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10 tips for a killer garage sale

Here are the best practices for holding a yard sale that earns you as much as possible for your unwanted stuff.

By Stacy Johnson May 16, 2014 11:29AM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyHave you ever shopped at a garage sale and thought about how much time actually went into putting it all together? Or maybe you've wanted to have one for years, but aren't sure if it's worth the effort.

One person's trash is definitely another's treasure, so there are tons of avid yard sale shoppers eager to take your unwanted items off your hands. And if you have anything of value, a yard sale is a quick way to make a nice chunk of  cash.

Overwhelmed at the thought of undertaking such a time-consuming task? No need to worry. 

1. Plan ahead

If you've decided on a date, it's time to gather your inventory. Start by retrieving anything you haven’t used in six months, sorting the items by category and placing them in labeled boxes. Now step back and admire how you have successfully decluttered.

Some people regularly go through their stuff throughout the year and set unwanted items aside for garage sale season.

When should you have your sale? Obviously the winter is not an option unless you live where it never snows. Avoid the intense heat of summer if you can. Avoid holiday weekends because most people will be preoccupied with other activities or traveling.

Stand out from the competition by starting your sale on Friday, rather than Saturday morning. And be aware that people will show up at 7 a.m. even if your advertised start time is two hours later.

2. Prepare your space

Mow the lawn, weed the flower beds, and smooth any uneven surfaces that could be a potential problem for customers. The last thing you want is for your guests to take a tumble. If you park on the street, move your car to make room for customers.

3. Simplify pricing

Adopt a simplified pricing structure so you won’t have to make a lot of change. Group items of the same price together, and clearly display the price. You could use a color code or put a sticker with the price on each item. Or make a sign: "Each item on this table goes for $1." (Just make sure higher-priced items aren't accidentally left there.)

If the price of an item is firm, indicate that on the sales tag. For big-ticket items, it may also help to attach an advertisement for a new version of the item with its normal asking price to show that you are offering it at a greatly reduced rate.

4. Make it easy to shop

Group similar items to make it easier for customers to navigate the sale. Also, keep items off the ground. Hang up clothes. Offer an outlet for customers to test electrical items. Be sure you start the sale with plenty of small bills and change.

On the other hand, don't let customers score a surprise deal. Check the pockets of all clothing, and go through all boxes to make sure you haven't accidentally included something that shouldn't be there. Also, make sure you know the real value of your stuff. We've all heard stories about people who paid very little for something the seller didn't realize was worth a lot more.

5. Advertise, advertise, advertise

Aim for consistency and use bright colors with a minimal amount of words on your neighborhood signs. Your signs should also include clear instructions on how to get to your sale and a phone number in case customers need to contact you. It’s a good idea to put them up a few days prior to the sale to create buzz. But check with city officials first to make sure it’s permissible. Check the signs each day of the sale to make sure they're still in place and legible.

Home garage sale © Image Source Pink/JupiterimagesAdvertise on community bulletin boards. Place a classified ad in the local newspaper and they'll likely give you a yard sale sign kit. Advertise for free on sites like Craigslist and Yard Sale Search. Also, people in your community may have organized a yard sale Facebook page.

6. Don't go it alone

You can't run a yard sale by yourself. At the minimum, you need someone around for when you take a potty break. Also it's good to have more eyes to make sure people don't make off with your goods without paying. (By the way, never leave your money unattended. Keep it on your person. And never let customers you don't know inside your home.)

If you have a good relationship with the neighbors, ask them to help out and also display their unwanted items at your sale. Provide them with cold drinks and snacks.

7. Be flexible

Some people always offer to pay full price, but many more love to haggle. Hear them out, and be willing to lower the price as the day goes on. Your goal is to make money from your stuff, rather than taking it to the thrift store.

8. Provide plastic bags

Want to score cool points with shoppers? Have free plastic bags on hand -- the ones you get at the grocery store when you've forgotten your canvas bag at home -- so they won’t have to lug around a bunch of small items.

You can also offer a "fill a bag special” on select low-priced items, such as baby clothes, small toys or books. I did this at a flea market sale a few years back and walked away with almost double the amount I anticipated earning for the day.

9. Don’t be a stalker

You want your guests to be as comfortable as possible, so have a pitcher of water and disposable cups available. Let them roam freely among the sale items without you standing close by. Always offer a kind greeting and let them know you're available if they need assistance.

10. Donate what's left

Figure out beforehand which charity will receive what you haven't sold by the conclusion of your sale. Call them and ask about the best times to make deliveries. Some will come to your home to pick up large items.

Finally, put the money you've earned to good use. If you're saddled with debt, allocate the funds toward the outstanding balances. Or you can give your savings a boost.

Do you have any additional tips for having a successful garage sale? Let us know in the comments below. 

More from Money Talks News

May 16, 2014 1:15PM

There are too many garage sales in my area on Saturdays, Friday has become the new Saturday for garage sales, I have a sale yearly and  I have my garage sale Thursday and Friday.  Both days are busy.  At about noon on Friday everything becomes half-off, everyone from Thursday knows this so I get another bump Friday after lunch.  Usually I am left with only a few boxes to donate.  Several households of family participate so we have a lot of crap to sell.


We price things 50c $1 $2 $3   and the larger items whatever, so we have a 50c table $1 table etc.  Using color coded stickers with the sellers intitial on them.  I borrow a small cash register from a store owner I know.  That way I can run a report at the end of the day and each persons total is figured automatically because everyone had their own button on the register.


I only advertise on craigslist.

May 16, 2014 9:59PM

Growing up, we were directly off a very high traffic road so our ONLY advertisement was a sign on the main road directing shoppers down our street. Worked great. One of the BIGGEST sellers has always been children's clothing. Having a few racks to hang things onand a few bins for the non-hanging clothes, all gouped by size makes it very easy to browse and things go quick.

I don't do tag sales anymore. I honestly just don't have the time. I take that back- I DO have the time, but I have about 183892432 things I would rather do.

May 19, 2014 10:23AM
I generally mark all items 1/10th of retail price.  It is surprising how many people offer half of that!  The bane of a garage sale is a small child walking up (encouraged by granny) with $20 worth of items and handing me a $5.  Don't they realize they are teaching the child to beg - or at least to be a good little welfare recipient?
May 19, 2014 9:50AM
I have had several garage sales and have done several flea market sales. I usually do them with another person. I find it a lot of work but if your goal is to get rid of stuff and not make a lot of money then, this is for you. But I am always surprised at people. When the item is marked 50 cents, they want it for 25 cents! I have sold things that are worth much more than I am selling them for. I am willing to bargain but do not insult me! Anyway, if you like being outdoors and have the gift of gab, then you should have some fun, make a little money and meet new people. Children's clothes sell well, Christmas ornaments and garden décor sell pretty good also. I have a corner in my basement, that I stock pile stuff for a garage sale. They are usually held the weekend before Mother's Day in our area. Have fun everyone!
May 19, 2014 9:02AM
Garage and Yard sales are great if you have the extra gas money to spend looking for all these bargains and that can add up fast. Otherwise, it's a great bargain if you look in your neighborhood or on you way somewhere else. I use to have them and did pretty good at a few of them. But, now it is too much work for me with very little help to rely on. I mostly donate for tax purposes which is better for me now. Going to them is one of my favorite pass times just around my area.
May 24, 2014 9:26AM
  If your a "Bobo", "Boomer", whatever, divest, divest,divest  for God sake. and try not to puzzle yourself with wondering how did I get all this "Crap" and if your young try not to land in the same place 30,40 years from now. 
May 19, 2014 2:01PM

I remember one occasion as a child back in the mid 70's when my widowed mother and her best friend that was also a single mother planned a yard sale in order to help pay for an upcoming summer beach vacation they had planned on us all taking together. 


Their yard sale was planned for the weekend prior to Memorial Day and my Mothers friend came up with the idea to sale artificial flowers in vases for the upcoming holiday in addition to other unused household items.


My Mother's friend told her how the local cemetery discarded used artificial flowers & vases onto a large heaping pile at the rear of the cemetery, they went to the cemetery and loaded up the trunks of their vehicles with used discarded artificial flowers & vases.


After they washed the artificial flowers & vases, they rearranged the flowers and put new ribbons around the vases for the yard sale. They had dozens & dozens of arrangements and they sold every last one of them at their yard sale the weekend before Memorial Day.


I can recall when a few customers would pick up the arrangements and comment on how they smelled like a funeral home or death. My mother had a hard time getting rid of that distinct odor from the trunk of her car. Even though the yard sale was more successful by selling the artificial flower arrangements and the extra proceeds practically paid for the whole trip, my mother vowed to never do that again.      

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