How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Domestic CEO reveals expert tricks and tips for having the best garage sale. Here’s how you can clear out your clutter and put money in your pocket.

Amanda Thomas
6-minute read
Episode #7

How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Growing up, I got to learn from the best when it came to having a successful garage sale. To this day, I’m convinced that even Donald Trump would tell my mom that she’s “hired” after watching her set up and run her annual garage sale. As a kid, I never thought too much of the event, but now as an adult who helps people organize their garage sales, I can recognize the precision and skill my mom had in the execution of this day. It takes planning, coordination, and a decent chunk of time, but if you are willing to put in the sweat equity, the rewards can be substantial.

Today, I’m going to give you the tips I learned from watching my mom coordinate her garage sale every year. Use these 4 tips, and you will be sure to bring in the maximum amount of cash from your next sale:

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1. Big Ticket Items + Small Goodies = Success

Big ticket items are what draw people to your garage sale. They are the things that you will list in your flyers, put pictures of in your online ad, and set out front to draw the looky-loos in. These items are typically things like furniture, appliances, electronics, and large baby items, such as swings, bouncers, and strollers. These are the items that “professional” garage salers are looking for because they typically are harder to find, which makes them the Holy Grail for shoppers.

On the other hand, the more smaller items you have on offer, like home décor, clothes, sporting equipment, and books, the more people will stick around out of curiosity. They will want to explore to see how many treasures they can find in your displays. The big ticket items will get them to stop, but the little ticket items are what will keep them shopping.

If you are lacking in either of these two categories, consider asking a friend or family member (or several!) if they want to join in your sale. The fewer people involved, the better for your bookkeeping, but sometimes it takes a few families’ worth of stuff to make a good sale. Ask around until you have enough items to make it worth even opening your garage door.

2. Get the Word Out

This is Marketing 101. If people don’t know you (or your sale) exists, how are they going to know where to shop? Yes, there are always fanatics who troll through neighborhoods at 5mph on Saturday mornings, but you need massive traffic to make your garage sale successful!

Post everywhere you can. Do a quick Google search for “Garage Sales” and you will find a number of sites where you can post the details of your garage sale. Some sites include the ability to post pictures, which I highly recommend you do with your big ticket items. Also, your local newspaper likely has online classifieds where you can list your sale as well, but keep in mind that they typically review ads before posting, so you need to send that out about a week ahead of the sale. Remember, the more people who know about your sale, the more people can come out, and the more who can buy your stuff.

Finally, don’t forget the most basic form of advertising: signs. A few days before your event, walk from your house to the busiest street in your neighborhood. Count every corner you turn and every major intersection you pass through as you get to the street. This is how many signs you need. Your goal is to successfully direct people from that busy street right to your front door. Do this by using signs of a similar color or another indicator, like balloons. Use large, dark writing to tell people which days and times your sale is taking place, and big arrows so people can clearly see the directions from their cars. Don’t worry about putting your address on the signs. No one can read it when driving past. Just make sure the signs all lead them up your street. Then, make sure you have a similar sign or balloons in your front yard to let them know they arrived at the right destination. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone searching for a garage sale on a whim, only to get into the neighborhood and not see a single indicator of where to go. Don’t frustrate your potential shoppers. Lead them to your door, instead.

3. Make Shopping Easy

Now that your advertising is under control, it’s time to focus on the shopping experience. In the days leading up to your garage sale, you must prepare. Think like a retail store, and create displays of your items. You would never walk into Target and expect to dig through piles of clothes on the ground, so why would you expect your shoppers to do that? Borrow tables from friends, family, and neighbors to create displays of similar items. Use the frame of the garage door or a rope tied between trees to hang all clothing items. If you have a bathroom near your garage door, offer your shoppers a room to try on clothing, just make sure they are monitored while in your home. Do NOT let strangers walk unaccompanied through your home at ANY point.

Clearly mark prices on all your items with little pricing stickers, available at office supply stores. People are much more likely to purchase if they know how much an item costs. When pricing your pieces, make sure you consider your goal for the garage sale. Is it to make as much money as possible, or to get rid of stuff? If it is to make as much money as possible, do a little research on your big ticket items to find a fair market price. If your goal is to simply get rid of stuff, mark them with the lowest price you would be willing to take for the items.

Quick and Dirty Tip: If you have multiple families participating in the garage sale, make sure to denote on the price sticker who the item originally belonged to. This will help you track revenue for each person.

Have you ever wondered why grocery stores put items everyone needs, like milk, eggs, and meat at the back of the store? It’s because they are hoping you pick up a few extra temptations on your way through the aisles. Use this retail strategy at your own sale and put your big ticket items at the back, but clearly visible from the street. You can assume that most shoppers are going to wander back to see how much you want for the beautiful bookcase. Even if they aren’t going to drop $100 for the bookcase, they may grab a handful of home décor items for $10 on their way through.

4. Make Checkout Easy

For your checkout station, I recommend having a card table with a “Cashier” sign taped to the front so your customers know exactly where to go to purchase their items. At this table, station the person who is best with money and numbers. If there are multiple families involved, this person should have a notebook with a separate page for each seller. As the shoppers bring their items to the Cashier station, that person will remove all the stickers, add up the total amount due, and then place the stickers on the appropriate seller’s page. If any haggling was done, make sure to mark it on the sticker to ensure your total equals your cashbox total at the end of the day.

The most important thing for this station is your cash box. You can purchase an inexpensive one at any office supply store. For ease of use, look for one that has separate compartments for each denomination of bill and coin. This will allow for you to easily give change, even during a hectic rush. Then, make sure you stock this cashbox with lots of cash. I recommend about $75 in small bills ($1s and $5s), and at least 2 rolls of quarters.

Finally, stock this area with lots of plastic grocery bags and cardboard boxes to package up your shoppers’ purchases.

Having a garage sale can be a lot of work, but following these 4 simple steps will guarantee you happy shoppers who will want to spend money on your stuff – and come back next year!

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at DomesticCEO@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Domestic CEO Facebook wall or on my Twitter feed.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

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