Thrift store flipping – how to make a side income from frugal shopping


Reselling helps you learn about business at a very low cost. This helps you become more resilient because it shows you new ways to earn income other than working a job.

My wife is making some side income from one of her favorite past times – shopping. I am all for this revamped past time as it is profitable and it empowers her. Several reasons for this:

  • She can shop at whatever schedule works for her.
  • The location can adjust to her and it can keep her preoccupied when we are traveling-or when my plans for the day are not interesting for her.
  • Her expenses are pretty low, as she is purchasing at insanely low prices.
  • The resell is almost always above the purchase price so in theory these are profitable
  • We purchase things we may also use and can sell afterwards

How does it work? Let me explain.

Like a lot of people, my wife likes to shop. This can be an issue when money is tight-and earlier versions of this habit was a problem. However, currently my wife has been shopping with a different mindset altogether. She has learned to find valuable items at ridiculous prices with the intent of using them and then selling them back to others thru different sites.

First step is to find a source with good selection and good prices. A good example is our favorite thrift store. With enough regular visits and by asking the staff, you will learn when they get large new inventory and how long it takes to put them out to the shelves. There are times we go there and the there’s nothing of value, and there are times when we can find a whole bunch of stuff. Keep track of the bad days and the good days. It’s also a good idea to check things out when seasons change and holidays have just ended. Think of times when you might be in the mood to purge your home/garage of old stuff. Now reverse engineer the dates when it might be good to check the local Goodwill store.

Other location options are:

  • estate sales
  • flea markets
  • discount stores
  • regular stores on discount days or seasonal sales

The location of the store will also affect your findings. Some neighborhoods have thrifty people. Some have wasteful consumers who go thru their stuff much faster-so you get things in better condition. Drive around new areas, check the houses and cars in the driveways. Check the kind of stores in the area. Then find the local thrift store and see what kind of stuff they get on different days.

Next step is finding your preferred schedule. This will require some finagling. The initial research will need you to be out there as much as possible. For my wife, since she stays home, she can go out as often as she wants and she can cherry pick the days when great inventory comes in. This is a huge advantage. That, plus she can come in on days when they have great discounts and other customers have not yet picked up on it.

You will also need to figure out your own schedule on when to post things (best done as a bulk task) and when you want to pack and ship things. Here she can really do this at the time that best works for her.

Look at items that can be resold. This is a balance between what we want and the value the item will have for other people to whom we will sell it to afterwards. Look thru the overall wear and tear of the product. Is it dated or are people still interested in this type of stuff? Are all the parts there? A lot of times we will buy a toy for my son and parts of it will be missing. Posting these for resale, you have to be very clear of what is included in them. Toys are a good item to purchase as your kids will have fun with it and later on, as long as they have not painted it or dismantled it, you can sell them to other parents who are looking. We once got a large Nerf gun with missing parts. We had it around for about a year, then we sold it when we noticed my son was not using it anymore. We earned about $10 maybe if I recall it right.

As you look around, check how much the item sells for if new and if used. Check online if the item is popular. Check Ebay for typical prices and how many are “watching” the item.

Check items and see if they are in demand and at what price

Let’s say you found some good stuff, bought them and used them, now you are ready to get rid of it. Where do you sell these?

Read more “Thrift store flipping – how to make a side income from frugal shopping”

My profession is dying

For quite some time I have been tracking all the automation trends: Uber with their automated Volvos, Farmbot with their CNC gardening bot, automated tractors, farming equipment , tools and devices to improve previously heavy labor.

I was wondering how this would affect my profession (architecture). I kept thinking that even the current software we use still requires the designer to provide input. To coordinate issues, to solve problems-on paper and on the field, to communicate with the bureaucrats and to explain the massive building code requirements.

I mean yes the use of BIM software would eliminate a lot of the conflicts and simplify a lot of the construction process. Still, with all the variables and conflicts that come up-owner requests, field conditions, errors in fabrication, compensations for schedule-I could not come up with how mere software can replace my job.

Until I chanced upon this article today. It was all by chance. I learned of a new job description yesterday so I thought I would try it. Basically, the name of the job is (blank) automation (blank), or automation (blank). Whatever the job was, add automation to it, and something would come up.

I ran a search for automation design by mistake. I ended up with  a great article from TechCrunch from June 2016 by Karl Brunner. Here is a link. His article summed it up for me in one word: AI. It is not some kind of mechanical automation, advances in fabrication. It was not the design software we used to make the building plans. It was the actual design software that the end users will use. With AI, the computer can interact with the end user in their preferred method and let them conceive of the environment they want to build. Myself and most designers would cease being the gatekeepers. It hit me in the gut pretty hard (it was a Tuesday morning right after my annual employee review, so this article had to be pretty strong to hit me after the fact).

Think about it, how many products can you currently acquire using AI? I was recently trying to find branding info for this urban farm I am running, and I used AI to come up with some logo and website concepts. Websites are designed with AI. The designers have been sucked of their creativity and their skills now reproduced and scaled by technology.

On the other hand, realizing that I was working as a gatekeeper also sucked. I do not want to be someone who profits by restricting access to something of benefit. I always wanted architecture to improve lives, and always thought there were a lot of flaws in our current system. A few days ago I was pondering on some kind of Uber approach to the industry, that it may be the only way to force change on it. Maybe this is that.

Rather than being a quick relay of info on that TechCrunch article this post actually going somewhere. There is no conclusion here. Only that I need to go and review this direction further. How can I be a part of this evolution, where it holds the potential of truly opening up architecture for the benefit of the end user?

Resiliency progress 16.08.15

The weekend was busy as predicted. Here’s the progress I made:

Food resiliency:
Been planning on gardening again this season. As part of this I am making planters from scrap wood and fencing. I finished a good sized planter on Friday night til Sat 2am working in the garage. At some point my circular saw ran out of juice and I used a hand saw-grrrreat for exercise but the timing was wrong. I had little left in me to do this at 1am.

The planter is done and ready to sit in the yard with good soil til temps get cooler. I will tarp over this and just let some life build into the soil.

Still trying to find a good holster that will work for my handgun. I have been carrying it everyday for a week and the holster does not work for me. Apparently, the gun I have does not have a lot of options for holsters so it’s been difficult to find good ones.

I decided to upload a 2min review for other folks using the same gun and looking for holster options:



A big bonus over the weekend was camping supplies. My wife found a garage sale where we found camping supplies worth over $200. These included a Coleman propane 2 burner stove, catalytic heater, MSR isobutane pocket stove, thermal blankets, cooking gear, a 12v air pump and inflatable bed. There’s a bunch more in it but those are still hot in my head and I am giddy with awesomness from the great find. (edit:I am making a separate post about this to give more detail)

We drove to Irving, TX to explore homestead options. Still looking for a neighborhood we can afford with the characteristics we are looking for. This is not a big homestead, but just a small suburban one. I still would like a bigger lot and no HOA.

The only flaws for this super productive weekend was that I did not work on the book at all. I will need to catch up somehow.

Slow day at the farmers market

Today is turning out to be a bad day at the farmers market. I’ve been here for about 3hrs now. So far I have made $12.

In my head I am asking myself is this just one of those days when everyone is browsing and not really here to buy? I observed other vendors, I think they get 3x more inquiries and not sure how much of those are sales.

I need to sanity check that. Hold on a sec.

Okay I guess it is just me sucking. Other folks are doing fine,particularly the refreshments. Produce and meats are kinda okay but not as busy as the drinks. It is hot here in Dallas right now. Maybe I can add some kind of drink to my store tomorrow-those would sell 🙂

I know I need to learn marketing. Kinda why I am still blogging my process thru this. But, right this moment, what can I do to sell these dang microgreens?

Okaaay the vendor beside me just closed and it is only 12:40pm. I guess it is just a bad day after all-mine just happens to be a bit worse than others.

(update, after a few more minutes another vendor closed up and left)

Anyway, I am trying to deal with this lack of interest from customers. I am trying to see if I can improve my chances by interacting differently with the browsers. Let’s see how they will react with me being more out there, more approachable demeanor and a bit more engaged.

So how about that. I just got 3 new inquiries in the last 10mins. What changed? All I did so far was stand up and make myself look more engaged. None of these folks buy microgreens regularly so if they get at least curious I can start a discussion.

-update: most of the post above was written on my notepad while I was there at the market in real time. Since that Saturday market, I closed up at about 3pm. I was there for almost the entire day, I made less than $20. Really bad day for me, I think that is my worst day (so far). By the time I got home I had a mild heat stroke and I had to hydrate all weekend, take some migraine meds and take naps. It also took me away from working on other projects-which is the biggest loss for the day.

On the other hand, somewhere in there I know I am supposed to learn something that leads to a more resilient life. Maybe it is just persisting. Maybe I just need to get kicked in the rear and pursue restaurant clients. Maybe I just need to focus and fix this side hustle of a business I am doing (the urban farm). Or maybe it leads me to understand sales better. Currently I still do not know, but I am reacting on the results of that weekend

I did get a teachable moment between me and my son. He came by with mommy around 2pm. I explained I had no sales, and we looked at dropping my prices. On that opportunity I explained to him how the market and prices work. If there is demand, the prices can be high. If there is zero demand, the prices can be set lower and daddy should go home.

He made me a sign, for $3 an ounce of my microgreens. That is 25% lower than my standard price. I opted to spend the remaining part of the day with my family.IMG_6095[1]

Article on the future economy

Here’s a quick article that shares some of my concerns:

The highlights from the article are:

  • Software is replacing accountants and analysts
  • Ecommerce is replacing traditional retail employees
  • Self-checkout kiosks are replacing food service personnel
  • Storage and retrieval systems are replacing warehouse workers
  • Robots are replacing factory and security employees
  • Online courses are replacing brick and mortar schools
  • Delivery drones are impacting the shipping industry
  • Smart cars will change the transportation industry

Almost all of these trends touch my day to day life at some level-they probably do to you as well. Maybe you are not working at a fastfood or maybe you don’t use Uber, but if not you then someone around you. Enough people around you that you do not know of will be impacted-and it may not matter that you do not know them, the sheer number of them being affected will affect you somehow.

It’s why I am worried-I cannot wrap my head around how much all of this will impact my family and everyone around me. These changes will not only change the economy and the job market, it will change our everyday lives.

Now hold on for a second. These changes are not just a cause for concern, they are also a reason to rejoice. Yes you might get laid off on your job (which would really suck) but after you deal with that issue and find another job, you cannot deny that there will be benefits to these changes. I would love to be able to type or sleep on an automated car on the way to work. Granted I want to keep our Jeep and retain the option to drive without automation, there are better things to do with your time rather than just interact with other drivers on the road.

Doing your groceries will also be more efficient, or just delivered to your door. Man this is going to hit the commercial real estate as well.

I may now have a better justification for telling my wife that my son may not go to college: he will have better options by then. He can get a highly specialized class for the industries that he is most passionate about. He will not have to deal with the fluff of tenured professors and french literature. He will probably finish formal schooling sooner as opposed to my generation that had to study til we were in our early 20s.

Also, I hope someone invents some way to automate my favorite pastime: dishwashing. I dang spend way too much time on this when I get home from work.

The changes are coming regardless if we like them or not. It will come in phases and by the time we realize it, it will be too fast. My plan is to have me and my family ready to adapt to them.


A lay off at the office

Yesterday somebody was laid off at my workplace. I knew how this person performed as she worked directly under me in quite a few projects. She had some areas that needed improving on but this was kind of unexpected. We all knew the company was growing as we keep getting new hires almost every other week. The demand for our type of projects was strong and there is ongoing construction almost everywhere you went in the city.

We were told the firm was restructuring and as part of that our team was growing. We absorbed 2 other people from another team that was dissolved. Somehow for the numbers to work, we let go one of ours. They leaned out the teams and yes the market is great and we haven’t changed our systems/software to make us more efficient, but in that tiny situation somehow they found this as an option. My supervisors showed nervousness (also fear) to talk to us about what happened. They were more emotional about it too, most of us older folks are still fresh from the memories of 2008 and 2009

What surprised me is that his was likely, but it was not expected because of how things were in the bigger picture. I think this is a good spot to pause and list down some lessons:

  • Provide value. always.
  • Network and always be open to the opportunity of other jobs. Loyalty is uncertain in the workplace because you never know if it really is a two way street.
  • Never be complacent of threats. always be aware of the situation(s) that may come up from around you
  • Be able to adapt

All that said, I am going back now to work on my own endeavors. I need to market some more for my urban farm and I need to design some characters for an ebook. I will provide value when I am in my workplace, but outside of that all my knowledge and skill I will pour out for my own business attempts for my family’s future.