Either situation can leave you feeling like money is just pouring through your fingers. But there are ways you can save money, make money or even try and fund the kids' clothes and toys in a cost-neutral way - and all through online shopping and auction website eBay. Here's my easy and cunning guide to selling, earning money and saving money by grabbing some real bargains on eBay.
What is eBay?You can buy and sell pretty much anything (legal!) both from the UK and abroad on eBay. Currently there are over 164 million global active UK users and it's been running since 1995 so you can be pretty sure the site is safe and reliable.
How to save money on eBay
Luckily for us mums there's plenty on eBay for sale for kids and plenty of opportunity to buy, buy, buy! Items are organised in categories. There's a 'baby' category which, on the day of writing, had 468,752 items up for sale on it. Toys & games had 1,115,973 items and there's a girls' and boys' clothes category too. Don't be defeated by the sheer volume of stuff on there, though, here are some top tips to spot a bargain and give you the best chance of bidding successfully and getting a good price for items...
1. Look at the time the item ends: Most people bid on items at certain peak times of the day. Think about when people will be at their computers. Lunchtimes, evenings and weekends are when most people shop online. If there's an item you're interested in, you'll be more likely to win it cheaper if it ends when fewer people are watching it.
2. Check the postage: A start price of 99p is all very well, as long as the postage isn't £8.95. Some items have a postage limit on them to stop sellers inflating their postage unfairly. Don't bid on an item if you think the postal charges are unreasonable.
3. Check the seller's feedback: If they've got a lot of negative or neutral feedback, it's unlikely they're a good seller. Your parcel may not be posted in the specified time, or, worse, it might not be posted at all. Avoid sellers with bad feedback, even if they have the best prices. Don't just look at the figure, ie, 100% positive feedback, make sure you read some of the feedback comments too and look at the variety of items. One seller I saw had 100% positive feedback, but when I read the comments I realised all he had sold was elastic bands for 1p, probably to friends, and boosted his feedback status that way!
4. Don't bid on items abroad, unless you have confirmed postage with the seller: You could win an item and imagine that the postage would be the exact cost stated on the UK Post Office website, but sellers can add extras for packing and postage and even petrol, so make sure you've cleared the fees with them before you bid.
5. Search for items with and without spelling mistakes: If a seller has put an item with a spelling mistake up for sale, fewer buyers will find it and bid on it, which means you could get the item for cheaper. Website www.fatfingers.co.uk will search for variations of spellings of items you're looking for without you having to think of all the ways someone could misspell a word.
6. Bid on items at the very last second: This is called 'sniping' and there are lots of tools you can either sign up to or download that will bid on items for you in the very last second to try and make sure you get the winning bid. Each tool has different rules and fees, so make sure you read all the registration rules carefully. Try www.phantombidder.com, www.ezsniper.com or www.esnipe.com.
7. Look at how many bids are already on an item: If there are, say, 22 bids on an item and it still has a few days left to run, it suggests that there are a lot of people watching the item and that a number of people will be determined to win it, pushing up the price.
8. Watch items carefully: You can add items to your own eBay page so that you can keep an eye on a number of items all in one place. If you're after a particular item, it's worth finding 4 or 5 of the same thing, adding them to your own page and watching them to see how many people appear to be watching and bidding on items. It'll give you a better idea of how much to bid and whether you have a good chance of winning the item for a reasonable price.
9. Buy out of season: As soon as the first frost hits, mums hit the internet for warm clothes for their kids, which drives up the prices of all the warm things. Sometimes when mums are doing a big clearout, warm items appear in the summer and vice versa, so if you've got the space to store, work out how old your kids will be or what size they'll be in winter and grab some bargains then.
10. Read the selling description carefully: I wanted to buy a Galt playnest for my daughter. I found a few on eBay and one particularly was a good price. Because it was inflatable I was wary about buying it in case it was really well-used and had holes in the rubber. When I read the information, it said it had only been used a few times as it had been kept in a grandparent's house and only used on visits! It arrived in near perfect condition and I saved around £15.
11. How to spot fakes and frauds: If a seller is selling a lot of high price items for a cheap price, they're likely to be fakes. Buying guides are helpful on this topic. Take a look at this one - A guide to the top 10 eBay cons. Forewarned is forearmed. But do bear in mind that the majority of eBay users are honest and trustworthy.
12. Look closely at pictures: Sometimes photos are deliberately blurry - don't buy if you can't see what you're buying clearly, whatever the price.
13. Examine items carefully when they arrive: Some sellers bet on the fact that you'll be so pleased with a bargain price, you won't examine an item properly or notice a flaw until it's too late to complain, so it's vital you give every item a thorough check when it's arrived. Of course if a description clearly states a toy is missing a part and you buy it, you have accepted that the toy is going to have a part missing and are not entitled to return it. You can only return items if they are significantly not as described.
14. Don't be afraid to return items that are not as described: Continuing from the topic above, if there are problems with an item that have not been brought to your attention by the seller in the item description, then you are entitled to return the item for a full refund. Don't be tempted just to try and resell it again on eBay, you may find yourself out of pocket - your best course of action is contact the seller and arrange to return the item for a refund.
What to buy on eBayItems to look for:
Kids' clothes are really popular on eBay because they grow out of them so fast! Toddler dungarees, for example, just don't fit kids for long enough for them to get proper wear out of them so you can get really good quality clothes for bargain prices. Similarly, kids grow out of and get bored of toys quite quickly so many mums put them straight on eBay to make room (and to get the money) for new toys.
Great for buying or selling are: Popular toys, particularly ones that are associated with TV programmes, characters or films. Baby items, such as Bumbos, monitors, play mats, prams, activity centres, children's and baby clothes, development toys, books, shoes, baby slings, swing seats, chairs/supports, high chairs, Grobags.
Be careful: Look for a CE Mark or Lion Mark on toys to make sure they're safe for your child to play with. Check clothes labels to make sure they meet the latest standards. Also be careful that cots comply with the latest safety regulations.
What NOT to buy on eBay:Children's car seats - you won't know if they've already been damaged in an accident which makes them unsafe.
How to sell on eBayFees: How much does it cost to sell on eBay? That depends on the starting price of the auction, how long you run the auction for, how much the item sells for and there are other optional extras as well. The easiest way to work out your fees is to use one of the free calculators online, like this one: http://finalfeecalculator.co.uk/
Price it right: In any marketplace if there are lots of the same item, the price will be much cheaper, driven down by the competition. However, if you're selling an unwanted gift, or something you've got double of, simply go on the site, look at the other items for sale and place your item for sale just a few pence cheaper than the cheapest one - it'll guarantee that yours gets sold fastest and will attract the most attention as people are more likely to 'watch' your item.
Do your research: You can also check and see how much that item has been selling for recently. On your account page, click on 'Advanced' on the main bar across the top of the page. Enter the name of the item, scroll down and tick the 'completed listings' box. Then click 'search'. eBay will show you the end price of all the items over the last few weeks.
Make sure you end your item at a time when people will be at their computers. Just because you're up at 6, doesn't mean most people will be.
Think about who you're selling to. If you're selling to mums, they're likely to be up early, have breakfasts and lunches to make, school runs to do, bathtimes etc so try and end your items when they might have five minutes to themselves. After the kids have gone to bed and they've had dinner is when most mums get on the internet.
Read selling guides: Go to reviews on eBay. Type the item you're interested in selling in case you can pick up some helpful tips before you put your item up for sale. For example, I typed 'pram' into the search box and came up with this handy guide for selling your pram on eBay.
Worried about buying and selling on eBay?What happens if I pay for an item and it doesn't turn up? The good thing about PayPal is you're totally protected if you pay for an item through their system - look for the PayPal protected symbol. If an item doesn't arrive, you contact the seller and they don't respond, you can claim a full refund from PayPal who will investigate your complaint with eBay. If your item is lost in the post it's up to the seller to reclaim the compensation from the Post Office and they should give you a full refund. If they don't, again, you can open a complaint in the resolution centre on eBay and they'll investigate for you and arrange a refund.
What if I sell an item and the buyer doesn't pay? If you contact the seller and the seller doesn't reply, after a week you can open a dispute in the eBay resolution centre to give them a final chance to pay. If, after a certain period of time, they don't pay, eBay will refund your selling fees and you can resubmit your item for sale again, so you won't be out of pocket. (The buyer also gets a strike for not paying.)
Cost-neutral buying and selling When I sell things on eBay, the money goes into my PayPal account. I then use that money, and only that money, to buy things on eBay. I love this because it means that I can shop guilt-free and buy things my daughter either needs or would like, without me having to budget or worry about spending the money. As soon as she's grown out of something (as long as it's not a sentimental favourite!!), I sell it on eBay and buy something else in her new size. And don't forget that not all the kids' clothes are second hand, there are plenty of new items available too.
Good luck with your shopping! And let me know your success stories/best buys and if you've got any of your own tips you'd like to share in the comments box below