Winning: How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Winning How to Have a Successful Garage Sale - picture of young woman standing at yard sale table talking to customers

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Well, I finally did it.  I had the garage sale I’ve been planning since we moved into our new home this winter.  And, to be honest, it was pretty torturous.  Greg had to work this Saturday so it was just me and the kids.  I have always loved my Saturdays alone with them, but I did a terrible job at managing the kids and the garage sale at the same time.

It was partly because the kids got so bored early in the day, but it was also because I had so many people coming in and out.  To be honest, it was really hard to get the kids their drinks and snacks, or even put them down for a nap.  In fact, they had cheese and crackers and blueberries for lunch because I only had about a minute to throw something together! Anyway, I would consider my garage sale a success for two reasons:

  • I made about $225, which is pretty amazing since I didn’t have any big-ticket items.  Most of my items were priced for a dollar or less.
  • I got rid of a bunch of crap- home décor, baby clothes, random miscellaneous items that have been dumped on me over the years.

garage sale

As a certified cheap-ass, I must admit that garage sale shopping is my passion.  I literally get high off of the feeling I get when stumbling onto a good sale.  The majority of my family’s clothing has been purchased at garage sales, and that in itself has probably saved us thousands of dollars over the years.  And the cool thing is, no one would ever know.  I take the time to dig through the disheveled stacks of clothing to find the good stuff, and I buy in bulk.  The four of us rarely get any “new clothing.”  In fact, I’ve even been known to give my kids used clothes and toys for ChristmasIs that wrong?

How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Who needs baby shoes?
Who needs baby shoes?

As a garage sale enthusiast and connoisseur, I do feel like somewhat of an expert on the subject.  Having a successful garage sale takes a lot of time, hard work, and planning, but the right moves can maximize your earnings while making the process as seamless as possible.  Want to have an epic garage sale worth talking about?  Follow these simple tips:

  • Remember that you are not a retail store- I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen people price their items as if they were TJ Maxx.  In fact, I recently visited a garage sale where used jeans were priced at $20!!!   That’s totally nuts, especially since people can’t even try them on.  Not surprisingly, they had tables upon tables of overpriced clothing lingering at their sale, and no one seemed all that interested.  I’m sure that they were some fancy brand that I’m not cool enough to know about, but still.  Asking someone to buy used jeans out of your garage for $20 is highly unrealistic.  The bottom line: If you want your items to sell, you have to price them low enough to make people feel like they’re getting a deal.  That’s why they’re there in the first place, am I right?
  • Clean your junk- Dirty garage sales are my pet peeve of the universe.  I mean, how long does it take to clean your stuff of before you try to sell it?  Seriously.  Take a few minutes to dust the furniture you’re selling.  Fold your used clothing or hang your items in a place that people can actually see them.  Don’t sell a used potty seat with a squirt of pee still lingering at the bottom.  Yes, that happened.  People are much more likely to buy your stuff if it isn’t disgusting.
  • Utilize free advertising- Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of free ways to let people know about your sale.  For example, it’s easy to create a free garage sale ad on craigslist.  It’s also easy to share the details of your sale with your friends and neighbors on Facebook.  Putting up signs doesn’t hurt either, especially because it might bring in a few people who just happen to be driving by.
  • Get plenty of change- I can’t tell you how many garage sales I’ve visited where the people running it could no longer make change.  Trust me, it happens a lot.  I went to the bank and got $100 worth of change for my garage sale and still ran out towards the end of the day.  Fun fact: Someone actually asked me if I could break a $100 bill early in the morning at my sale.  Ummmmm……no.  The bottom line: People can be rude.  They’ll try to purchase a .25 widget with a  $20 bill.  Having plenty of change lets you sell to those people without getting too angry.  Consider yourself warned.

Having a garage sale can be a huge pain, but it can totally be worth it if you need some quick cash.  If you have a Saturday to burn, it’s also a great way to de-clutter and free up extra space in your home.  The key is to price your items low enough to get sales, but high enough to make it worth your time.  Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and effort, which is not fun or frugal at all.

What is your strategy for garage sale pricing?  And hot garage sale tips?

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  1. “Remember You are Not a Retail Store” is great advice. I always tell my wife to detach emotional attachment from every item…what you think it’s worth is much higher than what someone else will pay for it. “Priced to SELL” is my motto. I’d rather take a quarter for something than have to pack it up and take it to Goodwill. 🙂

    1. Me too. I just put my garage sale leftovers on craigslist for FREE yesterday. Someone who was having a fundraiser garage sale came and picked it all up. Killed two birds with one stone! =)

  2. Nice job! I’m glad you had so much success, even though you were trying to balance the kids and the sale. I’ve never hosted a garage sale, but it never dawned on me to have change! I think my parents had three garage sales ever, mostly before a move. Common sense, but know the value of your items at least. My mom, knowing nothing about video games, sold some for a very low price when we could have gotten more (possibly elsewhere). She also sold the console in a fit of “get rid of everything!” My dad still doesn’t let her live that down. Also, make sure everyone is on the same page regarding what is being sold!

    1. I’m sure I’ve sold things for less than they were worth, but it is nice to get rid of stuff. Sometimes it’s even worth it to give things away for free!

  3. I haven’t had a graage sale in a long time but my sister and I are planning to get one together this summer at her place since her street is much busier. $225 and a bunch less stuff is great!

  4. We had a garage sale last Spring and it was a lot of work getting everything prepared, but we had a ton of stuff to sell. Now that we have less my wife is selling most of it on eBay. I think one thing people should realize is that the weather will have a big impact on your garage sale. We missed out on half a day of our sale because it started raining at noon.

    1. Ugh! That sucks! Yeah, I did get lucky with the weather.

  5. I hear $20 for a pair of True Religion jeans would be a good deal. But like you I am not cool enough to recognize that brand, nor would I actually buy that brand.

    I hear baby clothes are a gold mine to sell at garage sales… so once we are done with baby two I can finally make like 1/10000th of the money I have spent back!

    1. I don’t think that they were True Religion, but they might’ve been some other fancy brand. I just don’t keep up on stuff like that!

      Baby clothes are a gold mine!

  6. I’ve been in a garage sale once, and yes, how you price your items really matters. Going to a garage sale with overpriced items wasn’t fun at all.

  7. Nice work Holly! It has been quite some time since we had a garage sale and it shows…because we have too much crap! Our neighborhood is supposedly doing one this summer, though we may just do one ourselves as I know we have plenty of junk we could offload.

    1. It’s easy to accumulate a lot of stuff. I do it all the time and I rarely buy anything at all.

  8. I’m in an apartment so I can’t have a garage sale but I price my items to sell. If I ever had a rummage sale and someone wanted to purchase a $0.25 item with a $20 bill I’d just give to them for free. If I didn’t sell it, it’d be donated anyway.

    1. Exactly. That’s the way to seriously get rid of stuff!

  9. I’ve actually had people who asked to try things on. Um, no. I’ve also had people return things later in the day and ask for a refund. It’s a garage sale and you paid a quarter! All in all, though, they are a pain but a great way to get rid of stuff and make money at the same time. I can’t believe you did it all by yourself!

    1. I ALWAYS have someone ask to use my bathroom. I’ve said yes in the past but this time I said no. My kids were home!

  10. Found you via Cleverdude.
    I totally agree with everything you’ve said here. I love a good yard sale, and I am very uncomfortable at an over-priced one. A friend and I are having one together this Saturday, and you better believe my junk will be leaving my possession one way or another. Anything that doesn’t sell – off to Goodwill. Usually near the end of a sale, I start drastically reducing prices, and often throw extra things in, just to lighten the packing it up burden. Last 1/2 hour or so, everything is free. Overpricing at yard sales is also my biggest pet peeve. Really people – you want to sell it, or not? Once, a long, long time ago I was at a yard sale and the older woman who was hosting it told me that her can opener was $10. I nicely told her that I could buy it for $10 at K-mart, to which she replied, “Well go right ahead and do that.” Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything at all from her. And I’m fairly certain she didn’t get $10 for it from anyone.

    1. LOL. Nice!

      Some people are just so unrealistic. Or maybe they’ve never gone garage sale-shopping and just don’t know any better? Who knows….

  11. Great tips Holly and that $225 is an amazing haul considering you didn’t have any big ticket items!!

    We’ve been contemplating having a garage sale, but it always seems like too much work. Have to get around to that some day…

    1. It is a ton of work. This time, I worked on it for an hour each day for two weeks straight. It takes forever to price stuff =/

  12. I’ve never had a garage sale, but I’ve been selling our old baby stuff through Facebook kid swap groups. I always price low, figuring it will sell super quick (and it usually does).
    Props to you for having a garage sale while alone with two young kids!

    1. I love those Facebook groups! I belong to a few that are for home décor and kid stuff.

  13. Thanks for the tips Hollly. I’m scheduled to have a yard sale June 14th with a friend so we have more stuff to sell. One issue will be finding and getting tables to put stuff on. I’m also terrible at counting money so I’m hoping my friend can handle the money part. I know, I’m a pf blogger and can’t count change back. I’m missing that math gene.

    1. Ha! I’m actually out of practice too. I rarely use “real money” these days!

  14. My last garage sale was when we downsized from a large (5 bedroom) house to a townhouse 17 years ago. I made enough to pay for the mover using professional movers.

    1. Nice! You must’ve had a few big-ticket items!

  15. The fact I can’t have a garage sale because I live in NYC and I’m sure I’d get a ticket for hogging the side walk, drives me nuts! I have such a soft spot for them (especially since my first financial lesson came at the hands of one). A few friends and I tried to host a garage sale when I lived in Shanghai. We probably had 5 people show up all day because no one really understood the concept. So much so, that an Italian guy (I lived in an compound with a bunch of expats) walked down the street to to inquire, “What is meaning of Yard Sale?”

    1. Awwww….that’s kind’ve sad. What do people in Shanghai do with their used junk?

  16. Great tips…and getting making $225 on $1 or less items, you know what you’re talking about. I think it’s getting close to time for us to have a garage sale!

  17. We had a garage sale when we moved from Tampa 6 years ago, and the best advice given to me, which you gave here is have change! Everyone wants to think that they are going to sell big ticket things, but at the end of the day, you start accepting $1 and $2 for items and if you don’t have change, you lose those sales.

    1. Yep, or you give it away for free because you feel bad =/

  18. $225! Nice. Pretty amazing that you were able to do it without Greg’s help. It’s crazy that people want to charge $20 for used jeans. I don’t care what brand it is…people who buy expensive jeans probably aren’t shopping at garage sales.

    1. Yep, that’s what I’m thinking.

      Actually, I would consider buying REALLY NICE used jeans for $20 if I could try them on.

  19. I freaking LOVE garage sales. Last Saturday my fiance and I stumbled on one a few blocks away from us and got an awesome microwave for $45. I mean it had to have originally been a few hundred bucks. We actually have a vlog up on the blog now showing our nerdiness and excitement from finding that microwave.

    Besides that one the rest of the garage sales we saw last week could have used your advice because it was all old dirty crappy things.

    It’s funny how we want to share all the little deals we get. I guess that’s part of the high lol.

    1. It is part of the high!

      My big garage savings mostly come from clothes. For some reason, it seems like most people ignore the clothes. I go through every single piece. You can’t beat paying 50 cents for a shirt your kid wears 25 times!

  20. You could probably sell $20 designers jeans at a garage sale in LA, but even then, it might be tough. 🙂 Sounds like you got a good haul overall and I honestly don’t know how you manage to oversee a garage sale and two kiddos. I would have been tearing out my hair!

    1. I actually felt bad. They had to wait forever to have lunch! It wasn’t a great mom moment for me!

  21. The person who used to live across the street had a gigantic garage sale about once a month Spring through Fall. We would piggy-back onto her sales by putting out our stuff after she drew in the traffic. We were bummed to see her move.

    1. Doh! Yeah, that would be awesome. You wound’t have to put up signs or anything! =)

  22. We just had our garage sale this past weekend and we did very well. We priced a few things high for a reason and they sold quickly, but the people bartered. We expected it and that is why we priced those items a little higher. Keeping change is a great tip and I am glad I went to the bank before to get change.

    1. Me too! I got $100 in change and still ran out!

  23. Great tips! I hate it when people aren’t realistic with their prices- makes you wonder if they actually want to let go of the stuff!

    1. Me too! They think they’re TJ MAXX or Steinmart or something!

  24. Great job on your final total when most things were priced for under a dollar! I agree cleaning things and organization are key – when a garage sale looks disheveled, it makes me want to give up quicker rather than having to rummage through everything. If someone organizes, however, it makes me think that they took better care of their things.

  25. It’s been a five years now since I had a garage sale and I can’t tell that it’s successful because I didn’t plan it very well. Thanks for these great tips Holly!

  26. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    In NY, you might see the occasional stoop sale for folks living in buildings with big stoops (so long as they’re not on the sidewalk) but most of the stoop sales I see, especially in hippy-dippy neighborhoods like Park Slope, often consist of stuff people should give away. Sometimes, you gotta admit that it’s better to donate to charity then to even try selling.

    I also couldn’t agree with the change thing more. I don’t have garage sale experience but I sell school merchandise at alumni events I run for my job and you always need a bank of change. People forget the need for small bills and small change.

  27. $225 is a good haul no matter who you are. That’s, like, a year of cell phone service with an MNVO, or almost an entire Christmas budget. Well done! I sent this off to my friends who are having a big garage sale (or four) before they move to a new state.

  28. I’ve been planning to have a garage sale at the end of this month. These tips will surely be helpful. I will indeed prepare a lot of coins for change.

  29. Having a bunch of change is certainly key. I have a friend who at his garage sale last year had the square credit card device for his phone and was able to take credit card payments, that’s the way to go! Yeah they take a small percent, but fewer and fewer people carry cash with them these days.

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