Having a garage sale is simple.
You open your garage, throw some signs up, and wait for people to come and give you money for your stuff. Like most things in life, though, if you put a little effort into your garage sale, you will get rid of your items quicker and make more money.
If you're going to go through the trouble of having a garage sale, you might as well do the necessary things to ensure it's a success. With a few tricks, you can go above and beyond an average garage sale and make it one to remember!
But first, you should ask yourself if you should even have a garage sale…
When to Consider Having a Garage Sale
If you're super busy, it's probably not the best time to have a garage sale. If decluttering is on your list of things to do, but you don't have a lot of time, it's probably best to donate your items to a thrift store. You won't make money, but your space will be clutter-free, and you'll have helped a business keep it's doors open.
If you only have a few items collecting dust, a garage sale isn't your best option. Consider listing the items somewhere like eBay if they have some value. Online retailers are making the process of selling more straightforward, so it shouldn't be too much trouble to list a few items and see if they sell.
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If you don't want to deal with shipping, you can list your items on Facebook Marketplace. There are other places to list your items locally like Craigslist, OfferUp, and Letgo, but Facebook Marketplace should be the only one you need.
So, if you've got the time and have a ton of things to get rid of, a garage sale is your best bet! I'd say a reasonable amount of time to expect to spend on your garage sale is 20-40 hours if you're having a two-day sale.
It will take several hours to go through your items, set everything up, promote it, and you'll want to keep the sale going for at least 8 hours each day you have it.
One last thing to consider is if you're allowed to have garage sales at your house. Some homeowners associations don't allow individuals to have garage sales at any time and instead have dates for neighborhood sales.
Be sure to check the rules for your neighborhood before taking action and check with your local government to see if you need a garage sale permit.
Planning Your Garage Sale
Once you're ready to have a sale, the next step is to pick a date. Make sure you check the weather forecast so you can plan around the weather. Weekends are the best time to have a garage sale. You can start your sale as early in the week as you want, though.
Just don't expect a ton of people to show up during regular business hours during the week. Plan to start the sale as early as you're comfortable with so people can stop by the before they get their days started.
Declutter Your House and Organize the Items
Having a garage sale is a great thing to do because it gives you a reason to go through everything on your property and purge anything you don't need to keep. Since you're taking the time to have a sale, you might as well go through every single item in your house and decide if you want to keep it or get rid of it.
If you haven't used the item in a long time and there isn't any sentimental value, you might as well get rid of it. Minimizing the number of possessions you own will simplify your life and give your brain more space to think about more important things.
Just think, every time you walk by an item that you don't get any value from, your brain has to process that item. Throws hundreds of items into the mix, and that's a lot of things to prepare!
So, it's best to look in every nook and cranny to dig out things you might have forgotten about completely. Do you store anything in a shed or storage unit? If so, go through those things to see if there's anything to throw away.
When you start finding things you want to sell, try to put similar items together. Put all the clothes together, toys, electronics, etc. Doing this will make it easier to set everything up when you go to do that.
If you find items you think are worthless, don't discard anything until after the sale.
You'd be surprised at some of the things people might buy at your garage sale…
Put anything you think won't sell in some container and sell the items for 25 cents apiece.
How to Advertise a Garage Sale
How you advertise your garage sale will determine how many people show up and, in turn, how much money you will make.
If you put a lot of effort into your advertising, you will reap the benefits by having more customers.
Advertise Your Garage Sale Online
There are several places you can advertise your garage sale online. Most will require a photo. If you don't have a good picture of the items to work with, you can create an image for free using a website like Canva.
(It took less than 5 minutes to create a simple flyer on Canva).
You can keep it very simple and still be highly effective.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you'll want to start advertising the sale online a few days before the garage sale begins, so the people who shop garage sales regularly can already have their route planned out. If there are any landmarks near your house, it's good to point those out in the listing.
Facebook is a great place to advertise your garage sale. You can promote it on your personal profile, local garage sale groups, and on Facebook Marketplace. Just search “garage sale” or “yard sale” in the Facebook search bar and join all of the local garage sale groups you can find in your area.
Facebook Marketplace has a category for garage sales, so you are free to list your garage sale there.
Having a photo/flyer will help people be able to see the date and address of the garage sale easily.
You'll want to list your garage sale on Craigslist. There are lots of people that look for deals on the website. There's another great benefit to listing your sale on Craigslist! Apps like Yard Sale Treasure Map pull the listings from Craigslist, so you get additional advertisements without any extra work.
Letgo is an app very similar to Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. It doesn't take long to set up an account and create a listing for your garage sale, and there might be people who see it on this app that wouldn't have seen it on Craigslist or Facebook.
OfferUp is pretty much the same thing as Letgo. It's another free place to advertise and potentially get more eyes on your sale.
Aside from these apps, you can advertise your garage sale on these websites specifically for garage sales:
There is a multitude of sites you can list your garage sale on. You don't need to advertise on all of them. However, the more of them you advertise on, the more people are likely to see it.
Advertise Through Your Local Newspaper
If you have a local newspaper, it might be worth it to pay for an ad. You'll want to see how much you'll have to pay for a spot and decide if it's worth it, but it could drive a lot more customers to your sale if you choose to go this route.
Put Signs out on the Street
One of the essential ways to advertise a garage sale is by placing signs with arrows next to the road. Like online advertising, the more signs you put out, the more people are likely to see them.
You should keep things very simple with your road signs because people are driving and aren't able to read a long description. A big, bright sign with the words “Huge Yard Sale” and a big arrow pointing in the direction of your house is all you need. You can put the times of the sale if you think that's necessary.
Make sure you put a sign at every turn, so it's super simple to find the sale. I can't tell you how many times I've turned down a road to go to a yard sale and had to give up looking for it because I didn't see any more signs.
Don't use flimsy paper for your signs because the wind will bend them, and people won't be able to read them.
Pro tip: if you place 3 or 4 different looking garage sale signs at one intersection, people will think there are multiple sales and be more likely to turn. They will soon find out all of the signs are going to your masterfully put together garage sale.
How to Price Garage Sale Items
People shop at garage sales because they can get items for cheap. If you've got things that you want to get a lot of money from, you're better off selling them on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, where people are more likely to pay more.
Here are some suggested prices that you can use as a guide:
Unless something is brand new, you want to price clothes as cheap as you're comfortable with.
- Jackets: $5-$15
- Shirts: $1-$3
- Pants: $2-$5
- Shoes: $1-$5
- Baby Clothes: $1-$4
- Hats + Accessories: $0.25-$2
- Old video game consoles: $5-$20 (if old, might want to sell online).
- Old video games: $1-$5
- TVs, radios, etc: $2-$10
- Blue rays: $2-$6
- DVDs: $1-$3
- VHS: $0.25-$1
- Furniture: $5-$50 (post the higher end things somewhere like Facebook)
- Kitchenware: $1-$10
- Decorations: $1-$5
- Cups/mugs: $0.25-$1
- Toys and games: $0.50-$5
On top of pricing your items individually, making bundle prices is a good way to get people to buy more items at a time. For example, if you're selling shirts for $2 each, make a bundle price of 3 shirts for $5.
You might be able to sell some higher-priced items like tools and other things. Make sure you price them at a good deal if you want them to move. Most people don't expect to pay more than $20 or so when they pull up to your sale and will only pay up if they think they're getting a better deal than they could anywhere else.
Make The Prices Stand Out
See what I did there?
I made this section stand out – do the same with your prices.
The cheapest way to put prices on every item is to use masking tape and a sharpie marker. If you don't already have some tape, look for a bright color when you go to buy some. Make signs for bundle pricing and be sure they're easy to read and placed near the bundled items.
Tips for the Day of The Sale
Your sale is advertised all over the internet and the signs are out on the roads. Now all that's left is setting everything up the morning of the sale!
If you have any tables you can put things on, start by setting those up and decide which category of items to put on them. You might want to put your higher-priced items on the tables, so they're easier to see by you and the customers.
If you're trying to sell anything small for over $100, don't leave the item out. I was at a sale one time and opened a box to an iPhone. When I saw that the box was empty, I asked the lady running the sale if she was just trying to sell the box. It turned out that someone had come by earlier and stole the phone out of the box. Don't let this happen to you.
If you don't have enough tables to set all of your items on, you can lay blankets on the ground in your yard. Organize the pieces so that each one fits into a specified category. Put all the other similar items in that category.
Categorizing allows people to browse quickly, and there's a better chance they'll find something that interests them. I've been to lots of sales where everything was scattered, and it's so much harder to process everything like that.
Just make sure you make everything look as good as possible. A quality presentation goes a long way. Plus, you'll sell more stuff if you organize things!
(Personal note, my wife set everything out at our garage sale in 2019 and we started selling like crazy when they didn't have to dig through the boxes I set out. Lay everything out!)
Play Some Background Music
Have you walked into a retail store lately that wasn't playing music? Probably not, and if so, you probably noticed it was awkwardly quiet. Research proves that playing music can improve sales in retail environments.
Your garage might not be the same environment as Target, but a little background music could go a long way to making your customers feel welcome and relaxed. It's best to stick with a family-friendly genre or instrumental music. You'll also want to keep the volume pretty low, so it gives a calmer feel. People will be more likely to take their time, and some background music might help you get through the day as well.
Get Your Family Involved
If you've got young kids, get them as involved in the sale as possible. It will be harder for customers to haggle if they have to deal with a cute kid! You can also go for the classic lemonade stand.
If you have teenagers, get them involved by letting them keep any cash from items of theirs that sell. It's an excellent way to get them interested and spend time with you that weekend.
One of the most important things you can do is be sure to have plenty of change before the sale starts. If someone shows up first thing in the morning with a $20 bill and you can't give them change, you'll miss out on a sale.
Keep all the cash in a designated area and in a container that makes it quick and easy to get the correct change. Once the sales start rolling in, periodically take excess cash into your house, so you don't have to worry about it getting stolen.
Keep all of the doors to your house locked, and don't let anyone in. Keep water available and direct people to the nearest public bathroom if they ask to use yours. You won't have time to worry about someone in your house on top of running the sale.
People are going to want to negotiate with you. It's a garage sale, so you should be okay with a little negotiation. That doesn't mean you have to give your stuff away, though. If someone offers too low of a price tell them politely that you can't go that low and let them know how much you'll take.
Final Word: After the Sale
If your sale is going for more than a day, don't leave your items out in the yard overnight. I've been to several sales where electronics and clothes were soaking wet from being left out all night. I didn't buy anything. It's more work to bring your items in for the night, but you don't want to ruin them by letting them get wet.
When the sale is finally over, and you find you have a lot of stuff, there are a couple of things you can do. You can either list everything for free on the internet, or load everything up and donate the items to a thrift store.
I like the idea of donating your items because thrift stores depend on donations to stay in business, and most of them have charitable programs. You can also write off any donations on your taxes, so that's another benefit.
Last but not least, decide what you're going to do with all that cash! What you should do with the money depends on your financial situation. You could pay down debt, start an emergency fund, invest, or save it for a future expense.
Whatever you do, you should consider treating yourself with at least a small percentage. You deserve it after throwing such an awesome garage sale!
This article originally appeared on The Money Mix and has been republished with permission and was authored by Nathan Clarke.
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.