Saving Money on Ebay Auctions

I know that I’m supposed to be working on “hobby related content” as detailed in my blog post last week, but I didn’t want to lose this information, so I thought I’d throw this up now–since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and I expect blog traffic this week will be down significantly.

Each time I wind up holding ebay auctions, I like to go back and post how I did, but I wound up handling my auctions a little differently this time and thought I’d speak to that.  So rather than just spout of the numbers from this past set of auctions (which I will do for historical reference at the bottom of this post), I thought I’d go into a little detail about what I changed for this particular round of auctions and how successful those changes were…

Changes to Listings:

EbayBurstFirst of all, I made some changes to the way that I listed my auctions this time.  Typically I use Ebay Turbolister to post up all of my auctions.  It’s a huge pain in the bottom, it’s slow and cumbersome, but I’m tied to it.  I’d love another solution, but I can’t find one that’s free, so I keep wallowing along, complaining about this one.  So, I still use it.

This program really hasn’t changed since I first started doing auctions back in the 90’s (or maybe I didn’t start using it until the early 2000’s).  Anyway, some of the features that I’ve used over the years seem to have questionable value.  Every auction I create always has the Listing Designer and Gallery Plus options.

Listing Designer:

This option allows you to create something more than plain text with some generic background images and livens up the listing.  For a while, when I had my own website, I wound up hosting my own images on there and created my own HTML format for emails.  I eventually let that website lapse and moved over to use this feature figuring it was relatively cheap.  Over time though, it’s just giving money away.  So, I wound up converting a really basic template for my auctions and saved a $.10 per auction.  I also modified my templates in turbolister so that I should keep saving this money every round of auctions in the future.

Gallery Plus / Picture Pack:

This was a feature that was a must-have years ago.  It used to be that Ebay allowed you to put up one free picture, but charged you to put up more than that.  Now, their policy has changed that your auction has to have a picture (and a high-quality one at that), and you can have up to 12 for free, so picture pack isn’t required (and though Turbolister says they charge for it, I’m not sure if they do).

They also have a sister feature called Gallery Plus, which allows people to view a bigger picture of the item when they hover over the listing.  I don’t think this works at all on mobile, and really doesn’t do alot of good in a standard browser.  Ebay makes the basic thumbnails high enough quality that you can tell what’s in it, and giving them a larger image seems to decrease the odds that they’ll open it up–though there may actually be a better description or more pictures inside).  All that for $.35 per auction… no thanks.

Between these changes and the fact that ebay routinely allows listing of 50 items per month (plus has some special promotion where you can list up to 1,000 items for free) that meant my insertion fees this time were $0.  In total, that accounts for the following savings:

-$9.90 (insertion fees)
-$3.30 (listing designer) $.10 each
-$11.55 (Gallery Plus) $.35 each

That’s a total savings of $24.75.  Ok, it’s not going to buy me a house (or even a single GW model in most cases), but it will add up over time.

Free Shipping!

I honestly don’t know what to do about shipping.  Frankly, no matter what I charge, it isn’t enough to cover actual shipping costs.  I tend to charge $6 per auction and then more for the particularly big/heavy ones.  Ebay takes 10% of that, Paypal takes another 3-4%, plus I have to buy misc. packing material & boxes (sometimes) and USPS’s rates only seem to go up.  I seem to come relatively close when it comes to breaking even (my last set of auctions I collected $312 and it cost me $275.66 to ship.  When you include ebay fees, that means I only lost $.87 in shipping–but I didn’t have to buy any additional packing supplies that time).

So, this time, I decided to try free shipping.  The theory is that reduced shipping costs will just result in higher bids (I know when I bid I take shipping into consideration, so I assume most others do as well).  Plus, having lower shipping costs means that if I sell an item worth $10, I’m not looking to get $4 +$6 shipping.  Thereby, it encourages people to bid higher on more auctions, so that if they win just one, they’re not saddled on high shipping prices (in effect, I’m not reliant upon people snapping up those cheap auctions for combined shipping).

Anywho, this time around, I only charged “actual shipping costs” for people outside of the U.S.  In effect, that made them pay more because everyone else is getting free shipping, but they didn’t seem to mind (and the additional fees help to cover time spent working on customs forms, etc.)

  • Auction Total: +$944.30
  • Shipping Collected (international only): $41.37
  • Total Collected: +$985.67
  • Ebay Final Value Fees: -$94.43 (10%)
  • Ebay Insertion Fees: -$0
  • Paypal Fees: -$38.22 (3.88%)
  • USPS Fees: -$100.30
  • Additional Packing Materials Cost: $0

Breaking that down:

  • Total Collected: $985.67
  • Total Fees: -$232.95
  • “Profit”: $752.72

Of course that profit doesn’t include the cost to actually buy the models, but since many of those are part of a larger purchase, there really isn’t any way to say how much profit there is in it.  I likely already paid off the base purchase price of the models for the most part in my last set of auctions, so this is pretty well close to pure profit.

Other things I learned from this set of auctions include:

  1. ebay-logoIt’s hard to do detailed analysis of ebay auctions if you do them within 60 days of each other.  Ebay breaks things out nice and neat for you for the last 60 days, so if you wait until those fall off the records, things are easy to decipher.  Otherwise, you have to do some digging to get your numbers.  It’s not a huge pain, but it’s something to consider.
  2. Selling items you know will be better than those that you don’t.  Apparently one of my auctions that sold for the most money included some rare adeptus mechanicus ships, but I don’t’ know anything about BFG.  So, I could’ve potentially made more money by breaking them up.  Oh well, I’m happy with this result.
  3. I should probably own a scale.  At least a couple of auctions resulted in me putting things in a priority envelope that could’ve gone first class and saved a buck or two.  Lord knows I have enough auctions to justify it…
  4. Free shipping kind of worked out.  With the exception of a single titan that sold for $6.50, cost $1 for a box, and $2.74 to ship, everything else really worked out relatively decently.  It’s still hard to choke down almost a 100% loss on shipping, but maybe the prices of everything rose enough to justify it?  Really, I would’ve been happy with $500 net from this sale, so I’ll chalk this up as a win–this time.  I think the fact that this was all relatively “good” stuff and it was small and light really helped justify free shipping.  I don’t know if it would be a good move for most of my auctions….



One comment on “Saving Money on Ebay Auctions

  1. I used to have a html template set up so I could just rattle these things off, not as fancy as listing designer but not just plain text either. That said I often found listing designer a bit cliched anyway. Nowadays I don’t think the listing makes any difference, a couple of decent pictures, clear description and decent price is key.

    I do however stick more to Buy It Now format and fair play to ebay they do give you prompts on what that item usually sells for so you can guarantee a price. I’m a bit of swine and usually try and undercut the other current listings, usually they’re the semi-professionals who have dozens of a particular model so I don’t feel too bad. I also try to always do Free postage, but if I can work the cost into the item so much better. For instance if a model is selling for £15 with £2.50 I’ll put mine on for about £16 or the sneaky £16.99 with free postage

    The fact is ebay has change an awful lot, sure the listing fees have reduced dramatically but that final valuation crept up and they scalp you so much more for it now, espcially as your postage costs are included in that fee. Sure that stops all those folk who used to heat the insertion fee with 99p auctions and £10 postage but it’s gouging at both ends with the Paypal fees too! I know Paypal is no longer owned by ebay but its a bit galling. I’m much less enamored of ebay now than I used to be, managed to sell a lot of rock band clippings packs back in the day nowadays it’s become too much effort even with some of the simpler approaches described above.

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