Oh, garage sale season. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Before I was a SC resident, I had an amazing community in the Rochester NY area. I organized our Neighborhood Sale and our little town would come to spend the better part of a Saturday (or Friday!) with us, buy our unwanted items, hang out with us in our garages, and eat hot dogs. I may have a somewhat warped memory of this, but hear me out. I organized the sales for 11 years, provided tips along the way, knew where things would sell in my garage, honed the skill of how to talk to people, and made $600-800 in a day and a half doing this.
This is not to convince you to hold a sale. Some have a strong aversion to sales and that’s ok! But, if you’re ready to hold a sale, brace yourself for an eye-opening experience.
Here’s some insider tips!
Know what will work in your community/neighborhood. Shoppers always would prefer to come to a sale where there are multiple sales happening. We consistently had 15 participating households, and some years was around 25. Know what day(s) and time(s) work.
Advertise well, and use word-of-mouth. At the beginning I advertised in several papers. Over the years I narrowed it down to just one or two, but then upped the amount of online exposure. I promoted on craigslist (and gave the participating households some tips on wording to use so it all stayed consistent). I created a blog in which people can look up items by household. (For example, one year we were selling a few Leapsters and games. One woman ran up my driveway, with her printed list in hand, asking if we still had them. She bought them, then told me she’d be back because there were a few other items she had to get her hands on, and quick). The whole process really worked for our neighborhood. I also used Facebook, and encouraged others to do the same. Our neighborhood sale then reached thousands of people (I know, not all were in our town, but that’s ok).
Price your items well. That vase you bought new for $22? It. Is. Not. Going. To. Get. You. $20 at your garage sale. Come to terms with the fact that it’s a garage sale. People are looking to pay for items dirt cheap. You’ll always be able to command a higher price online (FB groups or craigslist), so if that’s your end-game, go for it. I tend to price things cheap. Those cute sunglasses that have a little scratch that you were about to toss out? Toss it in your garage sale bin, throw on a 50 cent sticker, and watch a 9 year old little girl get GIDDY at her find. Those 50 cent stickers add up, I promise.
Price your items consistent. You don’t have to make everything one price but think about how the prices are. If everything is over-priced it will be a turn-off to some. Some will “make an offer” or “talk you down” but others will just walk out. With nothing.
Speaking of negotiating, keep in mind some people will always try to talk you down. If it’s 5 bucks, they’ll offer you 2. If it’s $1, they will offer you a quarter. If you’re not ok with their offer, counter offer. (be nice). If you genuinely don’t care, then accept the offer. In the end, it may mean less stuff for you to clean up.
To make things easier, I made clothing one price (50 cents or a dollar). If there were a few items that I wanted more for, I would hang them on a clothing rack so they were set apart. You certainly don’t have to price your items all the same, but it makes it a little easier when you have a bunch of people “checking out” at once.
Get help. Sure, this can be done solo, but why? Grab a friend and have fun with it! It’s fun to have someone to talk to throughout the day, and when things get busy it’s great to have some help; One person can count items and total, while the other helps bag items. Or chat with someone in your garage. Be friendly.
Early Birds. The early birds are those who show up 30-60 minutes before your sale starts. Some people get frustrated by the early birds, but I like to take a different approach. (surprise, surprise, right?) Keep your goal in mind: to get rid of your stuff while putting the most money in your pocket (or fanny pack, as it may be 😉 Early Birds go to the ATM before the neighborhood sale, withdrawal a pocket load of cash, and then drive to your neighborhood. Their goal is to find treasures, and they are willing to give you their cash. So why turn them away? I get very frustrated by people who call them out in their ads by saying “early birds pay double” or other such insults. You’ll likely not catch me going to a garage sale at 7 am, but if I’m hosting a sale you better believe I will be set up by 7 or 7:30 to catch the people with the pocket full of cash. If they can spend their cash at MY house before heading elsewhere, they are likely to buy stuff for actual money. (remember your goal? This fulfills it). So, I will always say “friendly early birds welcome”.
What to do with your kids and dogs? Just a little something to give a little thought to. Will your toddlers need a nap? Will you have to drive carpool? You can certainly make plans to send your kiddos elsewhere; I’ve always included my girls in our garage sale adventures. They now have an entrepreneur spirit, and will be brainstorming year-round ways they can make extra cash during garage sale weekend. They’ve had lemonade stands, designed and sold greeting cards, sewed and sold pillows, and just played in the general area.
Know how your dogs will react to people coming into their space, and make plans accordingly. Even the nicest dog can be intimidating if he is constantly barking at patrons.
What to eat. The basic principle is that you will be outdoors for the day. Don’t count on extended time to hang out in your kitchen preparing food (or cleaning up!) for your family or guests. Have easy to grab snacks and lunches. Early on in our garage sale years, I started a tradition of making a breakfast casserole. My family looks forward to it!
Signage. If you’ve done your homework, your sale is advertised and your inventory is sorted, cleaned, and priced. So you definitely don’t want to confuse customers by not having signs. I like to keep my signage consistent. If I call it a “Community Sale” in my ads, then every sign should have those words on it. There’s no need to include EVERYTHING on a sign, but be sure it’s large enough print that moving cars can read it. You should have your address (or landmark), arrow, and date. Consider hanging signs the night before (the morning of a garage sale is hectic and you don’t need added tasks and stress). Also consider varying routes people may be coming from, and hang signs accordingly. My husband loves to use zip ties to secure the signs. It’s a good idea to have the supplies in your car and see what you need. And, please, please, please: at the end of the day, take your signs down! If you created a more permanent-style sign, keep it! You may make this an annual event and there’s no reason to recreate the wheel next year!
The clean-up. This is not the most exciting part of the process, but it is nearly the most important. Before you even begin the sale, have a plan of what you’re going to do with the left overs. I think we all have the dream that someone will swoop in during the last hour and offer you a bunch of cash for everything. I don’t want to be a dream-killer, but I promise you that will not happen. Plan to drop off all items at Goodwill (or another charity). Put things out at the curb and announce on social media of your curb-alert. (just keep it neat). If your sale ends at 2 pm, start cleaning up at 2. You’ll likely have some stragglers, and they generally do this to get a good deal. Appeal to their frugal-ways, and offer them a discount if they ask. Tell them to fill a bag for $5. Or two bags for $8. The point is, those are items you don’t have to deal with any more. The purging, the sorting, the garage sale’ing, it’s all come to a close. And if you can hock your last goods for another 5 bucks, go for it.
So. Whatever is left, box it up. Load it up. Get rid of it. Then, sit back and enjoy the view. It was a ton of work, but you did it. You created extra space in your home. Your living space. A place to enjoy your downtime. With less stuff. With less clutter. Reward yourself!
Tell me your experience! Do you love sales? Hate ’em? Tips & tricks?