10 Tips for Making the Most of Garage Sales

by Jamie Simmerman · 2 comments

The weather is warming and the virus is receding. This means to me that garage sales, lots of ’em, are going to pop up soon. From visiting neighborhood garage sales to cruising the city in search of signs, garage sales can be a fun and frugal way to stock up on needed items. Hosting a garage sale can also bring in additional cash for items that you no longer need or want.

You don’t want to overspend soon, do you? Here are some tips to make this year’s yard sale experiences profitable.

Tips for Shopping at a Garage Sale

1. Always try to barter on the price.

Most people are overwhelmed by the thought of lugging leftover yard sale items back inside or to the thrift store – and will take a lower price if offered.

2. Don’t buy everything that catches your eye.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of yard sales and drag home a whole trunk full of items that will most likely end up in your own yard sale next year. Avoid the temptation to buy frivolous items.

3. Before leaving the house, make a list of items you’re looking for.

Does Johnny need a new dresser? Are you looking to stock up on school clothes and supplies for cheap? How about a new pair of jeans? Know what you’re looking for in advance to help avoid the lure of the shiny and novel.

4. Be a wary buyer.

Just because that bread machine has a sign that reads, “Works great!” doesn’t mean it actually does. Ask to plug in electrical items to try them before you pay. Sit on furniture to test out the sturdiness, and inspect clothing for working zippers, the absence of holes, and other defects. I once purchased a shirt from a garage sale that somehow had the front and back glued together, rendering it useless. I never thought to stick my hand down the sleeves and neck to check before buying.

5. Don’t shop on an empty stomach!

Pack a cooler with snacks, sandwiches, and drinks to keep your shopping sense sharp and help avoid impulse buying.

yard sale

Tips for Hosting a Garage Sale

1. Plan ahead for your yard sale, and let your community know.

Put up flyers, run an ad in the newspaper, post to local community boards online, and create a Facebook event to bring in the customers.

2. Offer refreshments, especially if it’s a sweltering day.

Shoppers will pay extra for a cold drink or snack while they shop. Your kids can even get in on the sale by serving the refreshments and keeping the profits.

3. For less work and less confusion, arrange your items in groups.

Consider posting signs that say, “All kids tops, $2,” or something similar, to avoid the work of placing tags or stickers on every item. This also helps your customers feel at ease about shopping, since they know the price upfront. Group pricing also helps reduce the chances of customers haggling over prices.

4. Fill several cardboard boxes with items you’re not sure will sell.

Include one or two desirable items on the top, and then price the whole box together. This helps you get rid of clutter and will mean fewer leftovers to throw out or give away when your yard sale is over.

5. Create an atmosphere of fun.

Host small carnival games, tell jokes to your customers, smile often, and start conversations with shoppers. Creating a pleasant experience for the shopper works for retails stores, and it works for yard sales, too.

Here’s a Secret Tip – Host a Friday Yard Sale

I rarely see anyone boast about the magic of a Friday only garage sale. In my opinion, time is just as valuable as money, which is why if I am going to have a garage sale, I want to make the maximum amount of money for the littlest time spent.

Over the past three years, I have had about seven garage sales (seriously, where does all this stuff come from?). Each time, I have held the sale on a Friday from 6:30-9:30 a.m. Yes, that is right. Just three hours. It usually takes 45 minutes to set up and then another 45 minutes to clean up. Every single sale, even the ones where I didn’t have any high ticket items to sell, I have made $350-600.

Here are my three secrets behind the Friday sale. I hope you can benefit from them as much as I have.

This Will Only Work in a Good Area: If you live far away from the main streets, then a Friday sale might not give you any luck. Within five miles of my home are five schools, several businesses, and the mall. Having the sale early Friday morning means that I always catch people on their way to work, on their way to go shopping, or on their way to drop off their kids at school. If you don’t live in a busy area, perhaps a friend or family member will allow you to have a garage sale at their home.

Make the Biggest Signs Possible: I always use the full sheet of bright poster board for my signs. One sheet is one sign, and then I usually have about five signs to post up. I make sure they are all the same color, usually hot pink, and I write “Huge Yard Sale – This Friday Only – 6:30-9:30 AM”. I think the sign catches the eye of many drivers while also creating a sense of urgency. I want the driver to think, “This is a short yard sale, I better go now and not wait.” I can’t confirm if anyone has actually thought this, but by the way many of the cars come zooming into my street, I would like to think that my hunch is right.

Some people try to be frugal when making garage sale signs. Don’t! Paying $5 for big, bright poster board signs is worth the cost. Don’t even think about making signs that are the size of a regular piece of paper or signs out of old boxes. I have seen so many yard sale signs that are just cut-out arrows too. These signs are too small to see and too confusing to follow.

Post “Collage Ads” on Craigslist and Facebook: I also take several pictures of my best items in the sale, and I make a quick collage in a free app. I then post a short snippet that reads, “Huge Yard Sale by the mall. This Friday only. Follow the Hot Pink signs on ‘main street name’”. I post the snippet and collage on Craigslist and every local Facebook sale site I belong to.

It’s a good idea not to answer any questions on these items because you want people to visit the sale to find out the price. For example, if you are selling a nice dining room set and post a picture of it with your sale ad, you will probably have one or two interested buyers asking the price. You don’t want that price to scare them away from the sale altogether. You want them to come to the sale. If they think the table is too expensive, they are still likely to consider other items.

Those are my three tips for making the most at a yard sale. I just held one today and made a quick $350. This isn’t too bad considering my big items, like a big sofa chair and high-end baby items didn’t sell. It was nice to go back inside before the day started heating up and to know that the rest of my weekend is still free.

Have you ever tried a Friday garage sale?

What other garage sale tips (for shopping or hosting) do you have to share?

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  • Buddy Spinks says:

    I live in the Twin Cities, MN. The best day to have a yard sale is Thursday. We always make the most money on Thursday. It’s also the best day to go to yard sales. About 80% of yard sales in the metro area start on Thursday.
    Signs are super important. ALWAYS have an arrow pointing in the direction of the sale. We can’t read what you wrote so don’t try to give your address. Just POINT.

  • Allbert says:

    These are some worthy tips and people should follow these considerations at the time of attending a yard sale as well as hosting a yard sale.

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