Around 2 in 5 Americans have been selling items online during the past year, after the COVID-19 pandemic led to people spending more time at home and sometimes needing to find new sources of income.
In all, 38% of those questioned as part of a new MagnifyMoney survey (opens in new tab) said they had sold something online within the last year, inspired by a combination of conditions that provided the opportunity to declutter their closets and try to make some extra cash in the process.
Incredibly, those who have been selling household items online during the pandemic said they had made an average of $1,810 in total, easily outstripping the $1,400 that eligible Americans could be paid under the third stimulus check (opens in new tab).
How online sellers use their profits
For half of those questioned, the extra money has proven invaluable in helping to keep their household finances afloat during the pandemic. Some 26% of online sellers used profits to pay off debt on personal loans (opens in new tab), credit cards, auto loans (opens in new tab), and the like, while 24% spent the funds on household expenses, such as food, rent or their mortgage (opens in new tab).
By far the most popular use for the money raised, however, was adding to savings, with 57% of online sellers choosing to put the funds aside in their banks (opens in new tab) for a rainy day. Just 13% felt comfortable enough in their financial situation to splurge the profits on extravagant purchases as a form of treat.
What are people selling online?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, clothing easily tops the list of items people have been selling online, with some 52% of sellers moving on garments that they no longer wish to wear. In a similar vein, 31% have been providing competition to the best online shoes stores (opens in new tab) and selling their old footwear online.
The same proportion - 31% - have been selling furniture online, perhaps to simply clear out their garage or maybe to make way for the new home office (opens in new tab) they’ve required while working remotely. Jewelry or accessories (27%), home decor (24%), and toys (20%) have all proven popular items to sell online too.
Where to sell items online
When deciding what to do with the household items they no longer need, 41% of Americans still choose to donate their things to charity. However, close behind are the 30% who now automatically turn to selling online, spurred on by the rise of the best online auction sites (opens in new tab) and social media making it easier to showcase your wares to a wide audience.
While once upon time, eBay was one of the only ways for online sellers to go, the resale marketplace is still the platform of choice for 39% of those selling online, but now finds itself in second place behind Facebook Marketplace, which 58% of online sellers appear to consider a better place to find buyers. Adding weight to the suggestion that many Americans enjoy selling items on social media, Instagram is now the first choice for 38% of those looking to sell items online.
“There are a growing number of apps and websites dedicated to reselling, plus growing interest in sustainable shopping and vintage finds,” says Kamaron McNair, editorial assistant at LendingTree. “But, of course, reselling an item requires that the seller already own the item. That means if you didn’t buy something expensive (that you don’t need to keep), it’s less likely you’ll be able to earn a large profit from what you can sell.”