Empty the Garage, Fill Your Wallet: 7 Tips to Super Charge Your Garage Sale

An expert recommends planning, lots of spare change, and charity donations to make your yard sale or garage sale a success.
yard sale

As the summer weather cools down, it's a hot time to stage a garage sale (or yard sale, if that's more appropriate). If your closets hold abundant junk, your garage spills over with stuff, and those toddler clothes no longer fit your pre-teen, you're a prime candidate for staging such an event. What's more, if you're a garage sale shopping maven, you know the drill. Well-organized sales hold treasures galore, while others reek of a crummy rummage sale, complete with rusty tools and variations of the poker-playing dogs painting.

To help you get ready for garage sale (or yard sale, we don't discriminate) action, we consulted an expert: Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Moneycrashers.com. His personal finance site has run some of the most lively garage sale advice out there, and Schrage gladly distilled those tips, along with brand-new suggestions, for DealNews readers. So if you're ready to sell, then prepare well, and read on.

Time It Right

Labor Day weekend won't be a great time for a sale, with so many people taking mini-vacations, and waiting too late in the fall could keep customers away if the weather's cold. "Whenever possible, choose a weekend in the fall, or spring," or when summer weather's more mild, Schrage says. Here's another reason to check your calendar: If there's a big neighborhood festival or event near your block, that's a great time to take advantage of the extra traffic nearby.

Get Neighborly

It's one thing to have a sale on your own, but a neighborhood-wide garage sale creates the buzz of a bazaar. "Get in touch with some other folks that live near you and see if they have plans for an upcoming garage sale," Schrage says. "You can schedule them all on the same weekend, advertise it as a group or neighborhood sale, and attract more customers."

Free Web Ads Advantage

Turning to Craigslist.org is a great way to advertise for free — people do scan it for upcoming sales — but there are other ways to get the word out besides signs outside your subdivision. "Advertising your sale on your social media accounts will help as well," Schrage says, adding that websites such Yard Sale Search or Garage Sale Finder will lift your profile even more.

If Everything Must Go, Make the Prices Low

Do you want to make money at your garage sale? Absolutely. But Schrage believes that main goal of any sale is to declutter your house or apartment. "For that reason alone, price your items to sell," he advises. "A lot of your shoppers are going to be professional garage salers, and they simply won't pay a whole lot for many items because they are available at other sales for pennies on the dollar." A good rule of thumb is to price most items at about 90% off their original retail price, though you'll want to ask more for antiques or unopened items.

Make Prices Clear, Have Ample Change Near

It's not a must, but using signs or stickers to indicate prices will definitely help your shoppers. Otherwise have a ready, decisive answer on a price when people ask, and keep plenty of change on hand. You can lose a sale if you lack the proper bankroll, which you can organize in a cashbox or apron with pockets.

Have Help on Hand

As most garage sales last at least six hours a day over two weekend days, it's a good idea to have some helpers, arranged in shifts if possible. "Even if your sale is only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a Saturday and Sunday, you'll go crazy if you think you can manage the entire sale on your own," Schrage says. "Get help from family or friends." Even the kids can pitch in, and encourage customers to linger, by setting up a cookie or lemonade stand.

Save Time (and Money) After the Sale

For customers, the sale might end at 4 p.m., but you'll probably need an hour of more to clean up — especially if you're going to donate the leftover items. "Instead of hauling everything back inside after the sale is over, box it up and drop it off at your local donation center, unless you have something that's truly valuable," Schrage says. "Get a receipt, write out a detailed list of everything you donated, and use it for a tax deduction."

There's another aspect to garage sales that's worth more than the money: chatting with neighbors and people in your local community. Our smartphone-driven lives leave us too often with heads buried in a text message or email. Garage sales offer a welcome break from the digital world, and get us out into a scenario where we're face to face in a self-styled marketplace.

Now of course, a neighbor who's a tough haggler can put a damper on things, as will an unexpected thunderstorm. But you can always politely refuse in the former case, and promptly reschedule in the latter.

Related DealNews Features:
Lou Carlozo
Contributing Writer

Lou Carlozo is a DealNews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the Managing Editor of WalletPop.com, and a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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When having a garage sale, buy a case of bottled water, freeze it and then sell the ice cold water for $1.00 a bottle to people. They will be happy to have a cold drink, and you make a tidy profit

(24 bottles of water $2.50 - $3.00 at your local grocery store) Cost of freezing them - $1.00 - bag of ice $1.00
sale $24.00 - profit $19.00