How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

You’ve been on a decluttering binge and worked your way through your entire house. Now you’re thinking about having a garage sale to make a little extra money. Here’s how to have a successful garage sale.

Most of my decluttering sessions end with a trip to the nearest second-hand donation station. When a decluttering session produces a lot of purged stuff and its fairly close to spring or summer time, I’ll hang on to my items and have a garage sale. If I’m planning a garage sale, I’ll intentionally go on a major purging binge and declutter my entire house in a fairly short period of time to make it worth my while.

There are a number of things you can do to make sure you have a successful garage sale.

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How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Garage sale

Depending on the preparation, organization, and execution, your garage sale can be a huge success or an epic failure. Below are some steps to help ensure that your garage sale is a successful one.

  • Know the rules
  • Gather your stuff
  • Pick your dates
  • Advertise your garage sale
  • Clean your stuff
  • Get tables for displaying items
  • Organize your items
  • Arrange your sale area for easy shopping
  • Price every item
  • Make sure you have a lot of change
  • Have packaging available
  • Greet every person
  • Be a salesperson
  • Have a plan for leftover items

Know the Rules

The minute you begin considering having a garage sale, check with your local county or city government. See if they have specific regulations regarding garage sales.

Some cities require permits to hold garage sales. The permits are typically pretty inexpensive compared to the fines for not having one.

If you do end up needing a permit, familiarize yourself with the process ahead of time and make sure you know how long the process will take. It would really stink to advertise your sale and have everything arranged, then have to cancel because you can’t get the permit.

If you have a Home Owners Association, make sure you check your by-laws regarding garage sales. Most associations will have very specific rules. Mine only allows one community garage sale per year, so if we miss it, we’re out of luck.

 

Gather Your Inventory

Chances are you’ve been setting stuff aside and thinking about having a garage sale for a while. You probably have boxes in closets, the garage, and any other place you could find to tuck them out of the way.

Gather everything up and put it all in one place so you can see how much you have and what you’re working with. Make sure there’s enough stuff to make it worth the time and effort it’s going to take to organize everything.

If you only have a few items, consider doing a joint garage sale with a few friends or neighbors. Garage sale customers are more likely to stop and look if there’s a larger quantity of items to look through.

Need some tips for organizing and managing a multi-family garage sale, check out this post from Thrifty Little Mom.

Tip: If you want top dollar for high-end items, sell them online. Garage sale shoppers are looking for bargain prices.

Pick Your Days, Dates, and Times

Now it’s time to work out the logistics of your garage sale.

Days and Dates

A lot of garage sales are held Friday and Saturday with some Sundays thrown in.

Try scheduling your sale around the first of the month. This is when people will have the most money available.

Late spring and early summer are great seasons for garage sales because the weather is generally a little warmer, but hasn’t turned uncomfortably hot in most places. Considering your climate, pick the time of year that works best for you.

Tip: Keep an eye on the weather forecast and have a backup plan for any rain that might hamper your successful garage sale.

When you’re picking the dates for your garage sale, keep in mind any big community events that are likely to keep people from their normal garage sale shopping. Avoid garage sales on holiday weekends unless you’re participating in a well-known swap meet type sale that regularly falls on the holiday.

Also, keep your own schedule in mind. There’s a lot of time and energy that goes into preparations for a garage sale. You don’t want to schedule yours following a busy or grueling work week.

Times

Time of day for your sale will depend on your schedule and the type of customer you want to attract. Mornings are a popular time for the hardcore bargain shoppers and people who are busy the rest of the day. Other customers prefer to wait until later in the day to avoid the crowds and see if they can get better deals.

I suggest running your garage sale from early morning (8 or 9 am) to early evening (5 or 6 pm) for the best results. It will make for a long day, but you’ll have the best opportunity for getting all of the customers.

Tip: Recruit helpers so you can take breaks throughout the day.

Advertise Your Garage Sale

There are several ways to advertise and market your garage sale, and I suggest you take full advantage of all options. The better and more far-reaching your advertising is, the more people you’ll attract, and they more likely you are to have a successful garage sale.

Word of Mouth

Tell everybody you know that you’re having a garage sale and what types of items will be for sale. Even if they aren’t interested, they might know of somebody looking for the items you’re selling, or somebody nearby might overhear you talking.

I was overheard at work telling a friend about my garage sale, and the eavesdropper showed up and spent over $100 on some electronics we were selling. Had I not been having that conversation out in the open, I might not have sold those items.

Advertise in the Classifieds

Along with your local newspaper classifieds, post on some online classifieds sites like Craigslist.

Besides including your sale dates, location, and hours, make sure you list the types of items you’ll be selling. If you have specialty items, definitely mention those because somebody shopping for a specific item is likely to pay more than a browser that happens to pick it up.

Advertise Online

Advertise your garage sale online. There are several online sites set up specifically for connecting garage sales and customers.

Many allow you to post several pictures and offer unlimited word count. They also provide driving directions for garage sale shoppers.

. Check them out here.

Put Out Signs

The morning of your sale, post colorful, eye-catching signs at busy main intersections near your garage sale location. Make sure to comply with all local area laws in regards to what kind of signs you can post, how you can post them, and how long they can be posted.

You can make your own signs using thick, bright poster board, king size permanent markers, and some bright helium balloons. If you’re not creative or don’t have the time to make your own signs, you can order these garage sale kits below.


Tip: Don’t forget to remove your signs when the sale is over.

Clean Your Stuff

Dust and clean the items you’re offering for sale. At the very least, wipe any visible dirt or grime off of your items. They don’t have to be spotless, but nobody wants to buy a toaster with 5 years of bread crumbs in it.

Launder all cloth items prior to the garage sale, especially clothing and bath towels. A dirty or musty smelling item will be a deterrent to most customers.

Get Display Tables

You’ll need plenty of tables for displaying your items. Borrow from friends, assemble makeshift tables out of saw horses or boxes and plywood.

Your customers are more likely to browse a little longer if they aren’t having to bend over and dig through boxes of stuff in order to see what you’re offering.

If you do leave stuff in boxes, make sure it’s arranged in a way that makes it easy for customers to see the contents at a glance.

Organize Your Items

Organize items in logical groupings. Place all kitchen items in the same area or on the same table.

If possible hang clothing on a clothing rack so it’s easy for customers to look through. Arrange clothing items by men’s, women’s, children, then by size. If you’re using a hanging clothing rack, place cardboard or a paper plate between each category and size of clothing.

Arrange books, cd’s, and DVD’s so customers can easily see titles. Stacking these items will make it more difficult for people to get them out and might actually deter some sales. Also, arrange items in logical groupings if possible, DVD’s by category, cd’s by genre, etc.

Arrange Your Area for Easy Shopping

Arrange your sale area for easy shopping.

Place tables in an aisle like configuration to help with the flow through the sale, and leave enough room for people to move around without bumping into each other.

Do not place pictures or other items against the edges of tables where they might get knocked over or create a trip hazard for customers. You can place large sale items under the tables, just make sure they aren’t sticking out in the walking path.

Price Everything for a Successful Garage Sale

I know it’s a pain in the neck, but put a price on everything. Just because its’ a garage sale doesn’t mean that all customers want to haggle. Some people know what they’re willing to pay for an item and if it isn’t priced, they won’t even ask. They’ll just leave.

The only time you can get away with this is if you have multiple like items or are selling items in quantities per price. If you do have several duplicate or similar items, you can display a pricing sheet with those items instead of pricing each one.

At our last garage sale, I was selling a bunch of 1990’s ‘new in box’ 1:18 die-cast cars. I stacked them all on the same table and put a sign in front that stated 1 for $15 or 4 for $50. There was no confusion since the items were all the same size and type.

Other items you can get away with selling for set prices are CD’s, DVD’s, utensils, and clothing. See examples below.

  • CD’s $1.oo each
  • DVD’s $3.00 each
  • Utensils 3 for $1.00
  • Clothing as listed
    • Jackets $10.00 each
    • Hoodies $7.00 each
    • Shirts $3.00 each

Tip: Price items in whole dollar denominations like $1, $5, or $10 so you don’t have to worry about coins. For smaller items that aren’t worth a dollar, price them in a qty for $’s format like I did with utensils above.

Make Sure You Have Plenty Change

Be prepared to make change throughout the day. You’ll need a lot of small bills and some coins to be able to make the appropriate change.

Prior to hosting a garage sale, I usually get $30 in one dollar bills, $30 in five dollar bills, and $40 in ten dollar bills. I also keep $100 in twenty dollar bills because somebody will inevitably buy a three dollar item with a $100 bill in the first two hours of your garage sale.

Pro Tip: Know how to check large bills for authenticity. You’d be surprised how often counterfeit $100 bills are used at garage sales.

Have Packaging Available

Have shopping bags and boxes ready for your customers to encourage them to buy multiple items. Once they have a couple of items in their hands, offer to hold the items off to the side for them so they can continue shopping.

Also, make sure you have appropriate wrapping available for delicate items.

Tip: Offer to fill a bag for a specific price in order to encourage more sales. While a lady was looking through the cd’s we were selling, I gave her a box to put them in. She ended up buying the entire country section because she could carry it all.

Greet Every Person

It only takes a second to say Good Morning or Hello.

In addition to welcoming the shoppers, it also lets them know who the host is and who they should direct questions or payments to.

I also tell each shopper to have a nice day even if they didn’t buy anything. You never know if they might still be contemplating a purchase that little courtesy might seal the deal for you.

Be a Salesperson

Chat people up, find out what they might be looking for, and make suggestions.

I had a guy walk into my sale and I said ‘Hi there – you look like a fisherman and I think you need a great little cabinet with drawers to store all of your fishing supplies in!’ He responded ‘Nope, don’t fish a bit, but my wife does crafts and that little cabinet would be perfect for her.”

He ended up buying the cabinet and three John Wayne wall hangings we had for sale. Had I not greeted him in that way, he might not have even looked at the cabinet.

Tip: Have an extra person that can help carry items out. Some people might not buy heavier items if they can’t lift them, but if you offer to put it in the car for them, you might make an extra sale. My hubby is my workhorse on garage sale days.

Have a Plan for Your Leftover Items

You need to have a set plan for leftover items because there are bound to be a few. You can schedule a local charity to pick them up, or box them up and take them to the nearest second-hand donation station.

I typically box my remaining items up and put them in the back of my car so I can drop them off the following week.

Tip: Drop your items off at the donation station Tuesday or Wednesday. Sunday and Monday will be very busy due to all of the garage sales over the weekend.

Related Article: What To Do With Clutter Once You’ve Decluttered

Have Yourself a Successful Garage Sale

The success of your garage sale depends entirely on you.

Once you’ve checked the local rules, start gathering the stuff for your garage sale. Pick your days, dates and times, then advertise for your sale.

Clean up, organize, price, and display your sale items for easy shopping. Make sure you have plenty of change and bags available for sales. Greet every person and be a salesperson.

Have a set plan to get rid of your remaining items, and get busy selling.

Enjoy your garage sale, make lots of money and let me know how it goes.

Garage sale sign