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Garage Sale Basics, Sell Your Stuff

Updated on December 21, 2011

Every summer when I was a kid, my family would organize a garage sale to help make money for our vacation trip. Everyone in the family pitched in items that we no longer wanted or used. Little did I know back then that this garage sale tradition would continue with me in to my forties. I’ve been pretty successful with my garage sales and here are some helpful tips for you to be successful too.

First of all, you don’t have to have a garage to have a sale. You can have a yard sale, an estate sale, a carport sale, or even an empty lot sale. Many times, I have set up my items in an empty lot along a busy street. Just make sure it’s OK for you to be there. Once you establish your location for your sale and know the kind of room you will have, it’s time to pick a date. I tend to pick holiday weekends in the summer months. Typically, I have my sale on Labor Day weekend. You want to pick a time when more people are off work and looking for something to do. You also want the weather to be as warm and dry as possible. Cold and rain are major garage sale deterrents for obvious reasons. Decide whether you want a one or two day sale. I usually do only one day. I haven’t had a lot of success with two day sales but folks in larger cities might do more with a two day sale because of the volume of people trying to get to the sales. End your sale sometime around 2PM. Most people don’t go to garage sales much after noon and you don’t want to be sitting around for nothing..

You can’t have a sale if you don’t have items to sell. So all year long before my planned sale, I make regular sweeps through my house and property looking for items I no longer want or use. I go through everything. Every drawer, every closet, every nook and cranny. I even go through my truck. Along with these sweeps, I make sure to let my friends and family know I am planning a sale. Sometimes they give me items to sell because they don’t want to have a garage sale. I also stay on the look out when I am out and about for anything free I come across that I can sell. I’ll sell anything because people will buy anything. Never tell yourself that someone won’t buy the item you are holding in your hand. You’ll be surprised. Clothes aren’t usually good sellers but try anyway. And sometimes, I make items from things I have lying around like bird houses from scrap lumber.

Once you have all your sale items gathered, you should clean any items that could use it and fix items if you can. People are more likely to buy items that look gently used and are working and complete. Sometimes a cheap, simple fix can mean the difference between getting one dollar or five. Don’t lie about your items. You don’t want someone coming back to complain and causing a scene. Also, most people appreciate knowing what’s wrong with the item and will buy it anyway. Have batteries available for battery operated items and have an electric cord available for electric items. Some people want to test the item before they buy it. In addition, include manuals and instruction books for items if you have them.

Then, you need to physically pre-price everything individually. This makes selling much easier because you usually won’t have to haggle or answer a bunch of pricing questions. Most people will just accept your price. But remember, this is not a retail store. It’s a garage sale and people are there for a bargain so price your items cheap and you will sell more. You don’t want to keep it, so sell it cheap and have someone pay you to haul it off. It’s a win win. Some people buy pricing stickers but to me this cuts in to profits so I use masking tape which I usually already have lying around. I also like to make bundles of items with one price especially small items like key chains. This makes people feel like they are getting more for the money and are more likely to buy.

Now it’s time to set up for the sale. In your chosen location, organize items so that everything can be seen. You can’t sell it if your customers can’t see it. I see so many garage sales where people just throw out their stuff in big piles. Some people like going through piles treasure hunting but I don’t and will not make the effort. Place fragile items up high where kids can’t get to them. Cover items that are not for sale so you don’t have to keep saying, "It’s not for sale," and eliminate the risk of the items being accidentally sold. Also, be set up and ready early for your sale. People called "Early Birds" are just that and will be there a day to an hour before your scheduled sale. Some sellers dislike Early Birds but I welcome them because sometimes I can meet my selling goal before I even start the sale.

You’ll need to advertize and I advertize everywhere. I place ads some free and some paid in local newspapers, on craigslist.com, on local television and radio station web sites in the "classifieds"section, and with paper signs on street corners. Be sure to look for opportunities to advertize. People can’t come to your sale if they don’t know you are having one.

Be sure to have plenty of bags, boxes, and newspaper available. Have a furniture dolly available if you are selling big items. You don’t want someone not buying something because you can’t get it to his truck. Also, have help with the sale if you can. It helps to have extra hands. Other items to have ready are a calculator for the math challenged, writing paper and pens, and change in the form of coins and bills. Be sure to put away your cash in a safe place periodically throughout the sale and only keep about $20 of change on you. You don’t want to risk losing money from pockets or someone grabbing your wad of ones. Don’t keep all the money in one place. Consider having snacks and drinks available for sale. You don’t want someone running out of your sale early because he’s thirsty or hungry. The goal is to make the sale a fun, comfortable experience which will put buyers in the mood to buy and may make them repeat customers for next year’s sale.

Now that the sale is over, what do you do with the leftovers? I keep valuable items and list them on Ebay or Craigslist. Less valuable items are donated to charity. Utilize garage sale leftover buyers if your city has one.

Lastly, have fun and be friendly. Garage sales are a lot of work but they are worth it. Not only are you getting rid of a bunch of stuff you don’t need, you are also making money. So take a deep breath, relax, and sell, sell, sell.

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