7 Secrets for a Successful Garage Sale

By Kelly Hodges
Garage sale, yard sale, tag sale, rummage sale- no matter what you want to call it the purpose remains the same:  purge the excess from your life and make some money in the process!  Garage sales are great for achieving both of these objectives.  It’s a perfect opportunity to cleanse your life of excess clutter, while at the same time putting a pot of money in your pocket.  And there is no better time than the summer to stake a sign in the yard and host a sale of your own, where you can turn your trash into someone else’s treasure!  Here are the seven secrets to ensuring your garage sale will be a huge success, from someone who has hosted more than a few in her day.

1.  Plan ahead.  Yes you can throw a garage sale together a day or two before the event, but if you want to make your life easier you will start much earlier.  Get a large box and label it “rummage”, and as you come across things that you no longer want throughout the year throw them in.  Always keeping your garage sale in the back of your mind will allow you to do small purges throughout the year, thus eliminating the need to inventory all your earthly possessions in the days leading up to the sale.

2.  Be thorough.  Go through everything!  Yes, that means the junk drawer, the basement, the garage, under your bed, under your kids’ beds, and everywhere else!  If you don’t use something then get rid of it!  Don’t convince yourself that you will use those roller skates “someday,” if you haven’t touched them in the last 3 years it’s not worth storing them!  Again, don’t start this process the night before the sale or you’ll never get through it all.

3.  Recruit your neighbors.  A “multi-family” or “neighborhood” garage sale will always draw more traffic than a lone sign on the lawn.  Coordinate with those in your neighborhood and choose a weekend where others can be involved as well.  As an added bonus committing to do this with others will hold you accountable.  You’ll be far less likely to back out on the idea if you’ve gotten others on board.

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4.  Identify your main objective.   Everyone hosting a garage sale has two main goals: to get rid of as much as possible and make top dollar in the process.  In reality, you need to determine which is the more important of the two, because that will determine your pricing and negotiating strategies.  If you just want to get rid of things, then price your items lower and be willing to negotiate with customers.  If you have a target dollar amount you need to hit, then be more stringent in your pricing and negotiating tactics.  It’s good to recognize what the #1 priority is before your customers arrive.

5.  Be organized.  After you’ve gone through all the effort to organize a sale and gather your merchandise, make sure that you display your wares in a way appealing to buyers.  Get plenty of tables so you can spread things out for people to see instead of making them dig through boxes on the ground.  Make sure prices are clearly marked.  Put big ticket items towards the front so those “drive by” shoppers will be enticed to come take a closer look.  If shoppers see a random mess of items they aren’t going to take the time to sort through them, so make their job easier and keep the sale well organized.

6.  Market the sale.  It doesn’t matter how high quality and perfectly organized your merchandise is, if you have no customers it will be a colossal failure.  People need to know about the sale in order to come spend their money. Start by taking out an add in the local newspaper.  If you’ve followed secret #3 then your neighbors will be involved as well, so you can split the cost.  Whatever the price it should easily be recouped by the traffic that it brings in.  Advertise for free on Craigslist as well.  Also make sure to have plenty of signs in strategic locations the day of the sale to drive in additional traffic.  Many people out walking or driving who see a garage sale sign just can’t resist and will come check out what you have to offer.  The more people in the door the more items out.

7.  Educate.  If you have children, a garage sale is an excellent way to teach them some practical financial lessons.  Have them go through their belongings and choose what they would like to get rid of.  Let them set up a concession stand at the sale and sell lemonade, snacks, or craft items as well.  It’s never too early to learn about entrepreneurship!  Discuss with them before the sale how they will use their profits; perhaps putting a percentage towards immediate wants (a new toy), a percentage towards long term savings goals (college), and a percentage towards donating (charity of choice).  There are so many “teachable moments” for children of all ages during a garage sale, that this alone is reason enough to have one.

Conducting a garage sale is one of the best ways to get rid of all the things cluttering up your home and your life, while at the same time earning a nice little sum of money.  Just remember that you earned that money by getting rid of all the “stuff” that you once felt it was necessary to own.  Don’t fall for the temptation to blow your new earnings on more “stuff” to replace what you just purged, instead dedicate those funds to jump-starting one of your far more important financial goals.


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Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not in any way represent the views or opinions of her employer or any other person or entity.