Is My Family Taking Advantage of Me?

Maybe you happy folks out there in the interwebtubes can tell me if my family is taking advantage of me or if I’m being a selfish jerk.

I make some side income by garbage picking or going to Goodwill and buying things, fixing them up, and re-selling them on Ebay or Craig’s List for a profit. Over the years I’ve gotten a pretty good eye for knowing what will sell for profit and what won’t. And of course, if I’m not sure, a quick Ebay check would let me know what things sell for.


The boat. And I don’t got my flippy floppies.

My family knows that I do this and sometimes I help them sell things on Ebay.

A few members in my family recently were offered a few big items (a boat, a scooter, 4 boat motors) for free. They jumped on the chance and then dropped off the items with me. They wanted me to fix up these things (since they all were broken) and sell them on Ebay (except the scooter which the family member wants to keep).

I looked each of these things over and came to the same conclusion for each. (A) The cost it would take to fix them would be more than any profit you could make, (B) none of these particular models are selling well on Ebay or Craig’s List, and (C) I don’t know how to fix them.

That’s right, folks, there are some things that even your blue collar guy can’t fix, and luckily, I can admit it!

My family members were pretty disappointed to hear this, but have been insisting that I fix these things anyway. I don’t want to be a miser about it, but I have a full-time job already and fixing these things for free (and they’re costly repairs that are needed) will take a lot of time and a lot of money, and I’m not even sure I can do it!

An added note here is that these big things are all sitting in my garage, and now that winter is closing in on us, I need that garage space for my snow plow, my wife’s car, and our daughters’ outdoor summertime play stuff. I’m not really happy with a garage full of broken stuff that isn’t worth it to fix!

So what do I do?

I want to tell them that

  • if I’m going to try and fix anything, they’re going to have to pay me to do it.
  • if they’re not able to pay for these things to get fixed, then they need to be out of my garage ASAP (or I’ll start charging a storage fee?).
  • I know what these things will sell for, and it ain’t worth the fix!

What do you guys think? Is my family taking advantage of me? Or maybe I’m being a royal jerk? What’s the best way to get this stuff out of my garage (short of burning it down)?


Is My Family Taking Advantage of Me? — 40 Comments

  1. Well, I hate to have to say this, and I really don’t want to cause problems in your family but…YES, your family is definitely taking advantage of you. And NO, you are not being selfish. At all. Just because you’re a fixer-upper kind of guy, doesn’t mean you have to be a FREE fixer-upper for other people, even (and sometimes especially) for blood relatives. This is how you make your living FOR YOUR WIFE AND KIDS. Everyone else should pay you for your time. Of course, once in awhile, you may choose to help someone (YOU DECIDE WHO AND IN WHAT WAY) if you want, but that’s at your discretion. Put your foot down and learn to say NO. It won’t win you popularity contests, and the freeloaders will grumble because they’re not getting their way, but it’s something you must do. If you allow yourself to be taken advantage of, there’s no end to how far this will go. Before you know it, you’ll be up to your eyeballs with these types of projects. Set boundaries. And enforce them.
    Plowing Through Life (Martha) recently posted..Are You Smarter Than A Preschooler?My Profile

    • Thanks, this actually helps; after awhile I started thinking maybe I was on crazy pills! I think I should sit down with my wife (who’s a little better with words than me) and come up with exactly how to say ‘no’ and set some boundaries.

  2. Arrrhhhh! Here’s what I always used to tell Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend about dealing with his chronically exploitive family:

    Stand in front of the mirror and practice making these sounds:



    Then put them together to make this sound:


    Took him about ten years to get that down perfectly, but once he did, he was a much happier man.

    I guess if it were me I’d try to be polite, tho’ it won’t be easy (“I love you dearly but I have a job and a family that don’t leave me enough time to do large, freebie projects”), and then I would give them a deadline to come and get the junk before I cart it to the town dump. If the dump doesn’t take junk like this, haul it to a storage yard, give the management the relatives’ name and address instead of your own, and mail the key and the bill to the relatives.

    Don’t wait 10 years to put your foot down…
    Funny about Money recently posted..Cost of Education: Another Country Heard FromMy Profile

  3. I’d say “pay me: either to store or fix” or I’d give them a deadline and start looking to scrap it. Once in a while is fine or at least I think so but after you went to all that work to let them know it’s not worth it, and they still want you to fix it up? I’d have them pay me. I don’t think you are being a jerk at all. I like to at least make an offer if I have a family member who fixes stuff (like a future fil who fixes computers-I made him chocolate chip cookies because I know he likes them and he would accept that payment when he’s been fixing our computer.)
    bogofdebt recently posted..Another work conversationMy Profile

    • That’s what I think… once in awhile is okay, but to suddenly have all this stuff dumped on me… it sucks! The deadline thing is a great idea. Just b*tching and moaning about it might not doing anything, but if I set a hard deadline, that puts something concrete in people’s heads.

  4. I too, have the sort of family where the protest “But it’s for family!” is considered some kind of trump card, and I can tell you, you won’t get far making this a selfishness issue. Just lay it out for them.

    1. These items are not worth anything
    2. They will require more than they’re worth in parts to fix (ignore the labor, they don’t care about YOUR labor)
    3. Because of one and two, you’re not going to fix it, but if they don’t believe you they are welcome to take their items elsewhere. Otherwise you’ll be taking this stuff to the dump in [give them a hard deadline] because you’ll need the room.

    Doing it this way will take any of the emotional button pushing out of the equation.

    Let us know how it goes.
    Shanna recently posted..Not Just Rugged Individualism: How Do You See Self-Employment?My Profile

    • Exactly! That’s what I’ve heard before, “but we’re family!” That’s not a really motivating statement, lol. LIke you say and others here, I think setting solid boundaries and a deadline for that stuff to get out would really help. THanks!

  5. They didn’t offer to pay for your time or even parts to fix the items. They likely didn’t discuss giving you a commission for selling the items. They didn’t take the information you gave them and re-assess the investment or take your time and resources into consideration.

    I like to see the best in people, so I don’t think your family is purposefully taking advantage of you, but that is what they are doing. Is it possible to frame your “no” in terms they’ll understand (time, money, space)? (If it wouldn’t take to much of your time, could you estimate what the items would bring in as scrap or if pieced out for parts? Maybe seeing that contrast would help your family members understand your position.)

    Good luck!

    • I think they might not think they’re taking advantage, like you said, because families take care of eachother, but there are times when “taking care of eachother” is taken to another level. That’s something for me to remember when I talk with them.

    • That’s the funny thing too, that they want me to try and fix this stuff even though I don’t really know how! I could actually make the value of these things even less, lol

  6. You are just one of those guys who loves to help friends and family. The danger is getting caught up in doing good good things then losing time to do the most important things.

    Maybe you can find a polite way to explain the guardrails you have placed on this type of activity.

    “When it comes to fixing up items that are just for resale here is my criteria. If we cannot make at least X% based on the price of repair plus cost of original purchase, plus time involved, we have to move on. If I do not look at it this way then I will spend my whole life in the garage repairing things. My daughter will take that very personally. She thinks I’m pretty cool, and thinks the garage isn’t so cool.”
    James Dibben recently posted..Do lessMy Profile

    • Hey, thanks for stopping by man, I think your suggestion for putting it in terms of family time is also a good one. Because that’s actually pretty darn true — is it more important to fix up a boat that isn’t worth much anyway or play catch with my girls? Obvious answer on that one!

  7. Ya, what others said above. Since you are the expert (they brought this stuff to you right), then tell them your expert opinion is that this stuff was free for a reason and not worth fixing. … and that you are just going to free-cycle it or set it out on the curb for the next guy.

    I’ve been down similar roads before. That boat may be a perfect fixer upper for a guy who wants it for himself. Time and money spent on something you want to keep and use is way different than the flip for profit business!

    Your blog sure is interesting. Who would have thought a writeup about junk in your garage would generate a bunch of comments!

  8. I have to agree with the other folks, you have to draw the line. You simply don’t have the money and time resources to fix these things.

    Perhaps you could ask them to pay ALL of the costs to fix them and give them an estimate and tell them that it could cost even more than that.

    I seriously doubt they will be interested when you tell them that.

    After that, you could also politely ask them to come get their stuff….
    david recently posted..Difficulty Working With Google Adwords?My Profile

  9. I think you should tell them exactly what you just typed. (the three-point list at the end.) Don’t worry about whether they think you are a jerk or not. Family has to expect other family members to be realistic with them and not to cater to them all the times. If anyone is being unreasonable, it’s them for insisting that you fix things. Tell them that you don’t want to waste your time fixing something that you believe won’t be worth the time put into it, and if they don’t like it, too bad for them!
    444 recently posted..I cannot be held responsibleMy Profile

  10. It can be pretty tough saying no to friends and family over stuff like this. I get those kinds of requests for building websites or helping with marketing. People just assume that they can get stuff for free even though the person normally gets paid to do the work. Your family is definitely taking advantage and you’ll have to put your foot down about it. Basically you have to find a polite way of telling them that it’s unfortunately not something you can help them out with due to your other commitments and the time it would take. If they can’t respect that, then they’re the ones being jerks.
    Modest Money recently posted..Promoting Financial Affiliate ProgramsMy Profile

    • It IS hard to stay no, which is why I’ve had a hard time so far; like you said for your website requests, people just assume that because you do it for money that you’ll have the time/energy to do it for free for them! I think if I politely lay it out for them in simple terms, that might be the best route.

  11. Saying no to friends and family is tough, but I think this is one of those situations. They probably see you fixing and selling other items and don’t understand that in this case, it is not worth it. Perhaps you need to show them the actual repairs needed (quotes, parts, etc) and they could better understand the cost and labour involved.

    And if not, I’d give them a reasonable deadline to clear out of your garage.
    CF recently posted..Recipe Idea: Home made pizzaMy Profile

    • An actual list of parts needs and costs, versus what comparable things go for on ebay might be really helpful. It would really lay out in dollars why it’s not worth it.

  12. Yea, it doesn’t seem like they are valuing your time. You should tell them that you don’t have the time to repair these things for free. You wouldn’t expect them to labor for hours for free!
    Kristin recently posted..SnippetsMy Profile

    • No I certainly wouldn’t! And I’ll have to remember this situation for the future so that I don’t even accidentally end up on the other side of the situation.

    • It’s sorta funny that that piece of info keeps getting overlooked by my family — I should probably just keep saying that! It should make the whole thing a non-issue

  13. Yeah, a little advantage. When they have dropped items off with you in the past, did you take a cut of the profits? I wouldn’t threaten them with charging storage fees but just explain that you need the space and you’d like the stuff out by X date. If they want to keep the items, quote them a little price for how much you would fix them up for.
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..How Can We Plan Our Retirement in Our Twenties?My Profile

    • Well that’s the thing, they’ve helped me a lot in the past get my life together. So I do try to help them out now and stuff — but sometimes it’s just too much.

  14. I feel your pain. It’s tough to say no to family members.

    My favorite response when someone initially asks me to do something which is beyond the pale, is to say, “let me think about that.”

    That answer serves three purposes:

    1. It buys me time to mull it over;
    2. It sort of puts them off balance, and makes them consider the possibility that the answer may not be what they want it to be;
    3. They are not so disappointed when I come back later with a “no” answer, backed up with a logically irrefutable explanation.
    Terry recently posted..Don’t Make This Mistake, If You Want to Keep Good TenantsMy Profile

  15. Hmm, I don’t think it is miserly to protect yourself. I think perhaps a partnership with your insistent family members may work. Since they volunteered your time, perhaps you can do the work with minimal or no direct compensation (the ones that you can fix) provided that they pay for all of the parts. I would set a time limit on how long you are going to keep this “junk” around though.
    Roshawn @ Watson Inc recently posted..Why Do We Worry About Money?My Profile

  16. I’d tell them all of those things. You’re playing it smart! Time is precious and it’s not worth putting hours into something that isn’t going to turn a profit, especially since these aren’t projects you want to do. Plus you need to free up space. I personally don’t have the patience or interest in fixing things to turn around and sell and love decluttering!
    Untemplater recently posted..Never Take Your Health For GrantedMy Profile

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  19. Hi,

    no you are not being selfish.

    You have already done your family a service by providing your time and expertise to evaluate an d store their junk.
    Next your family should remove their junk at your request ASAP.
    I was in a similar situation as the MR fix-it guy for computers in my family, it got bad when I ended up as the fixer( time and money) for the in-laws and their family too. Selfish people by nature will take advantage of generous people. They have been brought up to think this is normal. I learned to say no. And life got a little better.

    I hope you can too. Set those boundaries. Don’t be afraid of hurting their feelings or lettings them down. Most of the time, this is not the case rather they have to face their own inadequacies. You are only hurting yourself if you allow them to continue to take advantage of you.

    best of luck.

    BTW how did it all turn out?

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