Return to The Money Mentor Blog

Six steps to running a moneymaking garage sale

August 18, 2015

By Paul Brucker

Ever wander around your home and think, “I sure have a lot of clutter. And look at all those boxes. I don’t even know what’s in them.” Congratulations, you may be a candidate for holding a garage sale to get rid of stuff and make some fast cash.
 
To get started, gather some empty boxes and comb through every room in your house, including your closets, basement, attic and garage. Look for items that you aren’t using and wouldn’t mind losing. The old clichés remain ever new: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure – and people will buy almost anything.
 
On the other hand, you’ll need to think like a customer. People know that a garage sale is a person’s attempt to find a new home for their unwanted things. And they will expect to pay bargain prices – less than what they’d pay at an antique store or consignment shop. Even so, you’ll need to make sure your items look clean and desirable so they’ll make a good impression and sell. (If you have a valuable item and are firm about getting top dollar for it, then eBay, rather than a garage sale, is the way to go.) Traditional garage sale bestsellers include old tools, kids’ toys, antiques, books and kitchen items. Most popular days for holding a sale: Friday and Saturday (Friday is when most retired people and dealers will come.) Don’t be surprised if your first customer is a dealer, looking to buy items cheap and then resell them.
 
Getting ready for the sale day

Holding a garage sale takes a lot of preparation and organization. Here are six important steps to keep in mind.

  1. Follow your local rules. Call your town or city hall to find out if you need a permit for your sale and what restrictions apply. For instance, putting notices on a street sign or telephone poles may be illegal in your area. And your town may restrict how many garage sales you can run a year. One place where you’d better get prior authorization is Bloomfield, NJ, which recently raised its permit fee to $25, up from $10. If you hold a sale without a permit there, you face a $100 fine and could be imprisoned for up to 10 days!
     
  2. Make a mini outdoor department store. After you gather up what you want to sell, sort your things into categories. For instance, if you’re selling clothing, group them into men’s, women’s and children’s apparel. (Get a clothesline or shower curtain rod so you place the clothes on hangers). For books and DVDs, bring out a book case, or at least, bookends, to hold these items in place. Keep electronic items together and be sure to have an electric outlet or long extension cord nearby so customers can test out the items. Place your things on folding tables and cover the tables with sheets or tablecloths. In general, make your overall setup easy to walk through and logical for customers to find similar items. Plan to have some eye-catching, more popular items, such as a lawnmower or cool bike, at the edge of your driveway to help lure passersby to stop by. Have your setup already planned out at least a day ahead of your sale, so it will be easy for you to assemble your goods for the big day.
     
  3. Make the price right. Ask yourself how much you’d pay for your garage sale items. A general rule of thumb for pricing: Charge 50% of the retail price for items that are almost new and 25% to 35% of retail price for items that show they’ve been used. Books often go for 25 cents each or five for a dollar (books that are new and popular can earn more). Make the price of your items easy for your customers to see. Place manila tape or a sticker on top of the item and mark the price with a marker. For bigger items, such as furniture, make the price sign larger and easy to spot.
     
  4. Spread the word. Advertise on bulletin boards in your community and online. Internet sites you can use to publicize your event include Yard Sale Search, garage sales by map, Garage Sale Hunter and your local craigslist. (Go to the “for sale” section and list in the “garage sale” category. You can post a photo of an item there and include directions to your sale.) You’ll also want to make durable, easy-to-see signs that include arrows to your sale and the time schedule for it. Consider making your signs out of cardboard with letters that are at least six inches high and written with a Sharpie. The words “Huge Sale” can act as a magnet for garage aficionados.
     
  5. Be ready to make change. Have a least $100 on hand. Perhaps, four $10 bills, five $5 bills, 25 $1 bills and a roll of quarters ($10). Consider using a carpenter’s apron or fanny pack to keep the money with you. Make use of a calculator (perhaps on your smart phone) to add up purchases, when needed.
     
  6. Get in touch with your inner salesperson. Make your customers feel welcome. Greet them warmly, let them browse at their own pace and be available for questions. What about hagglers? Even though you may price items cheaply, some people may like to barter down the price so you’re practically giving the item away. To handle this situation, some sellers will set their asking price 20% higher than what they are willing to sell the item for. If it’s early in the morning and you don’t want to haggle, say the item is worth your set price but you may lower its price later in the day if it doesn’t sell. And as you near the end of your sale, you may want to lower your prices – even to half price – to clear your inventory.

How much money will make from your sale? Often, people make several hundred dollars. Others make less than they’d earn working at a job for the same amount of time. But, on the positive side: You’ll have de-cluttered your home and earned cash for things you’d otherwise donate or throw out. You may also interact with some friendly folks and people in the neighborhood you hadn’t met before.
 
If you have leftover items, you could sell them on eBay (if the items are truly worth something), donate them to a charity (for a tax write off), leave them on the curb with a “free to good home” sign (if allowed by your city, town or home association), or simply pack them up for another garage sale.


Sources: yardsalequeen.com, realsimple.com, moneycrashers.com, getrichslowly.org, wikihow.com, lifehacker.com and ardentcamper.com