The Wall Street Journal has estimated the annual yield from garage sales to be around $2 billion. Isn't it about time for you to claim your share of that jackpot?
It's spring and I can't think of a better time to clean out the drawers, closets and disaster areas that your family members are always complaining about. You need to turn that clutter into cash.
The first thing you need to do is choose the dates. Check all kinds of calendars to make sure your sale won't hit the same weekend as a community event, holiday weekend or Aunt Ethel's 80th birthday party. Assume that no matter what time of day you select to open your sale, people will show up at 6:00am. That's just the way it is, so be prepared. Those early birds are the pros, so be ready.
Next, choose the location and remember that a tidy sales area will be key to your success. And don't forget to check local ordinances. Some cities require a permit to hold a garage sale. Police officers in your driveway probably won't attract the kind of customers you're looking for. So find out the rules ahead of time.
Get your items ready for sale. Make sure everything is as clean as humanly possible. Organize things by category with clothes in one area, toys in another, housewares displayed together and so forth. Know what you have as well. You'll find people cruising by looking for specific items like antique silverware or baby furniture. They're not going to look through your things, but they will expect you to know exactly what you have and where it is.
You cannot be too prepared. In fact, every minute you spend ahead of time in making sure your sale is well-organized and attractive will put more dollars in your pocket. To make the most of every effort you expend, I highly recommend a fabulous book -- "Garage Sale Superstar." It's an easy read and the author, Eric Michael, will teach you in short order how to make the most money possible at your event, so listen to him. Do exactly what he says and you will at least double your take without increasing your effort. That's the thing about doing things right from the start.
Now you're ready to inform the world. The time and effort you spend on advertising will pay off big. CraigsList.org is a great place to post your sale, for free. List specific items you will have available. Antiques and baby items typically bring buyers in droves.
Don't forget to hang those attractive signs around your neighborhood and make sure to write an ad for the local newspaper that will leave people salivating.
Finally, price your junk ... I mean, treasures. Remember that you are not competing with Target. Shoppers are looking for bargains, so determine your best price and add a bit to leave room for haggling.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to pricing items. The first is that you tag each item with a specific price. That keeps things less chaotic once buyers begin scouring through all of your things. Just be prepared for shoppers to bargain down the price, even if you consider your prices to be the rock bottom. It's part of the tag-sale culture.
The second method suggests that sales often work best when you don't price things in advance. Wait to see what a customer offers you, which you may be surprised is more than you would ask. Even if you don't put a price tag on items, you should still have a general idea of how much each item is worth and the minimum amount you'll accept. And don't be afraid to hold your ground. Seasoned "salers" just don't feel right about paying full price without any objection at all.
On sale day, make sure you have an electrical outlet available so that buyers can test items to make sure they're working. If you are one to go all out, having water available will be much appreciated and perhaps even keep people looking longer at what you have to offer.
A great trick that will include the kids who show up with their parents is to make up a big box filled with grab bags. Small paper lunch bags work great for this. Fill them with small items like toys, stickers, wrapped candies -- anything you have that would be fun for a child to open. And the fuller each bag is, the better. Seal the bags and then post a sign near your checkout area, "50 Cents Each!"
After the sale, resist the urge to re-stash the leftovers. Instead, call your local charity to schedule a pickup.
Mary invites questions at email@example.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.