Saturday, August 3, 2013

Top 10 Yard Sale Tips

My friends and I have had many yard sales over the years, and before our last one, we were training a newbie on what to do/what not to do, and she, in jest, said she was scared of our tips and rules and thought this was out of her league.  Haha!!

So we put together a top 10 list of how to make mo' money at a yard sale.

Before the Sale:
  • Advertising:
    • Putting a classified ad in the paper for a yard sale is TOO EXPENSIVE!  The last one cost $26 for like 2 lines.  Rubbish.
    • Do that if you want, but one time when they put our ad in the wrong section of the classifieds (a customer pointed it out to us), we still got plenty of traffic because we:
      • Posted a notice in the garage sale section on Craigslist Friday morning, Friday night, and Saturday morning
      • Put up signs around the neighborhood to attract spontaneous drive-by traffic:
        • We use just arrows attached to a pre-made Garage Sale signs because people can’t read details while they’re driving/turning at a light
        • We live right off a secondary intersection, so we started there and added a sign at each stop sign between there and our house

  • The Bigger, The Better:
    • I’ve read that customers respond better to signs that say “Multi-family yard sale” because it gives the impression that there will be more to choose from, and a better variety of items since they came from multiple homes that, hopefully, had different styles.
    • So call your friends, in-laws, and other family members to help each other clear out the clutter and make some money!
    • If you are using a shared cashbox, prepared a sheet of paper to keep track of everyone's sales.  Make sure to note how much each cash each brought to the sale  for change, so they get that money back too!

  • Planning:
    • Before anything goes outside onto a table, it needs to be priced.  Customers get annoyed if they have to ask the cost of each item.  I get annoyed when I have to make up prices on the fly.
    •  We usually start sales at 8am and leave the end time open.  That way people won’t be discouraged if they can’t make it by 12, and we can use our judgment on when it’s best to pack everything up.  Just decide when you feel like the gaps between customers become long enough that it’s not worth your time to keep sitting out in the heat.
  • Invest in a few big ticket items to help make you more money in the long run:
    • 6 foot tables:  If you have spare furniture sitting in the garage that can be used to hold for-sale items, use that; but if not, invest in a few tables from Target or Walmart.  You can find them for $31 on sale and they tuck away into a corner when not being used.
    • Garment rack:  I got one for $15 from Target a few years back, and we use that for displaying things that would turn into a pile of fabric if laid on a table, and wouldn't be noticed if left folded in a box.  Use it for purses, clothing, even jewelry hung on s-hooks so they're at eye level and don't get lost in the browse.
    • Cash box:  Sure, you could keep your cash in a change purse or extra wallet, but a cash box comes in handy for storing other yard sale items.  Plus, who wants to carry around a bag of quarters all morning?  
      • Just be careful - one time a dude tried to BUY my cashbox, and I had to joke with him that he couldn't afford it.  We laughed uncomfortably.
  • Yard Sale toolkit:
    • In addition to keeping money in your cash box, use it to store other yard sale items, like extra price stickers for last minute price-slashing, a pen for adding up customers' totals, and a calculator if you get flustered.

  • Do the Math:
    • This might be just be me, but even though I’m ok at basic addition, when someone gives me 10 small items and I have to add up their total quickly, sometimes I can get confused adding 25 to 10 and then adding 5 and then another 25.  So, to make it easier on myself, nothing is priced at less than 25 cents.
      • This method has two benefits:
        • You don’t look like a dumbass who can’t add in front of a customer
        • You only have to stock your cash box with quarters and bills.  No dimes, nickels, pennies needed!  Everything is in 25 cent increments.

  • Store layout:
    • Group like items together.  If you have multiple tables, use them for themes, like kitchen, holiday, sports, etc.  This helps customers who are shopping for specific items (and they ARE!) find what they're looking for quickly and move on to the next sale.  Plus it helps them find related items, which may help them spend more :)

During the Sale:
  • Customer Service:
    • When you go to your neighborhood bakery, which opens at 8am, you expect them to have baked goods available for sale at 8am, right?  I’d be a little pissed if I showed up and they were just starting to bake my favorite cupcake.  Why are they open if they aren’t ready for customers?
    • The same logic applies here.  If your advertisement says the sale starts at 8am, all your tables should be set up by 8am with like items grouped together, so when that early bird shows up they aren’t inconvenienced by you milling around pricing last minute additions to the sale, or ignored because you’re organizing your change.

  • Take the Deal!
    • You have already emotionally broken up (‘it’s not you, it’s me’ style) with every item in the yard sale pile, and decided that no matter what it is not coming back into your house (see rule #xxxx).  When you dumped them you landed on a best-case scenario dollar value, but already know that the worst-case scenario is that you get nothing more than a measly tax write-off if the item doesn’t sell and ends up in the Goodwill donation pile.  
    • So why not take $2 instead of the $3 on the price tag?  If the alternative is making $0, the choice is easy, right?  That extra dollar isn’t worth alienating a potential customer who hasn’t even looked through all the rest of the crap you’re getting rid of and may spend a TON of money.
After the Sale:
  • Nothing goes back into the house:
    • When you have decided the traffic has slowed enough to call the sale, it’s time to load whatever hasn’t sold into the largest vehicle available and IMMEDIATELY drop it all off at Goodwill. 
    • The IMMEDIATELY part is in caps for a reason.  If you box all that crap up and put it back in the garage to take to Goodwill later, I guarantee you it will still be sitting there when you and your girlfriends plan the next sale.  
    • So for 6 months or a year, it’s been taking up valuable real estate in your life, when it could have gone to a new home.
    • The only exception to this rule is if you have a high dollar item (electronics, for example) that you decide you just can’t donate.  Keep those and try to sell them on Craigslist.  You’ll probably get more money for them using that method, anyway.


  1. Great tips!! :) Having lots of plastic bags for the customers is a good thing to remember too. ;)

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