Have you got rooms full of things you never use? Have your kids outgrown boxes and boxes of clothes and toys? Is your garage overflowing with ‘old stuff’? Perhaps you’re moving and you need to have a thorough clear out before you pack? Maybe it’s time to have a garage sale. Garage sales can be a fabulous way to get rid of items you no longer need or use and to make some extra money in the process.
But some garage sales can be an epic failure – hours and hours of work, for little or no return. But don’t worry; we’ve got 10 tips to help you turn your unused trinkets and trash into a treasure trove of garage sale cash.
1. Plan in Advance
Hosting a successful garage sale is like throwing a great party. It takes some planning and a bit of elbow grease to make sure it all runs smoothly. Don’t try to toss one together at the last minute – you won’t get the value out of sales or the clear out you intended.
Scouring your home for saleable items takes time and you don’t want to rush the job. Make sure you give yourself enough time to thoroughly sort through items, organise them, develop a pricing strategy and advertise your sale. Use this handy checklist to keep your planning organised.
3. Pick Your Date Wisely
Pick a few tentative dates and have everything ready to go for the first one. Don’t choose dates on long weekends, when people are more likely to be away. Opt for good weather – check the forecast a week prior to your sale. If it looks like rain, postpone, as you’re unlikely to host a successful garage sale when it’s wet. Equally, don’t pick a day that’s boiling hot either; no one wants to trudge around garage sales on a 40°C day.
Consider going in on a street wide garage sale with your neighbours, so that more than one house is having a garage sale in your area. Not only can you share any advertising costs but you may attract more bargain hunters as it’s convenient for them to head to one area for their shopping.
Get involved in the Garage Sale Trail, held across Australia in October every year. Last year, over 350,000 people were involved in the Garage Sale Trail, and the event garnered national media coverage!
3. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
While you probably won’t get national media to cover your lone garage sale in the ‘burbs, you may be able to get some local media attention if you’re creating a street or suburb-wide garage sale event. Alternately, start getting the word out yourself through advertising.
Your advertising will set the tone for your garage sale, so take the time to think about your advertising carefully. Use Canva to create slick flyers and online advertisements. Take out an advert in the local paper and make sure it POPS. Use exciting words when crafting your advertisement to entice more people to attend. If you’ve got old items, call them vintage/retro instead of ‘used’, consider Toys & Collectibles instead of just ‘toys’, etc.
Get on social media and sell your garage sale. Create a Facebook event and invite all your friends and encourage your friends to invite their friends. List your event on as many garage sale websites as possible, like Great Garage Sales, Gazza’s Garage Sales, E-Garage Sales or Garage Sales.com.au. Advertise your garage sale on Gumtree. Tweet about it, Instagram an exciting advertisement with the sale’s details.
On the day of your garage sale, make sure you have lots of signage directing people to your sale.
4. Sort and Salvage
Open every drawer, look through every cupboard (especially way at the back where items you never use but always thought you needed have found a lonely disused corner to call home). Set aside an area in each room to place items you’re willing to sell. Boxes are helpful during this step; they keep things organised and assist with setting up your sale later on.
Throw nothing out (unless it’s actually junk). Sure that third can opener may be old but just because it’s old doesn’t mean it won’t sell. Even tiny items, like miscellaneous buttons or unused canning jars or partially used sewing thread may have value to someone.
Try to keep your items organised and tidy. If they’re dusty, wipe them down with a damp cloth. Give clothes a quick wash and hang them out to dry – try to keep clothing as wrinkle free as possible. If there are clothing items of higher value, consider ironing them and putting them on hangers to display.
5. Use the Goldilocks Rule
When it comes to pricing your garage sale items, follow the Goldilocks Rule – not to high, not too low – price things ‘just right’. Now that’s easier said than done, to be sure, but with the right pricing strategy, you can make your garage sale a roaring success.
Do your research and head to other garage sales to see how things are priced. Hop online and compare prices for similar items on Gumtree and Ebay. Garage sale shoppers are bargain hunters and they know where to sniff out the best deals. You wont ‘get one over’ on them, so don’t even try.
There’s a very general rule that floats around garage sale pricing circles – ‘price things at 1/3 of their buy new price’. This, of course, is a very general rule that can’t be applied to everything. Your 20-year old television may have cost $600 new but you’ll be lucky to give it away at your garage sale.
6. Labour over Layout
Imagine walking into a shop that is full of cardboard boxes with prices scrawled on their sides. It’s crowded and dirty and disoganised and impossible to find anything. You turn around and leave immediately. But this is exactly how many people setup their garage sales.
Take the time to labour over your layout. Consider where and how to place tables and items to best display them for sale. Never have boxes of items that buyers need to pick through. Make sure the spines of books are easily readable and layout small items individually so that they can be seen.
Create zones for clothing, toys, appliances, kitchen accessories, homewares, garden tools etc so that people can quickly and easily browse their areas of interest.
Leave enough space for people to move around – don’t make them feel crowded into a small space. Your ‘garage sale’ can spill into your driveway and front lawn to give a greater sense of space.
Have power available for buyers to test whether electrical appliances actually work.
7. Strategise Your Sales
Use retail sales strategies like Buy 1 Get 1 Free or 10% discount for three or more. Offer twenty-minute blitz specials (‘for the next twenty minutes, all kitchen items are 25% off). Discount items heavily towards the end of the day.
You should always be prepared to haggle on prices, so give yourself a buffer on more valuable items (for example, if you want to sell a rocking chair for $50, price it at $70; a customer might offer $35 but you may be able to negotiate them up to $50!).
Consider tables with blanket pricing ‘all items $3’; you can keep track of how much things cost without putting individual prices on them by placing coloured sticky dots that correspond to particular values in each item (red for $1, green for $3, blue for $5 etc).
8. Create Atmosphere
Make your garage sale a fun place to be – offer low priced snacks and drinks for sale (buy them in bulk and on special). Put on a playlist packed with popular, upbeat music. Decorate your garage sale in bright colours; use colourful table clothes instead of leaving trestles bare.
9. Service with a Smile
Smiles get more sales. Be friendly, personable and approachable. Remember, these customers are taking your unloved, disused and unneeded items off to happy homes, so be excited that your ‘junk’ is finding new life.
Be willing to have a chat with people; welcome them when they arrive, ask them if there’s anything in particular they are looking for – striking up a conversation can lead to interesting results.
10. Stay Mobile and Wear Your Cash
Wear an apron with pockets or a cash bag on the day of your sale and walk around to make it easier for potential customers to buy items.
Setting up a cash box is ok, but it’s risky – thieves can easily and quickly grab your hard-won takings if your cash box is left unattended.
Make sure you have a variety of change available, with lots of coins and small bills. You want to be able to quickly and efficiently give your customers their change. If you’re not great at maths, carry a small calculator with you to make calculating change easier.
The Final Word
Garage sales can be a lot of fun but they’re also a lot of work, so be prepared to put in the hard yards. Also, there’s some risk involved in having a garage sale. You may not sell anything but more than that, not everyone is as trustworthy as you’d like them to be. Make sure you keep your house securely locked and valuable items that aren’t for sale out of eyesight.
Now that you’ve made a packet of money selling your old stuff, you may want to buy some new stuff, like a new television or computer. Make sure you update your home and contents insurance regularly to ensure you have enough cover for your new (and old) belongings. Happy selling!