The Thrifty Traveler: Liquidate belongings for life on the road

By MYSCHA THERIAULT | McClatchy-Tribune News Service | Published: January 27, 2014

Whether you are selling everything to live out of a backpack, or embracing a life of overseas employment, chances are you’d like to get the highest price possible when you liquidate your belongings. If you live the life of a serial expat who needs to change locations every few years, you’re already familiar with the cycle of furnishing a new home from scratch every time you arrive in a new country only to sell everything again in a few years.

For some, a life on the road means literally jettisoning everything that won’t fit in a bag. For others, it means keeping your list of prized possessions to a minimum in order to adhere to the not-so-generous shipping allowances that tend to come with most international employment contracts. Whatever your approach, there will come a time when you need to sell your stuff. Here are some of my tried-and-true strategies for getting the best price possible.

Timing: The amount of lead time you allow yourself will play a significant role in how much money you’ll be able to get for the items you’re selling. Waiting until the last minute is a sure-fire way to get the least amount possible. People expect to be able to get rock-bottom prices when they show up at a moving sale. That’s fine when the items you’re selling include food containers and kitchen gadgets you picked up at the thrift store, but what about that antique rocking chair?

Starting well in advance of your actual move will give you the time you need to hold out for the best price on higher-ticket items. Trust me; it will definitely take some time. When we first started this process after living in the United States again, some of the larger items sold right away for the price we wanted. Others took a fair amount of time. Since we had a few years to play with while my husband finished his degree, this wasn’t a big deal for us.

If you only have a six- month window, then you’ll need to make different choices regarding the timeline on which you’ll implement price reductions. In the end, you may still need to accept less money for certain things. That said, your odds are still better with time on your hands.

Platforms: Just like with marketing goods and services, the size of the platform you use to get the word out about selling your belongings makes a difference. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with spreading the word to family and friends, chances are you’ll have better results if you kick it up a notch.

Two sites that work well for us include Amazon and Craigslist. Both allow us to post good-condition items for sale in places where they will receive a significant number of views from people who are ready to shop. It’s important to know if you are planning on using the Amazon strategy that you will need to sell items which are already available on their store platform. Grandma’s homemade quilt won’t be allowed.

That’s where Craigslist comes into play. You can photograph items and list them for whatever price you feel is appropriate. Items that take longer to sell will need to be refreshed or listed again in order to keep moving forward, but at least the number of people being reached is as large as possible for your area. Other options for downsizing include consignment shops, eBay and neighborhood yard sales.

Networks: Those liquidating belongings from an overseas location may have access to a network of other expats searching for affordable second-hand items in good condition. I know this has certainly been the case whenever I’ve changed international locations, and I hear similar reports from other international colleagues on a regular basis.

Reaching out to other teachers, military professionals and diplomatic colleagues may result in the bulk purchasing of your household supplies. This is particularly likely if you can get in touch with new expats heading into the country. Check with the employers of international personnel in your host country, as well as with any organizations you belong to such as running clubs, Rotary, women’s groups and even book clubs. You could find yourself pleasantly surprised with your liquidation options.

Myscha Theriault is a best-selling author, avid traveler and a veteran in the field of international teaching. Her recent book entitled “Teach Anywhere,” advises new and experienced educators about overseas employment, international evacuation tips, and inexpensive lessons which can be implemented anywhere from refugee camps to regular classrooms.