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How to Host a Successful Garage Sale

How to Host a Successful Garage Sale

I've had several garage sales over the last decade, and I've made anywhere from $150 to over $1600 at my sales. Here are my tips for having a successful sale:

 

1. Pick a beautiful day (or two) for your sale

People like to go out when the weather is nice--not too hot, not too cold, and definitely not raining or super windy. If the weather has been nice for a few days before the sale, people will be looking forward to getting out.

 

2. Have enough stuff to sell.

No one will stop the car and get out if you don't have enough for sale, nor will you make much money.

Let people know you're having a sale ahead of time. Friends who have just a few items they need to get rid of are often happy to donate them to your garage sale rather than making a special trip to donate them somewhere else. 

Every sale I've had has had enough stuff because I've had items from others, as I'm not someone who buys a lot of things. When my grandmother moved from a house into an assisted living facility (basically a small apartment), we sold her unneeded items. When she died, we sold the rest of her items (this was my biggest sale). At that same sale, we knew a family who was moving the day of our sale. They left a bunch of stuff at their curb the night before that wouldn't fit in their moving van and told us we could have it all for our sale. One of the items was a large piece of furniture that we sold for $100! My parents have also given us whatever they were purging at the time (usually making up over half the items in my sale), and they often gave us a few extra items from friends who no longer needed them.

If you still don't have enough, combine forces with a friend (or two!) and host the sale together. Label items with different colored stickers so that you can keep straight where the money goes. I've stopped at huge sales and found out when I went to pay (and the sellers marked prices down by the color of the labels, or took the labels off and stuck them on a piece of paper) that the sale was hosted by more than one person.

 

3. Display your items on tables.

No one likes to bend over in your driveway and look through piles and boxes of items on the ground. If you don't have enough tables, borrow some for your sale and arrange your items neatly on the tables. Make a beautiful shopping display with like items to make it easier for your customers to find what they are looking for.

I like to have large items on one side of the driveway. On the tables, I'll arrange sections for different items: children's clothing (sorted by sex and size), women's clothing, men's clothing, housewares, (sorted by kitchen items, decorative items, bedding, etc.)  children's books, other books, etc.

As your sale continues throughout the morning, rearrange your items on the tables during slower times to keep the items looking neat. Refold clothing and re-stack items that have become disorganized.

In addition, if you can hang clothing (a pole between two ladders works well) your customers can see your clothing better, and it's more likely to sell than clothing that is folded.

 

4. Price everything ahead of time.

You will sell more items if people don't have to ask you the price. 

When pricing your items, remember: You want to get rid of these things and make some money doing it! Don't price items too high, or no one will buy them. Think about what price you would consider to be a good deal and price it accordingly.

Use stickers for individual items. You can also use signs in combination with stickers, such as a sign for all books or all clothing. I usually hang signs for books and clothing on the ends of the tables so that potential buyers can see them from the street as well as when they walk up to the sale.

In my area, some prices that I consider to be a good deal are the following:

Paperback books: $0.25 each

Hardcover books $0.50 each

Children's clothing: $0.50 each

Adult clothing: $1 each

Coats and Dresses: $1 to $3 each

If these items are more than that, I will hesitate before purchasing them when I go to a garage sale. I will pay up to $2 for clothing items if it is something I really like, but I am less likely to buy several items from the same seller. The more items you can get your customers to buy, the more you've gotten rid of, and the more they are likely to spend in the end.

 

5. Accept reasonable offers

Everyone loves a bargain. Especially on large items, people will offer you an amount lower than what you have priced. If it's not way lower than what you priced it at, accept the offer, or offer a slightly higher price back that is still lower than your original asking price. Remember, the goal is to sell the items, not have them left at the end of the day, and this person is actually interested in your item, so sell it to the interested party!

 

6. Advertise your sale

The night before the sale, put up a notice in the garage sale section of Craig's List for your city. List the items and prices of those items in your post. If you have clothing, be specific; i.e. "Boy's clothing sizes 5-8 $0.50." If you can take pictures ahead of time, include pictures of as much as possible.

The morning of the sale, I'll take pictures of my items in the driveway and use the same list to post the sale on the local Facebook page.

Another free place to list your sales is garagesales.net. 

 

7. Have good signage

I can't tell you how many customers have thanked me first thing as they come up to my sale for having had good signs! Most of your buyers will come from your signs.

I print my signs on colored paper on the computer and use packaging tape to tape them to boxes. I print in a large, bold print so that potential customers can easily read the signs. I include the date (or dates, if it's a two-day sale), the time of the sale, my street address, and a huge arrow pointing the correct direction. I make signs for both sides of the box so that it can be read from both directions at an intersection.

I use milk jugs filled with water to weigh down the boxes, and I place them on the concrete medians at the nearest intersections. I place another box with signs like this outside my housing tract. 

Once inside the tract, I have boxes with signs that just have large arrows printed on them at every turn.

I use the same colored paper for all of my signs, so that people know it's the same sale. I have used light blue and light green paper in the past, as that is what I had. The signs were colored but still easy enough to read.

 

8. Start early

The serious buyers will be at your house a half hour before you start your sale, hoping to find great deals while you're still setting up everything. They haven't spent their money yet, so they're more likely to spend more with you if you have what they want. Be ready for them by setting up early (I like to bring out tables about an hour and half before the sale starts), and advertise the start of your sale at 7 a.m. Be prepared to make most of your money between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. (Note: Start time vary by location; in some areas, no sales start before 9 a.m. Learn what is normal where you live).

If you have a place to stage tables indoors the night before, you can have non-breakable items already arranged on the tables. Then you simply have to carry your tables outside with the for-sale items on them. 

 

9. Greet your customers

A cheery, "Good morning!" is always helpful! Ask your customers if they're looking for anything in particular; perhaps you have that item and can help them find it amongst your items for sale. Tell them your prices, i.e. : "All paperback books are $0.25 and all hardcovers are $0.50. Clothing on the tables are $0.50 each and hanging clothing is $1 each." Even though your prices are posted, letting them know what they are will prompt them to look through things they might not have been considering. Have a lot of clothing in the same size? Don't be afraid to tell people! Likewise, let people know what other items you have; I have seen lots of potential buyers look through my sale items more closely after we've told them what we have in a cheery manner, and they have bought a lot more that way.

At a busy sale, it's important that customers know who's in charge. If they have any questions about an item, they know who to ask, and when they've found something they want, they know who to pay. Your greeting makes it easy to establish who is in charge of the sale.

 

10. Be helpful

Have plastic grocery shopping bags handy for your customers to put their items in. Ask your customers who are buying several items if they'd like you to start them a pile while they look around some more. This leaves their hands free to pick up more items that they might just buy. I've had customers hand me enough items for 2 to 3 piles while they look around.

 

11. Have change

I like to start out with at least $60 to $80 in change. Many people only have $20 bills. I go to the bank ahead of time and get ones, fives, and a roll of quarters. Just remember how much you started with when you count your profit at the end of the day.

I prefer to wear an apron with two pockets while I'm having the sale. In one pocket I keep bills, and in the other, I keep coins. This way I can walk around the sale and help customers without worrying about the money.

If I've made a lot of money, I take a second during a time of no customers to run inside and put some large bills/stacks of twenties in the house.

 

12. Have help

If you can sell with someone, you can both answer questions about items together, rearrange items during times of no customers, and give each other a chance to use the restroom. One of you can also watch your sale while you set up signs early in the morning and help you take signs down when the sale is done.

 

13. Consider a two-day sale

If you live in an area that has sales for two days, the real serious buyers come on the first day. You'll need to have lots of items in order to do this, but if you have enough, it's totally worth it. My highest profit garage sale (where I made over $1600) was held over two days. In our area, the big days are Fridays and Saturdays. Fridays are especially busy early in the morning, as people stop on their way to work. Find out what days are the most common sale days in your area. In some places, it's Thursday! You'll have the most success by selling on the days that people are normally out looking for sales.

 

14. Have a free box

While not absolutely necessary, a free box will often prompt people to stop. They may then end up deciding to look around the rest of your sale, since they have already gotten out of the car. I use a free box for items I think won't sell but that I still want to get rid of. Some things you may want to include in your free box are VHS tapes, clothing items that are really worn and/or outdated, promotional t-shirts and other promotional materials, stuffed animals, and items that may be missing pieces.

I set up the free box a little distance from the rest of my items. 

 

15. Donate what's left

At the end of your sale, (after you've taken down your signs) load up your vehicle and drive straight to the thrift store to donate any unsold items. In the U.S., you can receive a receipt for donated items and use it as a tax write-off. This nets you a bit more money on your sale in the form of lower income taxes next year.

 

 

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Comments

  • Maxine July 25, 2018

    For your readers in Idaho: If you donate items to a school or rehabilitation facility, you can receive a tax CREDIT on your state income taxes, in addition to the deduction Brandy mentioned. Go to the Idaho Tax Commission's website to learn which rehab facilities qualify. (Idaho Youth Ranch, which operates thrift stores all over the state, is on the list). The credit is for 50% of the value of the donation, up to certain limits. Be sure to keep your receipt!

  • Kim July 25, 2018

    Some great tips!! In my opinion #3 is so important. I think it's important to stage your items in different heights on the table. Much like what you would see in a retail store. It indicates that you have taken good care of these items and you have good taste.

  • Becky Pratt July 26, 2018

    Such good ideas.
    Thank you!

  • Stephanie July 26, 2018

    Excellent tips. I'm a lifelong yard sale fan, and for me, signs and easy-to-find prices are the most important. I can't tell you how many yard sales I've just given up on because there's been one single sign out on the main street and then NOTHING afterwards. If you live farther down the road, put up another sign in the same color to encourage people to keep driving. If your customers need to turn down a few different side streets, put up several signs! Make it easy for them to find you, because if they can't, you won't be selling anything.

    And prices. If nothing is marked, I generally walk away, especially if the seller is otherwise occupied. I'm always checking the sales with my young daughter, and we're out there with meal time and nap time constraints. I don't have time to waste waiting around for my turn to ask how much everything is, and so if prices aren't clearly stated, I'm usually out of there.

  • Heidi Louise July 26, 2018

    Brandy - Excellent, thorough list! I add that shelves also work for display, if they are free standing and people can walk around both sides and only big things are on the bottom. Sturdiest tables are needed for most-breakable objects, with nothing sharp little kids might grab on the edges.

    Stephanie - I agree with your dislikes, and add smells (cigarette smoke, fabreze, scented fabric softener, mustiness, cat litter) and free-roving pets. Also, the seller's children need to have a clear purpose: Either they are helping or not in the way, or they are inside with someone else supervising them. I will stay longer at a clean and happy family sale, and leave a frustrated one.

  • Karen Stevenson July 26, 2018

    If you are having your sale in a garage, clean out the garage first. If the garage is dirty and unkept, one tends to think that the items for sale are in poor condition also.

  • Juls Owings July 26, 2018

    My daughter's yard sale got nothing and since she always helped me with mine and I made decent money I went in to see why..

    FIRST mistake she made was thinking she could pull everything together the day before...average GOOD yard sale can take up to 40 hrs of your time of gathering items, cleaning them if needed, pricing, signs, setting up, actual sale,taking down and getting rid of what is left.

    There was no place to park as she had her friends come help and they took the prime spots available. Make sure you or helpers aren't taking the prime parking if possible.

    Clean up the area before setting up, tall weeds and dogs/cats poo even when it's not yours.

    Cover it some how (we used tarps and ladders )if it's forecasting rain or even if it's not, pop up showers happen. YES she held it outside even though she had a garage and a porch and didn't cover it (we won't talk about the fact she left it laying on the tables for 3 days so they molded and couldn't even be donated)

    Organize, organize ,organize...can't say enough.

    match socks , toss the ones that have no mate in a box as a freebie, some use them for cleaning.

    Stay In view that are coming up to the sale, she had some tell her that since no one was around they didn't bother to stop....she was sitting inside the kitchen where she could see someone walk up .

    Reread Brandy's list because it is the best I've seen in a long time.

  • SJ in Vancouver BC Canada July 26, 2018

    I've had good success laying items out on tarps on the ground since I don't have folding tables. For me, the important thing was to organize by 'like items' and to price everything with labels. The tarps helped create the same sense of order.

    Have good signs and lots of them. I use the same colored paper for the signs as well.

    Love the idea of putting the signs on a box with a milk jug anchoring it. I'll use that idea for my next sale

  • Jo July 26, 2018

    Yes, to all of these, absolutely. I've given up on shopping at sales I couldn't find because signs are slumped over in the early morning damp, too small to read, or missing. And I detest having to ask the price of everything. I won't attempt having a yard sale without at least one person to help me, so I really endorse that one. And I found out quickly that there is no time to price on the day of the sale, so yes to getting it done early. I often keep stickers or masking tape handy at my collection spot, and price items over the weeks as I add them to the boxes of things I'm collecting to have a yard sale.
    I'd add, make sure your items are clean. I clean everything I put out, to the best of my ability. My daughter once sat a dirty trash can out in a sale she and I were doing together, which of course didn't sell. In a slow moment, I scrubbed it down, and it sold shortly after. Clearly, clean sells better, yet I go to sales and find stuff that is filthy.
    Be honest about your items you are selling.
    Stage properly. Think of how it will be used, such as hanging a for-sale bird feeder on a pole, or think how a nice store would stage it, such as dishes or housewares. I will take saved fabric ribbons and use them to tie up neatly folded sheet sets I'm selling, then clearly mark the set's size, price and that they are unstained with no holes or tears, on a small card and slide the card under the ribbon. It seems to work, because I always sell the sheets.
    Some things sell better if the original price sticker is on the box, or you can show what it's worth. I quickly sold an almost complete set of Pfaltzgraff dishes by setting them nicely arranged, and printing off a page from Replacements, Ltd., showing the prices that are charged for pre-owned pieces of that particular pattern, with my sale price being lower, of course. I also clearly marked which pieces (only a couple) were missing. Not only could they see what it would cost to replace those items, they could know where to find the replacement pieces.
    I've started doing a free box, too. I get so many calendars from charities -- even though our sale was in March, I gave all of them away. I included a few other things, but the calendars were the big draw, funnily enough.
    Excellent post, Brandy!

  • Kim July 26, 2018

    This subject is perfect timing for me.

    I was going to have a garage sale this weekend at our beach cabin. My thought was I don't have a whole lot of stuff but there are more people and traffic at the beach cabin so I would have a better chance at selling my stuff. Good weather right now.
    or:

    I could wait a couple months and in September have a garage sale at home ....I would have more stuff but not as much traffic. September usually has nice weather here also but no guarantees.

    What would be the better option?

    Thanks for any and all opinions. I don't know that much about garage sales and how to have a successful one but I know this community has lots of experts.

  • Heidi Louise July 26, 2018

    My Mom would have a sale at home in the spring, and then travel to visit a friend in "lake country" with a few boxes of stuff to sell at their joint summer sale, for slightly higher prices: dishes, linens, books, games-- things people needed in their second homes. If you have wintery clothes or holiday decorations, they would sell better in September.
    Good luck! I would say there is no one right answer, and if you are in the mood for a sale, now is always a good time!

  • AmyD July 26, 2018

    I just had a garage sale with my sister-in-law starting on the 4th of July through that Saturday. (We had the most traffic on the holiday and on Friday and Saturday). We hung the coats and costumes and the dresses. We constantly made the merchandise more tidy... we priced items to sell (that is so important)... The item that received the most attention: record albums and 45 records. I spent over a week prepping and pricing all my items with my initials on the price tag. We did so well the first day that we both did another run through our homes for more items for the next day. Then we were low on merchandise after Friday and did one last go-through our homes (china I was not using since 1988 and extra Christmas and holiday decor) and it was a great Saturday too. We have saved everything in my sister-in-law's basement and we are having another one over Labor Day weekend. We had a free box but it was for kids only... that way every child could get something and not beg their parents to buy something.... parents and grandparents loved it and I truly believe it allowed them to spend more money on other items. I put a bunch of stuffed animals that my daughter had won over the years in the "claw" machines. Kids loved picking one out. I made $250.00. Another tip: Agree with the person you are doing the sale with that they can negotiate on your items too.... then if one of you has to leave for another commitment, the other person has free range to get your stuff sold too! Also, my sister-in-law LOVED some of my Christmas items and I gifted them to her for allowing me to join into her sale.... she was thrilled! Great post, Brandy!!

  • Holly July 26, 2018

    I love the suggestions of attaching a sign to a box and weighing it down with milk bottles and of using the same color for all your signs for one sale. Where I am at, you can put out one item to sell at a time without a permit or get a permit for a garage sale twice a year for a small fee. I hope to sell some stuff one item at a time (less overwhelming for me). In the past, I have put out things which would still be useful to somebody (but that Goodwill wouldn't be likely to accept) at the shoulder after garbage pickup for the week. The only things that haven't vanished quickly were two very nice cardboard boxes. I should have put them out near the end of the month, when people tend to move. My sister has had many successful garage sales but that's because she had been a shopaholic with four kids and overstuffed storage areas....

  • Tina July 26, 2018

    I have been having successful garage sales for 25 years and I think you have mentioned all of my tips. I also take two card tables and place a long piece of plywood in between the tables to grow my display space. Old clean white sheets get placed over each table or piece of plywood for a nice display. And I price as you do. Everything must have a price. In Minnesota our most popular day is now Wednesdays. People typically have garage sales Wednesday to Saturday here. Saturday is thrifty day, everything is half off or fill a bag for $1. I love hosting garage sales! You meet so many interesting people! Great post!

  • Bethany July 26, 2018

    If you have several of like items, such as assorted t shits that are worn or have holes, consider bagging them together and selling the entire bag for a few dollars. One of the thing I hunt out at a local thrift is large trash bags of t-shirts for 1.99. Although very few are wearable as is, the adult sizes can be used as summer night gowns for little girls, or quickly made into pajama shorts or little girls skirts. They also made very good cleaning/dusting cloths, and can be cut and braided into chew toys for dogs (although our current 4 legged child drug hers into her cage and curls up with it to sleep!) Random worn jeans are good for denim quilt piecing, or to make draft dodgers for the the doors and windows in winter. There are those of us who can find uses for things otherwise destined for the "free" box.

  • Monica July 27, 2018

    Love the tips, Brandy. I know you put a lot of time into this post, thanks! I think the most impt tip was the pricing of items. Being an introvert, I usually won’t ask the price of something bc if it’s more than what I want to spend, it’s difficult for me to put it back with the person watching.

  • Pam B. July 27, 2018

    Great tips! We are avid garage salers & have run a few of our own over the years. I especially love #9 - I can't tell you how many times we have gone to a yard sale & nobody greets us, or worse, they are so wrapped up in their own conversations that they don't acknowledge you, or you can't interject to ask them a question. We almost always leave those sales without purchasing anything!

  • I enjoy going to yard sales occasionally but prefer to just donate my unwanted items. I have helped my mom host one sale in the past and don't think I will ever do it it again! We had a neighbor once that had garage sales on a regular, ongoing basis, lol! We always knew when she was having one, as our normally quiet street was suddenly crawling with traffic. For those that put the time and energy into having them, my hat's off to you!

  • Maureen July 29, 2018

    Brandy- what a great post and just in time for all of the Summer sales. I love the idea of a "Free" box. We have sold bottled water(bought a couple of cases on sale).
    In my city, you have to obtain a permit from city hall(cost $5) and you are allowed 2 yard sales a year. They have hired extra manpower to shut down sales without a permit.
    Thank you for such an inspiring blog!

  • lizajane July 29, 2018

    Wonderful tips. I'm too far out in the boonies now to have one at my house, but I've partnered up with someone else every other year. They have put signs up a day or two in advance on bulletin boards at a local store and helped drive traffic our way, but I agree 100% with the large arrow pointing the direction on signs posted at intersections. I hate when I see signs tacked up in town at a busy intersection with the address only written on them. It's as if they expect everyone to know where all the streets are, or take the time to put the address into their GPS.
    A funny thing we sold one time at a yard sale was tomatoes from our garden. We had an abundance, and I brought some out to sell. They sold incredibly fast, and I kept picking more to replenish the supply. I've seen kids selling lemonade, bottled water and canned soda sometimes at yard sales too, which is kind of a cute idea. :)

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