We all know money can be tight in January, but the good news is that with Christmas well and truly over people up and down the UK are sifting through their unwanted present stacks. Do they really need that duplicate Harry Potter boxset, or would they be better off slinging it on eBay for some quick cash? If you move fast and keep your wits about you, you could nab yourself a few true bargains this month. Here are a couple of quick tips for making the most of January on eBay,

The eBay Easter Egg Hunt

Yes, we know we're a bit early, but the advice is sound. Auction sites are notoriously unpredictable, so don't get too fixated on winning. If you've been outbid on an item, consider letting it go and searching again.

You might get lucky and find a new listing at a better price. Failing that, looking through auctions that have already closed will give you a good idea of the typical sale price for your item.

If you see a lot of them going for more than you're willing to part with, maybe eBay's not the answer. You might have better luck checking Facebook's seller groups, Amazon's used item marketplace or even somewhere like freecycle.org.

The Right Tool for the Job

We've all played the Stealth Assassin game on eBay at one time or another. You size up what your opponents are willing to spend then wait for the very last second to snipe your prize from the shadows. It takes a cool temperament and a lightning-fast trigger finger to do it well, so why not rig the game in your favour?

There are tools out there designed to automate a lot of the legwork of finding a target and taking the perfect sniper shot at it. It starts with something as simple as getting eBay alerts for items you're after with the site's “follow this search” option. If you want to get sneakier, a site like lastminute-auction.com can guide you to “hidden gem” auctions ending within an hour for £1 or less.

Once you've got your target picked out, there are even tools to help you bag it. While sniping sites are a really convenient way of putting in a devastating last-moment bid, do be cautious with them. They may not always be 100% reliable, for one thing. On top of that, you're basically trusting a stranger with your eBay login and password.

Thinning the Herd

The reason why sniping's so popular on eBay is that it helps to keep the competition down. A lot of people put in what they think is their top offer right from the outset. As soon as they're outbid, though, they realise they're prepared to pay a little more than they thought. Even if they don't win, they jack up the price for everyone else by trying.

One interesting trick for keeping competition low is to take advantage of typos sellers sometimes make. A “Palystation 4 console” is likely to be found by fewer bidders than the correctly spelled version, for instance. You can actually take advantage of this trick automatically with sites like www.fatfingers.co.uk.

The Other Side of the Coin

So what about your own unwanted Christmas presents? There's no reason not to turn them into cash, but it's worth thinking about how to get the most for them. Be aware of the tricks that buyers will try, and the mistakes that trip sellers up. Watch for spelling errors that'll make your auction harder to find, for instance.

Make sure you give enough information about what you're selling, too. A lot of buyers are put off if they don't know the exact size, colour or condition of an item. Keep in mind that some buyers like to haggle with you. After all, accepting a slightly lower Best Offer bid is probably better than getting stuck with a Buy It Now item that doesn't sell at all.

Most importantly, remember that the taxman likes to sniff around eBay sellers to make sure they're playing fair with him. Even if you're taxed via PAYE in your day job, HMRC might think you're running a business if you sell a lot of stuff online. If you're making under £1,000 from it, you're probably not going to have any tax trouble.

However, the rules around this are tricky, and getting it wrong is extremely painful. Take a look at our blog for more information, and always get in touch with RIFT for help and advice if you aren't sure if you need to submit a tax return. If you're in need of some extra cash use our tax refund calculator to see if you're due a tax rebate too.