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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Host Your Own Garage Sale and Make $$$ from Your Old Stuff!

From saving money at the store to making money at garage (or yard, or tag sales, depending on your area of the US), I like to save money. I am a frequent garage sale shopper, but I've also hosted quite a few garage sales in my time. Here are my tips for getting the most cash for your stuff:

  • What time of year? Any time from Spring to Fall, but if you live in a hot climate, you might want to consider holding your garage sale before the hot season hits. Here in Texas, we're on our way to the hottest Summer on record and fewer people are braving the heat for a few deals!
  • How many days? As a shopper, I prefer Saturday-only sales. I know that all of the "good stuff" isn't gone and I have a better chance of scoring deals. You might do two Saturdays if you feel you still have a lot of good items to sell after the first day.
  • What time should I start? As early as you can. The highest traffic for garage sales is early in the morning, from 7-9am. You'll see a steady trickling off as it gets later and very few people will show up after lunch.
  • Items should be priced fairly cheaply. You cannot expect to get full retail price, or even consignment shop price, in your front yard.
  • If you have an item that you just can't bear parting with unless you get full retail, or close to full retail, consider listing it on Craig's List or eBay instead.
  • Don't price things with odd amounts, like $0.01, $0.05 or $0.10. This makes it harder for you to calculate totals and makes giving change complicated.
  • Pricing will obviously vary by region, but here's what I see in Texas:
    • Clothing: usually $0.25 to $1.00 per item, higher prices for outfits, coats, and designer labels
    • Books: $0.25 to $0.50 for paperbacks, $0.50 to $1.00 for hardcover
    • CDs/DVDs/VHS: $1 to $2, less for VHS, usually $0.50
    • Toys: Small toys $0.25, Puzzles $0.50 to $1.00, Large toys or electronic toys $1.00 to $5.00
    • Video Games: for older systems (PS2, Game Cube, Genesis, etc.) $1.00 to $2.00, newer game systems $2.00 to $5.00
    • Electronics and Appliances: $5.00 to $15.00, really expensive equipment may be priced higher, but don't exceed 50% of the new purchase price for like new items, 30% of the purchase price for gently used items
    • A general rule of thumb is to keep all prices below 50% of retail, preferably in the 20-30% range
  • Consider having a deal where people can fill a bag of clothes for X amount ($5 for example). People like deals and you might even find people buying two or three bags where they might only buy a few items individually.
  • Don't be afraid to be flexible. Haggle with your customers and try to strike a deal with them. Especially if they are interested in an uncommon item that not many people may be interested in (your framed autograph of a celebrity, your compound bow, etc.). It may turn out that there's only one person interested in that item all day.
  • Late in the day (maybe 11am-1pm), consider putting up signs for 50% off marked prices, or Buy One Get One Free.
  • Consider paying for an ad in your local paper. Many garage sale shoppers only look for sales in the paper.
  • Place a minimum of 5 signs, two should be on the highest-traffic street near your house, then place signs leading from that street to your house. If there are two busy streets in your area, place signs leading from both streets.
  • What kind of signs?
    • First, they should be very strudy, cardboard or corrugated plastic. Poster board is too flimsy on its own and will bend throughout the day. Back poster board with a piece of cardboard to firm it up.
    • Place the sign in the ground, or on a pole, but not a telephone or electric pole (it is illegal in most areas to attach things to these poles)
    • I recommend the lawn sign below from Vistaprint. You can custom design them, and if you sign up for their email offers, you can often get offers for getting them free + shipping. These signs are good to reuse again and again.

  • People should be able to see something from the street. If you mentioned specific items in your ad (a bass boat, foosball table, basketball hoop), make sure that people can see them.
  • Group like items together and display as much as possible. Most people don't want to spend a long time at each garage sale and won't dig through large bins of items.
  • Display as much as you can at waist height or above. People don't like to bend down.
  • Clearly label all of your prices. Make signs for each area that list the items in that area. For example: "Books: Hardcover $1, Paperbacks $0.50"
  • Consider making tables for specific prices when you have an assortment of items that don't fit a theme (or items you only have one or two of a type). For instance, you can have a $5 table, a $1 table, etc. 
Preparing for the Sale
  • Check with your town as some towns require permission to have a garage sale. One town I lived in required you to get a permit for a small fee.
  • Have items pre-tagged, or have signs printed for each type of item.
  • Keep your items organized and in one place so you can set up quickly
  •  Make sure you have a place to store money. A popular choice is a lock box, tool box, lunch box, or shoe box. You can also get a carpenter's apron at Lowes or Home Depot for $1-$3 that are convenient.
  • You also need change. I recommend getting 4 $10's, 8 $5's, 20 $1's, and two rolls of quarters. This is an initial layout of $120, so make sure you subtract that amount from your total at the end to find your profit.
  • Other items you might need: a sharpie marker, pen and paper (to keep track of sales, especially useful if it's a multi-family sale), calculator (you can buy these for $1 at the dollar store), scissors, tape.
  • Set up your signs in the evening of the day before the sale 
  • To reduce liability, you may want to consider posting a sign that mentions that accidents are not the responsibility of the owner, you break it, you buy it, etc.
 On the Day of the Sale
  • Make sure you get up at least 1 1/2 hours before the sale starts. Yes, I know, that means getting up at 5:30 if you choose to start your sale at 7am (and trust me, even if you say 8am, there will be tons of people in your yard at 7am). Getting up early will be worth it, trust me.
  • Begin by setting out the largest items first, then the tables, then place your signs. Next start placing the items on the tables.
  • Set up your "checkout" area last. Make sure you have some water or something to drink for yourself.
  • You will want a partner, or at least someone who can break you every once in a while so you don't have to leave customers alone with your items.
  • Consider selling drinks or snacks. Especially later in the day (as lunch approaches) people will be hungry and thirsty and you could add to your profit by offering these items. Make sure to figure the initial cost of these items when coming up with a price and in calculating your profit at the end of the day.
  • Sit back and enjoy your sale! 

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