Do you cling to clothes that no longer fit, stash paint you’ll never use and hold on to baby gates even though your kid is 12? If so, you may have U.A.S. — Unhelpful Attachment Syndrome. Before your house becomes something you may see on A&E, plan a garage sale. You’ll unload the things you no longer need, open up space in your home and garage and get organized. As usual, we’re here to help get you there.
In addition to clearing the clutter, you’ll also earn some moolah. You can use this money to fix up your home or yard, pay down your mortgage faster, save for a new home, or invest in that Star Wars Lego collection you’ve had your eye on.
Here are some tips to make your garage sale as profitable (and painless) as possible.
Timing is Everything
Many neighborhoods or subdivisions plan big sales every year, attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of people. If your neighborhood is already planning a garage sale, get on that bandwagon. When you have yours at the same time, you can take advantage of group advertising and entice more people to your home who are already on your street visiting another sale.
Do you live near someplace hosting a special event? Take advantage of the incoming crowds! Plan a garage sale at the same time and divert those crowds walking through your neighborhood before or after the event.
Garage sale aficionados like to start early, so you’ll want to start early, too. Plan on 8 a.m. and even then, expect people to be at your home by 7:45 while you’re still getting ready. There’s not much point going past 2:00 p.m. as sales will drop off dramatically the hotter it gets.
Shout it from the Rooftops
No matter how much awesome stuff you have available at your sale at bargain prices, people won’t come unless they know about it. So, if your neighborhood isn’t already doing the promoting for you, you’ll need to do it.
You can post your sale on Craigslist for free, which will then be picked up by garage sale apps like Garage Sale Rover, Yard Sale Treasure Map and others. If you like to go to garage sales, you’ll want one of these apps as they let you know who is having a sale, what they’re selling and how close they are to you. Sites like nextdoor.com also have places to list garage sales and items you have for sale.
Be sure to use descriptive words and photos in your ad so that you’re attracting the people you want. If your baby has moved up to toddlerhood, there are plenty of families who will want your furniture, clothes and toys. But you don’t want to waste the time of people whose babies are getting ready for college.
Be sure to put up signs around your neighborhood and main cross streets. Use brightly colored paper or markers and make the words BIG enough for people to be able to see them while they’re driving by. Include the date and arrows directing them to your home. Make sure to consider wind! If your sign isn’t properly secured, it could blow away or be unreadable by drivers. And be a good neighbor, take your signs down when the sale is over.
Don’t forget social media. Promote your sale on whatever social network you frequent, and ask your friends to share. Again, be sure to include lots of photos. You can also continue to share photos throughout the day as you discover new things or decide to make deals.
Gather up what you want to get rid of, clean it up, make sure it works and figure out how much you want to sell it for. Some items that tend to do well include:
- kitchen items
- fishing gear
- camping supplies
- holiday décor
Side note: garage sales are a great place to buy holiday décor, china and crystal. Don’t ever pay retail again!
As you’re setting up your sale, think about your favorite retail outlet and how easy (or difficult) it to shop there. Kitchen supplies are rarely mixed in with clothing or toys, for example. Organizing your sale in a similar fashion makes it easier for people to find what they want. Hanging up clothes will get you more sales than piling them on a sheet on your lawn. Tree branches and fences can make great display stands if you don’t have a portable rack.
Price everything you can so people don’t have to guess or ask — that extra step will diminish sales. To make it easier on you and your customers, use colored stickers to code items by price (e.g. red=$1, green=$5, blue=$10, yellow=make an offer).
Since people are going to be arriving at your home pretty early in the morning, you’ll want to do as much set-up as possible the night before. Borrow folding tables from your friends and set them up in your garage with items already priced and nicely displayed. Then, in the morning, all you have to do is open your garage door and move the tables onto your driveway.
Get a cash box or apron, and fill it with ones, fives and coin change. You don’t want to lose a sale because you can’t break a twenty.
(Sidebar) Kid Opp: Garage sales are a great way for your kids to learn about money, business and the art of letting go. Let them choose what they’re willing to sell and set them up in their own mini-store. They can also set up a lemonade or cookie stand, work up a budget for supplies and then keep any profits.
Be Willing to Negotiate
Your goal is to get rid of items you no longer need, not to get rich, so figure out ahead of time how low you’ll go on your treasures. As the day gets longer, you’ll most likely need to revisit that number.
Don’t over-price, thinking people will negotiate. Many shoppers aren’t comfortable doing that. They’ll simply look at the price and move on to the next house.
With art, remember that most people are buying the frame. If you want to sell “real” art or jewelry or anything else that needs to be appraised, go to a reputable dealer.
Set aside a free area (with big signs) — you can even put things that don’t work there as some people may have more skills than you do to fix them. Just be sure to let shoppers know they don’t work so you’re not messing up your deal-scoring karma.
Consider offering everything half off an hour or so before the sale ends. And let people know that with your signage. If they really want it, they’ll know they need to grab it then, or if they kind of want it, they might consider coming back later in the day.
When you’re done with your sale, the last thing you’re going to want to do is put everything you didn’t sell away again. Many non-profit organizations will come pick up your leftovers, but you’ll want to make arrangements ahead of time, saving yourself the hassle of using your garage (or living room) as a storage area while you wait for them to show up. Just make sure they’ll take the category of item you have to donate. And don't make them pick through your junk. If it doesn’t work, dispose of it.
Craigslist.org and Freecycle.org are free, convenient ways to find people looking for what you have to sell or give away. And DontTrashNevada.org has extensive information on how to properly dispose of hazardous waste and larger items. Do not, we repeat, do not, think of dumping them on public lands. This is not only bad for the environment, it carries a hefty fine.
The Bottom Line
Garage sales can be quite profitable, but they’re also a lot of work. Depending on what you need to get rid of, it might be easier to just donate it all to a local charity. Just keep in mind that many non-profit organizations are low on space and often can’t take larger items. Make sure to call first.
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