Every spring, hordes of bargain hunters trample upon the grass in search of a bargain. Having a yard sale can be a fun way to make a little extra cash while ridding your home of clutter, unused housewares, clothing, books, toys, and other still-useful belongings just taking up space. To make the most of your yard sale efforts, here are a few tips to guide you along.
Finding Wares To Sell
The first step, of course, is to find a yard full of goods to sell. In our overabundant, consumer-oriented society, most people have more possessions than they really need. Start cleaning closets! The familiar adage is, if you haven’t used it for a year, get rid of it. Of course, you will have objects of sentimental value that you will want to keep, but do you really need to keep every stitch of your little darling’s infant outfits? (Unless you plan to have more little darlings, no.) Do you really need to keep that old toaster you replaced? If you are renting a storage locker to keep your overflow possessions, why? Do you really need all that stuff? Why pay to store it when you could make some spare cash instead?
Next, go through all the goods you have decided you can live without, and check them for quality. Don’t insult your customers by offering goods for sale that probably should be thrown out anyway (but don’t throw them out just yet…) My own rule is, if I wouldn’t give it to my own family to use or wear, I won’t sell it.
Ask family and friends if they would like to add some of their own items to your yard sale. A large selection of items to look at will attract more customers. Many people will drive by and glance at your sale before deciding to stop and look; if there isn’t much there, many will just keep driving.
If you don’t have a lot of your own goods to sell, and friends don’t seem interested, another way to get more merchandise is to spend some time at estate auctions. You can pick up lots of good rummage sale fodder this way. A box of miscellaneous household items can often be bought for just a dollar or two. Self-storage unit auctions are also another option. Contact the self-storage companies in your area to find out if and when they will be auctioning off abandoned storage units.
Organize your sale by displaying like items together, like the department stores do. This makes it easier for your customers if they are looking for a particular type of item, and will help increase your sales. Someone may be looking only for plates, but gee, doesn’t that glassware next to it match nicely? If you are offering clothing, group sizes together so someone looking for a particular size can find it easily. When possible, hang up clothing. If you pile everything on a table, customers will rummage through them and you will find all the sizes mixed up again. How much time would you spend at Walmart shopping for clothes if you had to go through every item to find the size you need? Good organization will make it easier for your customers to browse, and they will stay longer (and hopefully spend more).
Have plenty of tables handy for display, so you don’t have to crowd the merchandise together, and to make room for browsers. If you don’t have extra card tables, borrow some, or create some makeshift tables by laying an old door or some long boards across sawhorses. Create a clothing rack, if you need one, by suspending a long metal pipe from a sturdy tree limb or laying it across two stepladders.
If you are clearing out Junior’s toy collection, throw a sheet or tarp on the ground and display the toys there. Don’t discourage young visitors from playing with them; if they are entertained, Mom may browse a bit longer, and often ends up buying the toy! This applies to toys that are not too expensive, or fragile or breakable; keep those up on a table where they can be protected.
Run an extension cord to your yard sale area if you are offering appliances, stereo equipment, or other electrically powered items, so customers can verify for themselves that the item is in working condition.
Now, I’m going to tell you what to do with that big pile of junk that needs to be thrown away: put it all in a big box and write “FREE STUFF” on the box. Clothing that is too stained or torn to be worn can be used for cleaning rags or cut up for craft projects. Some guys love to tinker and will take that non-working kitchen appliance home to play with or use for parts. You’d be surprised what people will take off your hands, and it will that much less junk in the landfill. Plus, people love to get things for free! If you advertise free items in your sale, it will draw more visitors, and while they’re there they will take time to look over your other wares also.
Put all the small, junk-drawer type items that you are selling in a bin and mark them “25 cents each” (or whatever price you choose). For some reason, people love to rummage through bins of stuff, and usually end up picking something out. All those quarters will eventually add up!
Keep Prices Reasonable
Mark prices on everything clearly. Some people won’t bother to ask prices, they’ll just put the item back down and forget about it. Keep prices reasonable (cheap); people don’t go to yard sales to spend big money, they want to pick up bargains. If you overprice your sale, you’ll just end up packing everything back into the closet, and you really don’t want to do that, do you? I can’t really give you price guidelines because every local economy is different. Consider whether there are a lot of out-of-work people in your area who can’t afford to go out and buy new things. Do them a favor and price within a low-income budget and help out your neighbor. The guideline I use is, how much would I be willing to pay for this if I were buying it? It might help to check out some of the other yard sales in your area and see what prices they set, and price your goods accordingly. Be willing to haggle over prices; that’s part of the fun for many yard-sale afficionado.
If you are selling antiques or collectibles, you don’t want to practically give them away. A good way to set prices for such items is to check online auction sites like eBay. They don’t necessarily reflect the true value of antique or collectible items, but will give you a good idea of what people are willing to pay for them. Don’t sell Grandma’s depression glass for a pittance and then find it sold later on eBay for big bucks!
I have found that good ol’ masking tape is best for tagging items. Preprinted stickers are available in most department stores, but I find they usually don’t stick very well, especially on clothing, and you may end up with some items with extra tags while some have none! For better-quality clothing, where you may not want tape residue, you could use a paper tag held on with a straight pin. If you have more than one person selling items in your sale, mark each with the initials of the seller. Keep the tags as the items sell, or keep a tally on a sheet of paper, so you can divide the proceeds up at the end of the day, or the end of the sale.
Be sure to run an advertisement in the local news paper; most have a special section just for yard sales, and many people check it every week (I only buy our local paper for the yard sale ads!).. If there is a free shopping paper that is distributed in your area, place an ad there as well. List a few of the types of items you are offering. You don’t have to name everything, just what you have the most of, and mention any special collectible or antique items. Don’t make your ad so long that it cuts deeply into your profits! Be sure to give your address (I did forget this once and the person taking my ad didn’t catch it!), and the dates and times you are holding your sale. Mention your “FREE STUFF” if you have any.
Thursday through Saturday are the usual days in my local area for yard sales. Start as early in the morning as you care to (8:00 is good), and run until at least early evening (5:00-6:00) on the weekdays to catch the day shift after work.. On Saturday, run your sale until the early afternoon, perhaps 1:00-2:00; you generally won’t get much traffic after that. Some giving yard sales may specify “no early sales” in their ad, but if I get customers who stop while I’m still setting up, I invite them to go ahead and look; they may see something they want, and if they leave to come back later, they may not come back at all!
In addition to your classified ad, be sure to post flyers at the local grocery store or wherever there is a public bulletin board. You can go into more detail here with your listings, since it doesn’t cost anything. If your town allows it, post signs along the road also. Look for places where other sale-givers have their signs posted; that’s usually a good spot to get yours noticed also. (Be sure to go around and take your signs down when the sale is over, please.) Put a noticeable sign in front of your house, perhaps with a few balloons to attract attention to it. People may be driving by, with no thought of rummage sales, and decide to stop and have a look. If your neighbors down the street are having a yard sale, ask if they will allow you to post a sign in their yard in exchange for posting their sign at your sale, so you can direct traffic to one another.
The day before your sale, be sure to get plenty of coins and small bills to make change with; seems like everyone shows up with $20 bills! It will save the hassle of sending someone to get change for you when you run out. Have some empty table space to serve as your “check-out” counter, and a place for people who have their arms full already to park their choices while they browse some more. You will also need some shopping bags for your customers (I just save every bag I get when retail shopping and store them until I need them!), and if you are selling glassware or fragile items, have newspaper for wrapping. It never hurts to have a few small empty boxes handy, either.
If you can offer some shelter from the sun for your customers, especially in the middle of summer when the sun is hot, it may convince them to stay a little longer to browse. Beware of setting up under too many trees though (birdies may make a deposit). If you have a picnic canopy, that’s great, or set up on a covered porch or in the garage. Plus, if it happens to rain, your wares will be protected. Keep some inexpensive plastic dropcloths hand just in case it does rain, so you won’t have to scurry to put everything away. The weather man may not be predicting rain for the weekend you have your sale, but they’re not always right, so it pays to be prepared! If you’re really nice, have some lemonade or other cool drinks to offer, or let the kids get into the money-making game and set up a lemonade stand nearby!
Consider where your visitors will park. Empty your driveway of your family’s cars, either park them down the street or in the yard, out of the way, to make parking more convenient for your customers. Lack of parking may discourage some from stopping, especially the elderly. Some visitors may park in your yard, without asking, so be prepared. If you don’t want that to happen, block off the area with yellow caution tape.
I hope these yard-sale success tips, from my own experience, will help you to have a fun, hassle-free, and profitable sale of your own!