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7 Steps to Learn How to Have a Garage Sale

Updated: Aug 14

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Recently, I wrote a piece about how starting a junk removal business can be a great way to help others declutter their homes, attics, basements, or places of work, and get paid while doing so.

But what if the clutter is in your own home?

You'll still have the opportunity to make money if you opt to throw a garage sale. Today, I'm back with a guide to help you learn how to have a garage sale and make money doing so.

What are garage sales?

Garage sales, oftentimes known as yard sales, or events that homeowners oftentimes host in an attempt to declutter their homes. Traditionally thrown in a garage, driveway or front yard, homeowners traditionally gather and arrange items that they are looking to sell.

Yard sales may contain all different types of items for sale, but some of the most common items include:

  • Books

  • Clothing

  • Furniture

  • Electronics

  • Kitchenware and appliances

  • Tools

  • Sporting goods

How do garage sales work?

Typically, yard sales are hosted for a set number of hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning or afternoon. Those that want to shop show up during this time.

What awaits them is intended to be a relaxed, no pressure environment where they can search for anything they may like to buy. Sellers and buyers are able to connect leisurely and strike deals.

Sometimes, garage and yard sales have defined prices on items, while other times, prices are left for negotiation or even bartering. There are various garage sale pricing strategies that you may opt to use, which I will cover in more detail in a couple of minutes.

How to have a garage sale and make money

Once you're ready to throw your own garage sale to declutter your home and make some good money, just follow these seven some steps:

  1. Plan and organize

  2. Advertise your garage sale

  3. Think about pricing

  4. Set up your display

  5. Finalize your preparations

  6. Provide excellent customer service

  7. Make sales

1. Plan and organize

Your first step in throwing a successful garage sale is to clean out your attic, basement, shed, or home to decide what you'll sell. This is only the planning stage, so you don't have to make any final decisions now if you're unsure whether to sell a possession or not.

But for those items that you know you'll part with, either through selling or throwing away, I recommend that you dedicate a portion of your garage to hold your inventory for now.

You'll likely sell a variety of items from all different areas of your home, so this is your opportunity to get organized before you get overwhelmed. As you clean out each drawer or room in your home, bring these items to your garage.

I like this approach for a couple reasons. First, while you may not notice a ton of progress after each and every drawer, you will notice it over time. Taking before and after pictures to document how much progress you make is so much fun though!

I also like this approach because it helps assure that you don't accidentally throw away anything you wanted to hold onto.

Organization is key!

Pick a date for your yard sale

Cleaning out a house can be an arduous process. But to help assure that you stay on task, it may also be a good idea to schedule a date for your yard sale now.

Of course, weekends typically work the best, particularly if you live in a neighborhood with a fair number of drivers.

You'll also want to make sure you are in accordance with all town ordinances, HOA regulations, and other rules you may be subject to regarding start times, commerce out of your home, etc.

2. Advertise your garage sale

To maximize your changes at making as much money as you can, I recommend that you advertise in order to spread the word. Whether or not this is necessary depends on whether you live in a crowded area where word will spread and other variables

Oftentimes, when families in my area throw garage sales, they'll attach fliers to light posts, stop signs, and other infrastructure where it'll be seen. But just because homemade fliers have always been the way that this has been done does not mean that this is the way that you'll need to advertise.

The best ways that you may consider to advertise your garage sale are:

  • Social media

  • Neighborhood signage

  • Partnering with neighbors

Use social media

Social media can be a great opportunity for you to spread word around your town and neighborhood, particularly if you're connected with others in your area. For this reason, I find that Facebook works the best, since there is a ton of locally based Facebook Groups that may join in order to spread word about your upcoming yard sale.

Certain Facebook Groups have different rules about posting promotional or money-making materials, so you'll want to make sure that you're in compliance.

Even if you can't leverage these groups, posting an announcement on your personal social media pages can go a long way to building some momentum for your sale.

Neighborhood signage

I know what you're thinking. I just said that there are better approaches than attaching fliers to light and utility posts. And I do believe that social media is more likely to lead you to make more sales.

But the problem with ignoring neighborhood signage as a way to spread word is that people are used to finding out about garage and yard sales in this way.

So, to cover your bases, I recommend that you still use posters, fliers, and other promotional materials to advertise your upcoming garage sales.

If you're unsure whether you can post a flier somewhere, always remember to ask.

Partner with your neighbors

The third approach that may consider is partnering with your neighbors. For instance, maybe you'll agree to hold a larger yard sale, where you and others can all sell your unwanted items.

And while this may increase the competition to sell your goods, having two or three times the people to market and spread word about a larger sale could bring in far more potential customers than you may be able to on your own.

3. Pricing garage sale items

With your inventory set, the next step in your garage sale logistical planning process is to figure out your pricing model. Typically, items at yard and garage sales are pretty affordable and sell for a few dollars each.

You want to strike the balance between making money and pricing items affordably enough for visitors to purchase them. Of course, if you're looking to part with a more expensive item, such as an appliance or piece of technology, you do want to make sure that you're able to sell them for a fair price.

One way to keep your display organized and save time is to use colored stickers corresponding to different price points. That way, instead of individually labeling each item with a price, you can just attach a colored sticker and then create one pricing guide.

This will save you time and could potentially lead to a greater volume of sales as customers stop looking for tags on each individual item. When in doubt, I encourage you to price your items a couple of dollars to the high side. Potential buyers can always try to negotiate if they have interest.

4. Set your yard sale up

There is not necessarily any right or wrong way to structure your yard sales, but you want to be sure that things look nice and organized. Doing the little things can help you to sell more of your inventory.

For instance, if you're selling clothes, washing them and folding them neatly can be really helpful to entice borrowers that may be on the fence about buying them. Other examples of ways to keep your yard sale organized include:

  • Cleaning tools

  • Polishing shoes

  • Aligning things on sales racks

And while you don't want to spend any money on it, it can also be a good idea to have some bags on hand to help others transport their new items home with them.

Generally, it is also a good idea for you to organize your products by category and color, which will help your customers to find what they're interested in.

5. Finalize your preparations

With your inventory prepared, word of mouth spread, and pricing completed, it is time for you to finish your yard sale preparations.

As you put the finishing touches on your planning, I encourage you to continue to think through the rest of your required logistics. For example:

  • Will you accept credit/debit card, or cash only?

  • Where will you get enough coins and small bills to make change for your customers?

  • Source and set up extension cords to show off electronics you're planning to sell.

Once your final preparations are complete, it is time to have your garage sale!

6. Provide great customer service

Time for the big day! As your potential customers begin to arrive, it is a good idea to provide good customer service. This means doing the little things, such as:

  • Greeting potential customers warmly

  • Asking if they have any questions/need assistance

  • Playing background music

If you want to go above and beyond, feel free to offer beverages and light snacks that don't cost you much money. It will be a great touch.

Remember - your goal is to make them feel welcome. That way, they'll quickly can a level of comfort with you that can help you to drive sales. Plus, it will make for a better garage sale for you too!

7. Make (yard) sales

As you greet your visitors, some will ask you questions, while others will just want to look around. My advice? Spend your time with those that seem open to interacting with you.

It doesn't guarantee earning more money from your garage sale, but it will help sway the odds in your favor, since introverts don't want to be upsold or feel like they are being watched as they shop.

I've mentioned this already, but don't be surprised if visitors to your garage sale try to negotiate. Ultimately, whether you accept or reject this offer is up to you, but it is common in the world of garage sales.

Alternatives to garage sales

If you're like me, you're probably excited by the idea of making money by decluttering. But you probably aren't quite as excited about having strangers come visit your home in order to do so.

If this sounds like you, don't fret! You still have a number of options to get paid for decluttering, but none are likely to be as good as individually listing and selling items online with sites like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist.

Advantages to these sites include:

  • Not having to plan/set up a garage sale

  • Flexible shipping/delivery options

Now, I want to hear from you. Have you ever thrown a garden or yard sale? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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