10 Tips for Having a Successful Garage Sale

10 Secrets to Having a Successful Garage Sale

For those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you know our garage sale last week was a smashing success. In fact, all together, our family (along with my siblings and parents) made over $1000 in the 2 1/2 days we ran the sale. Considering that our highest-ticket items were $20 and the majority of our stuff was priced at $0.25 to $2, that’s a lot of stuff sold!

I’ve had a number of successful garage sales over the years and here are my top 10 tips for having a successful sale:

1. Collect Clutter Year-Round

I mentioned recently that I have an ongoing Garage Sale Stash. When I come upon something we no longer need or use and I don’t know anyone to pass it onto, I stick it in a box under the stairs. Once a box fills up, I start another. And another. Without much effort at all, by the time it’s the month of our annual garage sale, I usually have at least 8-10 boxes of stuff collected.

2. Have a Plan

A successful garage sale does not happen without organization. At least a week before the sale I go through my home from top to bottom and clear out clutter. At least 2-3 days before the sale, I take an afternoon to price everything and organize it. And then the day before the sale, I devote a few hours to final organization, posting an ad on Craigslist, getting the cash and signs together and so forth.

Do not wait until the last minute to pull off a garage sale. Either it will flop or you’ll run yourself ragged–or both. If you’re in a new location or you’re new to hosting a garage sale, I’d suggest that you start getting organized at least 3-4 weeks in advance.

Getting Organized for a Garage Sale

::How are you going to display items? Do you need to borrow or make a clothes-rack?

::Do you have enough table space? If not, check and see if you can borrow tables from friends or put together some makeshift tables out of plywood and boxes.

::What signs will you be using and how many do you need? Where will you be displaying the signs to best direct traffic to your home? Drive the routes people will be coming and decide on these locations so you’re not scrambling the morning of the sale.

::Who is going to put the signs out the morning of the sale? Designate someone for this ahead of time and let them know specifically where to place the signs.

::How much cash should you have on hand and how will you keep it in a safe location?

::Do you need to purchase a license for running a garage sale in your area?

::Do you have enough help?

3. Team Up

One of my best “secrets” for success when it comes to garage sales is that I never do them on my own. I always find friends or family to team up with. Not only does this arrangement mean you have more stuff to sell and more variety in sizes and types of things offered, it also means you have more help. Divvying up the responsibilities between 3 or 4 people makes a garage sale much more manageable. Plus, it just makes it more fun when you’re doing it with friends and family!

4. Location, Location, Location!

If you want to have a garage sale that flops, pick a location which is off-the-beaten-path and hard to get to. That’s a surefire way to lose a lot of business.

Don’t live near a busy intersection? Well, look for alternative locations like a friend or relative’s home.

This is probably the key to our garage sale success. We live right between two very heavily-trafficked streets. We put up some good signage and the crowds descend!

5. Timing is Everything (well, just about!)

I don’t advise planning a sale in the freezing cold Winter or the blazing hot Summer. Choose a time of the year when the weather will be very pleasant and try to check the weather forecast ahead of time to make sure rain is not expected when you’re planning your sale.

In addition, find out what days of the week are best for yard sales to run in your area. When we lived in Kansas City, I found people usually only held sales on Friday and Saturday. However, where we live now, Thursdays are a big yard sale day and seem to garner the most traffic.

6. Clearly Mark Your Prices

It’s easy to want to just stick a big sign on a table saying that everything on that table is a quarter, but, in the long-run, it is much more efficient to go ahead and put price stickers on everything. Instead of having to make up prices on the spot, people will know exactly how much something is. In addition, some people are too shy to ask the price of an item, so you’ll lose a sale if an item isn’t marked.

I’ve found it’s easiest to invest the few dollars it costs to buy pre-priced stickers for most of my items as this makes pricing a snap. I try to have variety in pricing with plenty of $0.25 or less items. I’ve found that when people pick up one thing to buy, they are more likely to pick up other things as well, so have lots of $0.25 items and it might help you sell some of your larger-ticketed items, too!

Since we pretty much always have multiple families involved when we run a garage sale, we just mark initials on all our price tags and then keep a tally sheet in a notebook as things sell. It adds a bit more time when customers are checking out, so it’s good to have at least two people working the money table–one to keep track of the tally sheet and one handle the money and making change.

7. Price Things to Sell

When I go to a garage sale, I expect to pay yard sale prices. Unless something is brand-new with the tags on, I am not going to pay more than a few quarters for it, if that. When I am pricing my own items to sell, I always try to price things at what I feel would be a good bargain if I were buying the item at someone else’s garage sale.

I’d rather price something on the low end and have someone actually buy my item, than to have 25 people pick up the item and put it back down on the table because it is too expensive.

8. Advertise well

The marketing of your sale is usually the number-one factor in how well your sale does. You can have great items, great prices and a great location, but if you don’t tell people how to get there, they won’t find it on their own. So put some time and effort into making a number of quality, clearly-readable signs which you put in conspicuous places to easily lead to your home. The brighter, bolder and bigger the sign, the better.

I have also found Craigslist to be the most-effective marketing tool for advertising a garage sale. And did I mention it’s free to advertise on Craigslist? I usually advertise the day before the sale and then re-post a revised ad each day of the sale. The more details you can put in your ad, the better. Tell specific items, brands and sizes.

When people search for items on Craigslist, if they are looking for what you’re selling–even if they aren’t looking at garage sales–your item will pull up in searches for them. So the more descriptive you can be in the listing and title, the better. Of course, don’t write a book; just focus on your hottest sellers. And please use proper grammar and spelling, too. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make a big difference!

9. Mark Things Down on the Last Day

Things are usually pretty picked over by the last day of the sale. That’s the perfect opportunity to get creative and hand out rock-bottom bargains! We found that running “Fill a Bag for a Buck” is extremely effective. Last week, we got rid of around 25 bags full of stuff in a few hours by doing this.

We’ve also done it where everything was half-price the last day. Or, if we have quite a bit of stuff left and we’re feeling ready to close up shop, we’ll just say that everything is free the last hour.

10. Don’t forget the cookies and lemonade!

What better way to teach your children entrepreneurial skills and let them earn a little money in the process than to have them set up their own little cookie and lemonade stands at the sale? Or, if it’s cold outside, try selling hot chocolate, coffee, and fresh cinnamon rolls. One yard sale, we even set up a pancake griddle and sold pancakes hot
off the griddle on Saturday morning.

Baked goods–like homemade cookies and bars–sell extremely well at our garage sales. In fact, my younger siblings made around $100 from selling cookies at our garage sale last week!

We also let Kathrynne (5) run her own little toy table last week. Everything was a penny and she had a great time interacting with customers and taking money. Best of all, it was a great learning experience for her about the value of money and how to conduct yourself in a professional manner with adults and others whom you don’t know.

Those are just a few things which I’ve found to be a great help in hosting a successful yard sale. What are your best tips for having a great yard sale? I’d love to hear!

photo credits: Louisa_catlover; Chiot’s Run

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Comments

  1. Abbie says

    I just want to encourage people who live out in the country! I just had a garage sale and we live WAY out of town and it went really well. Hopefully tomorrow will go well, too! Just put signs up and adverstise.
    :-)

  2. Rae says

    My biggest warning is to know your town’s policy on signs. We had one in the fall and got ticketed for having signs on the corners of the neighborhood (since that is technically public property) and with fees that they tack on it was $120!!!! AND they took the signs down. We live at the back of the neighborhood and have hardly any “through traffic” so we were really depending on those signs. Between our neighbors and the few people that came from craigslist, we did have a few customers but hardly any. It was so sad :(

  3. Jamie says

    My husband’s family has a huge garage sale every year. They usually put an ad in the paper (everyone puts money in towards it, so I think it usually is only a couple dollars per family) If any friends are having sales on the same day they put signs up with the other sales addresses and give directions to anyone interested. I believe is also gets advertised on craigs list or other websites and of course signs on the street. Also, since there are usually at least 10 different families involved, the price tickets have initals on them, (we use pieces of scrap paper cut up and then put them on with masking tape or pins) we just take the tags and put them in an old coffee can or ice cream pail and then sort them a few times a day by person. This cuts down on the time that it takes to check a customer out and then at the end of the day when you get your money, you can go through and see what you sold (we usually put a small description of what the tag was for).
    The sale usually starts on thursday and ends at the end of Saturday sometimes Sunday. The whole week before the sale starts is the family getting together and getting everything organized and ready for the sale.
    They have done this for many years, so at this point it is like a well oiled machine. It’s alot of fun and family time.

  4. Mari Merchant says

    I’m having a rummage in 2 weeks and we are thinking of having baked goods and lemonade/iced tea–what are fair prices for baked goods and refreshments?

  5. Emily says

    Great points about signs! We live on a busy street that cuts between two busier streets. For the first 4 years we were frustrated that our signs were getting knocked over, so last year I used fat black sharpie on yellow poster board, taped them securely to the sides of cardboard boxes, and sealed 5 pound weights inside. We don’t have to try to pound our stakes into the ground, they don’t blow over, they are easy to place, and they are sturdy enough to reuse. After the sale, we cruised by and picked them up, and put them on a shelf in the garage. They were cheap, reusable, and were so much more effective!

  6. Mandi says

    I didn’t get to finish reading all the posts – but one thing that so many of you mentioned was about needing a simpler way to make the checkout easier and keeping the items straight when you are having a multi-family sale. Each year I partner up with a friend and we have our annual gab session and garage sale all at once! The easiest thing in the world is just having a different colored sticker for each family! You can get a package of multi-colored stickers or stickers that are all one color. She usually does pink and I do yellow:-) Then we have this page that keeps everything straight:-) It has 3 columns: My name, her name, and Buyer Total. As each person comes to check out, we take the stickers and put them under the correct column, then we draw a line after each transaction, add up all the stickers above that line and give one total to the buyer. This eliminates so much frustration. When we fill up a page, we draw one last line, total each column, and then, when our sale is over, we just total up the pages and pay out!