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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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.