Money Saving 301
August 11, 2023

Preparing for Garage Sales

While there’s nothing wrong with donating items you aren’t using anymore, a garage sale can be a great way to make extra spending money. If you do it right, that is.

Let’s look at some tips for organizing a yard sale or shopping at one. 

Money-Making Garage Sale Tips

To make the most money at your garage sale, you need to attract customers first and foremost. Start by advertising your sale. Websites like Craigslist are a great place to start and may feed to apps that collect sale listings. Use various keywords to be sure people see you, including estate sale, yard sales near me, garage sales near me, estate sales near me, and so on. Consider posting your sale on your community’s website or Facebook group, where you can ask others to spread the word.

Community pages are also a great place to invite other families to participate; group yard sales may attract more customers. These allow shoppers access to more goods in one place. Community or local papers will often list your sale for free on their website, in the paper, or both. You can also post the sale to your personal social media accounts if you’re comfortable sharing your address.

Other tips:

  • Make it a party. You can put balloons on the mailbox, decorate the tables – anything to make your sale look inviting. You can even have a theme – dress up in 60s garb if you’re selling lots of vintage items, for example. Also, consider refreshments. Even if it’s just cookies and lemonade, any kind of freebie builds goodwill with your customer and draws them close enough to see your sale items. If you have kids, they can set up a lemonade stand and raise a little money for charity or their own toys.
  • Be friendly! Say hello. Chat up your customers. Find out what they’re looking for and suggest items if you can. Building rapport has been a sales technique forever for a reason! Customers are also more likely to buy from you if they like you.
  • Bundle deals. If you have lots of inexpensive items, you might offer them as part of a bundle like “buy four get the fifth free.” These deals encourage people to choose more items to get the free one. If you have one chipped plate in a set, sell the intact plates and throw in the chipped one for free when they sell. This is especially helpful for getting rid of inexpensive items quickly.
  • Be willing to negotiate. There’s more than one way to negotiate with a customer. If you can’t come down in price on one item, consider throwing in another item the customer liked at half off. As you near the end of the sale, start slashing prices. You likely don’t want to keep storing the items. If you’re going to donate them if they don’t sell, you have nothing to lose.
  • Be creative. Use your creative energy! Have your kids make signs. For example, if you have a theme make your signage go along with it. You could use 60s hippie-style, psychedelic lettering or pics of 80s icons on each item if you’re selling your childhood 80s stuff. Have a cheese plate for sale, write “I eat cheese” on the tag. Childhood books you loved could say “DANGER! This book may cause incurable love of reading!” Have a little fun with it.
  • Plan for a good day. Fridays are the best days for yard sales because that’s when dealers and resellers shop. Saturdays are the next best, and Sundays are considered a poor choice. Plan around the weather as much as possible. You can set a tentative date and then check the weather – if it rains, be flexible and change dates. Some sites say it’s not unusual for buyers to show up an hour or two before the start of the sale, so don’t be caught off guard by early birds.
  • Keep an eye on things. Make sure you have at least one helper so you can always keep an eye on your stuff, especially if you’re selling anything valuable. Everyone needs a bathroom break now and then. Keep cash in an apron on your body if you can – it’s easy to swap with a helper and it won’t “walk away” if you’re not looking.
  • Don’t price. You heard us right. Pricing is tricky and can cause a lot of angst. Your trash may be someone else’s treasure, after all. Experts from Consumer Reports say don’t do it – just let buyers make an offer.

With a challenging economy right now, garage sales can be a great way to make a bit of extra money while helping others get needed items at a discount.  Need more tips on saving money?  Check out our Finance Academy and our 10 Tips to Start Saving Money Today.

Tips for Shopping at Garage Sales

Maybe you’re buying rather than hosting. There are also lots of great tips for how to shop estate and yard sales to your advantage.

Experts suggest you plan ahead to be efficient and to save money. Apps like Yard Sale Treasure can help you plan a schedule and route based on yard sale listings from Craigslist. If you’re not sure a sale has the item you want, many listings provide contact information; consider emailing the host the day before to save yourself an unfruitful stop. Clear out your car to make room for your haul, and consider taking packing materials, bungees, or roof straps to bring treasures home safely. Also, take cash, including plenty of small bills in case a host can’t make change.

Go in ready to negotiate. Not all sales will price items, so use smartphone tools like eBay, Etsy, or a Google search to determine a fair offer price. Make an offer – just try not to insult the seller with an unreasonable offer.

Prepare for competition. If you know a sale is offering an item you want, try contacting the seller in advance. See if they will accept an advance offer. If not, get there within the first 30 minutes of the sale or you could miss out. Items will get picked over as the day goes on. Avoid this if you have specific items in mind; if you’re bargain hunting, consider going toward the end of the sale when many sellers will slash prices or accept lower offers to avoid storing leftover items.

There will be less competition at unadvertised sales, so don’t be afraid of a detour from your plan if you see another sale.

Experts say DON’T buy certain used items for safety reasons. These can include used cribs, car seats, bike helmets, or upholstered furniture and mattresses (due to bedbugs).

Experts say DO look for these special items, especially if you’re looking to resell at a profit. Spare game pieces, well-made costume jewelry, and nostalgic toys can be winners on Etsy or eBay. Be ready to check prices on these items before you buy to know how much to offer if you want to make a profit. Whatever you do, keep nostalgic items in their original condition, as fixing them almost always devalues them.

Whether you’re hosting or shopping, our best tip is this: make it a fun adventure!

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