It’s an American classic: the yard sale. Or tag sale, garage sale, attic sale, porch sale, barn sale, junk sale, moving sale, and the ever-popular rummage sale. Sharing your household excess with others while making a pocketful of change is a tradition that’s been around for as long as people have been collecting clutter.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that a yard sale is nothing more than throwing your stuff out on the lawn and collecting cash. As with all events that involve currency changing hands, marketing and merchandising make a difference. If you’re interested in making some serious money, here are a few tips to make your next sale more successful.
1. Start early
Photo (cc) by Tony Alter
The early bird gets the customers. Instead of starting your sale on Saturday morning, start on Friday and, if you have enough items left, hold it again on Saturday. Yard sale customers like to start early, so open your sale by 8 a.m.
2. Gather sale items throughout the year
Photo (cc) by Alan Levine
Make it a practice to set anything you have not used in six months to a year in a box for your upcoming sale. This way you’ll conquer clutter while amassing your sale inventory.
3. Know the rules
Photo (cc) by Ken Hawkins
The last thing you want to do is drag all your stuff onto the lawn only to have a neighbor complain or someone from city code enforcement drop by. It’s rare for a permit or license to be required, but it’s possible. There are even neighborhoods where yard sales are not allowed at all.
4. Don’t go it alone
Photo (cc) by chapobrien
There are a few things in life best done alone, but holding a yard sale isn’t one of them. The more people you involve and the more stuff you offer, the better the sale will be and the less you’ll have to do. Go door to door and get the whole block involved.
5. Check the weather and pick your spot
Photo (cc) by Irina Hynes
The yard’s better than the garage. There’s more light and space, people can see the wares clearly from the street, and the whole thing looks more festive and inviting. But check the weather: You don’t want your stuff rained on, and inside or out, you’ll have fewer shoppers if it’s raining. Weekends are obviously best, and again, plan on starting early: You’ll have bargain-seekers there at the crack of dawn.
6. Advertise well
Photo (cc) by ^ v ^
Homemade signs are fine — just make sure they’re big enough to read (drive by them yourself) and include arrows, the address, and a phone number in case people can’t find you. Use bright colors and keep it to a few words. Have a someone tasked with checking on the signs throughout the day, to make sure they’re still up and looking good.
The busier the street where you plant the signs, the better. But be aware of sign ordinances in your neighborhood (especially if you live in Beverly Hills). Advertising is critical to getting people to your sale so spread the word in many ways, including posting notice of your sale at Craigslist, your local newspaper’s classified ads and YardSaleSearch.com. If you have too much stuff to mention it all, name sought-after items that rope people in: furniture, electronics, tools, collectibles, and brand names. The more effort you put into marketing, the more money you’ll make and the faster your clutter will clear.
7. Make it easy for buyers
Photo (cc) by EvelynGiggles
Group similar items together; alphabetize books, movies and music; sort clothes by size or type. Leave enough room for people to get around easily and quickly. A yard sale checklist for before, during and after the sale can help you keep track of everything. Keep items off the ground, on tables. Important: Check all pockets, bags and boxes for money and things you’ve forgotten to remove.
8. Price and label clearly
Photo (cc) by Mike Mozart
Removable stickers (colored dots work well) are cheap solutions for labeling: red dots for a dollar, yellow 50 cents, etc. Having boxes or tables with a fixed price can save you from having to individually label everything and helps display things.
9. Encourage bulk buys
Photo (cc) by Dano
People who shop yard sales are looking for deals. Offer discounts for buying in multiples, like three for $5 so they get a deal, and you get faster relief from redundant stuff.
10. Watch the clock
Photo (cc) by hott
If as the day goes on stuff isn’t selling, become more flexible: As the day gets later, lower the price.
11. Keep it simple
Photo (cc) by neverything
Pricing everything in quarter increments makes transactions simpler. So does having plenty of change: Keep at least one roll of quarters, at least $20 in one-dollar bills, and a few fives and tens handy. Use a fanny pack or something else that keeps the money on you.
12. Don’t hover
Photo (cc) by Henrique Pinto
Doesn’t it annoy you when store employees follow you around? Acknowledge everyone with a smile or a wave to show you’re available, and then leave them to it. Consider offering free drinks: water, lemonade, tea or cheap soda.
13. Power to the people
Photo (cc) by Ben
It’s hard to sell electronics if people can’t see that they work: Run an extension cord outside. If you have records or CDs for sale, playing music can help sales and provide a nice atmosphere.
14. Donate your leftovers
Photo (cc) by Peter Burge
As the day winds down, if you’ve got stuff left over, call a local charity and invite them to the party. That way you can turn your remaining inventory into a tax deduction while helping people who didn’t have the money to show up.
15. A tip for yard-sale buyers
Photo (cc) by Mike Mozart
If you’re a buyer, always head for the ritziest zip codes. Rich people have higher-quality stuff and are more likely to let it go cheap.
16. Don’t blow your profits
A final suggestion: Don’t run right out and spend the money you made on the sale. Instead, use it to improve your life: Pay down debt or beef up your savings. Use the one-time profit to de-stress your finances for the long run.
What’s your experience with selling your belongings or buying at yard sales? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.