Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tips for Holding a Successful Garage/Yard Sale

My husband and I recently held a garage sale for one day during the citywide sale weekend. We procrastinated (go figure, huh?) and debated whether or not we even wanted to have one. We literally waited until Friday night to get our shit together and get everything set up. I am sooooo glad we did! We ended up making several hundred dollars and we didn’t even have any "big" items to sell.

Whether you have a garage, a porch, a yard, or a driveway … YOU can have a fantastic sale and bring in some cash that you wouldn’t have had 10 minutes ago if you hadn’t had one. Since sale season is upon us, and some of you may have never held one before, I’ve come up with a list of tips to hopefully help you hold a sale of your own. I’m definitely not a garage sale expert, but I also know how to shop at one … and hold a successful one.

So how do you know if you should have a sale? Ask yourself some questions...
Do I need to make some extra money?
Everyone can use some extra cash. Plus it’s a great way to get the kiddos to make their own money.

Do I need to declutter my house/life?
Less is ALWAYS more! Less clutter will make you feel better about yourself and your life and more in control.

Do you have the time?
If you set some space aside to throw stuff in over several months, it’ll make it easier come time for the sale.

Do I have the items that people would actually buy at a sale?
You’ve heard the saying: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Think like a shopper. Go to a few sales and see what works and what doesn’t.

Be clear on the purpose of the sale. Are you doing it to make money? Are you doing it to declutter? Are you doing it out of boredom?

Where do you even begin?
As I stated earlier, if you set some space aside to throw stuff you don’t use or no longer need/want, it’ll make it a heck of a lot easier come time to hold your sale.

Price as you go. If you know you’re going to individually price your items, price them as you set them aside in your sale stash.

Check your town’s ordinances. Usually during a citywide sale, they’ll waive the permit fee. Otherwise, you need to call city hall to double check or you’ll end up giving your city some of your earnings.
As you are collecting things for the sale, make sure they are cleaned up and in working order. Nothing is worse than going to sale, asking the seller if the item works, and having them shrug and say they aren’t sure. Or for you to buy something, get it home, only to find out you wasted your money. DON’T be that seller!

Choose a date that is as agreeable with other family members so you'll have the assistance that you may need. Most sales are on Friday and Saturday and some are just Saturday. The more stuff you have to get rid of, the longer you should consider having the sale. In my area, many like to have 3 or 4-day sales starting on a Wednesday or Thursday and ending on Saturday.

Choosing a start time is just as important as the day. Don’t advertise that the sale opens at 7 am, if you aren't an early bird. Times differ as much as people and can start anywhere from 6 am to 10 am. Be cautious, however, that if you say you will be open at 8 am, you might have anxious buyers standing in your yard at 7:30. Same goes for shutting down … If you say you'll be open until 5 PM, don’t close at 4pm.

How should you price your items?
As I stated earlier, think like a shopper. Think of prices you would like to see if you were shopping at a garage sale. The lower you price the item, the faster it will sell, the more money you make, and the less you will have to pack up at the end of your sale. Nobody likes packing up the leftovers.

Price your items large and easy to read. If the buyer can’t tell if you want $5.00 for an item or $2.00 for the item … be prepared to sell for the lower price.

Have bins of $0.25, $.50, etc toys. Kids flock to these and it helps keep them out of the way so mom and/or dad can actually look at the rest of your sale without disruptions.

Do not use plain colored dots (i.e.: Red = $1.00 / Blue = $2.00, etc). This is confusing and time-consuming for the buyer if they have to look at the sign to decipher what price you are asking.

Offer a free pile. Usually best if you throw it down by the curb away from the rest of your sale. A free pile will usually draw in more people as they figure they’re steps away from the rest of the sale.

How do you start preparation?
Decide how many tables, bins, and boxes you will need. Borrow from friends, family, and neighbors if you can. And try to have an extra one to check people out at. If they have an arm full of clothes, it’ll make it easier on both of you.

Keep your sale comfortable. Check the weather the day of the sale. Decide a plan if rain is in the forecast. Most die-hards will still shop in the rain. If it’s hot, keep a mister or fan nearby and buy a six pack of water and/or pop and throw it in a cooler. Many people will be so desperate for one-stop shopping, they’ll buy a can off of you for fifty cents. Meaning you’ve profited!

Type up an ad on Craigslist. You have no reason not to … it’s FREE! This is where 70% of people find out about sales happening in the area (online websites)! And the remaining 30% is just by driving by and seeing the signs.

Advertisement can be done in many different ways. Word of mouth, the newspaper, fliers, Craigslist, signs on the corner, etc.

But again, check with the city first to ask about signage. Sometimes ordinances will prevent you from placing signs in an unwelcome area.

Use large, thick cardboard with bright, vibrant colors that stand out.

Write in large print and make it easy to read.

If you don’t have the nicest handwriting, buy some stencils to make it clearer.

Make sure your signs are anchored into the ground firmly. Don’t forget to make BOTH sides and possibly draw arrows if you can fit them.

Add streamers, balloons, pinwheels, flags, etc. Anything eye-catching. Just be careful with those as well. You don’t want it so flashy it causes a wreck or disrupts traffic in any way.

Only tell the necessary information. Date, time, street address, and arrows. People are driving and don’t (and shouldn’t) take the time to read the rest of the jargon.

Place the signs the NIGHT before your sale so there is less rushing and running around in the morning.

How do I setup and display?
Call it what you want: garage sale, barn sale, yard sale, porch sale, estate sale, sale sale, etc. You don’t have to have a garage to have a sale. If you have items to sell, people don’t care where you’re having it as long as there’s cheap treasures.

Set the sale up and do a walk through. Make sure you can get to each table easily and nothing is too cramped. Keep traffic flow in mind when displaying your items.

Don’t have so many items on a table that people feel overwhelmed.

Try to keep gender and sizes organized as much as you can. After a rush of people, go back and reorganize. You will find yourself doing this all day long – it’s just part of the process.

Try to keep your tables to a theme. Don’t put camping gear with toys. Don’t put glassware next to the toys. Etc.

Make sure electronic items have access to an electrical outlet for testing. Have a power strip available as well as batteries for items that people want to see in action.

Park down the street a ways. Less cars = more customers. If a buyer can’t find a place to park, they’re likely to just keep driving by regardless of the items you have for sale.


Place larger items in the front. There’s about a 4-second window (at most) as cars drive by for your sale to make a good first impression. By placing those larger items out front, you are letting people know that your sale is one they don’t want to miss out on!Display items to their advantage. A set of lawn chairs isn’t going to sell if you just have them folded up, leaning up against the wall.

Display books on a shelf. It may be a hassle carrying the shelf outside, but in the end – it’ll double, if not triple the money you would’ve made if you just threw them in a bin or box for people to rifle threw.

Money, money, money! (Yes, I’m singing it)
Make sure to go to the bank the DAY BEFORE. Unless you have some change on hand. Most people pay in twenties meaning you need to be prepared to give out plenty of fives, ones, and pocket change. I usually get a roll of quarters, a stack of twenty-five $1 bills, and a few $5 bills. I usually have to end up going to the store or bank down the street at least once during the sale. It’s just part of the gig.

Keep a calculator with you at all times. Chances are, you stayed up late the night before and woke up early in anticipation and preparation. Meaning that you are a little drowsy – meaning your math may not be at its peak that day.

Count back change to double check yourself. Even if I’ve punched it into the calculator, I’ve actually caught myself giving back too much or too little change.

My personal opinion: Don’t accept checks. And unless you have the app on your iPhone for credit cards, don’t take those either. It’s just what I think. I’ve had a bad experience before.

Decide if you’re open to negotiate or if all prices are firm. Make sure if you change shifts with someone (to eat, use the restroom, etc), that they are away of your decision on your item(s).

Other random tips
Don’t stand there and talk/text on your cell phone. Make yourself noticed. Nobody should have to ask whom he or she needs to give his or her money to.

Greet your customers. Tell them thanks for coming even if they don’t purchase something. Maybe they saw something they are thinking about but didn’t bring the cash with them. Being pleasant means they’ll remember you more.

Don’t let anyone in the house for ANY reason. Period.

Keep your pups inside. Some people have extreme phobias against pets they don’t know. This can draw them away faster than you can say hello.

Keep your kids out of their old toys. But let them help you as much as they can/want without being a nuisance – hard to imagine, isn’t it?!

Try to get as much rest as you can. If you have someone to take over a couple hours, run in and take a nap, grab a snack, or just enjoy the peacefulness and clear your head.

Do a quick run through of the house to make sure you didn’t forget something. This has happened to me sooooo many times!

Expect people to come in rushes and be prepared by having an extra person on stand-by.

Pay attention and be helpful but don’t hound, pressure, or annoy your customers.

Jump on offers on the last day of your sale. Chances are, if it was a good price, the people had plenty of time to sleep on it and they would’ve came back to buy it. Take what you can get at that point. Haggle once with the person. Fold if you need to.

At the end of the sale – shut your doors, take down the signs, and box as much up as you can. I usually close down an hour before the donation center stops taking donations so that I can get it out of my house. Think: women’s shelters, children’s homes, etc for clothes, shoes, and toys. They need it the most. Sorry Goodwill. Don’t take it personal.

Here is the rule I live by
Having a garage or yard sale is the last-ditch effort to make some cash on stuff I’m probably just going to end up donating and giving away anyway. If it doesn’t sell, then I’m not going to make any money on it.
If you’re holding a sale to make top dollar – list it on Craigslist. Suprisingly, you’re going to make more money by pricing your items lower at your sale.

Running a sale is not rocket science. It just takes some preparation, organization, and effort to make it successful. And in the end … it’ll all be worth it.


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Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by the letter "G". I am behind (and procrastinating) in my
A-to-Z Challenge but slowly catching myself back up. Please keep stopping by. I’ll have more for you throughout the day. I still have a household to run, y’know?! ;)
If you are participating, please let me know so I can check your website out as well! Thanks for reading!

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