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Tips On How To Reduce eBay Selling Expenses: Using Adship & Reducing Packing Costs

Updated on May 26, 2012

Making money is all about minimizing expenses to maximize your profits! Or at least that is what Professor Zaffuto used to say in many of the business courses I have taken. It sounds rather daunting, doesn't it? Weather you're a casual seller on eBay or a power seller, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your overhead and to maximize your profits. It's not rocket science, just sound business practices.

Parcel Insurance

If you're an avid eBay seller, then odds are you have had at least one package that has been damaged, or in my case completely destroyed by the USPS. According to the eBay and Paypal policies, simply shipping your customer's item is no longer a valid excuse to get out of refunding money. You can't just say, "Tough it's the post office's fault!" It is your responsibility as the seller to make sure the buyer gets their item unharmed and in good working order. As such many sellers will only ship items with insurance with the post office. This is a step in the right direction, but may still wind up costing you the seller out of pocket expenses. The post office only covers the cost of the item, not the shipping. So lets say you sell a $50 item and it costs $25 to ship it. If the buyer files a complaint with eBay or Paypal you could be on the hook for shipping even if the item is insured! Not to mention, as soon as they file an "Item Not As Described" dispute, Paypal instantly seizes the entire transaction amount and forces a temporary hold on your funds. This is not only upsetting to sellers, but it's also a pain in the neck to buyers. In many cases buyers don't want to return the damaged item to you as it's added money out of their pocket. Wow what a fiasco this has become! I have found an alternative to the USPS shipping insurance that will not only save you money on your insurance expenses, but is much easier to use if you ever need to file a claim. Believe me, if you sell online, you will eventually need to file a claim! You may want to check out ShipSaver insurance. This insurance service is actually provided by a company called Inkfrog and it has saved me tons of cash! For even the lowest tier of USPS insurance you wind up shelling out $1.75, and that only covers you for up to $50. If you want at least $100 of coverage it jumps to $2.25. ShipSaver does it for only $.79 for up to $100 worth of insurance. Their service is available at no charge, you only pay for the insurance you want to. Most of the items I sell only go for under $100, so I save a minimum of $.96 per item! I still continue to charge my customer the regular price of USPS insurance as usual and get to pocket the difference. Remember, this company also covers the cost of shipping, so remember that example about being on the hook for $25? That's right, you are limiting your overall liabilities with this service as well. It's fully integrated into the eBay system and you have multiple options to help speed up the process. You can have the system automatically insure all packages sent through eBay or just select the ones you want. Nightly, ShipSaver automatically drafts payment from your PayPal account. The application has a total savings indicator as shown in the photo and when necessary filing claims is much easier than with the post office. You simply access the application through eBay, indicate you want to file a claim for the selected item and then they contact you the seller with a single 1 page form to fill out. As the seller I usually complete all the necessary information and send it off to my buyer. They then sign the form as the buyer and send pictures of the damaged item to you. Simply pass it along to ShipSaver via email or fax and they start to process your claim. I have had claims processed, approved, and paid in two days! I then issued a full and complete refund to the buyer. No need to return items or get into messy buyer seller disputes.

Get Paid To Print!

Almost every eBay seller should print out a packing slip. This is especially useful if multiple items are going to a single buyer, or in many cases you may need to print hem all out, pack the items, weight them, then print out the postage. This is probably a step you are already taking. So how do you pay for the costs of your paper, and ink? That's the idea behind AdShip Express. Yet another completely free eBay app, you basically charge for ad space on your packing slips. This system can be a bit tricky at first in regards to packaging your items but it pretty much works like this:

  1. Item sells
  2. You Pack Your Item & Weight It
  3. Make A Shipping Label (If you don't use eBay or Paypal for this, write down the shipping confirmation number)
  4. Open the AdShip Express App
  5. Fill in Any Missing Info (Usually Just The Tracking Number If You Don't Ship Through Ebay)
  6. Click Get Rewards
  7. Print Packing Slip
  8. Put In Package & Ship It!

It sounds like a but of work but it really pays off in the long run. The AdShip Express App automatically pics an advertisement based on the type of item you sold. For example if you sold a hard drive it might display an ad for NewEgg or CompUSA. The ad space runs between $.16 and $.21 cents per packing slip. In addition, your buyer gets a confirmation email of the tracking number and method of shipment. Of course they also get a digital copy of the advertisement in their email as well. Once you reach at least $50 in rewards you get paid! Generally I pay about $.15 each for my bubble mailers, so I look at it this way, someone is actually paying for my shipping supplies just for printing something I would have done anyway! There is also a paid AdShip App so be sure you pick the right one. You have the option of imprinting your company logo and what not on the packing slip, but I just don't think it's worth $9 a month. Go the free route and save!

Stop Throwing Away Money!

Q: What happens when you round up?

A: You pay too much for shipping!

When I first started all I had was a large industrial scale for shipping my packages. Now that I'm a bit more experienced, and have sent out my fair share of packages, I know that getting accurate shipping weights is critical. Take for example, a 1st class package. When I first started I could only get to the closest 1/4 pound with my big industrial scale. Basically I had to put a minimum of 4oz for each item even though it may have only truly been 2oz. An example of a 2oz 1st class package is $1.05, a 4oz package is $1.39. This is a $.34 difference. Sure so you say that it's only a few cents what's the big deal right? WRONG! Think big on this one, it would be $3.40 when multiplied over 10 packages. See my point. When considering Priority Mail the difference can be dollars or more! Scales are very inexpensive and worth their own weight in gold. Don't delay getting one, it will pay off in no time flat!

Shipping Supplies

So you're ready to start saving right? That's the spirit! Don't underestimate the nickel and dime savings. Here are a few general tips to help reduce shipping supply costs:

  • Buy bubble mailers in bulk from other eBay sellers. Poly Extra Wide DVD mailers seem to be a great size for just about anything! They are usually $.35 or more in the stores even if you buy a 3 pack. I generally pay $.15 or less when I buy online. That includes the shipping costs. Don't be afraid to buy in quantities of 100 or more if you have the storage space.
  • For larger items that are durable wrap in Kraft paper. You have probably seen tubes of this in the store. You pretty much just wrap your item like a Christmas gift, only it's brown paper instead. Our local Dollar General has rolls for a $1.50. Butcher's paper also works as an affordable alternative as well. You can also use wrapping paper! You don't want to send a package with Christmas paper wrapped around it in July, but turn it over, most of the wrapping paper has a design on one side and are white on the other. Just turn it over!
  • Speaking of wrapping paper, did you know it makes great filling? This year I asked my family to keep all of Santa's wrapping paper. I had garbage bags full of it, and it lasted about 3 weeks for all my shipping needs. You can do this for any holiday, especially kid's birthdays where larger gifts can be found.
  • Packing peanuts and bubble wrap a fine, but not necessary for all items. You can also use newspaper and advertisements for box filling. If you don't read the newspaper, ask a friend or relative they probably either get the paper or know someone who does. Worst case scenario, buy a couple of copies of the Sunday paper on Tuesday. They are usually half price and you get to thumb through them for valuable coupons.
  • If you pack with newspaper, use the actual newsprint on items that you pay for weight wise. Use the advertisements in the Priority Mail flat rate packages. They are more dense and usually require a few more pages to get the packaging protection you want.
  • If you ship via Priority Mail, you can get FREE boxes at the post office or on their website. This too will help you since you don't have to pay for the box.
  • This one sounds obvious, but recycle boxes. If you get something shipped to you, break down the box if it's an odd ball size for future use.
  • Spend the money and actually buy shipping labels. I previously spent a king's ransom on tape. I would use a piece of paper for the label, cut it, then put it on the package, then tape over it. It works in a pinch, but when labels cost $.09 or less in bulk, you'll easily save in the cost of packaging tape over time.
  • If you use eBay and PayPal for labels, you have the option of turning off the confirmation and shipping instructions. That way you can get two labels out of a single 8.5 x 11 sheet instead of just one.

Minimize Your Actual eBay Fees

While eBay will always get their cut, there are a few things you can do to minimize your actual sellers fees online. I always, always, always, recommend using some sort of listing program to do all of your eBay work. You don't have to spend a fortune, and in fact there are a few free options as well. If you have a Mac computer as I do, checkout the program Garage Sale. It's about $50, but the investment will pay off very quickly. If you are a PC guy or gal and want a free alternative then eBay actually has a free option called Turbo Lister. These programs allow you to "work offline" without the need for an internet connection. You simply fill out templates with information on the item, select your options, and bam you're just about done. You can then upload all of your listings in bulk at one shot, making your life much easier when it comes to auction closing times and shipping in bulk instead of a few items here and there. Either program will also let you duplicate templates. So lets say you have some very similar or identical items, you can literally cut and paste a listing, change the pictures and BAM! you just save yourself a ton of time. Professor Zaffuto always said time is money, and it's very true! You can also minimize your actual eBay fees by using a free picture host. Did you realize that in some cases eBay charges you per picture! Each of these programs have easy integration with free third party picture host providers to save you big time! Garage sale actually does their own hosting, and you can do up to 20 pictures at no charge. More pictures means a more interested audience because they know what they are buying. Are you using that eBay schedule your listing feature? Many people do to make their listings start and end around a peak time frame when people are home, but they may not necessarily be. eBay charges $.10 per listing for that service. If you use Garage Sale it's free! You can schedule your listings to start whenever you want, you just need to leave your computer turned on for it it to work. No big deal right? These simple savings, $.15 here and $.10 can really add up!

Leverage Your Cash Back!

You might think I'm crazy, but lets talk about cash back with your credit card. Or I should clarify, with your Paypal debit card! Once you have become an established seller you will want to apply for a PayPal debit card. Because it has a MasterCard logo, you can use this just like a credit card but the funding comes directly from your Paypal account. In addition Paypal give you 1% cash back on all of your credit card purchases. This can work for you in a few ways. First, if you purchase your supplies at a brick and mortar location whip out the Paypal card. I personally source my resale items at thrift shops, which about 75% of them now accept credit cards. So not only are you getting cash back on your expenses but also in some cases on your product overhead. Paypal literally gives you a deposit once a month once it has calculated the proper amount. Is 1% is it really such a big deal? Lets do the math together. I spend at least $800 monthly at thrift shops for products to sell. $800 x .01 (one percent) is $8.00 cash back monthly, That's at least $96 a year for cash in your pocket. It may not be allot of cash, but it could go to pay for a package of shipping tape, or even a few boxes further reducing your expenses.. If you are really feeling bold, do your shipping directly from the USPS website. This works for Priority mail and higher (so you're out of gas if you want to do parcel or first class via this method). The only drawback is that the USPS website does not interface with eBay, and you'll need to retype the confirmation number into the eBay system. It also take a bit longer to process seeing as you have to manually type in the buyers information. My discover Card also has a cash back bonus. If you are disciplined you can get some pretty good rewards. For example, my Discover Card has a cash back bonus of 3%. That would be $288 a year. If you are aren't in such a rush to get your money back from the card, you can use the Discover website to actually double or triple your cash back bonus. For example, When the Sharper Image was around, I would cash in $20 worth of cash back bonus and Discover card ran a promotion to double the amount. I spent $20 worth of cash back, but received a $40 Sharper Image Gift Card. I then flipped it on eBay for about $30 profit. Even more more!

Invest In A Laserjet

I want a printer with "frickin' lasers!!" OK it sounds futuristic, but it's not so bad. Laser jet printers have a reputation for only being for large businesses or the mega rich with money to throw away. Nothing can be farther from the truth. There are many advantages and a few disadvantages. The disadvantages can be minimized though depending on where you look. Bottom line a laser jet printer prints much faster, you don't need to wait for the ink to dry, and usually have more oprtions for you. They use a different type of ink called toner very similar to copy machines. If you are using an ink jet printer, they are filled with liquid ink very much like a fountain pen. With an ink jet printer you would be lucky to get 40 USPS labels printed without having to shell out another $30 or so for a cartridge. A laser jet on the other hand can do hundreds! So why doesn't everyone have a laser jet? The printer companies love ink jet printers because they make their cash on the cartridges, not the printer per se. The toner cartridges for laser jet printers can be a bit pricey, sometime around $100 or so, but remember if you are doing lots of printing with lots of labels and packing slips, it will drastically reduce your costs. So where can you get one of these mystical unicorns? I bought a beautiful HP Laser jet 1200 for $5 at a thrift shop! I kid you not, it worked right out of the box and the previous owner actually changed the cartridge right before they donated it. It lasted about 5 months before I had to buy a new toner cartridge. You can also check them out on eBay. I highly recommend the 1200 series because it has an easy to access front loader for labels. I also bought a Dell 1600n printer for $45, with a scanner, copier, and a fax built right in. And it's network capable, so if I'm in the garage and want to print something in the office, I could do it immediately without any crazy setup. Believe me it's well worth a few extra bucks to save in the long run. Minimize your expenses by purchasing your toner cartridges through another eBay reseller they are a fraction of the retail costs. If you don't want to fork over any green for a new printer, you can purchase manufactured ink jet refills online again at a fraction of the cost. You can also go to many local drug stores and have them refilled. They are liquid ink remember? :) You can usually refill a cartridge 2 or 3 times before you have to get a brand new one.

Interisting Video Helps You Decide

Are all of these tips practical? The answer is some are worth more than others. I use a combination of all of the referenced techniques to drive down the cost of my eBay expenses. It is really easy to say, "Nahhh, I won't bother with a packing slip." or "It's only a few cents why bother?" but you must realize that every penny counts when you are trying to turn a profit. If you develop a habit of doing these things you may actually get a few more bucks in your pocket on a monthly basis! Do you have any other eBay money saving tips that I should know about? Be sure to let me know!


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