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Tips for Holding a Successful Yard Sale

8 minute read

David Ning

By David Ning

Summer has arrived. The sun is out and many people are hitting up local yard sales again. You may be interested in holding one yourself. After all, they can be a great opportunity to get rid of your old stuff — and make a little money on the side. So if you’re planning a garage sale to declutter your home, we have a few suggestions to help it go smoother. As you get ready to put together your own yard sale, consider these tips for making it a success.

Hold It At The Start Of The Month

Whether workers are paid monthly or every two weeks, almost everyone receives a paycheck right near the end of beginning of the month. That means that the first weekend of the month is the ideal time for a yard sale. It’s simple the time when most people have extra cash in their pockets. They aren’t yet worried about making their money last to the end of the month.

Don’t underestimate the effect this can have on your sales. Yard sales mostly transact exclusively in cash. Statistically, people tend to be tighter with their money as the end of the month closes in. Of course, you could grab a Square card reader and accept credit card payments at your garage sale. I’ve seen a handful of yard sales doing this already. However, you’ll pay between 3-and-5% to cover your transactions fees. That eats into your potential profits.

Set Up The Night Before

A good yard sale has to start early. Like, really early. If you’re not outside ready to go by 8:00 AM (at the latest), you waited too long. That means it pays to start setting up the night before. Get as much ready as you can, without having to leave your belongings outside over night. If you actually have a garage, consider parking in the driveway and setting your sale up inside the night before. You can quickly move your setup to the driveway in the morning.

There are plenty of people who browse garage sales as a weekend hobby. Trust us when we say that they start early. If you want to cash in on their spending budget, be ready early. You want to be able to help those potential customers, rather than ignore them while you continue to set-up. After all, no one can buy something they can’t see, as a result of still being inside. Some people might walk away if they can’t find anyone to answer a question. Be organized, yes. But more importantly, be early.

Team Up With Others

Try to hold your yard sale with at least one other family. Or even better, a handful of families in your neighbourhood. You can split advertising costs and will draw more shoppers to the area with the lure of the whole block having treasures to look through.

Having another family will also help motivate the both of you to do more as you get to discuss the event. This means better advertising and more care into setting up your displays. With someone else to share the day with, you’ll have someone to talk to during slow periods. That will help you not lose interest and end the sale early.

Make Visible Signs (and Put Them Everywhere)

Create visible signs and place them near heavily trafficked roads and intersections. You can even look in the newspaper for where other yard sales are being held. Then place your signs near the end of the street of others’ sales. People will see your signs as they leave those sales and then head to your location.

You’ll never be able to truly figure out whether each sign you put down will bring you revenue. However, the cost for signs is almost nothing. It just requires some time and effort on your part. The more signs you have around town, the better. Just remember to make a list of where all your signs are, because you need to go collect them after the sale is over. It’s incredibly rude to leave your signs up for more than 24 hours after your sale ends. They just create litter and annoy your neighbors.

Yard sale signShutterstock

Advertise Online

Use Craigslist, Facebook, Instagram, and NextDoor to advertise your sale. These are all free, so there’s really no reason not to take the time to make a post about it. Spend some time carefully crafting your post as well. What you write matters. You want to get people excited and interested in coming. You need more than just a day, time, and an address (although make sure you include all of these things too).

If you are selling a few big ticket items, it might be worth it to pay to advertise your sale in the local newspaper. Go ahead and mention any items that you think will be popular — children’s furniture, golf clubs, old video game stuff, etc. Many newspapers have yard sale packages. The future might be digital, but there are still plenty of people who notice paper listings instead of online ones.

Be Willing To Bargain

Your treasure is someone else’s really good deal. You have to be willing to bargain. It’s important to realize that sentimentality isn’t going to sway the potential buyer. After all, it’s the first time they’ve seen your piece. Don’t get too emotionally attached to your goods. If it means that much to you, don’t sell it at all.

Let’s be clear, here. Most garage sales are people trying to offload things they don’t really want or need anymore. So if you have something listed for $10 and you get offered $7, just accept it. That’s $7 you didn’t have at the start of the garage sale. There may be a big piece or two that you hold pretty firm on the price. For the most part, though, be willing to barter a little bit. Plus everything that you don’t sell needs to be hauled back into the garage, basement, attic, or storage unit at the end of the sale. You’re better off selling it, even for 50% off.

Determine Which Items Will Be Popular

Getting a sense of which items will sell the best will help you figure out which items you can be more flexible on pricing with. If you’re selling something coveted, like gently used electronics or exercise equipment, you can try to keep those items are full price.

Just make sure you run through the inventory before the event starts. You’ll have a much harder time keeping track of everything once there are dozens of people walking around and talking over each other.

Have Lots Of Change Ready

You need to be ready with plenty of change. Go to the bank early in the week to gather spare bills and coins to make change. Make sure you have plenty of $5 and $1 bills, plus multiple rolls of coins. Most experts recommend you have roughly $100 in “float” money to start your sale.

One of the best ways to get a discount as a yard sale shopper is to carry no change. You see an item for $25 that you want, but you tell the seller than you only have a $10 and a $50 on you. Maybe he caves and you save $15. Don’t let that happen to you. You can make a lot of extra money by being able to say “oh that’s okay, I can make change for you!” It just gives shoppers one less reason to skip paying the full price.

Keep An Eye On Your Money

Not everyone is honest. It’s just a sad fact of life. Make sure there is always someone watching the cash box. You should have at least one other person helping you out, whether it’s a friend or family member. One to handle the money, the other to help customers. Every now and then, take some of the money out of the cash box and put it inside your house — especially if you end up accumulating any larger bills. That way, if someone does manage to swipe the cash box, you won’t lose everything.

You also want to make sure all payments are handles with care and detail. Sometimes in the middle of the chaos of a crowded garage sale, disputes arise. For example, a shady customer may insist that they gave you a $50 bill and demand change. But you were answering a question about a toaster, and you can’t really remember if it was a $50 or a $20. Always double check everything. It helps to say the amounts out loud too, even if it seems silly.

“So you’re buying this picture frame for $15 with a $20 bill. So that’s $5 in change. Here you go, and thank you.”

It might seem a bit unnecessary, but it will save you from potential headaches.

Consider Selling Things In Lots

If you have a lot of baseball cards, you can consider selling them as a package deal. The same goes for Pokemon card, board games, video games, books, or DVDs too. Unless you have a really rare or valuable one, which you can then price separately. You can also just have a bin labelled “50 Cents Each” and fill it up with whatever you’re selling. Some yard sales offer plastic bags for $10, allowing you fill them up with children’s clothes of your choosing before you leave.

Convenience always sells. It works at yard sales too. In fact, it works even better because the transaction amounts are smaller. Most people don’t think very hard about the small amounts of money that most things at garage sales cost. Just make it easy as possible for people to shop, and you’ll get more sales.

garage sale in front yardShutterstock

Have a Back-Up Plan For Unsold Stuff

It’s inevitable that some of your items won’t sell. Maybe you priced it too high. Or maybe you got unlucky and scheduled your yard sale on a day with lousy weather, leading to lower foot traffic. Maybe you weren’t willing to negotiate enough (but we already warned you about that).

Whatever the reason, you need to have a backup plan for your unsold stuff. Maybe you go ahead and keep using that patio furniture for another season or two. You can also consider donating any items that you truly don’t need. (Make sure you get a receipt. That way you’ll at least get a tax deduction for the year.) Finally, if you’re really just trying to get rid of your junk, take anything that really doesn’t have much value to the dump.

The Bottom Line

Yard sales can be a lot of work, but the results are often worth it. You’ll get some money back from all the goods you no longer use. Even more importantly, it offers a great chance for you to de-clutter your home. To most yard sale holders, that’s where the true value lies. You can get your whole family involved too. Ask your kids which of their old toys they are willing to sell. Cut them in on part of the profits to give them an early lesson about money. It will be a great learning experience for them, as they discover advertising, logistics, and sales transactions all in a single weekend. Happy yard sales, everyone!

David Ning

Experienced Finance Writer

David is a published author, entrepreneur and a proud dad. He firmly believes that anyone can build a solid financial foundation as long as they are willing to learn. He runs, where he discusses every day money issues to encourage the masses to think about their finances more often.


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