Monday, March 23, 2009

Money Monday: March 23, 2009

My topic today is a sensitive one. Those with delicate sensibilities may find the subject matter gruesome.

This weekend, I spent a lot of time digging through my stash. A lot of time. So much time, in fact, that I think it safe to say I spent the vast majority of the weekend doing very little other than shifting balls and cones and skeins of yarn from one place to another. With occasional pauses to go outside and praise the menfolk who were busy digging trenches and gluing PVC and wiring things and other stuff needed to create a raised-bed garden where once only the free-range, organic weeds bloomed. (More on that later, I promise. You won’t believe what we’re up to out there in the wilderness!)

The reason I was going through my stash so diligently was this: I want to put some of it up on eBay.

Hey, don’t yell at me like that! I told you it was gruesome, right in the first paragraph!

Eh, but seriously…it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’ve been thinking about this for a while (months, actually), and at first I was…extremely resistant to the idea. But I got over it. Up it goes, and hopefully out it goes. Free up some space, put a little cash back into my pocket for other things, and onward we’ll run.

It’s not as sensitive a sore spot for me as it might be, I suppose. I learned my lesson about being attached to Things years ago, when we purged the Den of all kinds of “precious” collectibles during our leanest years.

So I started opening up boxes and rummaging through drawers. As I took out each skein or ball, I asked myself a simple question: If I were in a yarn store right now, looking at this…would I buy it? Why, or why not? What would I do with it?

When I said “No, I wouldn’t buy this” I tossed it into my big laundry basket for resale.

And then a few baskets.

And a couple boxes.

And then the whole bed.

And…well. Let’s just say I’ve got a massive pile of yarn to photograph, describe, and get up on eBay for quick sale, folks.

Why so much? Well, I’ll be honest, the vast majority of it was purchased in a single year, specifically, 1999. I’d learned to knit at a yarn store that closed before I mastered the purl stitch. It was not replaced. When I needed yarn, well, I could go to WalMart, or if I wanted fancier stuff, Michaels. And then, in 1999, with cash in my pocket and an innocent, never-seen-hand-dyed-wool-before heart…I went to Stitches. {Angels Singing Heavy Metal Real LOUD}

I took a couple classes and then, armed with the knowledge that I was TOTALLY a master knitter now delusion that I knew something about this knitting thing, I hit the market…with a budget that I would kill for today.

I bought and bought and bought. Wool, mohair, silk, blends, cotton, linen, hemp, hand-dyed, hand-painted, hand-spun. Anything that caught my eyes, for its color, it’s texture, it’s scent, it’s content, bam! SOLD!

A lot of that has gone into happy projects through the years.

What hasn’t, though…well. It isn’t the yarn’s fault. It’s still good stuff. It’s just not stuff that catches my fancy anymore. I would say I’ve matured, but frankly anybody who accidentally types ‘fart’ when she means ‘far’ and then laughs like a hyena for, like, ten minutes…probably can’t claim any form of ‘maturity.’

I mean, really. It’s not that funny, Tama. (Oh, but somehow…it was.)

It’s not hard to decide to let the objects themselves go. In fact, I let them go with a full heart. I let them go knowing that, to someone else, they will be beautiful and perfect and just what I wanted. They will become beautiful things. They will give pleasure. They will fulfill their destiny…which I’m pretty sure was not supposed to be “stuffed in a dark, lidded box for fifty years until the old bat finally croaked so I could be sold for fifty cents at a yard sale.”

What was a little hard was pushing past was the sunk costs.

A sunk cost is money you’ve spent that ain’t comin’ back. In this case, it’s what I paid for the yarn. When I put this up on eBay, I’m not going to make a profit. I paid retail for this stuff, with a few 20% off sales thrown into the mix.

I fully expect it will sell for somewhere around half the going retail price…or less. So technically, I’m selling it at a loss. Bad business, right?

Welllllllllllll…sort of. If I’d bought this stuff and had some way to resell it for more, then it would be very bad business indeed.

But I didn’t. I bought it as an end-consumer, expecting to use it myself. And then I didn’t. And I won’t. And it’s something of a nuisance and I’d prefer to have money because I have Plans that require it.

It trips us up a lot, that fixation on what something cost. We want things to eternally be “worth” the price we paid for them when we bought them…or preferably, be worth more than we paid.

And yet, it is almost never the case. From clothes to cars, the moment you take possession, they start losing value at a rapid clip. Unless you happen to be Somebody Famous, in which case you can sneeze into a Kleenex and suddenly that snotty paper rag is worth thousands, which is gross but still, there it is.

(And now I suddenly have this weird pause to contemplate a Law & Order episode where somebody close to a Mega Star intentionally gave the poor sap a cold so they could collect the snot-rags and sell them on eBay and then got busted “Yer honor, the defendant is charged with infect-teering for gross [and we do mean GROSS] personal profit in the first degree!”) (…honestly, the things that go through my head sometimes frighten me a little bit…)

So when I was faced with something I bought that turns out to be not as useful as I’d hoped, I’m trying not to think about how much I spent on it and how much I’ll “lose” by getting rid of it by one means or another.

I’ve already lost that money. All of it. Gone. Long, long ago.

I’m trying instead to think in terms of how can I maximize what I get for it now.

Of the stuff I wouldn’t buy today, I’m holding back a little to make things to fill up an Etsy shop. I’m donating some that is kind of “icky” for knitting to the school (which is deductible, by the way) – it’ll be perfect to make doll hair and arts and crafts projects.

And the rest, well, even if I only make a fraction of the retail price, my best bang for the buck will still be the old eBay auction.

Someone else will get a blog-post worthy deal on some really nice stuff. I’ll get a cash infusion to use for other things, things that will be useful and happy to me right here and now.

Which is a here-and-now win-win…even if it is an on-paper loss.


Anonymous said...

Having struggled with the same issue of "worth" myself, I admire your ability to take the realistic view. Most of us take much longer to come to that realization.

And as I have aged it has become easier to let go of things that I once thought I couldn't manage without. This year is the "let it go", or more appropriately, the "get it out of here" year. My house and my heart will really appreciate it.

(formerly) no-blog-rachel said...

Good for you. I haven't done the eBay thing but I do participate in yarn swaps sponsored by my LYS and one of my knitting groups. I contribute what no longer makes me smile when I look at it, and I make a point of coming home with less than what I brought. And I only bring home what makes me smile.

Galad said...

Sounds like a good plan to me. Find a new home for quality yarn and get some money for what you need now.

I'm looking at selling some of our my collectibles on Ebay to declutter so will be interested to hear how your sales go. I wondered if the economy would slow things down on Ebay.

PipneyJane said...

So now wouldn't be a good time to tell you about the 48 balls of 20% angora:80% merino DK I couldn't resist earlier this month? I loved it so much that I bought it in 3 colorways (pale blue, white, and "giggle" pink). At 1/3 of the regular retail price. It's beautiful! It's so soft! And I haven't a clue what I'm going to do with it.

- Pam

Anonymous said...

Good for you. I think the challenge for me is the "possibility" the yarn holds. If I don't use a serving dish, and haven't in six years, I have no problem seeing that as silly and getting rid of it. It's what could be done with the yarn that is hard for me.

Wow, does that make me an optimist or something? Don't tell my husband, he'd be so surprised...

Anonymous said...

Okay, clearly I'm having trouble with money management, etc., because the minute I saw "putting it on eBay" my little heart went pitterpat!
"OOooh!", thought I, "I could have some of Tama's yarn! Maybe then I could knit something like Tama knits! Surely some of her knitterly wonderfulness has soaked into that fiber over the years and would naturally be transmitted to me, as the fiber's new owner." And then I smacked myself upside the head and said "Self! Get real!", for yea verily, there is no way on earth that I will ever approach your knitting skillz. But I may still try to snap up some of your yarn, because...well...I think I'm a groupie. Weird, huh.

Jeanne said...

Ah, but there is one thing you're forgetting--the yarn was purchased in 1999 at the 1999 price.

In 2009, the prices of similar yarns have likely gone up, meaning that the relative loss may be less than anticipated. You may also have discontinued yarn in your stash that someone may need "desperately" to finish the project they began in 1998, and you'll net a higher price for it.

Kris said...

Don't forget about the FSOT groups and pages on Ravelry. There you won't have to pay commission.

Tola said...

please please list it on Ravelry first!

Kaviare said...

Value is a weird one, huh? I often find this the other way, with hand work.

As someone who myself makes things with my hands, I often think that the item is WORTH more than the seller is charing. Without actually being willing ot pay even that.

Now how does that work?