Free Up Extra Money For Debt Payment & Investments

Every once in a while, I look through my collections of various media (more specifically, DVDs, books, video games, and CDs) and realize that it contains a lot of things that I’ll likely never look at or listen to again. I might have a sentimental attachment to some of the items, but for many of them, I simply won’t look at them again.

So why keep them?

About once every six months, I do what I call a media collection purge. To put it simply, I resolve to sell off a certain percentage of my media collection. For example, the first time I did this with my DVD collection, I had about 625 discs and I resolved to sell off 80% of them, leaving me exactly 125 DVDs.

How do you determine which percentage to sell? If you’ve never done it before, you have a large collection of a particular type of item (book, CD, DVD, etc.), you’re better off starting off with a high estimate. Try 75% for starters, or else set a number that you want to reduce your collection to, like 100. When you go through it again, the percentage to sell should be much lower, as you should have eliminated a lot of the chaff already.

Take an afternoon, clear out a bunch of floor space, and start sorting. I recommend making three piles: one to “keep,” one to “get rid of,” and a “let me think about it” pile. The “let me think about it” pile keeps you from going into deadlock when you come across an item that you’re torn about. Keep your goal in mind as you’re doing this and ask yourself honestly whether you will ever interact with this item again. As “cool” as something might be, if you honestly can’t see yourself using it again, why keep it?

Once you’re done with this preliminary sorting, count your “keep” pile. Hopefully, it’s less than the total amount that you planned to keep after the sell-off. Now, go through the “let me think about it” pile. For me, this took a lot of time, as this pile was mostly filled with ones with sentimental value or a high “cool” factor, but an underlying realization that I wouldn’t watch them again.

Once you have your “sell” stack completed, start pricing them on eBay and determine whether it’s worth selling individually, in a lot on eBay, or simply selling a bunch of them locally. For me in the past, it has usually been a mix, where “popular” items were often saleable on eBay at a healthy clip, but others were better off being sold in a bundle because the return on my time investment was tiny.

What do you get in the end? A more manageable media collection and a healthy dollop of cash which can be used to pay off some debts or begin an investment for the future.

In a few weeks, I’m going to do this with my book collection, which numbers over 1,000. I’m going to reduce it to 100 books. Why? My immense book collection, most of which I realize that I’ll never read again, is practically taking over the room that it’s in, plus many of them are popular titles in trade paperback form, which can be sold on eBay for at least a little bit of money (some individual, some in packs). I may also give some away here on The Simple Dollar.

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  1. Kevin says:

    Ah! One thing to do with all of those paperback books, potentially, is to trade them on a site called Paperbackswap.com. I went to college with the guy who runs this site. You put books into the system, and send them out to people who request them. In turn, you get to request books and only pay shipping when you send. This would A.) get rid of your book collection and B.) help feed your book reading habits by getting you free books sent to you.

    Warning: There may be a lot of romance novels on the site. Not sure how the selection is.

  2. Ellen says:

    Ha, I tried to do a DVD purge a couple weeks ago, and I managed to get rid of 40% of my collection…leaving me with six DVDs. :)

    But I definitely do a book purge every few months. I find ebay and other online sales sites incredibly difficult to navigate, so I go to my Barnes & Noble to do some swapping. As long as the books are recent and in pretty good shape, they give a really good price for them. Do they have a B&N near you in Iow-er?

  3. gmv says:

    I’ve had good luck at various times selling books and CDs/DVDs on Amazon.com. I find amazon.com very easy to do, while ebay confuses me.

    I helped supplement my unemployment insurance for several months when I was disastrously laid off by selling off a bunch of stuff on amazon.com. It was at least enough to help keep the electricity/gas bill paid and the phone connected (which at the time were fixations of mine). But I was selling lots of hardback books and CDs.

    The only caveat is that I don’t think it’s worth bothering with anything you’ll sell for under, say, $8-10 dollars.

  4. Brian says:

    I have had success listing books and DVD’s at half.com. There is no listing fee and it stays on the site until you remove it. They only take a small amount after the sale is complete and they give you a couple of $ toward shipping which is usually more tha it cost to ship media mail.

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