FIFO – First In First Out – The Goal

Dollar Flipper Ask the Reader, eBay Tips

eBay resellers are on a never-ending quest to get their items up on eBay. We know that if it’s sitting in a pile that it’s near worthless. There are a few inventory methods that are out there that can help you manage new material – and my goal is to use FIFO.

Just imagine…

You’re in your house, you have no piles anywhere, and you plunk down a few bags of items that you just bought. And then you work on those items. There’s no guilt surrounding previous purchases because they’re all listed. This would be a glorious feeling, and it’s my new goal.

As online resellers, we should think of ourselves as ‘curators of stuff.’ We take random, poorly organized things and add useful metadata – brands, bar codes, colors, sizes, pictures, measurements, etc. and stick them up online. All of this with an end goal of making some money sure, but you can also take some pleasure in saving something from the brink of destruction.

The thing is, stuff is so abundant, especially here in the US. I think I’m pretty conservative on the buying end with a $200 purchase limit, and this is self-imposed. By having this limit, I know that I won’t out buy my ability to list.

At least, that’s what I thought was going to happen when I imposed the $200 limit. Instead, I did out buy my ability to list. I turned around and realized that holy crap, “I have too much stuff right now.”

So far in 2016, I haven’t bought any new inventory. Yet somehow, I’m still hitting my goals of listing 15 items per week, and I have a lot of things to list. Even though I thought about taking a break last week, I’m currently feeling like I’m making some progress and don’t want to stop this momentum. So watch me waffle weekly on that point.

FIFO – What the hell are you talking about?

I have a chemical engineering background, but I took a concentration in Business for undergrad and Engineering Management for my master. I’ve worked in factories/production facilities of all sizes. I’ve looked at inventory management with a manufacturing eye before. There are tons of different options out there, but a few of them can be applied to my eBay hobby/business.

FIFO LIFO eBay Inventory

FIFO is normally applied to the selling side, but we can’t force sales on eBay.

Ideally with FIFO, you’re able to sell your oldest material first which lets you have a shorter inventory residence time. The first thing you made is the first thing you sell. Best case – you’re able to do on demand production and have no inventory costs. This never happens in the real world.

The hard part about FIFO for eBay is that we don’t control the sales side of the equation. I sell mostly unique items and have literally no control over when they sell. So how can I apply FIFO to my eBay business?

I’m going to use FIFO up to the point I list. Ideal state would be to buy new inventory, and process that inventory first. If I happen to buy more before I get all of that first set listed, then I put that 2nd purchase to the side and still focus on listing the first batch. I’ll only move onto the 2nd batch after the first is listed.

I’m not doing this currently. I have too much of a backlog and who knows when I bought all of it. Because of this, I can’t even apply Last In First Out (LIFO). I’m basically playing the TPIFO – This Pile Is First Out. It’s all based on proximity to my feet when I go into the garage.

I’m sure I have stuff that I bought before I moved into my house a year and a half ago. Yipes. But FIFO is the goal.

Plan to achieve FIFO


I can’t keep buying new material and expect to make any progress. Every item I buy pushes this goal of FIFO forward ~0.5 days into the future. (Listing goal is 15 items a week, roughly 2 items per day). My goal’s also slowed down by sales, but that’s because of a limitation of my own time – shipping something takes time and if I’m selling too many items (such a good problem), I get super stressed with listing new material. It’s just not feasible to worry about shipping items on top of listing new items.


Seriously – these two things are all I need to do. I worry to myself that I’m going to walk out to my garage and magically not have anything to list, but that’s just ridiculous.

I bring in bags and process them and think “I’m making progress!” and then I walk back out and see more stuff. I’m not close yet to the horizon, but I see a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel.

The more I list, the more I’ll sell. The more I list, the less stressed I am when walking through the garage. The more I list, the closer I am to FIFO.  So I’m going to keep listing.

Avoiding the Buying Itch

I see the nicer weather starting to creep in, and I think about garage sale season. It’s the best time of the year. There’s so much stuff and it’s nice weather and a fun time. The problem is that you can buy in volume. SO if you plan on doing that, prepare for it now by listing instead of buying.

Do you have a FIFO/LIFO system? Do you have too big of a backlog? What are you doing to make progress?

Image Credit: Wikimedia