How to Go Greener at Your Next Garage Sale

A successful garage sale involves hours of preparation and a lot of hard work. The same goes for an unsuccessful sale. I’ve had both types and can confidently say that the money-making version is the best.

If you’re ready to take advantage of the warmer weather and the opportunity to declutter, consider these expert tips (and bitter experience) for having a good sale.

DETERMINE YOUR GOALS

First, ask yourself if a garage sale is the right method for your goals. Garage sales and their cousins ​​— garage, estate, moving, and tag sales — can help you get rid of your stuff and raise cash. But you can’t expect to get the best price.


If making money is your priority and you have time to wait for buyers, consider offering your most prized items elsewhere. Check auction sites such as eBay; apps such as Letgo and OfferUp; platforms like Craigslist, Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace; and consignment shops or even pawnshops.

If you just want to get stuff out of your house, donating your unwanted possessions is usually the quickest and easiest option. (You’ll get tax relief for your donation only if you’re one of the few to itemize deductions.)

If your goals are relatively balanced – you want more space and more money, for several hours of work – a garage sale may be the best option.

GO BIG

Consider enlisting at least one other household who can contribute helpers and things for your sale. Buyers want to see a wide variety of products – there’s a reason so many garage sale listings use the title “Multi-Family Sale!” – and the whole experience is much more fun with friends.

Tools, kitchen gadgets, sporting goods and camping gear are often the best, says Chris Heiska, who has operated yardsalequeen.com since 1996. What doesn’t usually sell: Anything that’s broken or very stained. Outdated technology can be random. Our friends found no takers for their VCRs or Princess phones. But vinyl records can sell very well.

Expect to spend several hours collecting, sorting, and evaluating your items. Pricing is key — many people won’t ask how much something costs, so you’ll lose sales if there’s no sticker on it, Heiska says. You can find suggested garage sale price lists online or check out other sales in your area. If in doubt, Heiska suggests pricing between a quarter and a third of the new item price. In some areas, 10-20% of the original cost is often the norm.

“You have to think about your buyers,” says Cyndi Seidler, a professional Los Angeles organizer who handles real estate and moving sales for clients. “They don’t go into these things to pay retail prices.”

Pro tip: Price as you go, so you’re not trying to do it all before the crowds arrive. You can use masking tape and a Sharpie, but I invested $8 in a big pack of pre-marked price stickers ordered online. Each of the three sellers used a different color, which made it easier to keep track of the day of the sale. We also got some change: coins, singles and a few larger bills. How much we started with is a matter of dispute; I will come back to that later.

SPREAD THE WORD

Craigslist is a great place to advertise your sale for free, but it shouldn’t be the only site. That’s the mistake I made with the garage sale that failed a few years ago, with few attendees and even fewer sales. One of these attendees explained that seasoned buyers check out sites dedicated to garage sales and yard sales. (Search for “garage sales near me” to see which ones show up and offer free listings.)

This time we advertised on a few of these sites, as well as Craigslist, Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace. We also used some of our social media accounts to let our local friends know about our sale. We also used old-fashioned signage: bright yellow garage sale signs, branded with a dollar store and taped to several local intersections with the address, date and time large enough for passing drivers can easily see them.

We also made our sale “a shopping experience,” in Seidler’s words. This meant borrowing tables and clothes racks from friends to keep things off the floor, grouping similar items together, and towards the end creating bundles of items and reducing prices. For example, we collected all the leftover crafts in a box and sold the bundle for $5. (At this point in the day, I didn’t care who belonged to the items; I just wanted to get everything out of my driveway.)

Our five hour sale was awesome and brought in around $600. As mentioned above, we haven’t carefully tracked the amount of money we brought in for the sale, so how much we cleared is a matter of debate. We will be more careful next time, because there will definitely be a next time.

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a NerdWallet columnist, certified financial planner, and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: [email protected] Twitter: @lizweston.

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