Have you ever shopped at a garage sale and thought about how much time actually went into putting it all together? Or maybe you’ve wanted to have one for years, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the effort.
Don’t let such thoughts keep you from planning your own sale. Sure, setting up and hosting a yard sale takes work. But one person’s trash is definitely another’s treasure, and there are tons of avid yard sale shoppers eager to take your unwanted items off your hands.
There are 165,000 garage sales taking place on any given week in the U.S., according to research by the Statistic Brain Research Institute. If you have anything of value, a yard sale is a quick way to make a nice chunk of cash.
Here are 10 tips for doing it right:
1. Plan ahead
Once you’ve decided on a date, it’s time to gather your inventory. Start by retrieving anything you haven’t used in six months, sorting the items by category and placing them in labeled boxes. Now, step back and admire how you have successfully decluttered.
When should you host the sale? Obviously, winter is not the best option unless you live where it never snows. Avoid the intense heat of summer if you can. Avoid holiday weekends, because most people will be preoccupied with other activities or traveling.
Stand out from the competition by starting your sale on Friday, rather than Saturday morning. And be aware that people will show up at 7 a.m. even if the advertised start time is two hours later.
2. Prepare your space
Mow the lawn, weed the flower beds and smooth any uneven surfaces that could be a potential problem for customers. The last thing you want is for guests to take a tumble.
If you park on the street, move your car to make room for customers.
3. Simplify pricing
Adopt a simplified pricing structure so you won’t have to make a lot of changes. Group items of the same price together and clearly display the price.
You can use a color code, or put a sticker with the price on each item. Or make a sign: “Each item on this table goes for $1.”
If the price of an item is firm, indicate that on the sales tag. For big-ticket items, it may also help to attach an advertisement for a new version of the item with its normal asking price to show that you are offering it at a greatly reduced rate.
4. Make it easy to shop
Group similar items to make it easier for customers to navigate the sale. Also, keep items off the ground. Hang up clothes. Offer an outlet for customers to test electrical items. Be sure to start the sale with plenty of small bills and change.
On the other hand, don’t let customers score a surprise deal. Check the pockets of all clothing, and go through all boxes to make sure you haven’t accidentally included something that shouldn’t be there.
Also, make sure you know the real value of your stuff. We’ve all heard stories about people who paid very little for something the seller didn’t realize was worth a lot more.
5. Advertise — and do it right
Aim for consistency and use bright colors with a minimal amount of words on your neighborhood signs. Your signs should also include clear instructions on how to get to the sale and a phone number in case customers need to contact you.
It’s a good idea to put signs up a few days before the sale to create buzz. But check with city officials first to make sure it’s permissible. Check the signs each day of the sale to make sure they’re still in place and legible.
Advertise on community bulletin boards. If you place a classified ad in the local newspaper, the paper may give you a free yard sale sign kit. Advertise for free on sites like Craigslist and Yard Sale Search. Also, people in your community may have created a yard sale Facebook page. If so, use it.
6. Don’t go it alone
You can’t run a yard sale by yourself. At the minimum, you need someone around for when you take a potty break.
Also it’s good to have more eyes to make sure people don’t make off with your goods without paying. Never leave your money unattended. Keep it on your person. And never let customers you don’t know inside your home.
If you have a good relationship with the neighbors, ask them to help out and also display their items at your sale. Provide them with cold drinks and snacks.
7. Be flexible
Some people always offer to pay full price, but many more love to haggle. Hear them out, and be willing to lower the price as the day goes on. Your goal is to make money from your stuff, rather than taking it to the thrift store.
8. Provide plastic bags
Want to score cool points with shoppers? Have free plastic bags on hand — the ones you get at the grocery store when you’ve forgotten your canvas bag at home. That way, your customers won’t have to lug around a bunch of small items.
You can also offer a “fill a bag special” on select low-priced items, such as baby clothes, small toys or books. I did this at a flea market sale a few years back and walked away with almost double the amount I anticipated earning for the day.
9. Don’t be a stalker!
You want guests to be as comfortable as possible, so have a pitcher of water and disposable cups available. Let them roam freely among the sale items without you standing close by. Always offer a kind greeting and let them know you’re available if they need assistance.
10. Donate what’s left
Figure out beforehand which charity will receive what you haven’t sold at the conclusion of the sale. Call and ask about the best times to make deliveries. Some charities will come to your home to pick up large items.
Finally, put the money you’ve earned to good use. If you’re saddled with debt, allocate the funds toward the outstanding balances. Or you can give your savings a boost.
Do you have any great garage sale tips? Share them in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.