Like most of you, I’ve been spring cleaning for the past couple of weeks. Okay, maybe I’m the only person who takes WEEKS to finish spring cleaning. Regardless, all of that cleaning has probably left you with a stack of items you found in the process that you realized you no longer need or want yet can’t bear to throw away.
The practical solution is to throw a yard sale. Just typing that sent shivers up my spine because I deplore holding yard sales. I continue to do them though because there’s no easier way to get cash for your trash.
Fortunately, I’ve learned a few things along the way that make these events less frustrating than they once were for me. Here are a few tips for throwing a successful yard sale that I wish I’d known sooner.
1-3 Weeks Before the Sale
- Combine Forces – Attract more traffic and reduce your advertising costs by coordinating your sale with your neighbors. If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, oftentimes the HOA will designate a day for a community yard sale.
- Advertise – If you aren’t taking part in a community yard sale, make sure you get the word out about your upcoming garage sale by putting an ad in your local paper, posting a listing on Craigslist and putting up signs EVERYWHERE.
- Start collecting display supplies (e.g. tables, clothing racks) because you will need several to lay out all of your items. Borrow them if you can, rent them if you have to. Don’t forget to plan for an extension cord with a power strip so that prospective buyers can verify that the electronics you are selling actually work.
- Start collecting sale supplies (e.g plastic or paper bags and boxes for customers to carry their purchases in).
- Plan for what you are going to do with the items that don’t sell. You can post on freecycle.org to let people know items will be available for free after closing time (whatever you choose) on the day of the sale. Some charities will pick up from your home or you can deliver any leftover items yourself to Goodwill or another local charity.
- Consider having a snack section (perhaps run by the children) to keep your customers happy AND make extra money. You can offer cold drinks, snacks, homemade baked goods and donuts. Price everything at $1 to make it easy.
1-3 Days Before the Sale
- Get Cash – You will need lots of quarters and $1 bills and a few $5 bills. Since you’ll probably be walking around answering questions, consider wearing a fanny pack instead of using a cash box.
- Clean Your Items – If you want someone to buy them, take a few extra seconds and make sure they’re grime-free.
- Price Your Items
- As a general rule of thumb, price items at 1/3 to 1/2 retail price. If you want to make sure it will sell, price it lower.
- Make sure you label items clearly in a way that won’t damage the item.
- Consider grouping items by price in boxes, bins or tables so you don’t have to label each individual item.
- Set Out Checkout Supplies – You’ll need a calculator, pencil or pen, and a pad of paper.
- Plan For Weather – If the weather report calls for a hot day, set up a couple of fans and perhaps a canopy if you have one. If it calls for wind, consider clearing a larger section of the garage to keep items inside the walls that might be blown over or away.
The Morning of the Sale
- Start the Sale on Time – You will likely have early birds who are hoping to scoop up the popular items first. Don’t feel bad politely telling them that you will be happy to sell to them at your designated start time. Be sure to be done setting up by the designated start time though because the first hour is typically the busiest.
- Display Similar Items Together – Make it easy for people to shop your sale by grouping like items (e.g. baby, home décor, tools).
- Prominently Display Large, Attractive Items – Use your popular items to draw people to your sale by displaying them prominently at the front of the sale.
- Play Music – The right music can make your sale more welcoming and less intimidating.
- Set Up Your Snack Station (if you’ve decided to have one)
- Consider discounting items to half price during the final hour.
- Remove empty tables, bins, and racks so the sale doesn’t appear picked over.
- If you posted an end time in your ad and/or on your signs, don’t close early.
- After the sale, make sure to take down all signs.
I know some people love throwing yard sales and make some decent money doing it too. If you are one of them, please share some of your secrets in the comments. Yard sales have gotten easier over time for me, but I still dread doing them so clearly I have more to learn!