12 ways to make money on a garage sale

August 8, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


I’m pretty sure some people have made a significant amount of money on garage sales but I’m not one of them. When my mother moved from her house to a condo we had garage sales for several weeks running as we cleaned out the house, but they were very demoralizing, particularly for Mom.

It didn’t matter whether the items were treasured keepsakes or formerly expensive items of clothing, nobody wanted to pay more than a dollar or two for anything. In the end it would have been easier to package up most things and give them to a charity or thrift store right away, rather than dealing with a two-stage process.

However, if I had read 14 Ways to Make Money at a Yard Sale before we started, maybe our sales would have been more successful.

Here are some of the better suggestions (in no particular order) that might help you recoup a reasonable amount for all of your efforts:

  1. Get the word out: Put up plenty of signs with the date, address and directions at major intersections. Create a Facebook Event Page. Put an ad in a community or neighbourhood paper. Post information about the sale on Kiji or Craigslist in your area with pictures of some of the big ticket items.
  2. Display: Display items attractively. Avoid cardboard boxes with a jumble of things by using folding tables. Borrow or rent hanging racks for clothing. While it is preferable to have everything out on the driveway or front lawn so passing drivers can easily see what you are selling, make sure you have garage space to quickly store things if it looks like rain.
  3. What’s not on sale: If possible, move or cover anything that is not for sale. If your garden tools or children’s bikes are visible you may turn your back for a minute and find they have been taken or sold for a pittance by mistake.
  4. Check the pockets: Make sure none of the items you are selling have money or other valuable items like jewelry in the pockets. Also watch for credit card receipts or any other documents that could lead to identity theft.
  5. Electrical appliances: Are you getting rid of a blender, toaster or Aunt Minny’s heating pad? Plug an extension cord into an electrical outlet so potential buyers can be sure that the item works.
  6. Pricing: Price items by groups. For example, $2 for paperback books or 3 for $5. All items of children’s clothing for $2. Make sure there are labels with clearly visible prices so prospective buyers will not have to ask you about every item. If you are selling an expensive object or piece of art, tape a newspaper ad or computer print-out to illustrate its value.
  7. Holding items: Only hold items for a buyer if they give you at least a 50% non-refundable deposit and specify how long you will hold the item for. Get the person’s cell phone number and full name so you can check in with him if he does not arrive by the allotted time.
  8. Closing the deal: Be sure to have ample bills and coins available for making change and provide shopping bags and card board boxes for toting items home. Don’t leave a money box around. It is preferable to wear a belly pack.
  9. Bargaining: Everyone wants to bargain. But early in the day don’t be afraid to say that you think the item is worth the price you set but you may be more flexible later in the afternoon. If an item is big and awkward to move consider taking less to get rid of it as soon as possible.
  10. Free drinks: Buy a few cases of water or soda and put them on ice in a cooler. Advertise that every buyer also gets a free drink. You may be surprised how many people may be more inclined to browse longer and even buy something on a hot day.
  11. Music: Draw attention to your sale. Play music in the background to entice buyers and keep them relaxed and shopping for more items.
  12. Get help: The problem when we ran garage sales for Mom was that we were simultaneously cleaning the house. I think the sales would have been more successful if we had people doing nothing but selling who could also help us pack up at the end of the day.
  13. Cash and carry: Post a sign that all sales are final and that all purchases must be paid for and removed from your premises on the day of sale.

Do you have tips for people planning yard or garage sales? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

15-Aug Back to school Back to school shopping: A teachable moment
22-Aug College/University Stay at home or go away to school?
29-Aug College/University Credit card options for your college kid
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