Having a Successful Garage Sale

A successful garage sale may at first seem like a quick and easy way to make some cash. And while this is true, if you want to earn some decent income for your efforts, you need to tackle this project using some basic garage sale tips for success.

Westnedge Hill Garage Sale 5 by BrownPolyester on Flickr

Duration

While a one-day garage sale may yield a desirable turnout, multi-day sales are not only going to draw in more shoppers, but will also present some creative pricing strategies.

Check your local newspaper to find out if your town will be hosting an area-wide garage sale event. Taking advantage of these organized sales not only allows for a little free advertising, but will bring in a lot more traffic as well.

Sorting

Organize clothing items by men, women and children and put on separate tables. Consider placing similarly-sized garments in a box or bin and simply labeling the box (for example, “Kids Socks – $0.25/pair”). If possible, put more formal or business-type clothing on hangers and hang on a rolling rack.

Sort the remaining merchandise by categories such as toys, kitchen, books, CDs, bathroom, hobbies, sports, etc. and try to have at least a little separation between sections. Keeping these items tidy will make it easier for garage sale shoppers to sort through.

Advertising

Even if you are participating in an area-wide garage sale weekend, you should still do some of your own advertising. Placing an ad in your local newspaper a few weeks leading up to the date will help bring in more shoppers, increasing your chances of having a successful garage sale.

Be sure to include your address, the hours of the sale, and any pricing specials you plan on running, or any other feature that may be unique to your sale, such as specialized or collectible merchandise.

Post signs in key areas surrounding your neighborhood such as busy intersections. If this is not an option, park one or two cars on busy streets with signs announcing the pertinent sale information.

Websites like BuildASign.com allow you to put together nice signage that you can reuse for multiple sales, or if you have neat handwriting, brightly-colored poster board and a Sharpie marker will do the trick, too.

Consider adding a quick post to Craigslist announcing your garage sale. Again, be sure to include the address of your sale, the date and hours.

Pricing

Pricing is the key to having a successful garage sale. If you do not price your items appropriately, you will lose potential customers who are often seasoned bargain hunters. While some pieces of furniture may merit a higher-than-normal price tag, you should always ask yourself what you would be willing to pay for each item.

Merchandise that has sentimental value should be priced according to their actual value. Potential buyers do not consider your personal attachment when preparing to offer a bid.

If you are hosting a multi-day garage sale, items should be marked at regular prices on the first day with a gradual reduction in price as the end of the sale approaches. On the last day, prices should be slashed across the board, unless you do not mind having to deal with a large stock of leftover merchandise.

Garage sale pricing is not just about making a lot of money, it is about selling as many items as you can (which will have the double benefit of earning money and getting rid of clutter).

Clothing is generally priced by function and condition.

  • Prices for casual adult clothing, depending on the condition, can start at $.50 and top out around $8.00.
  • Business and formal attire such as dresses and suits, if in good condition, can be priced up to $6.00-$10.00 for sets.
  • Winter coats should be no more than $15.00-$20.00.
  • Shoes can fetch from $4.00-$8.00 depending on style, and socks should never be priced more than $1.00.

Brand name clothing can be priced slightly higher, depending on much the items will cost if purchased new. Here are some other general pricing tips:

  • Toys, such as dolls and board games should be priced from .10 to $1.50.
  • Electronic games can fetch up to $20.00.
  • Books, CDs and DVDs should be priced from .50 and up to $20.00 for new items or sets.
  • Televisions, microwaves and other electronics can be marked at 30% off the original purchase price, but no more than $30.00 total.

Cash Transactions

You should have $50.00 to $100.00 in change including plenty of singles, fives, tens as well as a few rolls of quarters, dimes, and nickels. Keep a calculator on hand to avoid any mathematical errors.

If there is more than one person selling items in your garage sale, be sure to track the sale of each individual’s items in a notebook so that the money can be divided appropriately at the conclusion of the sale.

Use different colored garage sale price stickers to provide a fast and easy way to identify these items, and track sales in two (or more, depending on the number of people participating in the yard sale) columns on paper.

Safety

While a garage sale implies the availability of a garage for overnight storage, this might not be an option for everyone. If you do not have access to a garage or lockable shed, be sure to remove any valuable items for overnight storage.

Use the buddy system. Work in pairs, at a minimum, and never leave the cash box unattended.

If large amounts of cash accumulate in your cash box, consider counting out $100 or so and making a “drop” by hiding cash inside your house and out of view of garage sale shoppers.

Leftovers

Any merchandise that has not sold at the conclusion of your garage sale can be donated to charity. Some charities require prior approval of donation items, so before you load up your truck and head to the local drop-off, you may want to call ahead to make sure they will accept your merchandise.

Be sure to use proceeds from the garage sale to pay for any advertising costs, materials, or other expenses associated with having the sale. With what’s left, use it to get out of debt or add to your emergency savings. Whatever you do, don’t spend it at your neighbor’s yard sale!

Comments

  1. We use to have a neighborhood Garage Sale, and my wife would always participate. I was always amazed at the amount of work and preparation for the sale. I don’t think she ever made over $1,000. And she constantly had to deal with hagglers (which is okay, but after too many it wears on one’s soul.

    The only real plus is that the kids get a blast out of it! Especially when they stuff sells!

    • For me, garage sales are as much an opportunity to declutter as a way to make money. How else can you find people to pay you to haul off your junk?! I agree, they are a lot of work.

  2. I agree with Money Reasons – We did a neighborhood garage sale several years ago. At the time my wife worked freelance (ie no paid vacation). We both took the day before off and it took the ENTIRE day to clean, organize, price our inventory. Wound up making like $200. Would of been better off just letting her go to work that day, putting all the stuff in trash bags,taking it to Goodwill and getting receipt for tax deduction. NOT OUR CUP OF TEA…but yes, the kids do enjoy it.

  3. I would suggest posting an ad on craigslist instead of in your local newspaper. It’s free and you can post pictures of stuff you have set up and also individualize things larger items that people are specially looking for. Bring them in for a dinning room table and they might leave with a couple of extra goodies.

  4. Yeah, like the commenters above, putting a garage sale together seems like so much work for me in relation to the returns you get. This is why I’ve never put one together.

    The advertising needed to get traffic to your sale seems like a lot of legwork. I’d much rather list items on craigslist or ebay.

    However, some of these tips could transfer over to selling on ebay too. And putting together a sale is a good experience in some aspects of entrepreneurship too.

  5. I haven’t done a yard sale since I was a kid, and I don’t really see one in the cards for me any time soon. I think the main reason is because my house is small and when I want to get rid of stuff, I want it gone NOW, and I can’t imagine stockpiling enough stuff to make a sale worthwhile. I’m also working very hard at becoming a better “gatekeeper,” and not letting stuff into my life that I’ll later want to be rid of, and I’m easing out of the holiday giftgiving thing as well.
    I have wondered about selling perennial plant offspring in the driveway. Has anyone had any experience with that? Some of the “weeds” I pull up in my garden (gardening is our grand obsession) are wonderful plants, but one can only fit so many plants in a modest suburban lot.

  6. While some years our garage sales are better than others we usually have at least 1 a year (sometimes more) but we make it multi-family and its just as much about the socializing as it is the sale itself.

    We spend the entire year creating a ‘garage sale pile’ in our homes, sometimes even getting ahead of ourselves and having things priced as they hit their piles. Then all one has to do is arrive and unpack their wares and start to sell, sell, sell…

    Price is key to moving the stuff. Forget about how much money you were suckered into paying for the item in the first place, the garage sale shopper is planning on paying pennies on the dollar or you might as well take it all to goodwill. This strategy has helped me tremendously when i think about purchasing items new today. “How much will i get for this when the time comes to sell…” not much becomes worth it that way.

    Watch your stuff! We have had so many small things stolen it’s ridiculous. It use to be you only had to watch the money box, now you have to watch the whole darn place. And we have caught many a people changing price tags on items when they thought we weren’t looking.

    Advertise EVERYWHERE! We print up fliers and 2-3 days before the sales and we hit every bulletin board in town we can find, from grocers to post office, banks, libraries, laundromats…(we use bright florescent paper so its grabs your attention)….signs at the street, ads in the local papers….

    And to Rosa: We have sold lots of cuttings from houseplants, vegetable plants, hostas, lillies, etc divided from our lawn) at the sales…people love those!

  7. A safer place for your cash is in a fanny pack around your waist. Yes, Oh so fashionable (not), but much better than a cash box.

  8. I enjoy the garage sales ,where am from there on every sunday and if your looking to make a quick buck its the way to go. They can be very handy someone is always looking for something you may throw out and also the kids to enjoy it as well well sometimes .

  9. As a garage sale junkie (I went to 16 sales this past Saturday), I agree with everything this post says. But I’ll elaborate. I see a lot of really bad Craigslist ads.

    Include your address! This should be a given, but almost every week, I’ll see an ad, want to go to the sale, but there’s no address. If you’re uncomfortable giving the exact address, give a rough address, like 54xx Itaska, or a nearby intersection. But if I can’t find you, I won’t be there.

    Include the time! This also should be a given. But a fair number of ads leave off the time. On a given Saturday this time of year, there are easily 200 sales in my metro area. If I plan really well and really hustle, I can make it to 30. If I have to choose between two sales, and one doesn’t have a time listed, I’m going to skip that one rather than risk getting there too late or too early.

    Tell me what you’ve got. If your ad says “Huge sale 54xx Itaska, 8-12,” I won’t go. But I’ll tell you what. If you list what you have and a price, you have something I’m looking for and I like the price, I’ll do everything I possibly can to be there when you open, and I’ll bring lots of money, and you won’t have to worry about hagglers because I’ll buy it before they even have a chance to make a lowball offer.

    Don’t bother posting your sale weeks in advance. Pretty much everyone will just ignore it until the Monday before your sale. The only things we plan in advance are the really big, recurring neighborhood sales.

    And let’s talk about your sign for a minute. If your sign looks *too* professional, that can be a drawback. At best, that tells us you do this every year. But your best stuff probably sold last year, or the year before. At worst, that tells us you’re a “picker”–someone who cruises garage sales all year buying stuff, then once a year holding a sale to sell the wares at markup. Maybe I’ll stop, but if I’m running behind and feel the need to save a few minutes, I’ll think about skipping it. A good sign is big enough and well placed enough to be visible from the street, and legible.

  10. This is some great information for not only the novice but also experts.

    Anytime i have every had a yard sale i feel the big items are what people want more than clothing. on the flip side any time i drive past a sale and only see clothes i typically keep on driving.

    So my recommendation is not only sell small items but also big ones so you get more people to park their cars and approach your sale.

  11. I would suggest posting an ad on craigslist instead of in your local newspaper. It’s free and you can post pictures of stuff you have set up and also individualize things larger items that people are specially looking for. Bring them in for a dinning room table and they might leave with a couple of extra goodies.

  12. These are some awesome tips that could for sure help my sister out. Her neighborhood on the west coast of Michigan always has garage sales and I think that some of these ideas can help her to have a better traffic flow to her neighboorhood!

    Also…one tip that I learned from her. Moms and dads are more likely to purchase clothing if it is bundled together. My sister bundles outfits together that her daughter wears and sells them all together because then it is so easy for that mom/dad to just pick up the whole outfit and purchase it. She then can charge .50 cents more on the outfit then individually pricing it!

  13. Yardsales are alot of work but so worth the effort, if done right. I usually have one about every 2-3 years. It is truly amazing just how much ‘stuff’ my husband and myself accumulate but never use once the ‘newness’ has worn off.
    My motto for having a sale is this: ‘Clean out the clutter, clean each item, price it cheap enough and NEVER bring anything back into the house…even if I have to give stuff away as the day winds down.’ The leftovers all go to the charities.
    Also..items sell better if they are usable and clean. I try to look at items from a buyer’s point of view—would I buy an item if it is filthy? Absolutely not. I won’t sell items that I wouldn’t use myself; they belong in the dump or, better yet, recycling centers.
    I do price everything..but, on the same note, everything is negotiable…( I must have inherited that trait from my father; he was a used-car salesman ) So..yes, having a yardsale is a great way to ‘clean house’, meet interesting people, plus help out the various charities. Thanks for reading..hope this was a little help.
    Kay Hill

  14. I had a garage sale last year made over $6000..(some antiques in that one and brand name clothing).and just had one last weekend and made $2000+( all run off bottom end stuff..toys kids cloths my used cloths kitchen stuff decorative stuff)…..I hunt all year round for cheap stuff,(mostley I look for antiques and vintage stuff) ….I go to other garage sales.(bright and early at 6 am I am ready to rumble)..early bird gets the worm….thrift stores ..flee markets ..bazzars etc….I find mistakes in priceing and know I can make more on the item (even if its 5$)…I gather the items for 6 months ish give or take, then have 4 garage sales( 2 week-ends sat and sun)..after the garage sale I take some of my better stuff or things I didnt get what I wanted in the sale and I post alot of it on kijiji or craigs list and have used ebay before and I have put stuff into auctions.. (made$12,000 in one auction)….I have made thousands of dollars doing this..I am a single mother with 3 kids and this has helped me pay my bills and some……Life is good!!…one person’s junk is anothers treasure!!!

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