Tuesday, June 28

5 Easy Steps to a Great Garage Sale!

Thought about hosting a garage sale?  More and more people are as budgets tighten and closets burst at the seams with all of the "stuff" we accumulate over the years.  When the hubby and I moved in to our first home, we still had plenty of college furniture and supplies.  We've slowly replaced, upgraded, or decided we just didn't need some things anymore.  In the past, we've simply donated EVERYTHING we didn't want to our local Goodwill (except for our sofas, which we found a buyer for).  However, during my most recent purge of our house (and I still have another room and closet to go through!) the hubby and I decided that we would try our hand at having a garage sale of our own.  Since we live in a pretty quiet neighborhood, we paired up with another couple (who just moved into their first home) who lived on a very highly traveled road (yay customers!) to co-host the garage sale.  Besides, they had lots to get rid of after moving to the new home also and it helps to have more than just one or two people working the garage sale.

So here's what we did, as well as what we wished we did, in order to have a successful garage sale:

1.) Advertise - This may seem to be a given, but it really does help.  Not only did we put an ad in a local advertising circular, but we also made lots of signs to put on the closest major roads.  Another nice thing about co-hosting our garage sale? We got to split the price of the ad and the signs!  I made our signs from very brightly colored posters from the Dollar Tree (50 cents each), which I cut in half.  I listed only the most important details (Garage sale, address, date, time, and an arrow in the direction needed to travel to the home).  I wrote this information as clearly as possible and as BIG as possible so that it could be seen from the road without having to pull over.  Make sure to list your larger items in your ad so that they will hopefully catch the attention of customers who are shopping for a few particular items (we had plenty of people who showed up specifically for one of the listed items in our ad who probably wouldn't have come to our sale otherwise).

2.) Price/Label - Since we were co-hosting the sale with another couple, we needed to be able to keep track of how much of each sale went to each couple.  Our fix: color coding!  Instead of purchasing the garage sale tags most people use, I purchased a few large packs of colored labels which we cut to size, as needed (it ended up being much cheaper this way too!).  While I couldn't find any boxes with just two label colors, I did find a few boxes with four colors, so each couple had two colors that they could use to price their items.  This way, when someone checked out, they didn't have to seperate the items and check out twice.  When someone was ready to purchase items, we simply wrote down the two subtotals (subtotal one: couple one's items and subtotal two: couple two's items) under the correct heading on the notebook we had ready and then gave the customer a final total.  In order to more easily remember which couple had which color, we put some labels by each name at the top of the notebook page, which made for easy checking. And, of course, label your items with prices ahead of time, if at all possible.  If you end up pricing an item too high (people keep looking at it, but no one buys it), you can always re-label it as the day goes by.  We went down on a few of our prices towards the end of the day just so that we didn't have to take them back home or take them to the local Goodwill.  Sidenote: When you are pricing your items, picking increments of 25 cents (if it's under a dollar) and then dollars from then on, helps when you check out items.  By doing so, you also only have to get quarters, 5's and 1's when you get change ahead of time from the bank instead of pennies, nickels, and dimes too.  Make sure to write down the amount you started with so that it can be removed from your total before you figure out your profit for each couple. 

Ready-made (but more expensive) Garage Sale Stickers
We used Avery Color Coding Labels (76 count 1 1/2 x 2 3/4, Sorry! I couldn't find them anywhere online!) and simply wrote on them with a permanent marker and cut them into smaller price tag size pieces.

3.) Organize - We planned ahead by scrounging up tables to use to display our items (borrowed from family and friends as well as few we already had) and had them at the house the day before the sale.  You should also box like items together (all clothing together, all knick knacks together, another box of books, another box of pictures, etc. etc.) so that when you unpack in the morning all like items are together on the tables.  By putting like things together, you have made it easier for shoppers who are looking for something specific - which they usually are - to find lots of the same item (It will be on my to-do list next time).  We also talked about how things would be laid out beforehand (although we didn't set up until the morning of because we didn't want to worry about anything being stolen).  Along with the tables, we created an area to hang clothes by putting up straps between columns under the carport.  When clothes are hung, people are more likely to look through them unlike when it's simply stacked on a table or in a box.  If you do this, make sure to have plenty of hangers you are okay with letting go of as customers usually want to keep them also.  Put all of your larger (advertised!) items near the front so that they are easy to see (and mark them with a "SOLD" sign once they are sold if the customer will pick it up later).  Give yourself plenty of time to unpack (if you said your sale would start at 6AM, be ready for the early-birds to show up as early as an hour beforehand - 5AM! so you should start unpacking around that time or before it).  Oh, and have some plastic bags (from grocery or clothes shopping) or boxes available to help customers take home their finds.

4.) Negotiate - Most likely, the reason you are having a garage sale is to not only make a little money but to also get rid of lots of "stuff" that has accumulated over the years.  Therefore, if someone offers you a lower price (within reason) for items, you should consider taking it.  If you are set on a price, write "firm" on the price tag so that people will be less likely to offer you lower.  Otherwise, be ready to make some deals in order to sell your items.  If you aren't open to many deals, be ready to schlep the stuff back home or to your local donation center (it is a garage sale - people are looking for a price break and you are looking for more room in your home).

5.) Prepare the Items - If your wine glass collection has been sitting on a shelf in a closet for years untouched, when you take the glasses out to sell they'll most likely be dusty.  Taking the time to rinse and wipe dry the glasses so that they shine (with no watermarks) is a step towards making them more likely to sell.  If you are selling a clock that runs on a battery, make sure it has a working battery inside.  Customers do not want to buy an item if they aren't sure whether it works or not.  If you are selling a game console, have a TV plugged in nearby that you can connect it to to show that it works.  Same idea for lamps or any other items that require electricity.  Usually plugging it in and turning the switch to show that it works will finalize the sale and put you one step closer to your goal.

In the end, remember that any money you make is more money than you would have made just throwing the items away.  If you have items leftover (I haven't had a garage sale where this did not happen), consider donating them to your local non-profit so that they don't end up in your home again and you've helped out a good cause.  If you have leftover building materials (doors, tile, windows, etc.) or furniture, consider donating the items to your local Habitat for Humanity Restore.  They sell the items and the profits go towards Habitat for Humanity projects.  (We shop our local Restore often when remodeling)

So are you having a garage sale soon?  Had one recently? What worked or didn't work? Any additional tips or tricks you'd like to share?


  1. Great tips Brandi! :) I just hit a few garage sales this week and there was one house where they had really high prices and wouldn't bargin for anything! :( I did manage to find a really neat fishing photo frame at one of the other sales we went to on Saturday and they went down $1 on their price, so I was happy. :)

  2. Thanks! I love going garage sale-ing, but this was my first personal garage sale (if you don't count helping my mom in the past). Congrats on your great find/good deal! You never know what you will find at a sale; I think that's what makes them exciting.