My moms group did a garage sale as a fundraiser a few weekends ago and I thought I'd pass on a few tips and lessons learned so you can better host or help out with a successful garage sale. I'll start by saying that we made an amazing $500 in two days with mostly housewares, books, clothing, and kid toys/gear. That's right, you don't have to have fabulous furniture on the docket in order to have a fruitful garage sale. Here are a few tricks we used that really helped out:
1) Post your Garage Sale online at Craig's List. It's FREE advertising and a lot of people plan out their garage sale itinerary based on what is posted on Craig's List. For the title of the post make sure to include the days the sale is going on (i.e. Garage Sale This Fri/Sat!) Post the ad several days in advance, then re-post it the night before the big sale. In the body of the ad, keep it simple by placing the address, dates and hours, and list out a few of your hot items. Add pictures of items to the ad if you have them!
2) Signs, Signs, Signs...and Balloons. Ok, this one is a given - if you have a garage sale, you put signs up. However, there is a right and wrong way to go about it. Make sure your signs are large enough and simple enough to read while someone is driving by. Make them bright so they stand out from the other white cardboard signs and don't forget arrows directing people in the right direction. Put signs out on the closest busy road, then continue placing signs at each turn so people won't get lost on their way to the sale. Put signs out at least 2 days before your sale starts, so you catch weekday work traffic and place them where traffic going both directions can see. Oh, and splurge on a few balloons the day/s of the sale - tie them to your signs as an extra stand-out, eye-catcher for all your potential clients.
"Main Road" info sign
"Driveway" directional sign
3) Have change ready and available before your Garage Sale begins. Go to the bank the night before and make sure to get lots of $1 bills and coins. It's not good for your first customer to arrive and then remember you need change when they hand you a $20...yep, it happened to us because one of the girls ran to the bank right before the sale started.
4) Make pricing easy. The easiest way to price items you have bulk is by category (all clothing $1 each, books 50 cents each, etc.) For items that are unique, use colored dot stickers from an office supply store or the local Dollar Store. Each color represents a price, like the color blue represents $10 in the photo below. Tape a dot "key" to each table so people understand your color-coding and don't forget to have one near the cash box so the person collecting money knows the prices too.
These pricing dots just get things started... Allow people to barter, that's part of the fun of garage sales! And, remember, ultimately you're trying to get rid of stuff so don't be too stuffy about letting things go at small prices.
5) "Free" brings 'em in. Have a "free" box for items with missing pieces or minor damage and clothing with stains or minor flaws. You can advertise your "free" box on your Craig's List post as well and people will flock. As the sale goes on, add more and more things to the box if you're really wanting to get rid of them.
6) Cookies are King. This is prime time for a bake sale or the kids' lemonade stand on the side. We baked some cookies, bagged them up, and then sold each bag for a $1. We made at least $20 on cookies and used them as fodder for bargaining as well - i.e. "We'll thrown in a couple bags of cookies if you take the stroller for $10". Few people in a captive garage sale audience can turn down cute kids trying to sell lemonade - and they'll pay more for it if a lot of other adults are around...strange but true.
7) When trying to get rid of stuff at the end, sell items by the bag full. Gather lots of grocery bags before the sale, and as the sale starts to wind down (and you realize how much you still need to get rid of) let people stuff a bag full for $1 or $2. Stand back and watch the tables clear out! Those small bills really do add up and it means fewer Goodwill trips for you.
8) Finally, donate the leftovers. This is one of the most important steps of the garage sale process. Once the sale is over, take whatever is left to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other used-item donation site. This allows everything to go to good use and prevents you from re-cluttering your garage with unsold items. Everyone wins!
Does anyone else have any good garage sale tips to share? We'd love to hear what you garage sale gurus have to say!