Need Extra Cash? Have a Yard Sale!

things sold at yard sale

So, you have an overflow of stockpile. You’ve met your family’s needs with your stockpile, none of your close friends and family live nearby (or they are overloaded with your generosity) and you could use a few extra dollars. What to do? Have a yard sale!

Below are a few of the things I’ve learned selling at yard sales over the years (some folks call them garage sales, for the purpose of this article I’ll stick to the term yard sale).

You need people to come to have a successful sale. People love block sales as they feel it is more likely worth their time to stop for 10 houses than one, so organize and pay for a block sale. On my old street, I would hand out fliers door to door telling people the date, time, and giving my phone number to let me know if they are participating. I also PROMINENTLY listed that I was paying all advertising. People naturally participated more often when it didn’t cost them anything. I was more than willing to shell out the $20 in advertising to get hundreds people to my sale when I knew I’d make a thousand dollars in a few hours. In my current area, my HOA runs a block sale yearly. In my area, a block sale is well attended on Friday or Saturday (with Saturday being optimal). Sunday was never a good yard sale day for me.

When you display signs that day go down to the end of each end of the street and place signage. Do this on every corner until you are at a major street. You want to leave a sign trail to your sale. I have homemade sandwich boards. They are wood strips held together with hinges on top and braces in the middle. Every yard sale, a new, neon, colored poster board with the date and time and “BLOCK SALE” is attached to each side of the sandwich board. On the major streets, a load of balloons are also attached. The idea is to catch the eye of a passing driver. Since the boards are not small, no one steals them. We gather up all the boards at the end of the sale so as not to violate any city codes for signage. It is a pet peeve of mine to see yard sale signs stapled to a light pole and see the sale was held three weeks ago.

When I first started doing yard sales I used a fanny pack to house the cash I made and the change I had. That lasted one sale. Afterward, I got a money apron from the local hardware store for a dollar. Best dollar I ever spent. I start with 100 singles, (10) $5 bills, (5) $10 bills and (2) rolls of quarters. Nothing is marked in increments that won’t work with a quarter. It is not worth the problems to mark it any other way.

For set up, I beg and borrow (and own two) banquet tables. The picnic table from the backyard came out and items were stacked on top as well as on the bench. The backside bench I used to hold extra plastic bags and boxes of extra stock. I always set my tables up in a row advancing up the drive, the picnic table across the driveway and then another row going down the drive. Think of it as a U with the curved side of the U straight and towards the backyard. I have a checkout table that has a pad of paper, pens, calculator and bags underneath. I have never used baskets but if you have them you might consider allowing people use them.

When I run a yard sale it is never alone. I make sure at least one other person is with me to help handle the crowds, check-out and to be there to cover bathroom breaks and money-drop offs. When my money apron starts to bulge that is time to take some money into the house. I try and drop off every hour for the first 2-3 hours. I also keep the house locked if no one is inside when I am running a sale. It only takes one second for my back to be turned…

Pricing is key. I have learned to price my merchandise to move! After spending two days gathering, boxing and tagging everything, the last thing I ever want to do is haul it back in the house. People love, love, love multiple pricing. Suave shampoo marked 75¢? Make up a sign that says 75¢ or 3/$2. Watch it fly in multiples of three. Also, if I have 100 of something no way am I marking each and every one. That is what printed signs are for. I write up a sign on the computer:

Suave Products
75¢ each
or 3/$2

and tape the sign to the table. When I first started doing this, I had people ask about the price of the unmarked items. I pointed to the table sign and they’d laugh. After a few sales, regulars never asked. The items I do tag I use cut up paper and free tape to mark and attach. On my computer I’ll make up sheets of spaced 25¢, 50¢, 75¢, $1, etc price sheets that I can save for future sales. I print these off, cut them up and attach with (free) tape. Some people like to mark their items at 50% off retail. That would never, ever work in my area. And I mean never. If I put out a $6 bottle of Infusium 23 for $3, it would be picked up repeatedly and the cap removed as folks looked for floating gold dust. It is very important that you know your market and what it will bear price-wise. This is, unfortunately, a matter of trial and error. What sells well for half of retail in one area may be a slow mover that sells for 25% of retail in another area.

Because I price so aggressively, I do not bargain. Period. Ever. If someone has $50 worth of merchandise in their hands, they pay me $50. If someone buys 40 of something, they pay me marked price for all 40. I don’t sell “regular” yard-sale-type items precisely because I hate to dicker. Surprisingly I will go entire sales where no one even attempts to get a better deal. My prices are low to avoid the back and forth of bargaining.

I will advertise a block sale from 8-2 or 9–3 and always get early-birds regardless of how prominently “NO EARLYBIRDS” is stated in the ad. Since most of these earlybird-folks are professionals trying to get me to sell a pound of gold for $1 or Aunt Bessie’s signed copy of the Declaration of Independence for $12.57, they aren’t usually interested in what I have for sale. Some of these folks are really rude, some are very nice, all are out to make money off someone who mistakenly puts out a valuable object in a yard sale. The next time someone asks me, “Do you have any gold?” “Any broken watches?” “Any antique jewelry?” in rapid succession I am tempted to respond, “Oh sure, I have a diamond ring the size of a pigeon egg. I was going to put it out but I wasn’t sure if it was worth $100″, just to watch their eyes pop before they realize I am not serious.

But I digress.

A friend of mine used to run yard sales monthly. She has a great story about a box of 60 count band aids she marked for 50¢. There was one box left an hour into her sale, when a man walked up, opened the box and counted them to make sure all 60 were there.

You get all kinds at yard sales. At least the stories make for entertaining dinner conversation!

People are unpredictable. I’ll never forget the Kellogg’s premiums I put out year after year after year at my garage sales. I was about ready to haul that box off to Goodwill when, low and behold, after three years the entire collection sold! I also notice that while I can be fairly sure well priced cleaning supplies will always sell, some sales the conditioner will not go regardless of how cheaply I price it. Some sales the band-aids are a dud. Some sales the cereals just will not move. Well, you get the idea. Usually the items you expect will sell well do, and do so quickly. Sometimes, items wouldn’t sell for a penny.

Grumblers are a part of the package. Countless people have thanked me for the cheap groceries over the years. Some are suspicious at first, “Where’d you get all this stuff?” and some could not care less if it fell off the back of a truck. My answer, “I use coupons” always satisfies people. But then there are the folks that do NOT like that I am selling new items. “This is a yard sale, if I wanted new stuff I’d go to WalMart.” M’kay. And the stares from the people standing next to them with armfuls of goods are always priceless!

I am not someone to sit out until the last second of a yard sale hoping for an extra $1.50. If an hour goes by and I have not sold $20, or if my inventory has condensed to less than one banquet table, I close up. When I am packing the remaining boxes, it never fails that someone (or some-three) pull up and I make last minute sales. Non-perishable items are left in the box for the next sale. Perishable items are donated unless I plan another sale later in the season. If I do a second sale, I try for a different location: my mother’s house, my grandparent’s house, my sister’s house; somewhere in a different neighborhood. You’d be surprised how many people I get at both sales. There are a lot of yard sale regulars around here!

Some people try flea markets. My two attempts were unsuccessful. I was told by those that had permanent booths at the flea market that my merchandise was “too good” to sell at a flea market.

One last idea is to list a “stockpile sale” on craigslist. You may get oddballs, you may get someone willing to pick up your extras. Since craigslist is free, it is worth a listing.

With the recession hitting people in the wallets, yard sales could be more profitable than ever this year. So, gather your extras and organize a sale!

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