Selling your secondhand goods not only gives them a longer life, it avoids all of the packaging and waste associated with purchasing new products. Garage sales are a great way to pass on unwanted household items like clothing, cookware, toys and sports equipment, but there are certain tips and tricks that will greatly increase your profits. Here's how to have a successful garage sale in eight simple steps with eye-catching displays and effective advertisements.
1. Gather items to sell. Toss anything you haven't used in the past year in a box, and then go through each room in your home looking for clutter that you're willing to part with. Don't worry too much about whether an item is too eccentric, like that strange abstract sculpture you made in high school — many garage sale shoppers are seeking out those unusual one-of-a-kind items. However, you should draw the line at extremely damaged items and used intimates like underwear.
2. Select a date to hold your garage sale. Saturdays are ideal because that's when bargain hunters are out in full force, armed with cash and lists of advertised sales. Avoid big holiday weekends, like Memorial Day and Labor Day, if possible. Give yourself a week or two to prepare — you'll need time to clean and price your items and to put out your ads. Be sure to check your neighborhood or city regulations to ensure that garage sales are allowed, and purchase a permit if necessary.
3. Prepare your items. That vintage vase may have a lot of charm, but putting it out covered in dust and cobwebs won't exactly show it off to its best advantage. Your items don't have to be perfect — they're used, after all — but people won't be willing to pay a fair price for garage sale goods that look like you literally just pulled them out of a moldy box in the attic. Check all electronics to be sure they're in working order, and note which ones are in need of repair so potential buyers are informed.
4. Price your items. If you place a clearly visible price sticker on each one, you'll have far fewer questions to answer, though many shoppers will still haggle. You may want to write down a master list of each item and its respective price so that if you lose a price tag, you can easily look up the price without having to make one up on the spot. You can also place items with the same price, such as books or toys, all on one table with a single sign instead of individual price stickers. Need help deciding how to price? Check out garage sales in your area ahead of time to get an idea of what buyers expect. A general guideline for items in good condition is one-quarter the original retail price.
5. Advertise your sale. No matter how great your items are, if you don't advertise, you won't have a successful garage sale. Place classified ads in your local newspapers including free weeklies and on Craigslist.com if you're in a major metropolitan area. Include the date, time and address and note items that are particularly desirable, like antiques, furniture and collectibles. Make clear, easily readable signs in block letters against a strongly contrasting background (like bold black letters on white poster board) and secure them to utility poles, sign posts, trees and other highly visible areas in your community. Don't forget to gather them up when your sale is over - you don't want them littering your neighborhood.
6. Display your items in an attractive and orderly manner. You can avoid a jumble of wrinkled clothing by hanging these items on a clothesline or a garment rack. Don't keep your goods in boxes or just dump them in the grass — place them on tables, preferably in organized groups of kitchen items, toys, electronics and so forth. Premium merchandise like tools and antiques should be displayed closest to the street to draw in curious shoppers, who will often drive by slowly to see if your sale is worth a stop. Many shoppers will want to verify that electronics work before purchasing, so have an extension cord handy.
7. Have plenty of change on hand and a smile on your face. You'll need lots of singles, five dollar bills and coins; pricing items no lower than 25 cents can help with giving change so you don't have to handle nickels and pennies. Keep your petty cash secure in a fanny pack or in the hands of a helper. Be friendly and approachable, provide information about specific items to shoppers when they seem interested, and offer discounts or freebies if they purchase a large number of items.
8. Work with hagglers and mark items down at the end of the day. While some people can be very aggressive about getting the best deal possible, many shoppers will simply pay the marked price; you can always offer it for less to a potential customer who's on the fence about an item. In the final hours of your sale, reduce the prices of the items that remain or even give some of it away for free; consider whether you want to hold out for another garage sale in the future or simply get rid of it all.
Have other ideas for how to have a successful garage sale? Leave us a note in the comments below.