Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to turn your old possessions into brand-new cash with an American community tradition: The garage sale.
For treasure hunters, garage (or yard) sales can be a bounty of unique housewares, vintage clothes and one-of-a-kind items that can’t be found anywhere else. Those hosting a sale can expect to make anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to a couple thousand, depending on the quality and quantity of stuff for sale.
Garage sales take some work to make happen, but if you follow these tips and do it right, people will pay YOU to haul off your unwanted items. While throwing a garage sale alone is quite possible, having a buddy to watch the cash box while you load a dresser into someone’s car will help you immensely – just be sure to give your friend a split of the profits.
1. Sort through your stuff. This first action item will take awhile, so do it one step at a time and go through the objects that you own room by room, closet by closet or dresser drawer by drawer. Have a box by your side for saleable items and a trash bag next to it for the mounds of trash you will uncover. If you have enough storage space to cram your garage sale items into, this process can be drawn out over months. If you don’t, however, plan on spending a small chunk of time doing it all at once, so you can organize, purge and sell all in a matter of weeks.
2. Decide on a date and time for your garage sale. Choose a warm, sunny season and remember that most people get paid around the 15th and the 30th of the month. Plan your garage sale to take place on a weekend just after people have been paid. If you aren’t up for running a garage sale for two whole days, just do it for Saturday!
3. Decide the hours. Start your garage sale early in the day (but not too early unless you want people camping on your lawn at 4am) and plan to close up shop in mid-afternoon – after 5pm, the garage sale hunters will be worn out – and so will you.
4. Buy the appropriate permits from your city. Most are relatively inexpensive, but you do need a permit to be legal. Check with your city office for details.
5. Buy blank price tags and label EVERYTHING. This is the secret to a successful garage sale, because most of the time, people won’t bother hunting down the owner (you) and asking for a price on something that is not labeled. Price everything and be prepared to haggle. If your goal is to get rid of all your junk – price it low. Don’t label anything under a quarter unless you want to have to deal with dimes, nickels and pennies on each transaction. You must make it as easy as possible for shoppers to buy your stuff – and that includes pricing it!
6. Buy a small classified ad in the city paper’s garage sale section, listing any quality items or collections that you will be selling. For example, furniture, children’s clothes, toys, designer clothes, household items, jet-ski, plants and antiques. This is one of the newspaper sections that is still looked at by the keen community of garage sale hunters.
7. Make and hang large signs on the corners of your street with the words “Garage Sale,” your address and a big arrow indicating the correct direction. If you have bad handwriting, get someone else to do it – if you can’t read the sign, there is no point in making it! Be sure that your address is legible too – and don’t forget to take them down when the sale is over.
8. Get change and a small box to keep it in. You will need small bills (lots of $1, $5 and a few $10) as well as a roll of quarters. Do not expect people to have exact change unless you don’t want to sell anything. NEVER leave your cash box unattended, and empty the big bills to a secure place inside your house every hour or two.
9. Set up a small table and chair for yourself in the back corner of your garage as a home base. You might also want an oscillating fan if it’s warm outside and a book to read for the slow times.
10. If you have items in your garage that are NOT for sale (tools on the wall, for example), cover them up with an old bed sheet and/or label “Not For Sale.” Otherwise you will be answering questions all day about the items.
11. Hot day? Instead of stocking a cooler full of nasty sodas, make a batch of our fizzy cumumber lemonade and sell it for $1 a glass (make a sign!) for a quick sales booster that will help shoppers stick around in the heat. Play some unobtrusive music as well, to cut the awkward silence that can occur when shopping in someone else’s garage.
12. You know that mass of plastic grocery bags you have shoved in the bottom of your pantry (from before, of course)? Offer them to shoppers to help carry their new purchases. Remember that many garage sale shoppers are older, and might also need help to the car.
13. Got a dog? Let him chill inside for the day. Many people don’t like dogs or are scared of them, and this might hurt your sales.
14. If you don’t have heaps of stuff to sell, consider combining forces with another family or two to create a bigger draw. Just be sure to work out the deal in advance: Will you split everything down the middle? Use different colored price tags? Have two different cashiers? Decide all of this long before Saturday morning arrives.
15. All done? Salvage anything of great value to sell on Ebay and shove the rest in your car for a quick trip to Goodwill or another donation center. Domestic abuse shelters will be happy to get women’s clothes and toiletries. While it might be tempting to go back through everything and save a lot of stuff – don’t. You have already sorted through it all and already decided to get rid of it, so there is no reason to clog back up your closets now.
16. Plan for an easy dinner on the final night of your garage sale, like a take-n-bake organic pizza. You will be tired, but that fist full of money will help assuage your exhaustion.
image: The Shopping Sherpa