Best Practices to Having a Garage Sale

My friends often refer to me as the garage sale queen, though if I’m being honest the title belongs to my momma who’s taught me all I know. In lieu of my neighborhood’s annual garage sales, here’s my tips, secrets, and best practices for organizing a garage sale:
How to organize and plan a garage sale or yard sale


How to arrange and display your garage sale items

  • Start early! If you have a garage, set up on card tables the week before. I like to spread items out in my living room, put in piles according to prices, then write and stick tags on each item and carry it directly out to the garage! It makes for an easy process.
  • Wipe down your tables first and throw some sheets or tableclothes on top.
  • Always place your jewelry near the checkout table–it’s one of the most common items stolen at sales because it’s valuable yet small and easy to pocket.
  • Group things together in small displays. For example, put all your kitchen goods in one area, all your home decor in another area, etc.
  • Put any larger, eye-catching items towards the end of the driveway. Refrain from putting nothing but clothes closest to the street–these don’t contain much curb appeal. Place any “man items” like tools and sporting goods near the street as well–some men won’t venture all the way into a garage and may miss it if it’s hidden.
  • Display books, CDs, and DVDs so that it’s easy to read the spines. I like to put my books in totes that are raised up so that shoppers don’t have to bend over. Just take two empty totes, put a board across them, then put totes of books in single layers on top. Shoes can go on the ground underneath, or perhaps baskets of pillows.
  • Make aisles easy enough to walk through (and wide enough for strollers/wheelchairs).
  • If it has a hole in it, pitch it. If it’s pit-stained, pitch it. If it’s broke, pitch it. Would you want to buy damaged goods? If it’s a small appliance that’s broken, write so on the tag–you’d be amazed by how many people will still buy it for a buck, as long as you’re upfront about it’s operational status.
  • Christmas items and sweaters don’t sell too well at garage sales–who wants to buy a sweater when they’re sweating on a summer morning? Don’t expect too many sales on these items.
  • Be careful when displaying items on the floor–you don’t want them to be tripped over, but you also don’t want them too hidden under a table.
  • If selling any boxed items, open the box so the shoppers can see the actual item.
  • Clean all your items. Leave time to wipe them down–many people won’t buy an item just because it’s filthy.
  • Keep any candles/wax for sale out of the sun!
  • Run out of tables? Try a tarp in the yard for rugs, pillows, linens, or purses.


Pricing items for your garage sale

  • Price everything–yes, this can be annoying but many shoppers will pass on an item they want just because they don’t want to have to ask.
  • If you’re not comfortable coming down on an item, just politely say so. Don’t say yes to a lower price just to regret it the moment the customer leaves. When it’s early in the day,  you can simply say, “It’s too early in the day for me to come down on that price yet.”
  • Price things reasonably (and price ‘em to sell–you don’t want stuck with hauling all this stuff back in or to end up donating it for free after the sale!). It’s often difficult to put lower prices on collectible items or newer items, but remember–shoppers expect garage sale prices, not Craigslist or eBay prices. In my area, here are some common prices:
    • Baby/kids clothes: $1/piece, cheaper if they’re well worn. $1.50-$2 for specialty pieces or two-piece sets.
    • Adult clothes: $1. $2 if it’s something trendy. Pants, skirts, dresses, and jeans can go for $3-$5 if they’re nice brands and in perfect condition. Plus sizes can go for $2 a piece.
    • Standard furniture (bookshelves, plant stands, end tables, etc.): $10. $15 for larger pieces. Only go higher if it’s something super trendy.
    • Books: 50¢ to $1 (people just aren’t going to pay much more than that!)
    • Magazines: Tie a year’s subscription of the same title in a bunch and sell for $1-$2.
    • DVDs/CDs: $1-$3. Much more and you won’t sell as many.
    • Shoes: $1-$5
    • Small photo frames: 50¢-$1.50
    • Kitchen dishes and gadgets: 25¢ to $2


How to keep tally of sales at a yard sale

  • When you’re keeping track of sales, first decide if you’ll be tracking money for more than one person. If so, write each person’s initials on the price tags so you always know who it belongs to.
  • When adding up a sale, pull the stickers off every item. If you have a vinyl card table, you can even lightly stick the tags in a tidy column on the table while finding the total. We even keep some blank tags close by just in case we can’t pull a tag off something.
  • Once the person has paid, THEN move the tags to individual pages. Keep a clipboard of looseleaf paper and dedicate a whole page to each person. Just start columns of tags on each person’s page, leaving room at the bottom to write the totals.
  • Once a page is filled up, tuck the sheet somewhere safe and start a new page for that person. This will make tallying sales at the end of the day a breeze–you simply add up everyone’s pages to find the total sales, and then you can easily divide the money accordingly.


Guide to advertsing your yard sale

  • Place a newspaper ad for every day of your sale. I personally don’t go to second-day sales because I assume they’re picked-over, so a smart way around it would be to change the ad copy each day.
  • Use the newspaper ad space to highlight your most unique items. Everyone expects clothing, toys, or household items at a yard sale–this is just assumed. Surprise readers with unexpected items, such as a wine cooler, giant trampoline, etc.
  • Always list your house number in the ad.
  • Put a starting time in your ad, but avoid a closing time–that way if you want to shut down at noon after a tiring morning, people won’t be knocking on your door at a later time (it happens, folks!).
  • Want an edge on the competition? Consider open an hour earlier than the norm in your area, such as at 7am instead of 8am.
  • Signs are just as important as the newspaper ad! It drives me nuts how horrible people do with signs. They are a must for drawing attention and directing traffic.
  • Make your signs neon colors and large enough to read in a 1.5 second drive-by.
  • Use simple block writing, refraining from cutesy type.
  • Don’t try to write a clever slogan on your sign, just print the necessary information–yard sale today, time, and street address.
  • Put signs at any intersection that requires turning with an arrow point the way.
    Place signs at major intersections near your neighborhood. If you live in a remote area, write how many miles it is to the sale to set a customer’s expectation. And always place a sign far enough back to give warning for turns on faster highways–we’ve had a van plow through our garage sale once along the highway because the person in front slammed on their breaks to turn (no one was hurt).
  • If you have extra hands, wait and put your signs up once you’re ready to open. It drives me nuts to chase a sign just to figure out that they’re not opening for another hour.
  • For goodness sakes, take your signs down when you’re ready to close your sale! Don’t ever leave signs for someone else to take down.
  • Don’t forget Craigslist and Facebook! Many towns now have community garage sale pages on Facebook. You could even create an event and invite your friends to your sale that way!


Tips and best practices for setting up a yard sale

  • Always expect early birds. In fact, make it your goal to be ready to open a half hour earlier than advertised. But, one way to curb early birds is to place a sign on the garage door saying, “Early birds pay twice as much.”
  • For high-demand items, spend some time printing some paper signs to make the items stand out and attach it. You can even include a trendy photo from a catalog or Pinterest to give shoppers ideas.
  • Hang sheets from the ceilings/walls in your garage over any items not included in the garage sale. Not only does it reduce confusion, it also provides a nice stopping point for the eyes and serves as a backdrop to your sale.
  • Be prepared to demo any electrical items–let customers plug them in to see for themselves.
  • Burn a pleasant-smelling candle in your garage. Maybe even play some music! Ambience is everything, even at a garage sale!
  • If you’re a smoker, the least you can do is not smoke in the garage or around the items–I personally will turn around and leave a sale if I see the homeowner smoking.
  • Watch for people who might switch sticker prices on you. Yes, it does happen. Handle such situations tactfully.
  • If someone wants to you to set aside some items to come back for later, be sure that they prepay–otherwise, you may get stuck with unsold items at the end of the day! Be sure to set it out of sight and write “sold” on it.
  • You might have some folks ask to use your bathroom or try some clothes on. It’s best to try to avoid these situations but if you feel like you can’t refuse, be sure to send someone in the house with the guest and to escort them back outside.
  • Plan an easy breakfast and lunch to have on hand for yourself!


How to streamline the checkout at your yard sale

  • Set up your cash table somewhere central–if you’re tables extend from your garage into your driveway, a good spot for the cash table would be at the garage entrance (instead of the back corner of your garage).
  • Not sure how much change to get from the bank? Expect to break a lot of $20s first thing. We always start with the following:
    • 4–$10 dollar bills
    • 6–$5 dollar bills
    • 50–$1 dollar bills
    • 1-roll each of nickels, dimes, and quarters
  • If your tech-savvy, you can always use the Square credit card swipe app for iPhone if a customer’s willing to pay a small usage fee!
  • Make sure the cash table has extra open space for people to lay their piles. This way you can fold and count with plenty of space to spare.
  • When someone hands you a large bill to pay, leave it out until the transaction is finished. That way you there’s no discretion over how much was initially handed to you.
  • It’s best to avoid accepting checks. If it’s a large-ticket item and you trust the person, you could always make an exception, but you don’t want stuck with bogus checks.
  • Be careful not to place a tall display between you and your tables–you want to easily keep an eye on shoppers from your seat at the checkout table.
  • Have bags–it’s a perfect use of a year’s worth of plastic grocery sacks. Newspapers are handy too to wrap breakables.
  • Make sure you have someone helping you–never leave the cash box unattended. Even if someone’s just stopping by to provide you with a lunch break, it’s better than nothing.


Tips and best practices for have a garage sale


One thought on “Best Practices to Having a Garage Sale

  1. Just wanted to stop by and say thank you so much for entering the giveaway! Those invitations are amazing! Do you have an ETSY shop?

    Thanks and have a blessed day!

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