With sunny days starting to overtake the dreariness of winter, garage sale season is once again upon us. You may have friends who complain that their last garage sale took weeks of effort, yet earned a pittance, but with these practical tips you’ll be sure to prove them wrong. Be smart with your garage sale and you can rake in the bucks!
Make sure you have enough stuff to warrant a garage sale
This may seem like a no-brainer, but having enough stuff to get people out of their cars is key. Start a garage sale pile as far ahead in advance as possible. Dedicate a corner of the basement or a spare bedroom for garage sale stuff and then methodically go through each room of your house.
Don’t price your stuff too low
Bargaining is a proud tradition for many people, so price your items with a bit of wiggle room. This way you can reward customers who purchase more than one item or those who ask for a bargain.
Don’t price your stuff too high
Don’t use your own regret from overpaying as an excuse to overcharge your customers. Yes, that designer bedskirt may have set you back $200, but you’ll be packing it back up at the end of the day if you don’t set a reasonable price. It’s a sunk cost, get over it.
Price every item
If there’s no price on your items, customers have no idea what a bargain it is. Yes, this is a lot of work, but having to ask on every single item is frustrating for customers and sure to send them off without a purchase.
Organize your merchandise
Set out your stuff neatly and in an deliberate manner, and then continue organizing it as the day goes on. If your tables look rifled through and empty, buyers will assume that all the good stuff has already been bought.
Talk to your neighbors about organizing a group sale
Organized neighborhood garage sales attract many more customers, so spread the word ahead of time with nearby friends and neighbors. Or, better yet, hold your garage sale during an established entire neighborhood garage sale. Your neighborhood association or HOA should have information about any area-wide sales that you can participate in.
Move your car from in front of your house
How many times have you passed by a garage sale, yet not stopped as there was nowhere to pull over? Park your car around the block, and then politely ask your neighbors if they can move their cars as well. No one can buy your stuff unless they can actually get to it!
Place individual Craigslist ads for your more desirable or bigger ticket items
I did this with our last garage sale and sold every single advertised item. I placed them as regular listings, and then wrote that they could be found at my garage sale. I also made sure to delete each of these listings as soon as they left the property. This may sound like a pain in the tuchus, but you can assemble the listings ahead of time, and then wait to approve them until the evening before. It goes without saying that you need to place a Craigslist ad under ‘Garage Sales.’ Include pictures!
Be smart with your money and keep small bills and change on hand
Nothing is more frustrating to customers than trying to pay and having it be a problem. Keep a constant eye on your money, and periodically put large bills into the house. I always wear an apron that features a large pocket on the front, and keep the cash on me all all times. Make it difficult for would-be thieves. A bonus is that this identifies me as the seller.
Recruit a friend or family member to act as your partner. This will be important for potty breaks, busy times, setup, entertainment and safety. Otherwise, no one will believe it when you tell your story about the distinguished looking woman who specifically asked if you had any “taxidermy cats.”
Look beyond household stuff as your merchandise
I once had dozens of desirable yet volunteer plants in my front yard, so I potted them up and sold them for 50¢ to $1 apiece. I’ve also sold leftover landscaping stone from a stone wall project, cut flowers and lemonade. You’ve got the customers, give them as much inventory as possible!
Put out a box of free stuff
There’s nothing more fun than finding something for nothing, so place a large, well-marked “FREE” box close to the curb. Utilize this proven seller method to get buyers out of their cars and into your sale. Your odds and ends are someone else’s treasure!
Price items like a store would
I drink a lot of Red Rose tea, which comes with a tiny ceramic figurine in every box. I set them out at my last garage sale priced at “50¢ apiece or 3-for-$1,” and found that adults and children alike went nuts for them. And you know that no one bought fewer than three.
Don’t base what you sell on what you would buy
I’ve been extremely surprised by what sells or what doesn’t at my garage sales. You simply never know if your broken or outdated stuff would appeal to a crafter or a DIY fixer. If you want to get rid of it and it’s safe, then put it in your garage sale. Just be honest about the condition.
Put up easy to read garage sale signs
Keep in mind that many of your potential customers are passing your sign at 35 miles per hour. Make the address and hours big and legible. Maybe even just the words ‘Garage Sale’ and a big arrow will suffice. You can always write some of the more juicy details in small script, but no one will come if they don’t know where you’re located. The best places for your signs are at intersections where cars stop anyway, and the street where they turn to get to your house. Create your signs ahead of time, as you’ll be busy the morning of the sale. And when your garage sale is over, please take down your signs!
Place the more exciting stuff closer to the curb
Got a ton of old stuffed animals? Great, but don’t have that be what passersby see first. Put the awesome stuff out front to draw in fresh customers.
Keep it short
Friday, Saturday and Sunday sales are exhausting. I’ve been known to have single day sales, as the majority of good stuff gets snapped up on day one anyway.
Be smart when you schedule your sale
I once accidently had a garage sale during the final soccer game of the World Cup, in Portland, Oregon aka ‘Soccer City.’ My sale was a ghost town, as a large majority of the population was glued to their televisions. Oops . . .
Make yourself comfortable
You’re going to have both busy and slow times, so put out a comfy chair for yourself, slather on the sunscreen and wear a hat. Plan what you’re going to eat that day, and keep a bottle of tap water by your side.
Have a plan for what to do with your unsold merchandise
Some non-profits will come pick up unsold garage sale stuff, so research this ahead of time. If you’re donating unsold items to a non-profit, write out a detailed list of every item to maximize your tax donations. This handy guide from The Salvation Army spells out how much you can deduct for individual donations. You’ll be very happy come April 15 that you did! Fight the temptation to bring unsold merchandise back into your home. You’ve gone through the work of decluttering, so move forward not backwards.
With these tips, you’ll be sure to make the most from your unwanted stuff. Garage sales are a great way to both declutter your home and make extra money. Whether you earn enough for a pair of shoes or a weekend vacation is up to you. Be smart and organized and you’ll have the best opportunity to put a significant amount of money back into your budget.
Read more: 19 spring home improvements on a shoestring