A garage sale is a great way to make extra money and help kick start your savings. All too often we over spend, finding ourselves in debt and with too much clutter. Holding a garage sale is the easiest way to remove these items from your life and recover some money in doing so.
If you no longer need or use an item; you should sell it. Having an item simply sit in a cupboard or collect dust has a two pronged negative impact; it costs you money to store and the money tied up in the item would be better placed on your credit card debt, mortgage or ideally your savings account.
Here is how to run a garage sale that makes money, declutters your house and converts junk into cash.
The best day of the week to hold a garage sale
The day you choose for your garage sale has the ability to make, break or explode the success of your garage sale.
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So what day is best for holding a garage sale?
It is wise to note that in order to make money at your garage sale, you are going to need plenty of customers. To get plenty of customers, you are going to need to align your sale day to a day and month that is conducive to getting foot traffic into your driveway.
For this reason it is wise to not only consider the day of the week you hold your garage sale, but the time of year as well.
Saturday and Sundays are ideal days in general; this is because people work during the week and is the only two days they have ‘free’. You will alienate a huge proportion of your would-be customers if you were to have a sale on a weekday.
Long weekends and public holidays can also be good; while many people go away, many people are left relaxing at home, often with nothing to do meaning more people attending your garage sale.
Warmer months of the year are also best; people tend to walk more, wander more and want to buy more when the weather is better. It also limits your chances of rain or bad weather on the day.
The best time of day to hold a garage sale
The best time of day to run a garage sale is to kick off early (around 9am) and run until 3-4pm. Most people are out and about around 12 or 1pm so that is when you will see the most foot traffic to your garage sale. The reason you should go from 9am is that is likely the time that shop owners and dealers will be out and about looking for garage sales.
Advertising and promoting your garage sale
In the movie ‘Field of dreams’ with Kevin Costner, the famous quote goes ‘build it and they will come’ – this does not apply here let me assure you.
To run a successful garage sale you will need to promote the hell out of it. If you don’t, no one will know about it. Simple.
So what is the best way to promote and advertise a garage sale?
Make highly visible signs
You will need to create signs that are easy to read and descriptive. Your goal is to surround a 2-3 km radius of your property with signs pointing back to your address. Be careful not to make signs with small print or non-memorable details. All you need to list is the address, some prized items for sale and simple instructions like ‘next left’ or ‘30 seconds away’.
You can put signs up the week prior to build momentum if you wish, however on sale day you should replace your general marketing signs with specific location and time signs of your garage sale.
Remember, your signs need to be visible to people driving by in cars. Big, bold and clear is the goal.
You should also consider posting signs at your local shops, an array of telegraph poles, roundabouts and near local school pick-up areas. Basically you want to promote your garage sale to high traffic local areas.
Promoting your garage sale through the local newspaper
A great way to build momentum for your sale is to advertise your garage sale in your local newspaper. It’s surprising how popular these papers are for classified and real estate.
Be sure to list any big ticket or popular items in your ad; antiques and furniture do particularly well I have found.
You can also advertise your garage sale in larger newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald but this comes with increased cost. I have done this once before and got a solid turn out; the big newspapers attract antique dealers and people who run stores.
Post your garage sale on GumTree
GumTree.com.au is a great free classifieds site. It has the potential to advertise your garage sale, free of charge, to thousands of locals. Take 15 minutes and list your garage sale and take the time to post some photos and directions.
Get your neighbours involved also
See if your neighbours would like to hold a garage sale on the same day. Inform them of all the tips and tricks to run a successful garage sale and essentially you are doubling your marketing footprint without any extra work.
Leverage council swap days for free promotion
Most councils have annual swap days or second hand sale days. If you can, align your garage sale to one of these events as you will find many people wandering the streets looking at other items.
Items that sell well at garage sales
Your sole goal when holding a garage sale is to make money and declutter your house. The trick is to find household items that you no longer need, or would prefer to sell, that people are going to want. If people want them, they will pay for them.
Be realistic and remember that while ‘one mans trash is another mans treasure’ there are limits to this saying. Don’t go selling ridiculous items that no one wants; it cheapens your garage sale and loads it with junk.
Instead, focus on items that are going to sell really well. From personal experience I have found the following will often sell really well at a garage sale.
Before you read on, we have also compiled a great list of things to sell for extra money that could apply to your garage sale also.
Items like old mowers, whipper snippers, power drills and hedge trimmers are sought after items that always sell fast.
Just about any power tool or gardening device will sell, and sell well.
These are items that sell for a premium in most hardware stores so don’t be affraid to put a decent price on your tools. A lawn mower for instance will likely cost over $500 to buy brand new; a second hand one you could easily sell for $50 to $100 and the prospective buyer would still be getting a great deal (as you can repair a lawn mower for next to nothing).
Childrens toys, clothes and other household items
Items like high chairs, play mats, play pens, nappy bags, Fisher Price toys and other baby items will always sell quickly.
Having a newborn is expensive and many people search garage sales for cheap kids toys and items; a great way to save money and not pay retail price.
Most mums fail to let go of baby items, holding them for many years in case another child comes along or in the case of my mother in law, she simply holds many memories with each item and cannot bare to let it go.
The truth is however, baby items that sit in a cupboard for five years are not going to help you. Sell them now, make the money now and if you really are unsure if you are going to have another child; simply invest the earnings from those items into a term deposit or similar for safe keeping.
Brand new items that are still in a box
We all have weird presents given to us that simply stay in the box they came in. These are great items to sell at a garage sale as they will appear brand new, have a very low price and someone can easily re-gift them and snag a bargain in doing so.
Look for old Christmas presents, birthday presents or gifts that were given to you as souvenirs when people travelled (you know, the horrible beach towel from Scotland that has a kilt printed on it? Yeah sell it).
Antiques sell really well at garage sales
Antiques and retro items are always popular at garage sales. People love to buy a piece of history or something that could be a talking point in their house.
Items that sell well include antique phones from the 70’s, jugs and cutlery, vintage jewelry and old Australiana items that could be hung up in the yard.
Furniture is always wanted at a garage sale
Desks, chairs, tables, benches and couches are always super popular for garage sales. You often get second hand furniture shops scanning the newspaper for upcoming garage sales and if you have taken out a newspaper ad as mentioned above, you are certain to have them come by.
Old furniture is often made of hardwood and can be rejuvenated to look amazing. Couple this with the fact that modern furniture is often made cheaply and of poor materials, the older furniture is becoming more and more sought after.
We once had a garage sale and listed multiple hardwood desks for sale; we had furniture dealers arrive 2 hours before the garage sale started trying to make an offer before the public saw the items. That is how much people love furniture at garage sales!
White goods (fridges, washing machines, dryers and more)
Household appliances like fridges and washing machines always sell well at a garage sale. Uni students, share houses and renters are always looking to save money on these items and garage sales are the best bet for them.
Advertise the white goods in all of your garage sale marketing tactics and don’t bring them items to the front of your garage. Simply take a photo of them and print them onto A4 paper for people to see; if they are genuinely interested you can take them to the item.
Remember, it’s up to them to pick up the item as you don’t want to be offering a delivery service (though if you do, charge an extra $25 for home delivery).
Pricing your garage sale items to sell
To ensure your items sell you need to:
Use big stickers that are colour coded and clearly priced. The bigger the price tag the more likely someone is to pick up the item for further inspection. Set some consistant pricing via the colour coding; blue is $2, red is $5 and so on.
Be realistic with your pricing; if you think something is worth $5, price it at $3. You want to sell your items not debate their value with passers-by.
When you have crowds of people there; tell them out loud that everything must go and to make an offer fast.
At the end of the garage sale time slot; offer all items for $2 or something trivial as odds are they will be going in the bin if they don’t sell.
Displaying your items logically to make it easier for people to buy
- Group like items onto similar tables.
- Use trestle tables and white table clothes to make items stand out.
- Bundle items for sale; don’t sell one book for 50 cents, sell 10 for $5.00.
- Make sure your items are tidy and clean; showcase them like you would in a store.
- Display your high value or ‘sellable’ items at the front; if people love power tools, promote your power tools with the best real estate at your garage sale.
Protecting your items from theft at a garage sale
Be careful when holding a garage sale as quite often I have seen things go missing. It saddens me that people would actually steal from someone trying to sell their belongings but the fact remains that it does happen.
Put valuable items on a table that is hard to reach or requires you to manage (e.g. handing the item to people who wish to look).
Also be sure to lock your house up nice and tight; I have heard stories of people wandering into a house while the owner holds the garage sale out the front.
The best garage sale tip I can give is to setup tables in such a way as to block access to your house (hopefully) and limit the ability to lose high value items when you aren’t looking.
How to handle the admin of a garage sale
Manage your inventory and prices wisely. Prior to the garage sale, list all of the items you are selling and note their price. This will act as a quick reference guide on the day if you lose your stickers or wish to cross items off as you sell them.
Get a bumbag. Fill it with about $20 worth of every coin (for change) and be sure to have lots of smaller notes (5’s, 10’s, 20’s). Make sure you separate coins with coin bags you get from the bank to make it easier to find change.
Print off some receipt templates. Some people will ask for a receipt with their purchase; use a template to write the item name, item price and date.
Get someone to help you on the day. To hold a successful garage sale, you will likely need three people. A person to man the tables, a person to show people bigger items and another admin support person to help with receipts, change and other tasks.
Want to make extra money at a garage sale? Consider holding a sausage sizzle on your front lawn for $1 or $2 a pop with $1.50 cans of drink. Only do this if you are confident that you will get a lot of foot traffic in your area.
Maximise your selling space. Use your driveway, carport and entire front lawn if you can. Try not to make the event feel too crowded.
Be proactive in your selling. Talk with buyers, tell them about the item they are touching, sell its condition and multiple uses. If you really want to, you can offer them a discount immediately to lure them into a deal.
Cross sell items at your garage sale. If someone buys the lawnmower, they should also buy the jerry can full of petrol as well. Pair up items and try and offload multiple items per transaction.
Haggling and bargaining at a garage sale
Garage sales are notorious for attracting bargain hunters. People craving a good deal. In fact, most people I have seen at a garage sale appear to get a thrill from trying to haggle.
The trick to managing people who are wanting to haggle is to make them feel like they are getting a good deal. If they offer a low price, tell them you are happy to meet them halfway between that price and your original asking price. It’s a fair and reasonable request for both sides.
Remember, stay strong on big ticket items that are popular or genuinely worth the money. If the item is a small keepsake or piece of junk; accept any offers as it’s better than putting it in the bin.