I originally published this in May of this year, but it seems that with the warm weather waning (here at least) and kids going back to school, there’s not a lot of time left to get in that last garage sale. Newly improved, we’ve even added a few more tips (And I put them in the middle so you have to revisit the whole post, bwa-hah-hah. No, seriously, it’s just where they worked).
So in an effort to de-clutter (and because we have no desire to schlep all our stuff to Oregon), we had a garage sale. Garage sales, yard sales, moving sales are all things I’ve been heavily involved in. In fact, my first entrepreneurial activity was at a family garage sale when I was about 8. I bought flats of bottled water and generic sodas (to increase my profit margin). I put them on ice and sold them for 50 cents each. I netted $40. I wanted to sell lemonade like they showed on TV, but my mother graciously explained contamination and poison concerns to me.
After last weekend’s sale, I’ve discovered there are certain rules to having a good sale.
#1: WEAR SUNSCREEN!!! I am a human lobster. In the two hours it took me to set up the garage sale and then go put on sunscreen, I laid the base for a very painful, peeling sunburn. I cannot emphasize this enough, wear sunscreen. Consider the elements, whether they be sun, rain or wind when choosing the date and setting up your sale.
#2: Get your neighborhood involved. A multi-family yard sale will always bring more interest, and someone who’s only looking for sales with tools might buy your crystal vase as an impulse buy for a friend. We also use garage sales to get to know our neighbors better. After we all close up, we invite everyone into our driveway for a barbecue. Nothing brings people together more than making money followed by hot dogs and beer.
#3: Make sure you’re not doing this on your own. You will need at least one other person for pee breaks, water and food runs.
#4: Have change available the night before. This is self-explanatory; if you can’t make change, you can’t make the sale.
#5: Follow the 10% rule. You might have paid $100 for a crystal vase, but at a garage sale you can usually expect to make 10% of the original price. It used to be (and sometimes still is) 10-30%, but people are really looking for a bargain. Case in point: People used to come to my garage sales with a handful of ones budgeted for “garage sale money.” This last one I had several people come with handfuls of change.
#6: Don’t think you can put vintage or antique and all of a sudden the 10% rule vanishes. Seriously, I know they now play 90’s grunge music on the classic rock stations, but that doesn’t mean your 1980s juicer is a priceless relic. If people are looking at you like you’re crazy when you say the price, you very well might be.
#7: Have a free or 25 cent box up front, and your $1 table in back. Once people hear or see “free”, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore that they were only looking for yard tools, they are hooked. Once the 25 cent box reeled them into your yard, you want them to look through as many items as possible. Positioning your least expensive items in the front, and your second least expensive items in the back, generally causes people to walk through your entire sale. The more people see, the more likely you are to sell. Which brings me to….
#8: Put all of your items out clearly. Unfortunately, people are inherently lazy. While a select group likes to go searching for buried treasure, the likelihood is if your items are buried under stacks, and people can’t see what they are, they won’t be sold.
#9: Advertise. Post your sale on craigslist, in the newspaper if it’s big enough, but more than all else have good signs. Park your car on the corner with a big neon poster on the back. Put your signs on boxes so they don’t blow away. And while we don’t like to think about it, send your extra person to check on your signs every once in a while. Some people like to take good signs for their garage sales or turn arrows around.
#10: Keep track of the money. If you plan on donating all proceeds to charity, then all the money can go in one jar with no worries, but if you have multiple people participating it’s important to keep track of dollars and cents. We put all the money in a jar, but keep a piece of paper divided into columns with each party’s name at the top of a column. When an item is sold, the amount is written in the individual’s column. At the end of the day you tally the numbers and give everyone their total. If you have a hard time keeping track of whose the items are, divide your garage sale geographically, and just ask, “Where did you find this?”
#11: Be friendly. As we started to run out of things to sell, people would drive up to our sale, slow down and look, and keep on driving. A wave and a smile encouraged most to stop. Part of the garage sale culture is meeting new (and unusual) people, a chat, and maybe a good find.
#12: Leave the pets in the backyard. Not everyone likes your dog, no matter how little, or how cute you think they are. People will pay more money for items from a pet free, smoke free home, so let them think what they want.
#13: Try not to smoke in the middle of your sale. You’re a smoker, I get that. I know that you have the right to, and it’s awesome that you exercise your personal freedoms. I will also exercise my right not to walk through cigarette smoke to give you money. Remember, pet free smoke free = more fee.
#14: Know when to fold ’em. We had scheduled our garage sale to run from 8 am-4 pm, but we also didn’t plan on running out of things to sell. We were seriously depleted by noon, and by one, there was no reason to keep anything open. So at 1:30 we picked up our signs and boxed up the few things we had left for donation to a thrift store that supports abused families.
#15: Take you signs down! Unless you want people knocking on your door at 6 a.m. for the next three weekends, asking “When are you putting your stuff out?” I’d take down those signs.
Garage sales can be a lot of fun, but they are hard work as well. Stay organized and think about the tips above, and it should go easier.
Photo courtesy of man pikin