Think Your Old Phone is Worthless? Think Again.

by Sindy Berkowitz

Imagine walking into a Porsche dealership and offering up an old cell phone as your payment. Not even just a down payment—the whole thing. You’d probably be laughed out the door. Finding someone willing to make such a lopsided deal might seem impossible, but believe it or not, one California teenager was actually able to accomplish the task.

Steven Ortiz, a 17-year-old from California, started out with an old cell phone given to him for free by a friend. After browsing the bartering page of Craigslist, he realized he could potentially turn trash into treasure.

Over the course of two years, Ortiz made 14 trades before ending up with a 2000 Porsche Boxster. He first traded for a better phone, then up to an iPod Touch. From there, he bartered his way to a dirt bike. After trading several dirt bikes, Ortiz found himself with a MacBook Pro. With a brand new laptop, the ingenious teenager was able to upgrade to a Toyota 4Runner and promptly swap the vehicle for a customized golf cart. After a series of trades involving dirt bikes, street bikes and beat up old cars, Ortiz found himself with a 1975 Ford Bronco. From there, Ortiz was able to trade for the Porsche.

Not a bad investment, considering that he started out with a free cell phone.

But besides being an interesting story, there’s a lesson here. How often have you simply given or thrown away something without giving it a second thought? With a little patience, careful research and a willingness to negotiate, you can take Ortiz’s example and turn some of the unused items in your home into something valuable.

There’s also another lesson here: Sites like Craigslist, Ebay and Amazon can be bountiful for individuals willing to get creative and apply a little elbow grease. In another highly publicized example from 2008, a man in Canada was able to work his way from being the owner of a single paperclip to becoming a homeowner in Saskatchewan, a province of Canada.

Even without relying on the bartering section of the site, such sites offer plenty of other ways to earn extra income. Buying used furniture and restoring it to increase its value is one such way. There are even websites with free items that simply require your time and energy to pick up. Anything sold would be pure profit!

The old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is alive and well in the digital economy. While it certainly wouldn’t be prudent to bet your retirement on bartering cell phones and paperclips, a world of opportunity exists to gain supplemental income from goods you may be ready to discard.

To hear about some of the more traditional means by which you can improve your financial outlook, stop by any office of The Milford Bank and talk to us about your goals.