A Beginner’s Guide to a Successful Yard Sale

yard sale

Guest post from Yvie of Road-Schooling Gypsies

I was privileged to have a mother who shopped garage sales long before it was trendy. Hand-me-downs were no big deal — they were new to us!

We learned that, except food and toiletries, pretty much anything we needed could be bought secondhand. It’s a legacy that I began passing on to my children as soon as they understood what a quarter was.

Would you like to clean out your house and make a little egg money? Here are a few of my tips to help you have a successful yard sale:

What to Do Before the Sale:

The more stuff you have, the more traffic you’ll get — so ask your friends to join in on your yard sale, and make it a party.

Don’t pick a holiday weekend (or a weekend where there is a big, local event happening). Also, aim for the first of the month, right after folks get paid or get their SSI checks.

Check to see if you need a permit, or if there are area restrictions.

Advertise! Use your newspaper, Craigslist, Facebook groups, and put up signs. Make sure that your signs are legible, and large enough to be read by cars going past at 50mph.

Decide whether you’re selling stuff to make money, or to get rid of it. Price everything, and price accordingly.

Use bags to contain sets, puzzle pieces, etc. and then label the bags.

In the months prior, throw all your yard sale items together, so that you’re not trying to find it all the week of the sale.

A couple days before the sale, get cash: you’ll want a roll of quarters, a stack of at least twenty-five $1 bills, and a few $5 bills. Keep your money with you (fannypack?) at all times — don’t leave the cashbox sitting around.

If you are having a group sale, make sure to have a ledger to keep track of how much money goes to each person.

Stage your items just like they would stage them in a store. Place like items together, set those big items out front to draw customers, and cross-sell your items. If you have books, use a bookshelf to display them. If you have clothes, find a hanging rack. Show that you took care of your items, and they’ll be more likely to sell.

Have an extension cord handy in case someone asks to test an electrical item.

Use sheets to cover anything left in the garage that is NOT for sale. Otherwise, you’ll be fielding questions all day about what that is and how much you’d take for it.

After it’s staged, walk through your sale like a customer. It is easy to navigate? Are the prices reasonable?

What to Do the Day of Your Sale:

Turn on some background music — avoiding anything offensive.

Be friendly and greet people. If they want to chat, chat. Otherwise, leave them be. And don’t hover.

Be prepared for folks to bargain, but be less flexible at the beginning of the sale. Also remember that you don’t have to accept their offer.

Set up a big box with toys in the middle, this way moms can shop the perimeter while keeping an eye on kids that are being entertained. (If the toys are breakable/expensive, don’t put them in this pile.)

Keep your cash with you at all times, and keep an eye on your items as well. Shoplifting happens, even at garage sales.

Set up a free box, and fill it with things that you just want gone. Everyone likes free stuff.

Run that lemonade stand, especially if it’s a hot day. Better yet, let your children run it. They’re cuter than you are, and people will be more likely to buy from them.

Consider doing “stuff-a-bag” or “half-price” for the second day. This will depend on how much you want stuff gone.

Have a plan for after the sale is done (see below) so that your stuff doesn’t all come back into your home.

What to Do After the Sale:

Use the ledger to divide up your money.

Consider having an impromptu “swap” amongst your friends. (Assuming you haven’t already spent the last two days shopping each others’ items.)

As you break down the sale, divide leftover items into categories such as: 1. used bookstore 2. consignment store 3. donate boxes, and 4. Craigslist/Ebay. The first 3 groups should never come back into the house — and if you’re going to sell anything on Craigslist or Ebay, make a plan to do that ASAP!

What are your best tips to host a successful yard sale?

Yvie is a homeschooling mother of two boys, who has been perfecting the art of frugality since childhood. Find her on Facebook at Road-Schooling Gypsies.

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Comments

  1. Kathy says

    In our area you sell twice as much if you hold your sale when the town is doing town wide sales. Way more traffic.

  2. says

    We have a yard sale almost every year. We’ve found early spring(yard sale season just beginning) or late fall sales (weather is cooler again) to be the most successful.

    Tables to display items rather than everything on the ground has been helpful for us. I sell a lot more clothes when they are hung–I usually price all clothes at $1 each–this encourages more people to look through them than if I priced them higher or individually.

    We are avid yard sale goers as well so I price items with what I would want to pay. For bigger items such as furniture, electronics, etc. I will price a little higher than I’m willing to take. This gives a little haggling room and I still get a fair price.

    Our neighborhood is right off a highly traveled road and is a great location for yard sales. We always get lots of traffic but when we moved our sale more to the end of the driveway and used one of our pop-up canopies for shade(also hung clothing from the sides), we got a lot more people to stop. Even though our driveway isn’t that long, we are right by a wooded area and if they aren’t looking, I guess they could miss it. Being closer to the road with the canopy set up made the sale more noticeable.

    I collect yard sale items for several months and price them right away so everything is ready. Unless we are planning another sale shortly after, we donate all leftovers—Freecycle is a good way to get rid of stuff too.

  3. Anya N. says

    My 6-year old was eager to purge toys/puzzles/games once I told him he keeps the profit from whatever he sells, in addition to his profits from the lemonade stand he’s running!

  4. Ashley says

    I wear my husband’s carpentry/tool belt to keep the money in when I host a sale. The money is with me at all times, plus there are lots of pockets so I can store different types of coins in different pockets and also keep a pen and extra price stickers on me at all times.

  5. Marie says

    I actually sell more by engaging with the people shopping. I’ll ask if they’re looking for anything specific etc. One time someone wanted maternity clothes which I didn’t have out but had a bin in my basement so I went and grabbed it. Another time someone wanted dinosaurs so my son went in and found ones he didn’t want. You will know the people who don’t want to be bothered but I find most like engaging in friendly chatter.
    Also, if you’re selling toys or puzzles I Always make sure to tell those looking that the puzzles have all the pieces or the game or whatever toy that way they know for sure what they’re getting
    Signs are key and advertising well.
    Definitely prepping ahead of time and having an organized sell will help move or items. Most people don’t want to sort. They have other sales to get to.

  6. says

    I would like to share one thread of advice. i am a licensed art dealer, among other things, and I frequent yard sales, vintage shops, etc. looking for pieces to upcycle, decorate, etc. I would say that if you have nicer pieces, have them appraised. I have gone to dozens of yard sales where people have common, everyday items completely overvalued, presumably for sentimental value, and have nicer pieces of heirloom furniture, art, books, silver, etc. offered for prices so low that I sometimes feel bad purchasing it from them as such. So my advice would be, know that common, everyday items depreciate steadily in value, from the day you purchase them (generally most items depreciate in half from the day you purchase them), and have your antiques, books, silver, jewelry, and art appraised; this will help you be a more knowledgeable seller, or in this case yard-seller, but is also beneficial to have for insurance records as well!

  7. Heather H. says

    Here are some of my tips from 30 years of successful family sales…start your sale at 7 am (or earlier) so people can stop on their way to work…have a mirror available for people to try on hats, jewelry, etc. (close to the “checkout” if you have valuable items…keep items that people could “pocket” where you can keep an eye on them (we had someone steel a bunch of PS2 games out of their cases and leave the cases behind at our last sale ;(…hang up a curtain as a makeshift fitting room so strangers don’t ask to go in your house…save plastic shopping bags throughout the year to pack up purchases…enlist an adult to do carry outs to people’s cars (as long as it is safe to do so)…buy an inexpensive metal cash box and keep it with you if you go inside or stray away from the “checkout”…keep heavy items like furniture “closer to the front” of your garage, or closer to the road for easier transport…always, ALWAYS, mark EVERYTHING clearly with a price, or print out signs on your computer that state prices for books, etc. (hardcovers $1.00, paperbacks 50 cents, etc.) and put it in clear sight of the selection…also mark things such as tables you are using as “Not for Sale” to avoid people having to ask about them.

    • Heather H. says

      Here are some of my tips from 30 years of successful family sales.

      Start your sale at 7 am (or earlier) so people can stop on their way to work.

      Hhave a mirror available for people to try on hats, jewelry, etc. (close to the “checkout” if you have valuable items).

      Keep items that people could “pocket” where you can keep an eye on them (we had someone steel a bunch of PS2 games out of their cases and leave the cases behind at our last sale ;(

      Hang up a curtain as a makeshift fitting room so strangers don’t ask to go in your house.

      Save plastic shopping bags throughout the year to pack up purchases.

      Enlist an adult to do carry outs to people’s cars (as long as it is safe to do so).

      Buy an inexpensive metal cash box and keep it with you if you have to go inside or stray away from the “checkout”.

      Keep heavy items like furniture closer to the front of your garage or to the road for easier transport.

      Always, ALWAYS, mark EVERYTHING clearly with a price, or print out signs on your computer that state prices for books, etc. (hardcovers $1.00, paperbacks 50 cents, etc.) and put it in clear sight of the selection; also mark things such as tables you are using as “Not for Sale” to avoid people having to ask about them.

      We always have a “Preview Night” the night before the sale for our friends, co-workers and family so they can shop early, and it helps lighten the load for the actual sale day.

      Post big, bold signs that clearly state your address and the sale date/times on a main road, then continue posting signs to lead shoppers from each intersection to your house, then put a giant sign at the end of your driveway (I usually put mine out the night before the sale to catch people coming home from work, etc.) If you expect rain, cover the signs with clear plastic or shipping tape. (Be sure to check any city restrictions before posting signs, of course.) If you have a connection to a realtor that may be getting rid of old signs, cover them with large trash bags and then add signs to them, they are SO easy to stick into the ground.

      Be respectful of your neighbors’ property; they may get crabby if people park in their yard or “turn-around” in their driveway all day. I invite mine to the “Preview Night” so I can apologize ahead of time, and give them extra special prices!

    • Heather H. says

      Here are some of my tips from 30 years of successful family sales…

      Start your sale at 7 am (or earlier) so people can stop on their way to work.

      Have a mirror available for people to try on hats, jewelry, etc. (close to the “checkout” if you have valuable items).

      Keep items that people could “pocket” where you can keep an eye on them (we had someone steel a bunch of PS2 games out of their cases and leave the cases behind at our last sale ;(

      Hang up a curtain as a makeshift fitting room so strangers don’t ask to go in your house.

      Save plastic shopping bags throughout the year to pack up purchases.

      Enlist an adult to do carry outs to people’s cars (as long as it is safe to do so).

      Buy an inexpensive metal cash box and keep it with you if you have to go inside or stray away from the “checkout”. And as Kenny Rogers says, “never count your money while your sittin’ at the table.”

      Keep heavy items like furniture closer to the front of your garage or to the road for easier transport.

      Always, ALWAYS, mark EVERYTHING clearly with a price, or print out signs on your computer that state prices for books, etc. (hardcovers $1.00, paperbacks 50 cents, etc.) and put it in clear sight of the selection; also mark things such as tables or bookcases you are using as “Not for Sale” to avoid people having to ask about them.

      We always have a “Preview Night” the night before the sale for our friends, co-workers and family so they can shop early, and it helps lighten the load for the actual sale day.

      Post big, bold signs that clearly state your address and the sale date/times on a main road, then continue posting signs to lead shoppers from each intersection to your house, then put a giant sign at the end of your driveway (I usually put mine out the night before the sale to catch people coming home from work, etc.) If you expect rain, cover the signs with clear plastic or shipping tape. (Be sure to check any city restrictions before posting signs, of course.) If you have a connection to a Realtor that may be getting rid of old signs, cover them with large trash bags and then add signs to them, they are SO easy to stick into the ground.

      Be respectful of your neighbors’ property; they may get crabby if people park in their yard or “turn-around” in their driveway all day. I invite mine to the “Preview Night” so I can apologize ahead of time, and give them extra special prices!

  8. Tristan says

    Also as part of your ‘after’ plan, remember to take down all your signs and posters!