It’s an American classic: the yard sale — and its variations, such as the tag sale, garage sale or 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 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
The early bird gets the customers. Instead of starting your sale on a Saturday morning, start on a Friday. If you have enough items left, hold it again on Saturday. Plan on starting early: You’ll have bargain-seekers there at the crack of dawn.
2. Gather sale items throughout the year
Make it a practice to set aside anything you have not used in six months to a year. This way, you’ll conquer clutter while amassing inventory for your next sale.
3. Know the rules
Avoid dragging all your stuff onto the lawn only to have a neighbor complain, or someone from code enforcement drop by to stop the sale. Check the rules first. 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
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
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.
6. Advertise well
Homemade signs are fine — just make sure they’re big enough to read and include arrows, the address and perhaps a phone number in case people can’t find you. Use bright colors and keep it to as few words as possible. Task someone with checking on the signs throughout the sale 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.
Spread the word in other ways as well, including posting notice of your sale to Craigslist, your local newspaper’s classified ads and websites like Yard Sale Search.
7. Make it easy for buyers
Group similar items together; alphabetize books, movies and music; and sort clothes by size or type. Keep items off the ground, and leave enough room for people to get around easily and quickly.
Check all pockets, bags and boxes for money and things you may have forgotten to remove.
8. Price and label clearly
Removable stickers are cheap solutions for labeling prices. Colored dots work well: red dots for a dollar, yellow dots for 50 cents, etc.
Having boxes or tables with a fixed price for everything on them can save you from having to individually label everything and helps display things.
9. Encourage bulk buys
People who shop yard sales are looking for deals. Offer discounts for buying in multiples, like three for $5. They get a deal, and you get faster relief from redundant stuff.
10. Watch the clock
If stuff isn’t selling as the day goes on, become more flexible. As it gets later, lower the prices.
11. Keep it simple
Price everything in quarter increments to make transactions simpler. Have plenty of change on hand: Keep at least one roll of quarters, at least $20 in one-dollar bills, and at least a few $5 and $10 bills handy. Use a bag like a fanny pack so you can keep the money on you.
12. Don’t hover
Doesn’t it annoy you when store employees follow you around? Acknowledge shoppers at your sale with a smile or a wave to show you’re available, and then leave them to it. Consider offering free drinks such as water, lemonade, tea or cheap soda.
13. Power to the people
It’s hard to sell electronics if people can’t see that they work, so run an extension cord outside. If you have records or CDs for sale, playing music can help sales as well as provide a nice atmosphere.
14. Donate your leftovers
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 help anyone who didn’t have the money to shop.
15. Don’t blow your profits
A final suggestion: Don’t run right out and spend the money you made on the sale. Instead, use the one-time profit to improve your finances for the long run by paying down debt or beefing up your savings.
What’s your experience with selling belongings at yard sales? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.