How to spot bargains in charity shops… and haggle at car boot sales

Last week, in part one of our Never Go Broke series, we revealed the secrets of building a giant pot of cash from the junk in your home.

Now it’s time to think about reinvesting the pot in the exciting world of ‘resale’.

I’m talking about spotting bargains in charity shops, haggling for gems at car boot sales and bidding for treasures in online auctions — then flipping those items by selling them online for a profit.

Car booty: You can still find some brilliant buys at car boot sales, which can be sold on for big profits. Remember to haggle hard, but always treat sellers with respect

All the advice comes from my book Never Go Broke, written with the star of TV’s Storage Hunters, Jesse McClure, who has turned over millions of pounds buying and selling like this.

There is nothing stopping you from becoming a part-time resale master, clocking up little wins that add up over time — and it can become a pleasingly addictive hobby, where the sky’s the limit…

Car boots

There is nothing quite like the thrill of turning up to a boot sale and having no idea what will be on offer.

Hunting for bargains can be enormous fun — and you can turn £50 into much more if you know what you’re doing.

One option is the locust approach. Don’t be a pest; give sellers respect. But arrive early, buzz around quickly and you’ll have the pick of the best items. 

Go with the mindset of: I’m offering hard cash for this right away, and you may not get a better offer all day. Haggle hard!

When you arrive, take a power walk away from the stalls by the entrance to the end of the car boot and work backwards. That way you’ll avoid most of the other locusts hunting for early bargains.

Your first aim should be to find ‘bread and butter’ items: CDs, DVDs, video games and books.

Use the barcode scanning apps Music Magpie, We Buy Books and Ziffit. Simply use the apps to take a picture of the items and they will tell you how much you can get.

If you spot an underpriced gem, buy it. You simply package up the item, send it to the address given by the app and the money will land in your bank account soon after.

Spending between 3p and 10p on CDs, DVDs, video games and books should be your sweet spot. Don’t shell out much more.

Collectibles: Charity shops tend to be loaded with clothes. One of Jesse¿s favourite tricks for new traders is to pick a type of clothing

Collectibles: Charity shops tend to be loaded with clothes. One of Jesse’s favourite tricks for new traders is to pick a type of clothing

Another tactic is being a sloth — arriving near the end of a car boot sale, with the mindset of: sellers are tired and they don’t want to take any of this stuff home.

You may be able to buy someone’s entire stall, or at least a good selection of items, for peanuts. This is more of a technique to use once you’ve gained experience, as the risks are higher.

Jesse once bought five boxes of mixed CDs, DVDs, games and books for £3 each at the end of a car boot. He turned them into £200 by selling them on the barcode apps — a profit of 1,233 per cent.

Other items Jesse recommends targeting at car boot sales range from high-quality tools to Converse trainers.

Charity shops

There are thought to be more than 11,000 charity shops across Britain. Sniffing out bargains here is a win-win: you’re giving money to charity for an item they received free, and so allowing more stock to be rolled out.

Again, use the barcode apps. Key targets should include academic and large coffee-table books. You’ll find plenty of 50p books worth £5. The same applies to CDs, DVDs and vinyl records.

Charity shops tend to be loaded with clothes. One of Jesse’s favourite tricks for new traders is to pick a type of clothing — for example, winter coats.

This way, you’ll soon become an expert. Jesse can now spot valuable designer coats quickly and flick past the ones he won’t be able make a profit on. 

Retro appeal: Nintendo gaming watches are worth £200

Retro appeal: Nintendo gaming watches are worth £200

Buy winter coats in summer when prices are lower and sell them when the colder weather arrives. Once you’re an expert in a niche, you can use the same approach at car boot sales.

Try to build contacts at charity shops. If you ask politely, they may let you look at stock before it’s put out, or alert you if a niche item you might like arrives.

Online auctions

For second-hand traders, the online auction websites Invaluable, The Sale Room and Easy Live Auction are a modern-day wonder. They are fabulous bargain repositories.

But beware: even though you can’t see the people you’re bidding against, you still need a poker face. Bide your time to get used to the ebb and flow before bidding.

Jesse found five Nintendo gaming watches worth £200 each in an online auction. He got them for £5 a pop and made a big profit.

Often, auction houses hold specialist auctions for items such as Star Wars memorabilia. Here, bidders tend to focus on top-value items — yet the real value is often farther down the pecking order.

It’s worth phoning the auction house to quiz them about items — photographs don’t always tell the full story. 

Also, factor in fees and postage costs, and make sure you know about what you’re buying.

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Seven tips to master trading 

Before you try to make buying and selling second-hand goods a lucrative hobby, here are some key pieces of advice:

  • Buy items you love: One of the best ways to minimise risk is to focus on items and genres you enjoy, from sports to fashion.
  • Carve a niche: If you know a specific market inside out, you’re far more likely to make money. Jesse, for example, became an accidental expert in cameras. He can now spot undervalued ones and feel almost sure he’ll make a profit.
  • Art of the haggle: Don’t be too British! Always offer a lower price. Worst-case scenario? The seller says no; you walk away.
  • Start small: Get small wins under your belt before committing more money. The aim is to achieve plenty of little wins, as opposed to trying to unearth a huge rare find.
  • Rinse and repeat: Reinvest and sell, rinse, repeat and go on as far as you can. The key is keeping a separate pot of cash solely for your resale hobby, and keeping on top of the items you’re selling by having an inventory list.
  • Building contacts: Having a contacts book is key — it’ll help you get expert advice quickly and sell your item on, pronto. The easiest sale is to a repeat customer.
  • Marketing tricks: Find the right place to market and sell your item. Take your time to establish where this should be — and ensure that if you list it online, the photographs are great and the description is accurate, tapping into what sellers are looking for.

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