(This blog post originally came from my tofugami instructables page.)
It’s that time of the year (May-September) to de-clutter and make some money by having a yard sale. You may not think you have enough stuff but if you really look around and did you spring cleaning, you may have a good mine sitting all over your house.
I recently had a yard sale and did extremely well and wanted to share with you what I did right as well as ways to improve. You too can have the most successful and fun yard/ garage sale. (For those of you who are curious, I have included in my instructables exactly how much I made.) This guide will also share the YARD SALE SECRET SAUCE as well as selling tips so you can have the ultimate yard sale and get more cash into your pocket.
My relationship to yard sales is that I love to shop them. I prefer to call it bargain hunting. For those of us who are hardcore, it’s definitely a sport. That love of the sport combined with my +15 years of sales and service makes for what I hope you will enjoy as an Ultimate How to have a Yard Sale Guide with Secret Sauce: Get up to 500% More Profit.
Pre-Organizing Items and Pricing
I decided within 1.5 weeks to have a yard sale. I even thought I could take pictures during the sale for this instructable. Boy, was I wrong. Let’s just say that from 6AM to 12:20PM I just kept moving. I wish I had a video to share with you all this one moment (about 10:20am) where there was no one and the next moment within 30 seconds, a flood of 20 people were in the yard. I loved it! Let’s rewind back to how this magical moment happened by doing the homework to prep for the big day.
1. The most essential thing for a yard sale is to have lots of good things. Good is best define as: quantity and quantity.
You want to have lots of stuff. Only the neighbor’s kids will visit a 10 items yard sale. The people who come to bargain hunt tend to come by car so the quantity will get them to stop.
Next comes quality. Have more nice things or at least make them presentable. If you want to sell your old vacuum like I did, clean it up. Take the hairs out of the bottom roller. Run a wet rag over it. Just because an item is 20 years old, doesn’t mean it needs to be looking like it is. (Unless it’s antique you are going for.) Got a bunch of shirts? Do a fast iron so the Calvin Klein shirt looks good enough that the buyer can easily imagine himself in it. Bottom line, if you wouldn’t come to your yard sale, no one else would either.
2. The most essential part of pre-organizing is to tag everything. Yes, everything must have a price. Most people like to bargain. If you give pricing as they come up, you could be over- or under- pricing both of which are bad. Over-pricing means you could lose a sale and under-pricing means you could lose money in your pocket. You or the buyer could get confuse when things get sticky. This is especially true when there is a bunch of things the buyer wants to buy or if you have a bunch of potential buyers at the same time.
When pricing, think of a fair value. Don’t low ball your stuff and don’t over-price either. How much would you be willing to pay for a particular used item? If you don’t know, check out your local thrift stores to get an idea of what things currently sell for then go a little lower. Be sure to leave a little wiggle room to bargain though. People want to feel good about the overall value of an item and will sometimes request a lower price especially if they are interested in several things.
When tagging clothes, I write with a Sharpie on a post-it note that is stapled to the tag of the clothes. In addition to the price, I also add a one or two word description if needed such as size (if post-note hides this info) and if it is a brand name or NEW. This will remind you of the value of your item as well as support the value in the buyer’s eye.
Use full back sticky Post-It notes, painter’s tape, or stickers to write and tag other items. It goes without saying but make sure your writing is eligible. There’s a huge difference between $1 and $7.
I kept most items priced at $1, $5, $10, and $20 because it’s much easier to give change.
3. On the note of change, do get change from the bank. I had $200 in change to be safe. Unbelievable as it sounds, sometimes people come in with a $20 bill to buy a 50 cent item. I had $20 in quarters, $60 in 1s, $120 in 5s. I am glad I grabbed so much change because very early I was getting a bunch of $20s from buyers. Then shortly after, I no longer needed to use that extra change because people started to come in with $1s and $5s. Just remember, better safe than sorry.
It is essential to advertise your yard sale. No one will come if no one knows about it.
The best way to advertise your yard sale is to utilize other advertisements. The newspaper is a great way to let people know. One of the most effective is still Craigslist.org. If you don’t have an account, create one and list your yard sale a few days ahead of time. Bargain-hunters like myself will often map out the sales to hit. I also used Bookoo.com which is gaining popularity but it is currently not available in all locations. If you have a local neighborhood newsletter or a church bulletin board, be sure to highlight your yard sale in it.
Word-of-mouth is also a great way to advertise and it is FREE. You never know if your old lawnmower is something your sister-in-law wanted unless you talk and highlight information regarding your upcoming yard sale.
Finally, the must do for advertisement is to post signs. This is especially important if you live in a neighborhood that is hard to find or requires a few turned or a long sprint to get to. For my sign I choose to use sturdy cardboard which I folded and double-up. If you want bright color poster board, don’t forget to attach it to sturdy cardboard. No one can read a sign that has flopped over on itself. I used black paint to write “YARD SALE” and then I added an arrow in a bright color. I choose green for my arrow since it represents “go”. Yellow, red, pink, orange will also work if you are using cardboard. Remember that you don’t really need to list a lot of information on the sign because people have a harder time reading small details like your address. It is easier to follow arrows. Just be sure that your sign looks nice and does not look like it was from last week that someone forgot to take down. Also do make sure that signs can be read from 30 feet away. You don’t want someone to miss the turn or turn too fast because the sign is barely readable at 10 feet.
You can also choose to add a balloon or two to draw attention to the sign.
My yard sale was off a busy street so I didn’t need a lot of signs. You may need more signs. The more signs, the better chances of traffic coming to your sale. Remember that traffic flows in at least 2 directions so when posting signs, be sure to place signs in each direction with the proper arrow.
If you don’t have a post to place your sign you can also place a sign in/ on your safely and strategically parked car.
How to Write an Ad
Newspaper ads are short and sweet. You only need to post your address, date, time, and highlight one or two things to encourage people to come and to help differentiate your yard sale from others going on that day. I had a new Xbox One console and Coach purses to highlight my sale. Yours could be low prices, tons of furniture, moving sale, or collectibles.
A quick note on time. Saturdays are the busiest sale days. I chose to do only Saturday because last year when I shopped the annual sale on Sunday, it was a ghost town. Fridays and Sundays are luke-warm days. Pick a day that has plenty of good weather as rain and snow makes people stay inside. Also don’t pick a holiday weekend. Other days to avoid are days that might have traffic on the other side of town such as a Festival day.
Most yard sale start around 8-9AM and finish off by 2-3PM. If you are not an early riser, don’t pick 7AM because you have to calculate prep time in. If you are unsure of when you might end your sale, put a question mark.
For other ads you should include a more detailed list of the items you have as well as short directions to where you are located. Be sure to include pictures of a few items you are showcasing (without pricing shown) to peak interest. For directions, people recognize buildings and landmarks more than streets. For example, in my ad I indicated that we are located in a street across from the local high school. You could be living near Walmart or close to a freeway. Let people know, it’s not hard to find your sale.
Yard Sale Secret Sauce
There is strength in numbers and I kid you not when I say this: if you want a strong way to advertise your yard sale, get your neighbors involved. People go to yard sales that indicate 3 or more sales clustered together. Even better if your neighborhood/ block hasn’t done so already, make it an annual sale. This is a secret sauce recipe here.
I live in an apartment where I can’t have a yard sale. However, I utilized my brother’s neighborhood which has an annual yard sale and is several blocks huge. I am talking about over 100-200 homes that are actively participating. Trust me, when taco trucks from 50 miles away come to sell food in your neighborhood yard sale, you know you have a gold mine. This takes a lot of neighbors and a year or two to build momentum but it can be done.
Last week I attended a yard sale that included several blocks that were based around a local park. I have seen the foot traffic increase 50% more than last year’s annual sale which I also attended. Remember, more people means more stuff sold.
The annual yard sale I participated in had an easy to remember date: the first Saturday and Sunday of every May. People come to these with the expectation to find mine gold… I mean find goods. That means they have money in their wallets to spend. Cha-ching!
The Day Before the Big Day
1. Think of everything you need and need to do for the sale and write it down. You can even print up this instructables and check things off as you go along.
2. Post your signs the night before your big day. I made the mistake of thinking I could post them the morning of and boy was I wrong. If you must post your signs in the morning, make sure to post before you set up.
3. Have your tables, shelving, clothing rack, etc ready to go in the garage. Everything you need should be in there. Grab all those plastic bags laying around and make sure they are ready to bag goodies for your buyers. Have a sharpie, tape, and extra stickers to price or highlight anything that might have been missed. Your change should be in a cash box or cash apron.
4. Double-check your online ads to make sure they are still up. Update it if necessary. Maybe you finally decided to let go of that beautiful Thomas Kinkade painting. Perhaps you gave your vacuum to your mother-in-law.
5. I thought about making cupcake to sell too but since I spent the night at my brother’s to get ready for my sale, I choose not to do it. If you have sweets and drinks to offer or sell, make sure they are ready too. The last thing you want to do is waste 20 minutes trying to find the pitcher for your 25 cent lemonade.
6. Lastly, get a good night’s sleep because you will have a busy day ahead of you. Oh, and don’t forget to set your alarm, you wouldn’t want to be late to your own sale.
The BIG Day
Finally, the big day has come.
For me, I was too excited about my first yard sale and only slept 2 hours. Even more exciting, the power of the secret sauce was working. My sale was to start at 8AM and at 5:45AM cars were already whizzing by this normally quiet street. Those early birds were super duper early; they are hungry for some good worms.
I allowed myself 2 hours to prep for my yard sale since it was going to be mainly a 1 woman show. 2 hours was plenty for me, at the minimum you need 45 minutes to 1 hour to prep depending on how much stuff you have. Time will pass much quicker than you think. The truth was that by 7AM I had already sold my first item. By 8AM when I officially opened, I was already well into selling and doing the happy money-in-my-pocket dance. Thank you, secret sauce!
When preparing the “floor” here are a few useful tips:
1. Place more expensive items in or closer to or in the garage. I had my new digital camera, new xbox one console, and purses here.
2. Place things on tables and shelves if you can, if you can’t do that, do what I did and place them on large blankets and on top of flipped upside-down boxes.
3. Place clothing on a rack, with at least one highlighting piece facing the street to grab attention. My highlighting piece was a gorgeous new Maxi dress. Once that sold, I grabbed another pretty dress to put in its place.
4. Place eye-catching large items in the front, closer to the street. I put my 2 portable shopping carts in the front along with 2 vacuums, a luggage, and a portable folding cot. Keep moving things to replace these as they sell also.
6. I also brought to the front an extra-large bucket of items with a large sign that read, “50 cents each or 3 for $1” to encourage bargain hunters to stop by. Entice with low prices.
5. Display things in groups. I had a section for books, toys, purses, shoes, household items, dvds/blu rays/ video games, and clothing. Organization makes the yard sale look clean and easier for buyers to spot things they want.
6. Build a floor plan with flow. The pavement leading to the 2 car garage was wide enough to fit 2 cars comfortably. So I created a circle for easier flow. If you don’t have room for this, create a L floor plan. Remember, the more stuff people see the more likely they will buy.
I have gone to yard sales where everything is so all over the place that other buyers and I had to difficulty moving around to look at things. I always hesitate when a cool item on a shelf 10 feet deep is worth getting to. The general rule is you want at least enough of a walking aisle that someone in a wheel chair could move around with ease.
During the Sale
Here are some tips on what to do during the sale:
1. As unbelievable as it may sound or be out of character for you, PLEASE do greet your potential buyers. If you cannot say hello, at least look them in the eye and smile. You will make people feel more comfortable and they turn feel more comfortable to pull out cash for your stuff.
Horror story but I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to a yard sale where I felt I was invading people’s space because the seller refused to or did not bother to smile or say hello. I ran away from those yard sales quickly. Often times, those sales have literally no traffic and for obvious reasons will make little money.
2. Keep your things neat. People like to rummage. It’s okay to pick up and fold clothes when it’s slow. I folded cloths like 5-6 times because messy equates to junk and I have goods, not junk.
There was a potential buyer for a digital camera twice, and I had to put the camera back in its box neatly each time it didn’t sell. When it did sell, I got my full asking price of $150.
3. Do 1 cash transaction at a time. During a busy moment I had 2 buyers handing me cash. I accidently handed over in change to the first buyer. Thankfully he was nice enough to wait and allow me to correct that mistake when the 2nd buyer reminded me that I still owe her $10 more. And do count back the change. You might accidently have a $5 stuck between the $1s and counting ensures you are accurate.
Speaking of bargaining, here are some tips for making and increasing your sales:
1. This should already be checked but I like to add it here again: your pricing should have a little room to go lower. People love to shop and when they get it for a deal, they love it even more.
2. Don’t waste time haggling with low ballers. Know your stuff and their values. If you price something for $50 like I did on my iPhone 3g and would honestly take $40 but someone wanted it for $20; it’s okay to say, “No, thank you.”
3. Don’t do holds unless you have the full cash in hand as sold. I had a double-whammy on this iPhone low baller. She gave me $10 and said she would be back later. 2 plus hours later she had her daughter come up to me to ask for the cash back. I could have sold the iPhone during that hold period. You only do holds when someone needs to grab their truck because the item you sold was too big for their car.
4. Affirm the value of your items. If you see someone looking a long time (that’s like more than 10 seconds) at an item, go over and talk about its value and good qualities. Someone was looking at a pair of shoes. I encouraged her to go ahead and try it on. I provided information that it’s brand new in the box and made by Sketchers. My flat foot just couldn’t handle that style. I told her black looks good and goes with everything when she tried them on. (It was also the truth.) Guess, what? I sold the shoes.
5. Ask for the sale. Remember that new digital camera that the I was selling for $150? Online it goes for $150. And I told you I sold it for $150. How did that happen? This gentleman was the 3rd person to look at the camera. He was looking at it for maybe 5 minutes while I was helping others. Another 5 minutes later I tried to tell him how to take pictures with it and he seem to know how and was not interested in my information. Another 5 more minutes and finally I asked him, “Do you want it?” He nodded. I waited for him to ask for a lower price but he didn’t so I didn’t offer either.
Sometimes people are right at the edge of buying. Already they see themselves having and using an item but buying is not the same as having. How many times have you looked at something you really wanted and needed but end up not buying it. Later back at home, you are kicking yourself wondering why you didn’t get it. The gentleman could have walked away, still dreaming about that very camera. But because I asked by using those 4 magical words, he had to make a decision: dream or reality. He bought it and made it a reality.
6. Create repeat buyers. A lady came in and bought a Coach mini wallet. I showed her a new Coach wallet that I had not pulled out to show anyone and she bought that one as well. A gentleman bought a beanie from me for $2. I showed him 2 other beanies for $5 a piece which was nicer and had built-in headsets. He bought one of them. A lady was excited that I had new anime dvds for $3 each and took 10 minutes looking and trying to decide on which ones to get. In the end she picked only 1 and I told her, grab another and I would give it to her both for $5. She didn’t hesitate and grabbed that 2nd favorite she very much wanted. A kid wanted something from the 50 cent box. I told him grab 2 more items and it would only be $1 total. He was happy as could be. Buyers felt good about buying more quality stuff and I felt good make the sale and knowing my stuff was going to be used and appreciated. In this way I estimated that I sold 15-20% more stuff and pocketed about $200 more. Money flows much easier out of the hands of someone who has already opened his or her wallet.
4. Re-evaluate your prices. I only had one day and don’t plan to do another sale for at least a year. As the hours go by, I thought of what I didn’t want to hang on to for another year and lowered the pricing on those things. Basically by 11AM I greeted everyone and told them that I can work out a lower pricing for them if there was anything they were interested in.
Also think about how much you want to get rid of something. I had a leather jacket I wanted to sell at bottom pricing of $25. Someone offered $20 and I didn’t take it. Yep, I regret it because it’s still in my closet. How bad do you want to hold onto something? If you aren’t going to use it in 3 months time. Letting it go for less is okay too.
After the Sale
My sale was suppose to go on until 2PM. But by 1PM it was so windy (this city and particular this area is all wind) some of my books and clothes were starting to take flight into the neighbor’s lawn and I had to shut it down.
1. When cleaning, carefully place stuff into 3 piles: keep, sell, or donate. Keep means you thought about it and you might end up using it after all. Remember that iPhone? My nephew’s birthday is coming up and I’m going to gift it to him.
I had a bunch of stuff that I still needed to sell like that Xbox One which I later happily did so to a friend. (A side note: the new Xbox One didn’t sell because it is not a typical yard sale item. It was used to distinguish my yard sale from others and I had it sitting on a box with a large sign so that people driving by could see it. It worked because people stopped to look at it then continued to look at my other stuff.) Some clothes and other household items I wanted to also try to sell.
My Champion juicer did not sell either even though I was willing to let it go for $80. This is okay though because online I can get that or a bit more. Just because a yard sale has ended does not mean that selling has to stop. There is always eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, and Bookoo; 4 different online sites to sell stuff. And you can always have another yard sale.
During my sale, a councilman from a neighboring city dropped by not to see what I have to offer but to request that I donate my children’s books to his program. Sorry!
I have a bunch of nephews and I have already made donation plans. Non-children’s books were being donated to my local library bookstore which sells used and donated books. The library bookstore is dear to my heart because I used to volunteer there and I also have visited it many times over. I know exactly how the profits are spent to support different programs offered throughout the year. Other household stuff or clothing I didn’t want, I donated to the local Goodwill I frequent. The people who work there always greet their customers and have a clean store. If you are going to donate, make it personal, it always feels better. An added bonus is that some organizations donations can also be a tax write-off.
Oh and while you are cleaning up, don’t forget to take down ALL your yard sale signs. If they are in good shape, you can re-use them on your next yard sale.
Boy, was I excited when I began to trade out my $1s and $5s for $20s. When it came time to count the money, I couldn’t believe I had $1001. Minus my seed money of $200 that made $801. But as I stated before, something unfortunate happened. In the next step I will tell you what went wrong and how you can learn from my mistake.
More Tips and Tricks
The more I keep writing this, the more I realize that I could literally write a book instead of a mini guide.
1. I realized that a yard sale was a lot of fun for me. I love sales and making money. However, not everyone is like me. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a yard sale and still don’t after reading all of this, look to donating or selling your stuff online. Having fun is a must in a yard sale. It felt good knowing my clutter was being used by others and now I have space and the money to get something else I want.
2. Have a goal for the money you make to keep you motivated throughout the whole process. A yard sale really is a process and it does take a lot of time and energy When you have a vision of what you will do with the money, you will find more stuff to get rid of. My husband and I haven’t gone on a honeymoon. Hawaii is what we have planned right around the corner.
3. Get your family involved. When I started my sales, my sister-in-law saw how fast money was rolling in and started to bring stuff out too. It really is a lot of fun working together.
4. This is a sad one but I must mention it I lost $140 due to theft. This annual yard sale gets so much traffic that literally 10-20 people were in the driveway throughout much of the hours. I had the more expensive stuff closer to the garage but was constantly involved with people. In one moment a bunch of ladies were looking at the Coach purses. Within 5-10 minutes when I was busy selling to others, 1 of my new $298 retail Coach purse was stolen. Not more than 5-10 minutes later I noticed because I had 4 new Coach purses and then I only had 3.
I thought about this and consider it a $140 lost because I was going to sell it for that price. I do believe if there were more people available to help me throughout the sale, that would have decrease the chances of this happening. (Hence also a good reason for #3.) But I think, like people who pick-pockets, people will steal if they want to. I used to work in a very popular retail store and theft in that store averaged at least once every other day.
You can still discourage theft by safe guarding. Next time I’m going to set a table where my husband can watch over the more expensive things and also place them on a shelf behind this table. And as a learned lesson that I want to pass on to you, do be aware that people steal and adjust your floor plan accordingly.
5. Finally, like I did in tip #4, expand your knowledge for the next sale. I can’t remember everything I sold but I do remember some things and I wrote a list of them. What this list does is help me know for next time how to strategize my next yard sale for more success.
My list showed me what sold well. Household items, especially bulky stuff like vacuums, shopping carts, luggage, small folding cot bed, etc. Things that were more unique such as the soapstone chess set and unicorn picture as well as pretty purses and lower price used Coach purses also sold.
What was low or not on the sold list were dvds, clothes, shoes, and books. I think these did not sell well because of three reasons: everyone has them, limited style selection, and price point. There were a ton of females at my yard sale. I wear a 9 and these ladies had smaller feet than me. I know this because they were looking at the shoes section but were commenting about how big the shoes were. I had a lot of dresses and even 3 wedding dresses for sale but most of the people who dropped by wanted a new dress for under $10. I even had one lady ask for $1 jeans. Nope, very few yard sales will sell at that low of a price for something in good shape. Also some lower end toys sold but not the more expensive stuff. Most of my books were self-help, college textbooks, and metaphysical so I already knew that they would not do well. These items help provide quantity to the yard sale.
All this information means that next time I am better off selling household items, unique items, cloths only if $1-5, smaller size shoes, and more lower end purses. I don’t plan to attempt to make a profit on the things I sell but next time I am out and about, I can decide whether to buy something to resell based on information from my old sales. Chances are good that even if something has a brand name, but the shoes is a size 10, I won’t buy it.
Hopefully, I have given you enough insight to inspire you to have your own yard sale. Or if you already have done them, I hope it helps give you a little more profit next time. It’s bargain hunting season so get your yard sale on. Maybe you’ll get up to 500% more profits. 🙂