Garage Sale 101

Summer is here. Which means vacations, pools, grilling and—my favorite—garage sales! Here are some Pro Tips on how to throw a successful garage sale together quickly and painlessly.

See that bouncy horse? No one bought it. I can't even believe it. Who wants it?

See that bouncy horse? No one bought it. I can't even believe it. Who wants it?

Get the word out.

• Post your garage sale for free on CraigsList.org.

• Pick up signs at The Dollar Store and put bold arrows (we’re talking black Sharpie here, not a pen) on them, clearly directing cars to your house from the main streets.

• Find out if your neighborhood (or a nearby one) is planning on doing a neighborhood-wide sale and piggyback on that traffic.

 

Price to sell.

• Ok, first: If you want to get the most money out of your stuff, a garage sale is NOT the way to go. Try eBay, CraigsList or Facebook’s Marketplace and connect with buyers who are specifically searching for exactly what you have to sell. Garage sale items need to be priced at you-don’t-need-this-but-it’s-so-cheap-you-kind-of-do-now prices.

• Kid clothes. These can be really hard to part with, but if you want to move them, you’ve gotta price them $1 piece. Yes, even those precious overalls your toddler looked sooooo cute in.

Group smaller items together. 

Instead of individual kitchen tools, rubber band 3-4 together and sell as a set. We had a whole bunch of toy musical instruments and instead of trying to sell them each individually, I put them in one box and sold them as “A Band in a Box.” Some cool (but foolish) mother loved the fun idea as a party activity for her kids and bought it.  

Make it easy.

•  I don’t have the time or patience to individually price all my items, so I grouped 90% of my items by price and had a $1 table, $2 table and $5 table. For bigger items, I made signs and taped right on the item.

•  Use sidewalk chalk to advertise prices instead of stickers.

•  Don’t mess with coins. Round everything up (or down) to the nearest dollar. If anything isn’t worth a dollar, throw it in the FREE box. Getting something for free will usually encourage shoppers to find something to buy, too.

 

Beware.

•  Garage sales are prone to theft so be alert and smart.

•  Avoid selling anything small and valuable that you can’t keep an eye on.

•  And keep your sale money on you at all times. Avoid using a purse or cash box that someone can walk away with.

•  Examine large bills. I once had two teenage kids pick up the first cheap thing they saw and try and pass off a counterfeit $100 bill at my garage sale. Fortunately, my eagle-eyed sister rejected it before we lost $95 in change.

 

Get your kids involved.

We lucked out with great weather during our garage sale so it was a good excuse for our whole family to be outside. My kids learned quickly the advantage of clearing out old stuff in exchange for some cash. They each took a table and offered help (probably too much) and assistance in selecting items. If anything sold from their table, they earned a commission.

My top-selling salesmen working on commission. 

My top-selling salesmen working on commission. 

Get rid of it.

• If someone wants your beloved lamp for $30 instead of $40, just give it to them and be glad to see it getting a new home.

• Saturday around noon is about when all garage sale goers pack it up and go home so don’t plan on many customers after that. Right around the noon mark, start making deals. People will buy more when tempted with a good deal. We had one last car pull up while I was just starting to pack up so I told them to make me a deal on anything. I made another $90 off stuff that was just going to be packed up and carried back into my garage.

 

Give it to a good cause.

Repeat after me:  Do NOT bring anything back into the house. Immediately box up everything that didn’t sell and donate it to charity.  These organizations upcycle your items for a good cause and offer free pickup:

Ozanam

Sherwood Center

Or, drop off your items at a Goodwill location near you.

Don’t forget to get a receipt so you can claim fair-market value tax deductions for your donation on your next tax return.

 

Embrace the circle of life. 

Now that you've got room in your closets and a fist full of cash, time to cruise around and hit up other people's garage sales so you can fill your home with some summer I-don't-need-this-but-it's-so-cheap-I-guess-I-want-it-now items. After all, you can always re-sell it all in the fall.  ....But seriously, does anyone want that horse?