The Guide to Making Money ASAP
If you’re broke, there are plenty of ways to supplement your income by selling your stuff. However, it can be overwhelming to parse through the options, especially when you need cash ASAP. Let this be a survival guide for anyone who is panicking because they need money right now. Instead of racking your brain to think of which of your friends owes you $5, read this list of ways to sell or trade-in your used possessions. The options fall into two categories: when you need the money today and when you need it in a few weeks.
- I’ve limited this list to selling to companies that let you trade in or sell your stuff on the spot, instead of platforms like eBay where you list your item and have no guarantee that someone will buy it. I’ve also omitted places that offer only store credit or gift cards. Shops that offer store credit in addition to cash appear on this list, but if you’re strapped for cash, take the money.
- Read up on a company’s rules before you sell to it. Some stores require you to have a valid government ID if you want to sell. Some stores only buy during certain hours.
- Naturally, the quality of your items will affect the price you get for them. Stores have different policies about whether they will donate items they don’t buy, so locate the nearest thrift store and be prepared to drop what’s unwanted off there afterward.
The amount of money you’ll get by selling to the places on this list can vary from $15 for selling clothes to a couple hundred dollars for selling electronics. Even if you don’t have any big ticket items to sell, you can still make some extra cash by cleaning out your drawers and your closet. If you really need money, every bit helps.
Cash Today Please
There are ways to get cash immediately in exchange for selling your stuff, as long as stores are open. All of these places will give you cash on the spot, and some also offer the option of paying you by handing over a check.
#1) Sell Your Clothes
Buy/sell/trade stores are different from consignment shops because they give you cash on the spot for your on trend, gently used or new clothes and accessories. Try Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading Co., Beacon’s Closet, and The Attic. Plato’s Closet is similar to these places, but it only deals in boys and girls sizes. All these places pay you about 30% of the price they choose to sell you item at. (Each of these five chains has a slightly different rate.)
Beacon’s Closet is a New York chain and The Attic is a Pennsylvania chain, but the other three companies have locations nationwide. These places buy clothes, shoes, jewelry, bags, and other accessories. They are very selective, however, so expect them to only take a small percentage of the things you bring in.
Make sure to call your local store or check the website to see what season they’re currently buying for and what items they’re particularly interested in. If it’s summer and you bring in a bunch of sweaters, the staff will not even consider them. Some of these places are also interested in Halloween costumes, especially ones that are not store-bought (think: homemade or unique pieces), so if you go in mid-October, you can get money for the costume from five years ago that’s taking up space in your closet.
I sell to Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads, and Beacon’s Closet regularly, and while I usually only make between $5–15 per trip (that’s from hitting up two or three of these stores in one day), it’s also a way to clean out my closet and make money off things I would otherwise donate. I go in expecting that they’ll only take a small percentage of my clothes, so I’m not frustrated when I have to take bags of leftovers to the nearest Goodwill.
#2) Sell Your Books, CDs, Vinyl, DVDs, and Video Games
Many local or chain stores will buy these items for cash on the spot. Bookoff is a national chain that buys almost anything: books, CDs, DVDs, musical instruments, electronics, bags, and home items. For selling books in New York, try The Strand, Book Culture (a New York chain), the Drama Book Shop (plays only), and Unnameable Books. Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, buys books in store.
I’ve sold to The Strand and Book Culture and they are very selective, Book Culture even more so than The Strand. I made $6 at The Strand (just 50 cents more than round trip subway fare), and at Book Culture I made even less. The Strand has a professional process, with a buying counter and all. But at Book Culture I was the only person selling and the staff seemed very confused. The guy I was selling to was very rude. Since carrying bags of books around is heaving than carrying bags of clothes, it’s something I wouldn’t do again.
#3) Sell Your Electronics
You can hit the jackpot selling your used (or even broken) electronics. Bookoff and CeX buy electronics. You can sell a cell phone at an EcoATM: you drop your used phone into the machine and receive cash on the spot. There are locations nationwide. Video Games New York will buy your video game systems. In New York, you can try one of the stores in the Diamond District on 47th Street.
Fair warning: I once sold my old MacBook in the Diamond District at Sell Electronics NYC and it was the sketchiest experience of my life. I went to the address and found that it was part of a huge arcade. A guy standing outside asked what I was looking for and directed me to the second floor where I went into tiny office that didn’t say Sell Electronics NYC anywhere. The lettering on the door had a phone number that didn’t match the website.
Once the man behind a desk assured me that this was Sell Electronics NYC, I showed him my old computer. He interrogated me about why I was getting rid of it and what was wrong with it, and then gave me $60 in ten dollar bills. I’m still not sure if this was some weird other business trying to poach customers away from Sell Electronics NYC or if it was the right business, but I got $60 and made it out alive. That is also how 47th Street become my least favorite New York City street.
#4) Sell Your Musical Instruments
#5) Sell to a Pawn Shop
Instead of pawning an item, you can sell it outright at a pawn shop. They buy gold and silver jewelry, musical instruments, electronics, and more. Jewelry stores that buy gold and silver are also ubiquitous.
#6) Deposit Cans and Bottles at the Grocery Store
You can collect cans and bottles and redeem them at a machine in your local grocery store. The machine will give you a receipt which you take to a cashier to redeem for cash. You can recycle your own cans and bottles or pick them out of garbage cans. The latter isn’t glamorous, but the folks over at Brokelyn tried it and it does earn you some (minimal) cash. (Editor’s note: this might technically be illegal, recycle at your own risk)
Cash In a Few Weeks
If you’re trading in online, the process will take longer, but it’s still a great option. All of these sites pay by check, PayPal, or bank transfer. One of these may be faster than the others, so pick the fastest one.
#1) Sell Your Clothes Online
Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads Trading Co. offer a sell by mail option, and both offer free shipping. You can also sell your clothes to buy/sell/trade companies that are online-only. Rebagg, for designer bags, offers pickups in NYC as well as free shipping, and you get paid within 2–3 business days after they receive your items. ThreadUP buys women’s and kids’ clothes and offers free shipping.
#2) Sell Your Books, CDs, DVDs, and Video Games Online
BookScouter is a site that searches dozens of buyback sites such as ValoreBooks, Chegg, SellBackYourBook, and Textbooks.com to see what your book is worth. You can then send your books off (free shipping) to the place that gives you the best quote. Each site has a different estimate for when you’ll get your money. Many of them have a minimum item or dollar amount you need to hit to ship to them. It usually takes 2–3 weeks for your items to be shipped, evaluated, and for you to get paid. I love BookScouter and use it whenever I have accumulated enough unwanted books to unload. BookFinder is another buyback aggregator. And Powell’s buys books online and pays for shipping.
TextbookRush buys Books, CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, and video games and has free shipping. Sell DVDs Online buys DVDs, CDs, and video games, and video game systems, with free shipping. Decluttr buys CDs, DVDs, and video games and has free shipping. I had a great experience selling half my CD collection to Decluttr.
#3) Sell Your Electronics Online
Sell DVDs Online buys video game systems. Decluttr buys electronics including video game consoles, cell phones, Apple products, and Kindles. TextbookRush buys electronics. Gazelle buys Apple products, cell phones, and tablets. Shipping is free if your item is worth $1 or more. USell buys cell phones, iPads, and video game consoles. I’ve used USell and loved it. CeX lets you trade in electronics online. NextWorth accepts electronics and offers free shipping
#4) Sell Your Gift Cards Online
Gift Card Granny is a site that searches other sites that allow you to sell gift cards for cash. You will get less than the value of the gift card, but you get it in cash. After you search, choose the option “Sell Your Card Immediately” to trade your card in for money rather than trying to list it for sale.
Hopefully this list will help you when you’re broke and the rent is due next week, or allow you to earn a little extra money on top of your job. Maybe it will inspire you to get rid of some of your junk. The next time you have a panic attack late at night and start googling “how to make cash today,” reference this list instead.
Madeline Raynor is a New York City-based writer. She writes for New York Magazine and Slate, and has written for BUST Magazine, Splitsider, Death and Taxes, Mashable, Indiewire, and Time Out New York. She loves all things Tina Fey. Word to the wise: her first name is pronounced with a long “i,” like the red-haired girl from France. Follow her on Twitter @madelineraynor_.