Category Archives: money making tips

Girlfriends to boot

“If you can’t sell your stuff there, you won’t do it anywhere,” said my friend Ali when I told her I was going to hold a car boot sale at the Birmingham Wholesale Markets this Sunday.

“I’ve driven by there on a Sunday and it’s absolutely heaving,” she added.

I was pumped.  There’s nothing I like better than a good garage… er, car boot sale.  I knew I wouldn’t make much money, but I thought it might be a fun way to get rid of my stuff.

Having had no car and a boyfriend who hated “other people’s tat,” I’ve only ever been to one car boot sale in England.  Set in a field by a 13th century bridge in the lovely Cumbrian countryside, it was a real treat.  I picked some lovingly reared plants for the garden for about £2 each, a soft red leather worn vintage belt for £4, some antique rag rug hooks for £3 and new samples of makeup from Clinique makeup for a few pounds each.

So it was with big hangovers, a flask of tea and an air of anticipation that my sister and my friend Sarah and I loaded up her tiny car with my worldly possessions and set off for the Markets at the ungodly hour of 6.00 am.

And it was rammed.  We waited nearly 45 minutes in a queue just to get into the place!   

But as we drove past hundreds of stalls it looked more like a graveyard of The World’s Tackiest Products instead of a collection of people’s treasures.  Most pitches were tiny shops flogging new, shrinkwrapped TVs, DVDs, perfumes, £5 jeans, kitchen taps and, yes, even a sink. 

Being one of the last to arrive we paid our £8 fee and were allocated about the worst possible pitch known to man.  Right at the back of the markets and divided from the main thoroughfare by other cars – things were looking grim.

I asked the parking attendant where we pick up the tables. 

“Sorry lass, you have to bring your own.  But you can use that trolley over there if you like,” he offered.

The girls and I eyed the trolley and immediately doubled over with laughter, not speaking for at least five minutes.

car boot sale birmingham wholesale market

We were determined to make the best of a bad situation, flogging nearly all the stuff I can’t be asked to bring back to Toronto for .50p to £1 a piece.  We made signs and taped them to the pavement: Books £0.50, Clothes £1; MOVING TO CANADA – EVERYTHING MUST GO!

I parted with unopened picture frames, unwanted Christmas gifts, and piles of old clothes for peanuts.  I just wanted rid of the stuff.  But three hours later we were waning.   We were losing at least half of the traffic on the main thoroughfare, things were selling painfully slowly and the three of us were getting tired and moody.

But there were some nice moments.  A chat with a Polish immigrant – possibly the most homesick man I’ve every met – about Canada and his hometown of Lodz, which I’ve visited.  He paid me £0.50 for a picture frame.  “I will put pictures of my daughter,” he said.  As I saw him eye a nicer frame, I threw it in for free.

Many of the customers were extremely cheap.  But they were also some of the poorest people in Birmingham.  For them a car boot sale isn’t a place to pick up funky vintage “pieces” for the home, but a place to buy clothing for their kids.

Nevertheless my cut throat prices were beginning to hurt.  With a tenner on breakfast for myself and my staff, we had barely broke even by the time my two other best Brummie mates – Jen and Ali – rocked up at 11.

“You’re here to make money – not give the stuff away!” said Ali in dismay as she looked at our couldn’t-care-less faces.

And the pair of them swung into action.  Ali ripped our price sign up and said we should wheel and deal with each person separately.  She charged £1.50 for a crappy old statistics book I found in the attic.  A small fortune this thriftygirl would never dare ask! 

Meanwhile Jenn flogged people stuff they never even knew they wanted. 

“We’ve got to group things together and sell them as packs.  That way we’ll get rid of more and make more money!” she enthused after she sold a chef four cookbooks and a butter tray. 

Suddenly it was 12.30, the crowds dwindled and we still hadn’t sold everything.  My sister offered a young girl all of my old jeans for free when she took an interest in a pair. 

I looked around at my life laid out in little pieces on the ragged blanket in front of me and started to cry.  I missed Rob. 

“Gosh Crystal, I never thought you’d breakdown in the middle of the Birmingham Wholesale Market!” said Ali giving me a hug.  And we all laughed.

After the breakfast and pitch fee I ended up a measly £35 better off than the day before, but I was a thousand times richer thanks to the support of my friends.

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Filed under Birmingham, clothes, money making tips, thrifty, vintage

evil ebay?

When the new clothing line by Madonna for H&M hit the high street last week I picked up a few things, thinking that I could hawk them on ebay for a profit if the collection was a real hit.

After all, pieces from Stella McCartney’s H&M line commanded triple the retail price on ebay after her collection sold out in stores in just two hours.

But this time H&M has learned its lesson.  The Madonna collection is a lot less “limited” than McCartney’s and most pieces can still be bought on the Birmingham high street.

However, there are a plethora of Madonna pieces on ebay now, most only selling for no more than ten per cent higher than the retail price – hardly worth the trouble of buying and posting the stuff. 

So my items will be returned to the store shortly – apart from a sequined dress which could make me about £30. (UK size 12, the auction ends in 3 days, 6 hours and 6 minutes…) 

madonna-sequined-dress.jpgThis is the first time I’ve ever tried to make money on ebay.  And the experience got me thinking about the ethics of my actions and the culture of online auctions. 

Is it wrong to try to make a fast buck online?   It’s not like I’m forcing people to buy the items for more than the retail price.  Surely it’s just a case of supply and demand.

My boyfriend deplored the idea of buying up in-demand items you don’t want and selling them on for a profit to the highest bidder.   “It’s just like hawking concert tickets for way more than their face value,” he said of my plans to flog Madonna’s dresses, “It’s not fair to the people who really want the product.”

Indeed, most of my friends swear they would never sell their concert tickets for more than their face value because it fuels the problem of professional touts.

But others think differently.  My sister suffered a bout of shopper’s remorse after she bought a pair of Simon and Garfunkel tickets for $200, so she auctioned them off on ebay.  The winner paid triple the face value – a whopping $600 for the tickets – and came from the US to see the Toronto concert.  A diehard Simon and Garfunkel fan she was happy to fork out the money.

Isn’t that the way it goes in a capitalist society?  How can we criticise the everyday Joe of making a profit on eBay by exploiting middle-class citizens who “need” that Madonna dress, but look the other way when the high street does it by exploiting cheap labour or outpricing competitors?

ebay isn’t the culprit here – the fundamental principle at its heart is the free market – and if people have issues with that they’ve got a much bigger fish to fry.

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Immigrants and banks don’t mix

After visiting the website of money-saving guru Martin Lewis – – I decided to switch current accounts to a new high interest account (6.71%) from the Halifax Bank – and a switching bonus of £100.

I’ve had a bad feeling about Halifax ever since my boyfriend and I opened a joint account with them two years ago and the bank clerk burst into hysterical laughter every time I said or spelled “Mississauga” – my hometown.

Later that year I went into a branch to apply for a current account, but before doing so, I explicitly asked the clerk to check my eligibility as I was rejected from other banks because I hadn’t lived in the UK for their required length of time.  She assured me it would be OK, and we underwent a 45 minute application process where she giggled at the name of my home province of “Ontario.”  I received a polite rejection letter in the post a week later.

But today took the cake.  I applied online 30 days ago for this new account and was delighted to recieve three letters telling me my account was approved and reminding me to go into the branch to verify my identity.   I went in today and after filling out all the paperwork the clerk told me the account had been denied.  She offered no explanation and asked me to call the online banking people to explain.

I did so and was told they could not tell me why the account was denied but I should call the credit agency.  Talk about passing the buck.

Why is it the only places in the UK where I am made to feel like a real alien/immigrant are the banks?  I’ve never been in debt in my life.  I have a mortgage and pay taxes.  Rejected again, I marched into Poundland and filled a bag with Twix bars and sour wine gums – ah, there’s nothing like a dose of emotional eating.

Back at the office, tummy full but anger rising, I nearly paid £2.50 for a copy of my credit record but prayed there were more intelligent people in the call centre and phoned again.  This time I was told that the application had been closed after 28 days.  If I still wanted the account, I’d have to reapply.

On principle, I should have hung up then, but the interest rate and switching bonus are worth the crap customer service.  Plus I really should have went into the bank earlier…

<p style=”border-top: blue 1px solid; font-size: 80%; margin: 5px; padding: 5px”><strong>tags:</strong>
<a rel=”tag” href=” bank”>Halifax bank</a>,
<a rel=”tag” href=””>Birmingham</a>,
<a rel=”tag” href=””>banking</a>,
<a rel=”tag” href=””>immigrants</a>
<a rel=”tag” href=” service”>customer service</a>

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£84.75 from used books!

The Amazon marketplace worked a dream.  Five of the eight books and DVDs I listed sold within 24 hours  – netting me £75.50 after Amazon’s take and the shipping costs.

My only qualm is that Amazon pays out an average shipping cost per book (£2.75), and it’s too low to cover heavy textbooks.  One textbook cost over £7 to ship, so I had to make up the shortfall.   Still, a great place to capitalise – and find a way to reuse – stuff you don’t want.



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Flog your books for cash

Everyone knows used books aren’t worth much.   After all, I pick up most of my novels from thrift stores, car boot sales for about £0.50. 

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that ten of the books I’ve had lying around the house could net me about £100 on  Before taking your old books to a charity shop it’s worth checking out Amazon’s marketplace to see if they’re worth anything ( 

The marketplace lets you sell almost anything in categories ranging from DVDs, books, DIY, music, electronics, home and garden etc.  It’s similar to eBay only without the auction, so you can dictate the price.  If you don’t get a buyer within 60 days you can relist, possibly at a lower price if you want to make a sale, or remove the item altogether at no cost.  It’s free to list your items, but if they sell Amazon takes 17.5 per cent of the selling price.  The cut is steep but considering your other option is to give your stuff away, I think it’s worth it.  Amazon automatically calculates shipping costs and adds these to the total selling price which is paid by the buyer.  Once you’ve got a sale the selling price and shipping costs are paid to your bank account, minus Amazon’s take of course, and all that’s left to do is pop it in the post.


Before you get too excited, check how much your old books or DVDs are selling for on Amazon – popular novels and bestsellers don’t earn a lot, because the market is flooded.  My used copy of the fourth Harry Potter in hardcover is selling for an average of £0.85 for instance, hardly worth listing. 

Better money comes from selling academic or business textbooks and hard to find novels, biographies or DVDs.  Five of my marketing textbooks were selling for an average of £30 each.  I want to recoup some cash in the next 60 days so I listed my books at about £5 less than the lowest selling price. 

Even if most of your books aren’t worth much, you’ll probably find a few mini-goldmines.  I got all warm and fuzzy inside when I discovered my ‘previously viewed’ copy of the DVD “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood,” which I picked up from a video store for £2.99 is selling for £10, who knew you could make money from rental DVDs? 

And if you’re the type who loves your books too much to ever part with them, at least you know where to go to buy cheaper – and reused – ones.

Happy flogging! 

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