eBay Is Changing Its Fee Structure--Again

Is it just me, or are you tired of eBay changing its seller fee structure every few months? As an occasionally eBay seller, mostly of brand-name clothes that I find myself not wearing because they don't fit quite right, I feel like I've barely gotten used to one change when the fees change yet again. It seems like the overall trend is for insertion fees (the up-front fee you pay when you list an item) to go down, while final value fees (the fee you pay when the item sells) are going up. (I haven't carefully analyzed this statement, it's just my general impression as it applies to the stuff I sell most often.) This strategy seems designed to attract new sellers to eBay by marketing the site as a no-risk way to try to make some extra cash. Perhaps that's a good idea, but it's driving me, an eBay user of ten years, a little bit crazy.

The newest changes will take effect March 30. It will become free to list up to 100 items per month using the auction format and a start price of less than $1. I know this is supposed to be the way to go when you sell on eBay, but I don't like listing my clothes for 99 cents, because sometimes they sell for 99 cents, and then I'm losing money. The final value fee is increasing to 9% with a cap of $50 per sale.

eBay says that "For most sellers, the new fee options will bring significant savings with dramatically reduced upfront cost. Across the board, Insertion Fees are being dramatically reduced. Final Value Fees for Fixed Price listings are for the most part staying the same." Let's calculate if that will be true for me. I like to list items with a start price of $4.99 to $9.99 and they usually sell for about what I've listed them at.

Here are the current fees:

Auction-style listing fees

Your first five single-quantity auction-style listings to be listed on the site in a 30-day period have an insertion fee of $0.00 for eligible categories.* (See Insertion fees for more information.) These $0.00 insertion fee listings also have a final value fee per listing of 8.75% or $20, whichever is lower. Additional listings within the 30-day period and multi-quantity listings are subject to the following insertion fees and final value fees.

Current Insertion fees: Auction-style listings

Starting or reserve price

Insertion fee: Books, Music, DVDs & Movies, Video Games

Insertion fee: Other categories

$0.01 - $0.99**

$0.10

$0.15

$1.00 - $9.99

$0.25

$0.35

$10.00 - $24.99

$0.35

$0.55

$25.00 - $49.99

$1.00

$1.00

$50.00 - $199.99

$2.00

$2.00

$200.00 - $499.99

$3.00

$3.00

$500.00 or more

$4.00

$4.00


Currently, I'm paying nothing on my first five listings per month and 35 cents per listing thereafter. I've been taking advantage of this fee structure by only listing 5 items a month and if they don't sell, waiting until the next month to relist them. (Maybe eBay doesn't like that.) If my item sells for $9.99, the final value fee is 8.75%, so my total fee comes to 87 cents per item if I list five items for $9.99 and they all sell for $9.99. This is an oversimplification, yes, but my real numbers are pretty close to these.

Now let's see what will happen to me under the new fee structure:

New Insertion fees: Auction-style listings (effective March 30)
Starting Price Insertion Fees
$0.01–$0.99 FREE!*
$1.00–$9.99 $0.25
$10.00–$24.99 $0.50
$25.00–$49.99 $0.75
$50.00–$199.99 $1.00
$200+ $2.00

Under the new fee structure, if I continue to list five items per month with a starting price of $9.99, I'll pay $1.25 to list them plus 90 cents for each item that sells (9% final value fee). Clearly, this new fee structure does not benefit me. If I keep my selling behavior the same, I'll pay an extra $1.40 a month to sell 5 clothing items with a start price of $9.99 and a final value of $9.99.

Well, economics is all about incentives, so how might eBay be trying to use its new pricing structure to give me an incentive to change my behavior?

-eBay would like me to list more than five items per month.
-eBay would like me to list my items with a start price of 99 cents.

eBay thinks I will be more successful this way, and that, therefore, it will also be more successful. The more I sell and the higher my final value fees, the more money eBay makes.

But, since I don't want to list my clothes for 99 cents, eBay is instead giving me an incentive to hurry up and list all the clothes I want to sell before March 30.

For complete details on the new fees, visit eBay's fee update page.

What's your take on the new eBay fees?

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Post by Amy Fontinelle

Swaptree: A Great Way to Save Money on Books, CDs, DVDs, and Video Games


Have you heard of Swaptree? It's a newish website that facilitates trading books, CDs, DVDs, and video games with people across the country. There's no fee to join and no fee to trade. The only thing you pay is media mail shipping costs, which are about $2.50 for most books and about $1.50 for most DVDs, CDs, and video games.

I've been using the site for about two months now. It started off slow and I wondered if I had wasted my time listing about 20 books and CDs. Then all of a sudden it picked up and I've been completing about two trades a week ever since with only 20-30 items listed to trade. If you have more stuff available that other people want, you could trade even more. By contrast, it will cost you at least $3.50 to get a used book on Half.com or $4 on Amazon, and that's only if the book costs 1 cent and you choose media mail shipping.

You can import your Amazon wishlist to Swaptree, and that's exactly what I did. Because of swaptree, I've gotten a lot of books that I've been wanting for months but haven't wanted to pay $8-$10 for. Occasionally you'll even find new items on Swaptree.

So how does it work? The Swaptree site can do a better job of explaining the details than I can, but basically, you type in the UPC code or ISBN for each item you want to trade, select what condition it's in from a drop-down menu, then add any notes describing the item's condition (like "highlighting on some pages"). These all go in the "Items I Have" list. Then you create an "Items I Want" list. You can do this by importing your Amazon wish list or manually typing in the title of each item you want to acquire. The system then automatically finds matches between your two lists and everyone else's to create two- and three-way trades. Then when you log in to swaptree and look at your "Items I Want" list, you'll see a "Get it Now!" logo that you can click on to initiate a trade. Clicking that button notifies each potential party that a trade is available, and when all parties have accepted, tells each party where to mail the item. If any party isn't satisfied with the condition of the item they'll potentially be receiving, they can reject the trade.

To learn more about how Swaptree works, visit this page.

Hat tip: My Money Blog introduced me to Swaptree (and about a million other things that have saved me money over the years).

(Disclaimer: I know this post kind of sounds like a plug, but I don't get anything from writing about Swaptree. I just think it's a great service.)


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Post by Amy Fontinelle

10 Reasons to Use Your Credit Card

My latest Investopedia article, 10 Reasons to Use Your Credit Card, explains why paying with credit over debit or cash doesn't have to be a bad thing. Credit cards offer perks like signup bonuses, cash back, investment rewards, frequent flyer miles, and points that can be redeemed for a variety of items like gift cards and travel. Credit cards also offer increased safety, a grace period to pay for your purchases, universal acceptance and help you establish credit. Of course, all of these benefits assume that you pay your balance in full and on time and don't carry a balance that you have to pay interest on. Click here to learn more about how credit cards can help you as well as a few exceptions that make it better to avoid them.








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Post by Amy Fontinelle

How to Get a Good Deal on an Engagement Ring

Yes, I'm a woman, so I guess I shouldn't know as much about engagement ring prices as I do. But I got to pick out my own engagement ring, and I'm a bargain hunter, as you know. Here's what I learned during two crazy weeks of visiting jewelry stores almost every day in search of the perfect ring at the perfect price. These tips might give you some ideas for getting a deal of your own. (This article is written for women who are also picking out their own rings on a budget, but if you're the significant other planning to give the ring as a surprise, these tips will still help you.)

1. Don't buy diamonds. You have to be a bit untraditional to go this route. But remember, the finger you wear it on is just as important a symbol of your engagement as what the ring itself looks like. Diamonds are incredibly expensive--even the tiny ones. Compared to the cost of a diamond ring, you can probably afford pretty much anything you want if you choose a different stone. If even these options are too expensive, you can look at their lab-created counterparts (like lab-created rubies). If you want the look of diamonds, there's cubic zirconia and moissanite. If you don't want to go the fake route, there's rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarine, you name it. However, if you want to use a nontraditional stone in your engagement ring, be aware that most of the rings jewelers sell with these stones do not look anything like engagement rings (you don't usually see a solitare emerald ring, for example) so if a certain design that mimics and engagement ring design is important to you, you may have to get a custom design. (Don't worry--custom jewelry is not inherently more expensive than pre-made jewelry.)

2. Shop around. Many stores inflate their prices like crazy and then put everything "on sale." This can make it hard to compare prices across stores. At every store where you find a ring you like, ask the sales person to give you their business card and write on the card the specifications of the ring you're interested in (metal type, the 4 Cs, and the actual price) so you can accurately compare prices when you get home. (As an added bonus, asking for a business card gives you a polite way to exit the store if you're not good at saying no.)

3. Don't obsess over color and clarity. Almost all diamond rings sold in the store are clear, sparkly, and beautiful. Only the occasional ring will have yellowy, dull stones. If you pick out one of these subpar rings, the jeweler will almost always tell you because they want you to buy something nicer (and more expensive). So it's not likely that you'll accidentally buy something subpar. No one who sees your ring will ask you what the clarity is, anyway, unless they're really rude. So as long as you can't see any imperfections with your naked eye, don't worry about it.

4. Don't buy on the spot. Always sleep on your decision so you don't get sucked into paying more than you planned.

5. Don't fall prey to high-pressure sales people. Certain stores are very high pressure and want you to make a decision immediately. Personally, I find this sales tactic rude and off-putting. If you really have the best quality stuff, don't you think I'll realize that and come back to you on my own?

6. Don't go shopping with your significant other--go with your mom. The sales people know your mom isn't going to buy your engagement ring, so when they see you shopping with her, they will know that you're just looking and not going to make a purchase. While you'll probably still get some sales pressure, it won't be nearly as bad as if your fiance is there. (If you're a man, this tip still applies--pretend like your mom is looking for a new ring that she's going to ask your dad to buy her for their anniversary.)

7. If you're on a budget, swallow your pride and say so. Why waste your time and the sales person's trying on rings you'll never own? Plus, you don't want to develop a taste for something you can't afford, as this can lead to dissatisfaction with what's available in your price range. No sales person is going to give you an inexpensive ring to try on unless you ask. And if you're too proud to ask for an inexpensive ring, say you're looking for something small and dainty, because smaller diamonds will usually be less expensive.

8. Consider Walmart. Seriously. They have a huge selection of diamond rings and you can order them in almost any size to be delivered in just a few days. (By contrast, many brick and mortar jewelry stores will expect you to wait 6 to 8 weeks for a special order ring if you wear a size that's too far outside the norm, and on top of that, the ring won't be returnable because you special ordered it.) The only catch is that most of these rings aren't available in the store, and there's no way to know if you'll really like a ring until you've seen it in person and on your finger. But as long as you can return the ring, why not give Walmart's online jewelry sales a try? Their prices are excellent and some of their diamonds are even certified.

9. Don't write off the importance of the experience. Shopping for an engagement ring should be a pleasant experience. It will become part of your engagement memories. So don't buy your ring from a place that makes you feel lousy.

10. Ask your friends if they have a hookup. You'd be surprised how many people "know a jeweler" once you mention that you're shopping for an engagement ring. Some of your friends may have had their rings custom made and gotten a deal that way, but you might not know unless you ask.

11. Look for jewelry stores that are going out of business. I can't promise that the economy will still be this bad by the time you read this post, but you never know when a jewelry store might be going out of business. Just be aware that some stores mark up their prices before they slash them for going out of business sales, so don't look at the percentage off you're getting, but at the quality of ring you're getting for the final price. In the case of going-out-of-business sales, it is true that there may only be one of the ring you're looking at, so the pressure to buy on the spot can be high. Also, any store that's going out of business will not offer a warranty or service plan on your ring, so your lifetime cost of owning the ring may be higher.

12. Consider the total package. Established jewelry stores will often provide a free lifetime warranty with their jewelry. You'll have to take the ring in every six months to get it examined, because if anything is going wrong with your ring, the jeweler wants to fix it before your diamond falls out. The six-month policy might be a pain, but these warranties will often replace any stones that fall out of your ring, fix loose or worn prongs, size your ring, and replate your white gold ring (which will eventually turn light yellow because it is coated with rhodium to give it that silvery color). Yes, all of this stuff will be included in the price of your ring. Just remember that any store can go out of business at any time, no matter how long it's been around.

13. Get a solitaire ring. You can get away with a lower total carat weight when you get a single stone than if you get a ring with three or more stones. 1/4 carat is an okay size when it's a single stone; when it's spread out, it looks kind of pathetic. Yes, most women want more than a quarter carat on their finger, and most men want to buy their women something impressive. But if you're on a budget, you might be able to make due with a quarter carat solitaire ring, whereas when you see a quarter carat three-stone ring, you'll think it was made for your baby niece.

14. Try wholesalers. Their prices can be lower. I shopped at one wholesale store and they offered full lifetime warranties with all their rings, the prices were great, and the staff was very friendly and low key. The store was located in a nice shopping center; there was nothing sketchy about it. Shopping wholesale doesn't have to mean going to a bad part of town and shopping in a dingy warehouse from a fly-by-night operator.

15. Try pawn shops. Personally, I wasn't comfortable with this option because I felt that I would have no way of knowing if I was buying a real diamond or getting taken for a ride. Also, I wanted a very specific style of ring that presented some sizing problems because I have very small fingers. But you can find plenty of stories of people who bought their rings at pawn shops and then had them appraised for much more than they paid.

16. Don't buy individual stones. These are for people who are obsessed with the 4 Cs. Yes, the diamonds are nicer, but they're also dramatically more expensive than the ones that are already set in the ring. Plus, it's often hard to tell what the actual ring will really look like when you're buying the stone and the ring separately.

17. Your ring is not an investment. Do you hope to one day sell your engagement ring to turn a profit? I doubt it. Then don't pay more for your ring or buy more expensive, higher-quality diamonds because you're thinking of it as an asset that will appreciate in value. It may very well appreciate, but if you don't sell it, you'll never benefit from that appreciation. At best, your possible children might benefit from it after you're gone, but you'd probably prefer that they hung onto your ring as a family heirloom, right?

18. Perseverance pays off. Yes, doing all this legwork is exhausting, but engagement rings are so expensive that putting in the effort can really slash what you pay or get you a great ring for a killer price. Also, the ring is just the first of many expenses you will incur in the process of getting married, so you don't want to blow your budget when you've hardly started. That being said, remember--if all goes well, you'll be wearing this ring for the rest of your life! You might as well love it (though for some of us, loving it includes loving the price tag).


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Post by Amy Fontinelle

Save Money by Buying Clothes on eBay

Wool, angora, cashmere--it seems like these materials make up at least 5% of every winter sweater, and they make me itch like crazy. Why is it so hard to find a nice cotton or acrylic sweater?

After about two months of trying to expand my winter wardrobe with no success, I turned to eBay. Not only does eBay have a better selection of non-itchy sweaters than any other store I've found, the clothes can be a great deal since used clothing has little resale value.

I ended up buying a total of nine sweaters at a total cost of $97.66, including shipping (in fact, the shipping was more expensive than a lot of the sweaters). That came out to an average price of $10.85 per sweater. It's hard to get a sweater at a store for that cheap even on clearance at the end of winter.

Of course, when I buy clothes on eBay, I have to take into consideration that I can't try them on before buying them and I can't return them. In my experience, whenever I buy clothes on eBay, I end up only liking about half of them (I've gone on similar eBay clothing sprees with jeans and slacks). This time, I only liked and actually wear 5 of the 9 sweaters I bought. So I really had to spend $97.66 to get 5 sweaters, meaning they cost about $20 each. Not quite as good of a deal. But still worth it to me, given how hard it is to find a 100% cotton sweater.

If you want to try buying clothes on eBay, I do have some tips for minimizing the number of bum purchases you end up with. I haven't always followed these in the past, and that's how I've ended up with some items I don't actually wear.

1. If the seller doesn't list the item's measurements, request them. If you're buying pants, for example, take the measurements of your favorite pair of pants and compare those measurements to whatever pants you're interested in buying. Just because something is the size you normally wear and even the brand you normally wear doesn't mean it will fit. In fact, even if you buy, say, a different color of an item you already own, it might not fit. One of the sweaters I bought recently had shrunk in the wash and was too small. If I had asked the seller for measurements, I would have known that the sleeves would be too short and I could have saved some money.

2. Immediately resell the items you don't like to recoup some of your money. eBay lets you list 5 items a month for free, so you have nothing to lose but a little bit of time. Do it while you watch TV.

3. Don't buy an item with subpar photos. This is probably so obvious that I don't even need to mention it, but don't get so caught up in the idea of buying something that you put your better judgment aside, buy it anyway, and hope for the best. Either ask the seller to email you better photos or skip the item.

4. Stick to familiar brands. It seems like no matter what size, some brands just don't fit some people. Maximize your chances of getting something that fits you on eBay by only buying brands that usually fit you.


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Don't Trade it In: Resell Your Used Stuff Yourself
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Post by Amy Fontinelle