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5 Steps to a Profitable Garage Sale

Updated on August 25, 2014

Have a Successful Garage Sale in Five Simple Steps

My family frequently had garage sales when I was a child, perhaps once a year. While I didn't realize it at the time, I gained valuable garage sale knowledge that would serve me well as an adult. Due to my expertise, I am often asked to assist friends in their garage sales - which isn't always fun.

Here I will walk you through the five very simple steps that are absolutely necessary to the success of your sale. By following these steps, you will increase the income potential of your sale.

Step One: Have Enough Inventory

If you only have one or two boxes of items, that won’t cut it. To make good money with your yard sale, you need to have lots of things for sale. This may seem obvious, but it is by far the most common mistake I've seen in garage sales.

  • Plan far ahead: slowly accumulate items for your sale well in advance. With durable cardboard boxes kept ready to receive items you no longer want, your stash can be kept orderly and organized.
  • Pair off with a friend, neighbor, or family member. With your items and their items put together, you'll have more.
  • Wait until you have enough stuff to completely cover at least four table tops. Other items or very large items will be spaced around your tables.

This is a TERRIBLE SIGN. Cursive writing, letters are too small, how is anyone supposed to read that from a moving vehicle? Don't do this if you want to attract as many customers as possible!
This is a TERRIBLE SIGN. Cursive writing, letters are too small, how is anyone supposed to read that from a moving vehicle? Don't do this if you want to attract as many customers as possible! | Source

Step Two: Advertise Your Sale the Right Way

Advertising is going to make or break you. If you don’t advertise properly, shoppers won’t know you are having a sale. If you don’t advertise clearly, shoppers won’t be able to find your house. To have a profitable sale, you must have customers, and to get them, you must advertise.

Signs on the side of the road are the number one attractor of customers to your yard sale.

My biggest pet peeve when I want to go garage sale shopping is driving down the road looking for some signs only to find out that they are either facing the wrong way or printed in really thin letters which can’t be read from a car.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to me, I always place my signs facing traffic, and I make huge block letters in black ink. After planting my sign, I do a drive by and see if I can clearly read the address from the car. I want to attract as many people as I can to my sale, so I need to have signs where the traffic flows. I always put a sign on both sides of the road, so no matter which direction a car is going they will see my advertisement. I also include another sign at the road leading into my sub-development, and another on each end of my street.

Besides signs, these forms of advertising are also important:

  • Put up an ad on Craigslist. This is free in most areas. Spend a few minutes and detail what types of items you have to offer, and add pictures if you can.
  • Place an ad with your local newspaper's website. At many papers, anyone is allowed to post a Classified ad online, for free. If you want a print ad, it will cost you. I personally avoid print ads because I don't want to spend the money on them.

Garage Sale Profits

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Lots of Shoppers at a Yard Sale

A walk-through, nicely organized tables, and lots of items are attracting smiling customers to this sale.
A walk-through, nicely organized tables, and lots of items are attracting smiling customers to this sale. | Source

Step Three: Presentation

Having your items clean and presented well will translate into sales and a profitable garage sale. I was once disgusted at a garage sale because the lady running it was trying to sell body care items directly from her bathroom. How might I know this? Because they had splashes of dried water all over them and they were dusty. Super gross! I don’t want to turn off customers by having an entire yard sale of disgusting items, so I clean my stuff up using Windex, dust rags, or whatever is necessary to make the item appear as nice as it can.

Another thing that bothers me at garage sales is when you can tell the homeowner really doesn’t care, because they dumped all their things on a table haphazardly. It looks like junk. Since I don’t want to sell junk, I place everything nicely on each of my tables, in an organized fashion. Customers tend to be more respectful of my items, thus placing a higher value on them.

Part of presenting well is grouping, so I group like items together. If I have kitchen items, they all go on the same table in the same area. The same with entertainment items, etc. This is a cleaner look and makes it more likely that one customer will buy multiple items from me.

Step Four: Price Your Items

I price every single thing at my garage sales. Shoppers don’t like sales where items don’t have prices. I make sure my prices are fair, and I’m not afraid to accept offers.

If I’ve priced an item at a dollar and someone offers me fifty cents, I will probably take it because at the end of the day I can either have the money or the item, and since I don’t want the item, I’d obviously rather end up with money.

This may sound like a rather weak step, but I promise you, you will make more money if your items are neatly priced, giving a starting point for potential bargainers, than if you just toss everything out and wait for a person to ask.

Step Five: Starting Till

You need to have both dollar bills, change, and a place to store it. I usually start off with:

  • $100 in ones
  • $100 in fives
  • $100 in tens and twenties
  • $10 in quarters

This is what I have learned from my experience is a good amount to start with, but your area may vary. You may have less or more garage sale shoppers where you live, so vary this starting amount based on your own knowledge or advice from a friend whose recently had a sale.

All this money that you are going to earn needs to stay secure. I usually keep the money in a hip pack around my waist the entire time. Some people recommend a cash box but that seems to me to be too easily stolen. Stay safe and vigilant and don't get your hard earned cash stolen.

Garage Sale Tips from Author Bruce Littlefield


After the Sale

Even though my garage sales always do well, I end up with stuff left over that didn’t sell. Luckily there is a local charity which will come and pick up items by appointment. So when I plan my sale, I call and make an appointment to have the charity truck show up at the end of the day. They even help me pack and load, so it’s a great deal. When my sale is over, all my things are cleaned up and gone and I walk back into my house with money in my pocket.

The same thing can happen for you if you follow these simple steps to having a successful yard sale. You can have less junk and more cash in your pocket at the end of a day - a sure win for anyone.

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