Whether you call it a yard sale, garage sale or tag sale, late
summer is an excellent time to pull out all of the boxes and bags
of unwanted stuff you’ve been accumulating and make some cash. A
successful yard sale, like most successful projects, is 90 percent
preparation. If you’re thinking of hosting a sale, keep the
following tips in mind.
Readable, good-looking signs with the date and the address of a
sale will bring in potential customers, but they are mostly
illegal. Instead of posting signs on utility poles and road signs
(illegal) ask neighbors and friends in strategic areas if they
would put a sign on their property for a few days before the sale.
As a trade, offer to sell some of their junk for them.
If you live in a low-traffic area, you’ll need to announce your
sale in a local paper. There are lots of folks who scan the want
ads for garage sales, so a brief ad can make the difference between
a great sale and a fruitless day spent sitting in your driveway
surrounded by stuff you don’t want.
Having to make a run to the grocery store mid-sale for a roll of
quarters is no fun for anybody. Have a lot of quarters, dollars and
fives ready; about $100 in change should suffice.
Boxes and bags
Start saving all kinds of bags and boxes the weeks before your
sale so that customers can easily cart away their booty.
Picking a date
Saturdays are the best for tag sales, but don’t choose a holiday
weekend. Although it may seem like a good idea, you will be bummed
to learn how few spend their holidays in town at tag sales. Also, a
note on the two-day sale: you really don’t make enough extra money
to warrant hauling everything in on Saturday night and putting it
all back out on Sunday morning. Give it your best shot one day and
donate whatever doesn’t sell.
As much as possible, try to keep your items off the ground and
display them attractively on tables. Keeping clothes on hangers and
hanging them on rolling racks also looks terrific and makes for a
much more pleasant shopping experience. Someone you know has
plastic fold down tables or rolling racks you can borrow; again, in
trade you could invite them to add their clutter to your sale.
If you do have to spread some things on the lawn, put down a
clean tarp or sheet first to delineate the space and keep the items
clean and dry.
I hate having to ask the price of an item. My favorite sales
have been those with price tags on everything, but if that is too
much work, then at least designate sections for one dollar items,
five dollar items and so on. You could make general signs such as,
“All books 25 cents.” Any items of particular value should have
individual price tags.
Pets and children
Make sure your pets are corralled and your small children have a
babysitter during sale hours.
Food and drink
It’s always more enjoyable to hang out some place if there are
tasty treats involved, and a garage sale is no different. Offer hot
coffee during the foggy morning hours and switch to lemonade when
the sun comes out. A bowl of candy or a plate of cookies will be
popular with the kids and keep their parents shopping a bit
A variety of items
Nobody wants to go to a garage sale that is all clothing or all
books or all dishes. Variety makes it a lot more fun for everyone.
The best time for a yard sale is after a complete household purge.
If you are already clear of clutter, you might have to save up
items for six months to host a decent sale. This is where hosting a
sale with friends comes into play.
The more the merrier
The best yard sales I’ve been involved in have been those hosted
by three or four people. The combination of items for sale and the
number of people to spread the labor around make it more like a
party than work.
People are strange
Try to imagine the freakiest thing that might happen at your
sale and prepare for it. Could somebody trip over the crack in your
driveway? Mark it with red duct tape. Will someone want their money
back a week later? Put up an “All Sales Final” sign. Will someone
insist on keeping the good wooden hanger the 25 cent blouse they
bought was hung on? Use only wire hangers you will be happy to part
Early birds and thieves
Early birds are a particular pet peeve of mine. A lot of the
time they are retailers who will be selling your 1960s lamp at
their vintage store for triple the price the Monday after your
sale. They are cherry pickers who also want to bargain. You can
state “No Early Birds” in your ads, but it won’t deter the
Unfortunately, thieves are also a yard sale staple. Keep your
cash box close to you or wear a money belt with separated change
compartments. Your more valuable items should also be close to your
purchase station. Anything truly valuable should be sold at a
consignment shop or on e-Bay or craigslist, not at a yard