FIFO – First In First Out – The Goal

Dollar Flipper Ask the Reader, eBay Tips 12 Comments

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

Comments 12

  1. Wow! I made the same realization too! Well, I always knew in my head that I needed to stop buying but just couldn’t do it! Those 50% off everything sales just lure me back in so this last shopping spree when I’m throwing my purchases into “my room” it FINALLY HIT ME!!!! That’s it! No more buying. LIST! LIST! LIST! Seeing my FULL room is overwhelming and like you who knows when I bought what! I truly love shopping too much. The rummaging and then THE FIND makes me feel good. I will see how long I am able to stay away from the thrifts and those garage sales. Good luck to both of US!

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      Right? It’s like you get smacked upside the head and go “holy shit, that’s a lot of stuff.” You become desensitized to it. Maybe we need to have friends come over and get that feeling of “oh man, that’s what it looks like!” I’ve heard a good way to do this is to take a picture and analyze it. You’ll pick out the stuff you don’t need very easily.

  2. This is some great advice! I don’t really have the space (I live in a small apt. with a roommate) or the capital to have much of anything that isn’t listed. Then again, I’m single with no kids so my schedule is pretty open. I did make a resolution this year to focus on updating/improving my listings before buying new things though. Also, dropping the price of some of my older inventory to get it out the door. I have some things from when I first started reselling that I thought were a good purchase but now I would never buy them because I know I just can’t get the return I want. So, in a way I’m trying to clean house like that!

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      Space is definitely an issue. I’ve always thought about going through and getting rid of the bottom feeders. It’s just hard for me to mentally justify spending time on items that are already listed when I have newer items to list. Additionally, those items have already proven to me that they are slow sellers, granted that could be because the listings are outdated. I guess we’ll never know which came first – the chicken or the slow-selling eBay listing.

  3. Great post! I actually have the opposite problem: I list quicker than I buy. Living in a college town (Gainesville, FL) our thrift stores aren’t the greatest, so I usually go on terrifying trips to wealthier areas of Florida. So, listing is a lot easier than finding quality items. Or maybe I’m just OCD and can’t have items to list laying around.

    Question I’d want to know is: which do you enjoy more discovering a treasure or selling an item? Seems those that answer “selling an item,” have a lot less items sitting around to be listed. Just a guess any way 🙂

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      That’s a great question. I love the treasure hunting because it’s so abstract. Then I get to the listing drudgery and push through it. Finally, I get to the sale and I feel great again. That treasure hunting feeling lasts for a long time. There’s definitely a glow that I get with it!

  4. I had to laugh at this. I’ve just started selling, a little over a week now. I’m already behind on listing. The fun part is finding treasures, and the sell. The not so fun part is the work required with getting an item ready – pictures, researching prices, weighing, adding info. Sounds like you have a good plan. Good luck!

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      LOL. Don’t worry, there is an ebb and a flow to it. You’ll go out one day and find amazing deals all day only to realize that you have to list the stuff. 🙂

  5. The urge to go out and find the treasures is just too strong. It’s like an addiction. I probably have enough inventory to list that I wouldn’t need to go treasure hunting all year…but the temptation is JUST TOO GREAT!!! LOL. However, I do always stop in at a thrift (if there is one) to write of my miles whenever I can…and you never know what you’ll find. One of my favorite things about garage saling is being outdoors…I love to be outside!

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      It really is an addiction. I think we know what hoarders feel like. I love garage sales for that reason too!

      I just went to a thrift store yesterday and made myself put down anything that I couldn’t sell for $100. I had 5 things that were ~$30-$50, but I’m trying to conserve my time and energy. It was nice just to get out of the house though.

  6. I admit that I have the addiction like so many others, and as consequence have large amounts of unlisted items.

    I too put myself on a buying moratorium this year. I have slipped a couple of times but overall I’m doing a pretty good job.

    One thing to consider is the amount of time shopping takes. Even if you walk out of the thrift store empty handed, it is not a harmless activity.

    How many items could have been listed in the time you spent at the store (be sure to include travel time)?
    Overtime, this becomes a huge time suck and amounts to a big cost in lost opportunity.

    Time to get off the soap box. I’m as guilty as anyone of overbuying.

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      Bill, I completely agree! Granted, there’s a non-measurable cost of the diamond in the rough that you could have found! Glad to know that there’s others struggling with this. It’s nice to know it’s not just me. We’ll get to that good place at some point though!

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