Best Tips for a Successful Garage Sale
Getting Ready For Your Garage or Yard Sale
The term spring cleaning is normally applied to climates that have a cold winter and refers to the yearly act of cleaning a house from top to bottom. This would take place in the first warm days of the year typically in spring. I personally do “spring cleaning” whenever I am in the mood and/or whenever it is needed. It is a great time to also go through things that you don’t want and eliminate clutter.
What to Do With the Unwanted Clutter?
Have a garage sale, yard sale, or house sale! Call it whatever you wish. It’s a great way to get rid of unwanted clutter and make some money too. I personally have had many “multi-family” garage sales. For me, multi-family means that my sisters and maybe other family members and friends as well also take part. We decide whose house we are going to have the sale. This decision depends on how much “stuff” we all have to sell and which house has the best accommodations.
“The most successful garage sales are those that are well organized.”
Do's and Don'ts for a Successful Garage or Yard Sale
Clean Items to Be Sold
- All items you plan to sell should be clean. I don’t feel that it is necessary to wash every clothes item (unless it smells) but it is important that everything else be free of grease, dirt and years of dust. It is also important that your garage/yard/house be presentable.
- Clearly price everything you plan on selling. I have found that most people do not like to ask how much something costs. You will need stickers/labels and maybe some tie-on tags as well. When choosing your sticker price for an item, I feel a good rule of thumb is it should be less than 25% of what you originally paid for the item. People who shop garage sales are looking for a bargain. If items are priced too high, they will simply leave.
- Be careful not to price a valuable item too low. Always keep in mind that the “seasoned garage sale person” will try to bargain with you and get the item for lower than your sticker price. Be prepared to bargain and remember that the stuff you’re selling are things you no longer want or need anyway.
- Be sure to initial things. If more than one person/family is adding their items to the sale, everyone should add an initial, for example, "S" for Sharyn, to their pricing stickers. It makes it much easier to track total sales for each participant.
Bags and Wrapping Material
- Prepare in advance. Weeks or even months prior to your sale, begin accumulating bags and paper/packing material to use at your sale.
Choosing the Right Time
- More people will show up at your sale if the timing is right. If your sale is outside, you definitely want to make it when the weather is nice. I have found that spring is better than mid-summer. People are much busier in the summer months with things like kids' softball games, picnics, parties, and vacations. Yet, I have also found that a good time for a garage sale is at the very end of summer, just several weeks before kids go back to school, especially if you have lots of children’s clothing and school items.
Permits and Restrictions
- Check with your local city hall and homeowners association if applicable. Some cities have no restrictions where others may require a permit, have a limit on how many sales you can have per year, what time the sale can begin, where you can post signs, if you can have a sale on a Sunday, etc.
Advertising Your Sale
- My personal belief is that properly advertising your sale is critical to your success. If you can afford to advertise in your local paper, it’s a great idea. Many people who fill their entire day going to garage sales use the ads from the paper to route the stops they plan on making. Also, consider advertising on the internet. I’ve advertised my sales on backpages.com for FREE available in the United States as well as other areas.
- But even if you don’t advertise in a newspaper or on the internet, making great signs and placing them in appropriate locations is key. Signs should be as large as permitted, on bright, sturdy poster board and easily readable. Use the same color so that the signs are easily followed. Use arrows on your signs to lead the prospective buyer directly to you. Place your signs where they will be seen by the most traffic. Add balloons to make them more noticeable. I’ve even drive by my signs to make sure they are properly placed.
- Have plenty of coins and small bills on hand to make change. You can use an apron with pockets to carry this change. You can also use a cigar box or something like it but keep an eye on it at all times. Guard your money. It is best to always have more than one person working the sale. Also have a notebook or paper to write down each sale. If more than one person is selling items at your sale, also include their initial from the price sticker to make sure that proper credit is given. Have a calculator available for larger sales. And don’t accept checks. Why risk the possibility of it bouncing. Cash only!
Setting up and Displaying Your Items
- Use tables with pretty covers to display most of your items. Place similar items together. For example, put all glass items in the same area, all books together, holiday items, etc. For large items, it is ok to display them on the clean, dry ground. Utilize the space under the tables too.
- Clothes that are hung on a rack are much more likely to have people look through them. If you don’t have a way to hang clothes, separate them into boxes according to baby/kids/adults, male/female, spring/summer, size, etc. A great way to display kids or baby clothes is to put them in a playpen or something like it. If your sale is so large that you must use the ground/grass, place a tarp down first. Items like toys, shoes and tools can be placed on a tarp.
- Make sure that you are set up early. Even though you may advertise that your sale begins at 8 a.m., it is inevitable that you will see early birds. If you are ready, you can allow these potential buyers to browse early.
Additional Ideas to Help Make Your Sale a Success
- Free Box: At any garage sale that I have ever held, I always have a FREE box or two. These boxes are filled with items that I do not want, that are not valuable but may be useful to someone else. It is very true that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. People that take something from the free box are likely to then purchase something else from your sale.
- Power: Have an electrical outlet or extension cord available for shoppers who may want to know if an item truly works. Have batteries available if needed too.
- Lemonade Stand: Will your kids be home during your sale? Let the kids set up a lemonade or Cool Aid stand. It will keep them busy and they can make some money too.
- Sell Food and Drinks: Selling food and drinks can help increase your profits. But sell the kind of things that you like so you can munch too and won’t mind any leftovers. Sell canned sodas and bottled water displayed in a cooler of ice. Maybe offer free coffee? Sell hot dogs and condiments or pizza. Sell your favorite cookies. Whatever you choose, purchase these items wisely to make sure that you make a profit. People that go to many garage sales in one day do not want to take the time to stop for food. They are likely to grab a drink and something to munch on at your sale.
- Music: Play quiet music to relax your customers and deter from any silence that could be awkward.
- Luring Customers In: Place large, interesting items at the end of your driveway to attract customers. Make sure you include items that may be of interest to men. If a couple is driving by and the female wants to stop at the sale and the male (more often than not) does not want to stop, he may be lured if he sees items that interest him. If your sale does not look interesting and worth the stop, potential shoppers will simply drive by.
- Pricing in Bulk: Consider pricing in bulk for items that you have a lot of. For example, 3 books for $1 or 4 shirts for $10. Put several small items together in a Ziploc bag and price the entire bag. You get the idea.
- The Stuff You Really Don’t Want To Sell: Make sure that things you really do not want to sell are put away or off to the side. Hang signs that say “not for sale.” Rope off a section or hang a sheet. When many people are involved, this is critical to make sure that for example, your lawnmower is still there when you go to use it the next time.
- Expect the Unexpected: Just like everywhere in the world, shoplifters go to garage sales too. Keep valuable items such as coins and jewelry nearby where you can keep an eye on them. Although this is rare, it can happen. Also, some people may ask to use your bathroom. Be prepared to direct them to the nearest public restroom.
- ½ Price Sale Day: If your sale is for more than one day, try advertising a ½ price sale on the last day. Or add signs that say “Last Day! Everything Must Go!” Many people love to only shop garage sales on the last day assuming they will get the best bargain.
- Get Rid of It: Over and over again, I have experienced the buyer who wants to make a deal that seems unreasonable to me. It’s important to be ready to bargain with them. In the end, I have found that I usually let them win because my main intent is to “get rid of it” even if I believe its value is higher than the buyer is offering.
- All Sales Final: Post a clearly visible sign that says “All Sales Final." This will avoid any hassles later on.
After Your Garage Sale Is Over
So, you’ve had a successful sale. You are exhausted because garage sales are a lot of work. But please go and take down your signs. It’s the courteous thing to do.
Now, you still have items that did not sell of course. Consider donating your leftover items. Organizations like Good Will, Purple Hearts, and the Salvation Army will gladly pick up these items. Ask for a receipt if you’d like to use it as a tax write off.
On many occasions, I have packed up things like women’s/children’s clothing, blankets, and toys and then drove my donation to a women’s shelter nearby. I’ve also taken leftover items like old record albums, walkers, and wheelchairs to a nursing home down the street. They very much appreciate these donations.
Spring cleaning and having a garage sale are great ways to get rid of your unwanted clutter and make some money too. With proper planning and organization, your hard work can be a lot of fun and highly rewarding. Instead of having clutter in your home, you will have money in your pocket! Best wishes . . .