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Tips for having a successful garage sale

A few of you asked wrote and asked for tips on having a successful garage sale since I mentioned our crazily-busy sale day yesterday. While I don't consider myself the "Garage Sale Queen" by any means, here are a few of my recommendations for holding a successful garage sale:

1. Collect stuff. Now I know this is a no-brainer, but a successful garage sale often begins months in advance by saving stuff to sell. Before you think I'm advocating the pack-rat mentality, let me tell you what I do: I keep a box in the garage or in an out-of-the-way place to toss things into as I come across them in the months leading up to a garage sale. As one box fills, I seal it, and start another.

I've been amazed at how much stuff I can collect by doing this! In addition, it gives me a set place to put said "junk" instead of having to walk by it repeatedly for months thinking "I'll sell that in our next garage sale." It also gives me an incentive to constantly be on the lookout for items which we are no longer using or loving and to free myself from this clutter.

2. Plan ahead. I know this should also be a given, but I learned the hard way with a garage sale I did a year ago that you can never plan ahead too much. At the last minute, I had so many loose ends left to tie up and ended up overdoing it as a result. So, at least a few weeks before you have your sale, start pulling things out of boxes and organizing them, start pricing things, and start thinking about how you will set everything up.

This is especially good to do if you are in a new location or have never done a garage sale by yourself before. A few days before the sale, make sure you have everything priced and organized in tubs and bins and boxes. The day before the sale, set up as much stuff in your garage as you can. Figure out what you will be using for signs, where you will put them, make sure you have plenty of cash on hand, and so on.

The more organized you are, the easier it will be when you actually have your sale, and it will mean that you are not scrambling around on morning of your garage sale. Plus, it will make it easier for your customers to buy things if you are organized and ready to go when you open your sale.

3. Price things to sell. When I go to a garage sale, I expect to pay garage sale prices. 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 that someone pay me and actually buy my item, then 25 people pick up the item and put it back down because it is too expensive.

Also, be sure to price everything. Not only will those coming to your sale appreciate it, it will keep things more simple for you. As an added bonus, it will increase sales because people will know how much (or little) something costs! I try to have variety in pricing with plenty of $0.25 or less items.

4. Pick a good location. Make sure that wherever you hold your sale has a sizeable amount of traffic throughout the day. If it doesn't, consider holding your sale at a friend or relative's home. There's no point in having everything organized and lots of great stuff to sell if you don't have any traffic!

5. Pair up with a friend. This is one of the best ways to have a successful garage sale–join ranks with a friend or two! Not only will you have more stuff and more variety, but you'll also have lots of fun and fellowship in the process. Plus, you'll have more help in pulling it off.

6. Advertise well. Make sure you put up plenty of nice signs in conspicuous places which easily lead to your home. Also, consider advertising in your paper or a free local newspaper. In different areas, advertising in the paper is very helpful. Other times, it is not necessary if you have good traffic and good signage. Experiment and see what works best. Above all, have very presentable and attractive signs–a sloppily-thrown together sign is not very inviting!

7. 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 garage sale, we even set up a pancake griddle and sold pancakes hot off the griddle on Saturday morning.

There are a few of my tips for having a successful garage sale; I'd love to hear from you all if you have any great ideas or thoughts to add.

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  • Sarah says:

    Two more things:
    1) Be willing to come down on prices or negotiate. This is similar to pricing low. Better to come down a dollar and actually sell it than to not sell it at all.
    2) Cover your signs with clear contact paper so that if it rains, your lettering won’t run. We use half a piece of poster board with big, bold, black letters covered in clear contact paper. Our signs were easy to read from cars and weren’t going anywhere if it rained or got windy.

  • Great tip on the box in the garage. I’ve had sales before where I saw something (or a pile of somethings) days later that I had intended to sell the previous weekend! Great ideas…thanks!

  • Nicole says:

    Also, advertising online (via Craigslist, is a good idea 🙂

  • Phebe says:

    Hi Crystal!
    We just got through doing a garage sale last weekend too! It was my first ever and I read your article ahead of time (you posted it over at Biblical Womanhood before I think?).

    We did everything–right down to my daughter selling chocolate chip cookies! I made her buy the ingredients first and explained about net profits. She made a profit of about $10.00 and was very happy!

    We only had small items–mostly clothes and toys, but A LOT of them!–but still netted over $130, so I was happy! I think it’s definitely worth it!

    The cost of putting an ad in the paper here was $45 (youch!), so I opted to list the sale only on craigslist and put up some signs. Worked like a charm! We had TONS of traffic!

    Blessings on your move… Phebe

  • Rose says:

    Advertise on Craigslist! It will bring in a ton more traffic.
    My first yard sale day I did ok but that evening put a free ad on craigslist and listed some of the stuff in the baby and furniture sections and almost all my stuff was gone the next day. Toward the end of the 2nd day I put an ad in the free section for someone to come pick up the leftovers (must take all type ad) and within 20 minutes I had gotten rid of everything.

  • Another way to save even a little more time is to price stuff as you box it up. When Sale day comes, you are already ready to go.

    Also, to get the kiddies involved in letting go of their extra stuff, I agreed to allow them to keep any earnings from any of the things that they contributed to the sale. We tried this at the last sale, and once she realized how much more fun an organized bedroom was, simplifying became much easier!

  • Hayden says:

    Hi Crystal,
    How do you price your stockpile items? Do you keep up with how much you paid for each item or just estimate?

  • Jen says:

    We keep pricing stickers next to our “Yard Sale” shelf in the basement. (Would work with the box method as well).

    We stick a price sticker and mark a price, then put it on the shelf. We do this year round, the day of the yard sale, everything is priced and ready to go, all you have to do is set it up!

  • Patti says:

    I have encouraged my son to have yard sales since he was a little boy. We usually advertise it as “has great boy stuff” sale so it will attract boys. He has learned to sell all his “old” stuff and buy one big new thing with the profits. The first time I think he bought a Lego set, this last time he bought a foosball table (which he purchased from the classified ads). It is a great learning tool for our children and a great way to get them to declutter.

  • Tashia says:

    Excellent Advice! You definitely want to have a sale with another person or a group. As they say…the bigger the better. Out last sale was a family affair, myself, my sister, my mom and my grandma. We had so much stuff that we had to rent a tent! We put a huge add in the paper ($100), but it was well worth it because our sale totaled $4500 for the group and my fabulous profits were $1300!

    It was a lot of work and preparation, but it paid off. I would recommend at least 4 weeks of preparation of you have a lot of stuff.

  • I love your box tip. I will set up one right now….I have a few scatteed spots with junk, putting into a box and out of the way would be pefect….I am big on the decluttered look!

    I had one tip to share… I never mark anything less than .25 and all items are increments of a quarter. It makes adding your totals up so much easier and faster when everything is in increments of .25. It is not worth it to me to add up .10, 20 cents, or .05 items.

  • lana says:

    Selling hotdogs off the grill for cheap also brings the crowds.

  • Honey says:

    I do the same thing as Sarah! Clear contact paper saves the day when it comes to dew, rain, and wind! And I like to put my signs out before rush hour the day before the sale. This way people coming home from work will be sure to see them and say to themselves, “I am going to go to that garage sale tomorrow!

  • DAVID says:

    Always try to have baby clothes and an aquarium listed in any classified ads you take out. When I had a garage sale I had those 2 things listed(and for sale), and the whole day I had people looking for those 2 items that they had seen listed.

  • I love to go garage saleing every weekend. Besides your already great tips, I must add, USE NEON PINK POSTER BOARD!! The other colors blend in with other signage, but not neon pink. People will be able to see it for blocks!

  • I read a great article about 5 years ago in Family Circle Magazine, and they had a lot of good tips. The top 3 tips in my opinion are:
    1. Signs: keep them simple. Don’t list what you have to sell; people already know what to look for at a garage sale. Most important information is the ADDRESS, so make sure people can read it from the car while driving by. (Painting arrows helps, too.)
    2. If you have any furniture or big things for sale, put them “out front” where people can see from the road; they’re more likely to stop.
    3. Nothing’s free. People are more likely to pay a quarter for a little “gem” than they are to take someone’s free junk. Putting a price on it adds to its value in the buyer’s mind, and it’s more likely to sell. Sometimes grouping 3 cheap items together (like kitchen utensils) with masking tape will help them sell as well. (Rather than selling 3/quarter a piece, you sell the “set of three” for a dollar!)

  • Andrea says:

    I recommend pricing with masking tape instead of the little stickers; it’s cheaper and sticks better, especially on clothes.

    For my signs, I buy the “teacher” punch out letters at Dollar Tree and glue them posterboard/cardboard. That way the lettering is very neat.

    For the last hour of the sale, I like to sell whatever a customer can fit in a bag for $3.00.

    I’ve done at least one garage sale every year since I can remember. I love it! And now that I’m CVSing, I’ll sell my stockpile next summer. Can’t wait!

  • Lisa says:

    Could anyone recommend price suggestions for gently used boys clothing (infant – 5)? I have no idea and I’m having a sale this weekend….shorts, sweatshirts, kackis, sweaters> Any help would be so appreciated.

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