Making Money and Cutting Clutter With a Garage Sale

Garage Sale

Today, I‘m bringing you something a little different – something I know from over a decade of personal experience – how to make money with a garage sale. Every June my mom, sister, and I get together for a weekend of chatting, playing with the kids, and good eating. And while we’re at it we make a couple hundred dollars (exactly how much varies depending on what we have to sell). If you’re looking for a way to raise money for your local food bank or another non-profit, or if you just need to make some extra money for your family, a garage sale is a great way to do that.

You will need:

  • Somewhere visible to hold the sale (covered is best, rain happens)
  • A bunch of stuff you no longer want
  • Pricing stickers or masking tape
  • Bags – we keep plastic shopping bags all year for our sale.
  • Signs for your yard and the intersection(s) leading to your home
  • A cash box with an assortment of change (We usually start with $100 in ones, fives, and quarters)
  • Tables, hanging racks, and hangers
  • Printed signs that inform your shoppers about your house rules. If you’re holding the garage sale for charity, post that too. People might decide to get something they were waffling on or not to haggle if they know the money is going to help others.

If your community does a coordinated garage sale weekend, join up. That will be the biggest thing you can do to increase your traffic and sales. Otherwise, find out the usual garage sale days in your area, and schedule accordingly. Here it’s usually Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Other areas start on Wednesdays. Finding out which is usually day one is very important, because that’s the day local garage sale aficionados go out.

Once you pick a date, enlist others to join you. You simply cannot take care of your family (especially with little kids around) and man a busy sale by yourself, and you will need to use the bathroom, get food, or answer phone calls. Someone else will need to be there to keep an eye on your sale while you step away. And a whole weekend sitting around in the company of good friends? No brainer.

Two weeks in advance, take out a classified ad in your local paper/shopper. Include dates, times, and your address. If you have space, list big ticket items or say that you have multiple families participating.
The week of the sale, put an ad on Craigslist. Post pictures of larger/valuable items. Be aware that people may contact you ahead of time.
Be consistent with signage. The sign in your yard and the ones in your neighborhood that lead to you should all be the same colors. If I see a sign on the street corner with purple balloons, then I am going to be looking at the next corner for purple balloons. If the next sign I come to has yellow balloons, I’ll assume that’s a different sale and may wander around lost. After the sale, be a good neighbor and take your signs down right away.

Pricing is the most tedious part of hosting a garage sale. Our rule is that all prices need to end in twenty-five cent increments. So the cheapest items at our sale are 25 cents, then 50, 75, etc. This makes a huge difference because 1) you aren’t spending a lot of time pricing things just to get a dime, and 2) you don’t have to get an assortment of coins for your cash box, just quarters and bills. If someone wants to offer me ten cents for my quarter item, I usually accept that, but they have to understand that I can’t make change.

Be reasonable when pricing your stuff, but don’t short change yourself. A rule of thumb is that you should expect to get about 10% of what you paid for something, depending on condition. So if I bought a lamp years ago for $100 and it’s still working, I can ask $10 for it at my sale. If I bought a $10 lamp, I will ask $1. Of course if an item is really outdated, old technology, or no longer in good condition, the price needs to reflect that. A lot of people like to look on Ebay or Craigslist to set their prices. But you’ll have a much narrower audience. The odds that a collector looking for that exact item will walk into your garage sale are very slim. If you have valuable items with a narrow set of prospective buyers, consider a Craigslist ad or Ebay listing that will give you the wider audience you need to get top dollar.

Set house rules and post them throughout. Start with a “Not Responsible for Accidents” sign, and “Not for sale” signs for items you can’t hide. Some people drape sheets over the other items in their garage and then put the tables up against the sheets so it’s clear what is for sale and what isn’t. Decide on your policy about accepting checks, letting people try things on, and use of your restroom. These things don’t come up often, but deciding and posting your policy ahead of time will keep you from being confronted and having to be the bad guy if your answer is no.

We have a couple other rules that help our garage sale run smoothly.
If one of us wants another’s item, she must pay for it. If it doesn’t sell by the end of the weekend, she can just have it.
No selling underwear, bras, and lingerie. No one should buy that stuff used! We do make exception for unopened packages and nursing bras.
Things taken to the garage sale cannot come home again. This means that when I decide to sell an item, I am certain that I am ready to part with it. It also means that at the end of our sale we box up the leftovers and make a trip to Goodwill. On rainy weekends we have ended up donating some really good stuff! Exceptions can be made of course, you may have items you want to try and sell online.

Do you have additional garage sale tips? Leave a comment!

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