- Personal Finance»
- Frugal Living
The 10 Worst Garage Sale Mistakes
Who doesn't love a good garage sale? Seeking them out for weekend shopping is a fun (and often rewarding!) hobby or occasional activity. But having a garage sale? While also entertaining and worthwhile, it's a lot of work.
If you are going to all the effort of purging, cleaning, pricing, setting up, advertising, and running your sale you want everything to go great. Well, let's be honest. You want it to make a lot of money.
So avoid these mistakes and make your next garage sale great!
A Late Start
Be open by 9:00 AM, if at all possible. Why? This is the hour by which many regular garage sale fans (and the ones most likely to spend time and money at your sale) are out and about at their first stop of the day. Many people even plan a garage sale route and your house might get skipped if it doesn't start until much later than the surrounding area's yard sales.
No one can control the weather. A rainy day that makes you close up shop is unfortunate. I wish you the best of luck against mother nature!
What you can steer clear of is having a sale during the wrong time of year. Now of course the best garage sale seasons may be regional. Personally I am most familiar with the mid-west, where "too early" = "too cold", but if you wait too late in the yard sale year then you might find the rush has worn off for many shoppers. Often by late August people are no longer as interested in coming out in the heat to trek across lawns for cheap merchandise, not after having already spent the summer and late spring doing so. The people become pickier, more likely to haggle, and less easily impressed (meaning the smaller your sale, the less people will actually get out of their cars).
When hosting a garage sale, be sure to have the proper change beforehand. You may not be able to get to the bank the morning your sale starts or your bank may not open until 9:00 AM (and you'll be open then, right?). You absolutely will need change at the start. These morning hours are usually the busy ones, after all! Not to mention because it's early in the day, people often still have larger bills such as tens and twenties. You'll be handing a lot of cash back.
Oh, and don't forget the coins!
A note on "large" bills: remember not only the possibility of scams but also your limited change (no matter how much you started with). You are not a bank and cannot be expected to safely accept a $100 or to break a $50 for a $2 stuffed animal. Don't be afraid to say no - often people will 'miraculously' come up with a smaller bill after the big one is turned down!
It's always good to know the value of what you're selling at a yard sale. Sites such as eBay and Amazon can be valuable tools in pricing fairly without losing out. Perhaps you can get $5 for that old toy instead of the .50 cents you had assumed!
That said, don't expect to have success with online pricing at a garage sale. This means no charging what the item "sells for on eBay." Garage sales are typically for bargain hunters, not collectors able and willing to pay top dollar.
A note on eBay print-outs: If you'd like to show browsers how much something is worth on eBay, thereby illustrating your excellent price, be sure to showcase a range of prices it clearly sold for (not simply asking prices, in other words).
As a frequent garage sale customer I can tell you nothing turns me off more than having to ask the price on everything. Not only is it inconvenient and time-consuming, it's awkward. Suppose I don't like your price? Now I have to admit it to your face. Unless truly wanting something from your sale, many will simply walk away. The extra minutes involved in looking for a price tag, considering whether or not to ask, deciding on how much is too much for me to spend, then actually getting your attention is enough time passing to halt an impulse purchase (which relies on split-second desire).
The no-tags, no-signs, "make an offer" approach to yard sales is also going to create extra hassle for you when multiple people are rummaging around and throwing out questions.
(Lack of) Cleanliness
No reasonable person expects a sparkling clean garage or dirt-free lawn at a yard sale. But do put some effort into clearing and cleaning the worst of the mess - especially on the stuff you're selling! No one wants a doll that they have to clean old bits of food off of or a Christmas ornament with sticky-from-candy finger smudges. Dust the antiques, wash the clothes, and scrub down the dirt-covered playhouse.
Keep in mind the issue of cigarette smoke and pet hair as well. If the clothes reek after you've done your best to remedy the issue, best not to bother trying to pass them off to others. If a book is mildewing? Trash time.
No Organization, Plenty Of Clutter
You don't have to lay out your garage sale like a fashionable boutique in order to increase your sales. Just avoid a few messy trends:
- Separate unrelated items as opposed to a giant box full of everything from Happy Meal toys to cooking supplies. Don't forget, you can always make small items "related" by giving them the same pricing! But a little organization still goes a long way.
- Not having groups. Your customers will have a much easier time finding things they are actually interested in if, say, books are in one section while Christmas items are all spread at the end of one table.
- Inconvenient setup. It's probably not a great idea to put stuffed animals behind (very breakable) porcelain dolls. And if you really want to move those boxes full of books then consider (if at all possible) setting the books up high enough that shoppers don't have to bend in half or crouch on the ground to browse - most people won't bother for more than a minute, max.
Dogs: An Adorable Nuisance
I strongly suggest leashing your dog or putting him/her in the backyard. No one wants to be told what to do (or not do) on their own property, but it's simply a reality that the general public does not love your precious pup the way you do. I see a lot of tight smiles and mumbled "That's okay..." at garage sales where Fido is running up to people at full speed or yapping at their ankles, with only a halfhearted "No" from the owner.
The point being that potential customers are more likely to linger and focus on what you're selling if not being followed or otherwise pestered by the family pet. Keep in mind that garage sales are often tight spaces with multiple people and lots of objects scattered about. You don't want anyone to trip over a curious dog.
It goes without saying that yard sale signs are a must. If you live in a location that doesn't allow the posting of any directional signs, even on your own mailbox, then... well... you may be out of garage sale luck, I'm forced to say. If you'd like to give a garage sale a try anyway, post in your ad the lack of signs so that people will be aware and not simply drive past you. Consider whether something such as balloons or a yard inflatable would be allowed to attract attention.
Thankfully the options for garage sale advertisement are numerous and sometimes even free. If you're going to pay money to promote your garage sale then be sure it's a reliable service - not only trustworthy with consumers' money but does a good job with it as well. In addition to newspaper ads and other paid advertisement options, check out free sources for garage sale promotion such as specially designed yard sale finder apps, Craigslist, and local Facebook groups. Utilize at least two sources.
Best place to advertise a garage sale?
One last note... Don't forget to have fun. Seriously! You may not make a killing at this year's sale and even if the cash never stops flowing you will likely - at some point - feel as if it was all too much effort. So focus on the happy aspects of yard sales: meeting new people, chatting, spending a day outdoors, getting a chance to sit down and read (while supervising the sale in between customers), the opportunity for your kids to sell lemonade, and a general feeling of classic summertime.
What are your personal garage sale tips? What bad yard sale habits drive you nuts?