Whether you're agreeing to it before a divorce or just trying to shed physical reminders post-divorce, converting material possessions into cash isn't always a terrible idea. If done correctly, it can bring some closure to this chapter in your life while also adding some spending money to your pocket. It's not always the right decision, though, so make sure you think through any financial steps before or after a divorce carefully before moving forward.
Selling Your Stuff: When and When Not
After a divorce order is signed and all the items have been legally divided, you're fairly free to do what you want with your possessions. You also can't sell property, especially for less than fair market value, just to get it off the balance sheets and reduce the amount of value your spouse gets out of it.
What you might be able to do is agree together — before any divorce petition is filed — that you want to sell a property or item. Some couples know before they file that they are ending their marriage, so they might go ahead and sell a home and split the proceeds, for example. Anytime you take a step like this, get the agreement in writing so you're both better protected.
Selling property during the divorce process should typically be avoided. In some states, an automatic restraining order against such activity goes into place as soon as a divorce petition is filed. This is true whether one of you hired an attorney to file or both of you are working together on It’s Over Easy for a divorce without lawyers.
Ways to Convert Stuff to Cash
You can convert material possessions to cash in a number of ways, all depending on your preference, comfort level with either technology or people and what you're looking to sell. Before you start hawking your wares, though, make sure you know why you want to sell something. You may not want to sell items that:
- Have sentimental value outside of your marriage (or even have sentimental value within the marriage, if you're partial to those memories and would like the reminder around)
- May be useful to you or your children
- May be something you want to pass on to your children in the future
If you do decide the item is no longer necessary, here are five ways to sell it.
1. Host a Garage Sale
A garage sale (or yard sale) is a great way to convert numerous personal and household items to cash in a single day. It's a good method if you're downsizing or if you and your ex simply collected a lot of stuff over the years and you ended up with more than you need.
Pros: Garage sales are easy and inexpensive, and they come with very little risk. You can even join in with a community or event sale if you don't want people in your yard.
Cons: You have to plan ahead and wake up early, and garage sales tend to bring the lowest possible price for most items.
2. Visit a Pawn Shop
Opt to sell or pawn an item if it's unique or valuable. Some heirlooms, jewelry, artwork, electronics, tools and musical instruments are common items purchased by pawn shops.
Pros: You can pawn your item for immediate cash if needed but return to pay off the pawn loan to get your item back.
Cons: Because the pawn shop has to make money too, you'll never get full retail value for the item.
3. Create an Ad on Craigslist or Facebook
You can list almost anything on Craigslist for sale, including furniture, electronics, appliances and clothing. Local Facebook groups also provide a similar opportunity.
Because it takes time to appropriately manage the ad process, consider combining smaller items into single listings. You might offer a selection of size 4 clothing in a single advertisement, for example.
Pros: Craigslist or Facebook can net you a larger audience for your goods, and it's free to list personal items for sale. You can typically get a better sell price than you would in a garage sale.
Cons: It can take a while to sell some items, and there are risks during delivery of your item. Mitigate those risks by keeping your address private, meeting buyers in public locations and bringing an adult acquaintance with you during swaps.
4. Auction it Off on eBay
If you have items that might spark interest with collectors or hobbyists, an eBay auction can help drive up the sales price. It does help if you have a well-established eBay account with good feedback, and the site works best when you can ship the item to the buyer.
Pros: Online auctions can expand potential buyers to a national or even international audience, driving up the potential profit.
Cons: You'll have to pay fees on the auction and PayPal payment, and there's always the chance that the item goes for much less than you planned.
5. Trade or Sell to Niche Sites or Stores
If you're ready to part with a large collection of niche items, then you can often do it in bulk via niche sites or stores. You can trade in media, including books, DVDs, CDs and Blu-rays, via numerous online sites that let you create bulk lists and print prepaid labels to send in your items. Once items are received, they send you a check, PayPal payment or ACH credit.
Local consignment stores often buy items or offer credit for them. You might be able to sell adult clothing, trade children's fashions for items that fit your kids now or convert CD collections into fast cash.
Pros: No risk and you can decide whether you want to sell the item after you hear what they'll pay for it.
Cons: It can be time consuming to gather and sort items, and payouts are typically fairly low.
Whatever You Do, Plan Ahead
Whatever you do financially before and after a divorce, make sure you're taking time to plan and not just reacting to circumstances. It's Over Easy helps couples to navigate the uncontested divorce process, including providing financial templates that help you ensure each party has enough money to live a stable lifestyle post-divorce. If you also want to plan to downsize or convert personal items to cash, remember to agree before divorce, put major financial changes on hold during divorce and do what is best for you after divorce.