past year I have become increasingly overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” accumulating in our home. Perhaps my sentimental tendencies are to blame; it’s hard for me to part with toys we have given to our boys, gifts we have been given, etc. But I’m running out of space and something has to be done!

The Plan

We have set aside one evening a week and several hours on Saturdays to de-clutter our home. We tackle one room at a time – together. We feel it is important to stick together since we are making tough decisions as to what stays and what goes.

We start at one end of a room and go through every nook and cranny, getting rid of everything we can reasonably live without. This is a time-intensive task as the contents of drawers, counter tops, shelves, and closets are examined and put to the test:

  • Did we use or wear it in the past year?
  • Is it broken or missing pieces?
  • Is it getting in the way?

If something doesn’t pass the test, it goes in the trash or a garage sale box. Granted, the heart strings of sentimental value have been strung at every turn, but we press on because we’re tired of clutter, and we want to reach our vacation goal!

So far we have tackled three rooms, and our home is already feeling much “lighter.” Here are some of the items we have set aside to sell so far:

  • trumpet/music books
  • spare table and chairs
  • old-fashioned stereo cabinet
  • various electronics
  • kitchen gadgets/cookbooks
  • clothing/jewelry/purses
  • blankets/quilts
  • toys/baby items
  • books/magazines

We set aside a large section of our garage as a holding area for the boxes of things to sell. Our goal is to finish the task by the end of February and have a celebratory garage sale in March. We will also be selling some items on Craigslist or Ebay.

The hope of an exciting, debt-free family vacation is a powerful motivation for us as we de-clutter our home. The more we sell, the sooner we can go to California! If you’re interested, you can track our progress here!

Andria Alexander lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two sons ages four and one. She teaches coupon classes in the tri-state area, has a weekly coupon segment on KDKA TV, writes bi-monthly newspaper articles, and blogs at Simply Frugal Living.

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  1. Debbie says

    I hate yardsales! But if you have a goal for what profits are going towards that makes it seem more worth the work and I love your method of decluttering! Thanks for sharing your story. BTW I am jealous you do this together. I don’t think my husband would do this with me. = (

  2. Michelle says

    Awesome! We are doing the same thing! Not to visit great-grandma, but Grandma and cousins! Do you have a post about how to get the most out of a garage sale and what things sell and what don’t? I am always surprised about what things people pick up to buy and what just sits there. We are military, so to lighten the house is always an incentive come move time.

  3. tina says

    I was planning on having a yard sale this spring to pay for new baby on the way.

    What month would be a good time to start yardsales again?

    Good luck to you on your Garage sale too!

    • says

      Tina, the best time for a garage sale depends on where you live. I often see suggestions online for people to start in March — in Minnesota, where I live, that’s crazy talk. Garage sale season doesn’t safely start here until May: preferably mid-May. You want to pick a time without snow or freezing temperatures — and, I would think, without tons of mud as well.

      • says

        I just to giggle at your comment. I’m originally from North Dakota and a March garage sale would be unheard of, some years even May feels like it’s pushing it. But when I was in San Diego I saw signs year round and it always made me do a double look.

  4. julie says

    We’ve been doing the same process at our house…but our basement looks like a war zone as we’ve just been piling stuff up down there 😛 Can’t wait for our monster yard sale this spring! Good luck to you :)

  5. Jackie Bales says

    This was so inspiring to me. My husband and I just started Dave Ramsey’s plan to financial freedom. We are in baby step #2. This post has definitely encouraged me to sale some stuff. I love the idea of working one evening and some on Saturdays. Thanks so much for your post. God Bless you and your family!

  6. Meredith says

    As a musician….take the trumpet into a music store to get it appraised before selling in a yard sale or such. You may be able to sell directly to a music vendor or get a higher price tag through Ebay. Ten times out of ten, you will get more out of it this way. Also, if you donate the instrument, you get full “new instrument” replacement value as a write off….even if it’s 100 years old!!!!

  7. Patti says

    We are decluttering, too, with plans for a yard sale. I love your idea of the funds going toward a vacation goal. I think we’ll set a goal, too, to make it more meaningful to get this done!

  8. says

    Andria, thanks for sharing! My husband and I are working towards being debt-free and have done one garage sale, but I really need to do another one this year.
    Good luck to you and your fam, and I hope you reach your goal soon. Thanks for the inspiration – I gotta get movin’!

  9. Erika S says

    My family has been doing the same thing. We are currently on and between books, DVDs, Video Games and CD’s have over a hundred items in our “store”. We have made about $30 in the past week. Its a great resource that doesn’t cost money (fees once the item is sold). We plan to keep every thing on the site until yard sale day, at that point we will take most down and put it in the yard sale. At least on the site we are getting more then we will at a yard sale.

  10. Katie says

    Selling stuff is a great way to make money. When we were on Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step #2 I was selling stuff like mad! I was using Craigs List, Ebay, Bulletin boards at work, ect. as a means of selling stuff we were no longer using. I made a couple thousand dollars this way and was actually able to pay off my car with the money! I wish we could have had a garage sale, but we live in the country so there would be very minimal traffic.

  11. Cris says

    This is a great idea to fund a vacation! I’ve just started to weed out unused items at my home. I’ve sold a few textbooks through Amazon, but am unsure about what to do with old clothes. In the past I’ve always given them to Goodwill. Do you have any suggestions about selling them? (I live in an apartment so no room for a yard sale).

    • says

      To sale kid’s clothes, look for huge yearly (or twice yearly) consignment sales in your area. These are completely different from standard consignment shops, you name your own price for your items and tag your stuff but your cut is much more than with a standard consignment shop. I’ve done several posts about my experiences with these large sales on my blog if you want to check it out.

  12. Marie says

    That is terrific that as a team you are working towards a common goal! I am sure you will be visiting great grandma soon! CA. is beautiful. I am here visiting my husband now, we live in MN.
    One tip for a yard sale is as you accumulate your stuff set aside a time to organize and price everything BEFORE your planned yard sale. It will make setting up so much easier!! And the more organized the stuff is the better it will sell.
    I found that where I live, MN. clothes that are neatly organized or even hung sell way better then just in bins or on tables. Last year my husband went to a hardware store and bought a steel pipe and hung it on one side of the garage for me to hang things on. It was amazing the amount that sold from just simply hanging items.
    I agree that Craigslist or ebay is better for the more expensive items. I use this avenue alot.
    I yard sale to have money to buy my kids clothes and other items that aren’t in the budget.
    Good luck and I hope to hear that you got your vacation!

  13. says

    This is so wonderful! This was part of our 2012 goals as well, to take a family vacation to Florida by paying cash! The cash is coming from items we’ve sold online, and items that will be in a yardsale this spring. So exciting to declutter and to take a trip debt free! Good luck!!!!

  14. says

    Great Post! I’ve been going through our outgrown kids’ clothes so I can get ready for consignment sales with them. I plan to go through the rest of our junk and pull out stuff to sale after I get finished with the clothes. I’ll be checking your blog for updates!!

  15. says

    Even though I live in a large city (1 million people), my street gets little in the way of traffic. We had a yard sale once on community yard sale day, and despite having big ticket items including furniture and other nice stuff, we made a whopping $37. Never again, not if we still live in this house. Since then, we donate our clutter to Goodwill or the Kidney Foundation.

  16. says

    I didn’t know what I was going to do for Christmas I have been on a medical leave from work since July and my medical checks aren’t very big but..I sold alot stuff on ebay made 300 bucks-grand daughters toys she no longer played with, some clothes, a couple jewelry pieces, kitchen items. I was able to buy my 2 children, grand daughter, mom and step dad nice Christmas gifts–I have aloso cleaned out some parts of my house for a end of March yard sale I still have 2 rooms to go-we are goign to Frankenmuth for spring vacation and why take from my savings? I am hoping to make 200.00 for the trip we’ll see.
    bunny lamp
    dinner plates

  17. Gloria says

    I am in the process of decluttering this year and would use the money towards a vacation in June but I have found yard sales are a lot of work for a little bit of nothing. I want to try craigslist but I live by myself and I am a little afraid of people coming to my home. How to most people handle this?

    • says

      I used Craigslist to sell my KitchenAid Stand Mixer a few years back. It was collecting dust and I know they are a hot commodity. I had my husband meet the lady in the parking lot of a nearby library.

    • jennifer says

      I sell stuff on Craigslist often as well. Meeting a public place is great. I often meet people in the parking lot of busy stores. Most people have cell phones so you can call when you arrive. If I have people come to my house, I rarely let them inside. I usually have the item(s) waiting near the door so I am ready to meet them outside on the porch.

  18. MicPat says

    I de-cluttered for new GRANITE counters in my kitchen. I sold things on eBay, Craig’s List, and Entertainmart. My husband was shocked what we sold in a week to pay cash for the granite. LOVING it and NOT missing any of the junk. :)

  19. says

    One of my bunko pals was just telling me how she’s made several hundred bucks this week selling old items…filing cabinets, an aquarium, etc…

    We’ve done a bit of this, but boy-it is a Lot of work. Kudos to you, Andria!

    If you’re doing a garage sale, don’t forget to have your cute kiddos sell some refreshments!

  20. KimH says

    If my grandmother were 90 years old and I wanted to see her, I’d use my savings & fill it back up later.. Actually, I did just that.. and Im really glad I did. The next year I came, she didnt know me.. I was thankful for the blessings and no regrets..

  21. Sara says

    Our HOA doesn’t allow garage sales or yard sales, but I’m trying to figure out how to get something for some of our clutter. eBay seems like too much work for the return and consignment stores around here are a joke. Usually we just give the stuff to Goodwill and write the amount off on our taxes, but it would be nice to have some extra cash around too :)

  22. says

    We did something similar last summer to fund our emigration. Most of our selling was done on Craigslist, which can certainly be a hassle, but in the end was WELL worth it. We also sold a wine collection (outright) to a consignor–echoing the musician’s note upthread, you really can often get more for specialized items by selling to a professional than to the general public.

    In the end we made enough to pay for our overseas shipment (of a MUCH smaller amount of households goods than we started out with), first/last/deposit on a house, six international plane tickets, and a gently used minivan, with a good amount left over. We still haven’t had to go into our savings!

  23. says

    It sound like you and your family are working very hard to make this trip a reality. That’s awesome!

    It’s seems like we are all de-cluttering our homes and our lives.

    Yesterday we cleaned out our basement. Put aside some things to list online for sale and put the rest in the recycle bin.

    I said to my husband “isn’t it funny how we leave our parents home with barely anything so we run out and buy all kinds of things and then years later we have so much crap that we begin tossing it, selling it, donating it, doing whatever we can to clear out the clutter”.

  24. Samantha says

    Reading this post, reminded me of our “debt free vacation”, where we sold everything we could to pay for a trip to Disneyworld! My four boys and I started planning a family vacation with my brothers and their families the end of August in 2006 – and they were planning to leave the week of Thanksgiving 2006 – so we didn’t have much time. But I told the boys – “we can do this” – and we did!! We sat down with my brothers and figured up exactly how much we would need for travel expenses (we were sharing 2 vans), food, tickets, motel, and spending money. We began to go through our house – room by room – and we had 4 yard sales. We also took books, DVD’s, and CD’s to a local used bookstore and sold them for cash. We put the larger items on Craigslist. The boys took lots of odd jobs, I babysat some, and we gave up ALL treats – we even picked up walnuts (we are in Missouri) and sold them in October. Well, we raised the money just three weeks before our departure date – we even came home with an extra $100 we didn’t spend!!!! We had so much fun – and we still talk about how we took our family vacation together – on earnings we made together!! Enjoy your trip!

  25. says

    While I have come to really dislike preparing for yard sales-dirty, dusty, and the reminder of the money I spent unwisely and unintentionally-they are a great means to an end, such as your vacation. That is so exciting!

    We tend to sell some of the more specialty items online, such as on Craigslist. That way we hit the buyers looking for that item, and who are willing to pay more for it than a yard saler. We also make sure our display is clean, easy on the eyes, and well labeled.

    Our area has two seasonal outdoor clothing and equipment consignment sales each year. The return is excellent (70%) for bringing the items to the gym and having the outdoor club sell them.

    We also used yard sales to teach our girls the economics of running a business. They would look for quality used clothing at yard sales and determine whether or not they could make money by buying and reselling that item. It lasted for just a summer, but it was a great lesson for them: “Mom, look at these jeans! They are only $1, and I could resell them for $4, and the consignment store would give me half, so that would be $2.” Me: “Ok, so what is your profit, and do you have to spend any money or time to get these ready for sale?” It was definitely work on my part, but what a great lesson they learned!

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