Is it possible to have your cake and eat it too? When it comes to getting paid for going green, the answer is a delicious YES. Here are a few ways you can cash in on your old electronics and feel superior at the same time.
Trade It In
Some places will actually let you trade in your old electronics, kind of like a used car. And you might be surprised by how much you can get back. You can trade in things like desktops, laptops, gaming systems, iPods, camcorders, digital cameras and mobile phones. The value you get back depends on the condition and model of the product. You can actually go online and click on the product to see how much it could be worth. Granted, it might only be $10, but that’s $10 more than you’d have if you just recycled it.
Most trade-in programs work through the mail. You fill out a form online and ship your product to them. They check it out and send you a check or a gift card. Some sites can credit you through PayPal or donate your check to charity. Best Buy’s Trade-In Program offers cash or gift cards for your old technology, and if you actually bought that gadget at Best Buy in the first place (and you can get your hands on the receipt), you can save yourself the trouble of shipping and bring it right back to the store. But with all of these programs, there are all sorts of fine print, so do your research before you ship off your stuff.
The trade-in programs are fast and simple, but sometimes you know you can get a lot more cash selling it online. Or if it’s too old or not eligible to trade-in, it may even be just kitschy enough to become a collector’s item. (Why did we throw away that old Mickey Mouse record player!)
Craigslist is nice because it’s local. In major metro areas, it’s basically replaced the newspaper want ads. Because of this, you’ll most likely meet the buyer, so you can be sure your beloved items are finding good homes. Since posting an ad on Craigslist is free, you can post a ton of ads and try out different strategies until you find out what works best. And since it’s narrowed down by city, you might have a little less competition than on eBay.
Speaking of eBay, it’s cool because depending on what you’ve got to sell, you can put it on auction and get way more for it than you thought. Or of course, you can risk getting a whole lot less. But eBay is pretty slick – there are tools to help you estimate the value of your stuff, tips on how to sell, shipping label printing, PayPal, etc. But they do want their cut. You can list for free if you start the bidding under $1, but after that there is a fee for listing, and if you sell it, they take 9%, up to $50.
Get A Rebate
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 17% of most homes’ energy use comes from major appliances. And because most major appliances last such a long time, many homes are filled with very inefficient models. Most people wait for their refrigerators and washing machines to break down before they replace them. But if you have energy sucking appliances in your home and you’ve had your eye on that that beautiful front loader, now may be the time to buy.
The government will actually pay you to upgrade to more efficient major appliances. The State Energy Efficient Appliances Rebate Program, or "Cash for Appliances" comes to you courtesy of the DOE to encourage people to trade up to more energy efficient Energy Star rated appliances. Out of a total fund of $300 million approved in 2009, the government gave each state a bunch of cash to come up with its own program, so the rules and benefits vary from state to state. Some states aren’t quite up and running yet, and in some states the program was so popular that they already ran out of funds. So be sure to check out your state’s program for all of the details.
If you’ve got a creative side, there are infinite ways you can “upcycle,” or reuse your old technology to create cool new things that you can sell. Jewelry from circuit boards, fish tanks from computer monitors, light fixtures from CD’s, bagel holders from CD spindles, notebooks from diskettes… the possibilities are limitless. And potentially profitable.
Many people who create handmade crafts start out by giving their creations to friends and family as gifts, and hopefully can start enough buzz to move on to local craft shows. But nowadays, you can broaden your customer base pretty quickly online. There are some amazing websites specifically for people who want to sell their crafts, and they all vary from free to 15% commission. One of the more popular ones is Etsy, where people who make unique handmade products sell their wares, share ideas and even have virtual labs where you can learn new craft techniques.
If you need some inspiration, you can take a look at this slideshow to get you started. You can also get some great ideas, and even enter contests to win valuable prizes, on Instructables.com. Some people even make a living at it.