There are two ways to have a yard sale (or garage sale). 1) Throw everything out in your front yard or garage, make up prices as you go, and hope things sell that day. Or 2) plan ahead, spend some time preparing, and approach the day as if you are on a mission to make some money and clean out some stuff. I’ve tried both ways and the second way always makes for a smoother sale and we make more money. Yard sales are not for everyone. As a matter of fact, I had a friend who went through the effort to have one and only made $35 the whole day. She decided that her time was more valuable than the $35 and opted to donate things from then on. And that’s OK. If you do want to have a yard sale though, below are several ideas from our experiences, and from other sources, on how to maximize your profit.
1) Get Supplies
The first step is to collect your supplies at least a day before the garage sale starts. You’ll need chairs to sit on, a table or tables or another flat surface to take payments, provide change, and plenty of surface area to display your goods, especially breakables. Keep tables with breakables off to the side or against a wall or fence. The more centrally located they are, the higher risk you run of the items being knocked over or dropped.
You’ll also need supplies for making signs and pricing times. I usually keep a roll of tape, extra bags for the customers’ items, and a pair of scissors nearby that day too.
Don’t forget the change. It never fails; the first customer of the day hands you a $20 bill for a $.25 item. Make sure you have fives, ones, and at least twenty dollars in quarters. You can get them from your bank, but you’ll have to go inside the branch to do it. You can also get a reusable cash envelope from your bank. Many branches are happy to give you one. You can use the envelope to run extra money back into the house throughout the yard sale so you won’t have all your cash in one place outside.
2) Sort Your Items
If you’re like me, you probably have boxes and bags full of items you’ve cleaned out. Collect all your items before you start sorting, it’s easier to sort before you price them. If you are raising money for something like church camp, Boy Scout camp, or just want to clean out, ask your family and friends if they have some items they’d like to donate. The more you have out and visible to passers-by, the more people will stop.
Once you’ve collected all of your items, dedicate a room in your house for yard sale planning and divide all of your items by category, such as clothes, books, household items, toys and electronics, etc. If you have clothes, divide them by men’s, women’s, and children’s. Most people are looking for something specific and will appreciate the organization. They will also buy more if it is well organized because most people don’t have the patience to dig through boxes and piles. They want to pop in, look for a bargain, and head to the next sale.
3) Price Your Items
It’s best if you price your items individually rather than just group them into boxes with one price sign. As the yard sale progresses, people will get the boxes mixed up and you’ll have a hard time keeping it organized. To price items, you can buy color coded stickers at any drug store, Walmart, or Target, or even the local dollar store or use a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie. Don’t increase your prices on the assumption that everyone likes to haggle. While many people do enjoy a good game of price ping-pong, some will just walk away if they think items are priced too high.
4) Organize and Arrange Your Sale
Arrange your tables and put all the clothes on hangers the night before the yard sale. No matter what you tell yourself, you won’t have enough time to do it in the morning. If you don’t have a garage to store it, put clothes on a table or hanging rack with rollers just inside your garage or carport door, so it’s easy to just roll outside in the morning when you’re ready to set up. Group other similar items in boxes and laundry baskets so you only have to pull items out of boxes and don’t need further separation.
Map out where everything will be placed to make the morning setup as easy as possible, especially if you have other people helping you. It will make the setup process simple.
5) Advertise Your Sale
Before your sale, advertise the day, time, address and special items that may attract buyers. For example, “baby items”, “furniture”, “multi-family yard sale”, “fundraiser”, etc.
Advertise online on places like Craigslist, Yard Sale Search, Garage Sale Hunter, Yard Hopper, and Garage Sale Source, Facebook (either on your profile or in a local Facebook Market group). You can also advertise on Apps such as Garage Sale Finder, GLICKIN Garage Sales, VARAGESALE, Wallapop, OfferUp, Yard Sign GPS app, Garage Sales by Map, Yard Sale Treasure Map, Wish Local – Buy & Sell. All of this advertising is free and will drive customers to your sale. Warning though, if you say it starts at 7am, they will be knocking on your door at 6am. Be prepared.
6) Get Ready
Give yourself at least an hour before the garage sale starts to set everything out and put up signs. Make sure you have your change in a safe place, and find a comfortable, shaded area to sit. If your garage sale is hard to spot from the street, place a yard sale sign in front of your house so people know where to stop.
7) Work the Crowd
Yard Sales can be a very interactive and social experience. People are going to ask questions, they’ll want to haggle, they’re going to pick everything up (and place it down somewhere else), and they’re going to want to touch everything breakable. If you are up and walking around (not seated in the corner or talking on the phone), are greeting people with a smile, and are available for questions, people will feel more comfortable and ultimately buy more.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to haggle right away. Don’t let you couch go for $10 in the first 20 minutes of the sale. Odds are that someone else will come along willing to pay your asking price. However, if you are on the second day of a multi-day sale or in the afternoon of a one day sale, that’s when you start using effective negotiation strategies. We have also had “fill a bag for a buck” sales in the last two house of a sale. Those work quite well with clothes and shoes that haven’t sold yet.
If you are going to spend the day, or weekend, trying to clean out and raise some money, you may as well maximize both goals, right? Plan ahead, spend some time prepping and pricing items, and greet customers and neighbors with a smile. It’s a win-win for everyone!
In the comments below, share with us your best yard sale tips. We’d love to hear what works for you!