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Tips for a Successful Yard Sale
Anyone can save huge amounts of money buying things they need or want at yard sales. But what if you need to make some extra money? Did you just finish spring cleaning and have piles of unwanted (but still usable) items? Or maybe you are moving, downsizing, or just trying to simplify your life. All are wonderful reasons to host a yard sale. Sales are hard work, but not as hard as one might think. Here are some tips on how to organize and hold a successful sale.
- First, you need to pick a date for your sale. Next summer, next month, next weekend – it all depends on how quickly you can complete the preparations. Consider whether or not you would like to ask a friend or neighbor to join you. Larger sales often attract a larger crowd. Also keep in mind that major holiday weekends are not a good time for a sale unless you happen to live in an area that attracts tourists.
- Second, start gathering items for your sale. Declutter your house, including the attic and garage. Some like to make this a part of their regular cleaning routine by keeping a box for yard sale items in an out of the way place. When it is full, they start planning a sale. Whether you do it all at once or gradually, the key is to organize and price items as you go. This will save you a lot of time when you set up.
- A few words on pricing: Remember that you are much more likely to move merchandise that is priced reasonably. The items you are selling are not new, and your customers are expecting to find a deal. If you have an item that you really think is worth money, you might be better off selling it on Ebay or Craigslist (for example a nice piece of used furniture, a collectible, even clothing if it is high quality and gently used). A good rule of thumb is to consider what you would pay for that item at a yard sale. Just be careful not to think of your items more highly than you ought to, just because they are yours or you know what you paid for it new. If you do have minimum prices for some items, it may be a good idea to keep a list, especially if you have family or friends helping you with your sale. Also remember that customers often want to bargain, so you might want to start out slightly above your target price (i.e. if you want to get $10 for your set of dishes, ask $12 or $13, because if you ask $10, they may try to talk you down to $7, or you might just get $12!)
- Last, start gathering other supplies that you will need to hold your sale: small bills and coins for change, shopping bags, tables, tarps, snacks and drinks, etc. You may need to rent or borrow some of these things, so give yourself enough time to find and procure them before the sale.
If you want steady traffic, you need to get the word out about your sale. It might be a good idea to read some yard sale advertisements for ideas before you write yours.
- First, advertise in local newspapers and online forums. You should put your ad out at least a week before your sale, especially if it is a large neighborhood or church sale. However, if you are trying to minimize out of pocket expenses, the bare minimum would be the day before and the day of your sale. Most papers will give you an option to also post your ad online, however there are numerous free yard sale forums (find a long list of these at Yard Sale Queen.) Be sure to include specific information including the location, date, time, whether or not it is a single family or group sale, if the sale is for charity or a fundraiser, whether or not you welcome early birds, a brief summary of items (i.e. furniture, baby stuff, women’s clothing, etc.) or a highlight of your best items (i.e. 4 piece queen bedroom suite for $200).
- Second, put up signs around the neighborhood, especially if you live off the beaten path. Before you do, you need to check with your city or county, as some have certain guidelines or restrictions for hanging such signs. Make sure that your signs are large and that the writing is readable. You may even want to drive by your sign after you hang it to make sure drivers can see it. Also, it’s not that arrows are forbidden, but please don’t just put “Yard Sale” and a big arrow on your sign. Make sure you put your street address and the date and time of your sale. There is nothing like driving out of your way only to discover that the sale was last week or to get lost in a neighborhood and never find the sale.
- Last, tell your family and friends and ask them to spread the word for you! Word of mouth is always a great way to spread news, especially in a small town.
Set up a Professional Sale
You may think there is nothing less professional than a yard sale, but this doesn’t have to be true.
- First, organize and market your items well. Place your most attractive items out near the road in plain view (for example a nice piece of furniture, a newer appliance, or nice children’s toys). Group similar items together, for example all of the toys on one table, all the clothes on another, and all of the housewares on the third. Hang your clothes up on a clothesline or rack instead of throwing them on a tarp or in a bin. Make sure that all prices are clearly marked. If you have a larger item (i.e. furniture, a t.v., set of dishes, etc.) make a larger sign and include some of the specifics (i.e. TV is 5 years old, 20″, used infrequently, and works well, $30.) If you have appliances, have a set of test batteries on hand or a power strip so that customers can verify that they work. Or go ahead and plug in the TV or DVD player and play a movie or turn on the radio you are trying to sell.
- Second, do a quality check as you set the items out. Don’t even try to sell items that are dangerous or seriously damaged (small nicks and stains are ok, I’m talking about a toy that has not worked for 10 years and has corroded batteries in it). This can just make your whole sale look junky. If you really want to get rid of them, but don’t want to fill up the land fills, put them in a box out of the way and offer them for free or an extremely low price (a few dollars for the whole box).
- Be ready to barter in a professional and reasonable manner. Typically sellers stick to their prices for the first hour or so, and then start to budge a little more as the sale goes on. Again, remember that you might actually bring in more money when you offer better deals. Better to take $3 dollars for that lamp at 9 a.m. than to keep it marked at $5 and never sell it.
- Offer your customers refreshment. Have a pitcher of water and some plastic cups available on a hot day. You may even be able to bring in a few extra dollars by selling cans of soda or small snacks like chips, cookies, or fruit. You might let your kids try their hand at an entrepenurial venture. No one can say no to such a cute little face! Just be sure that everything looks and is sanitary. No one wants to buy something that your kids are putting their dirty hands all over, or see you touch your merchandise or money then serve you a cookie.
- Last, professionalism can protect your earnings as well. Not all yard sale customers are sweet deal seeking mommas. Some will try to distract you, switch stickers, put a smaller item inside of a large one, get you talking then say they already paid, or tell you they gave you a $20 instead of a $10 and ask for more change. I don’t think there is any need to be paranoid, but be careful, especially about your cash box! Either have someone guard it at all times or wear a pouch or fanny pack on your person.
When it’s Over