Approximately 4 years ago my wife (then girlfriend), Holly, and I hosted our first garage sale together. I was moving out of my bachelor pad and in with a friend who had a fully furnished home. So all of my non-matching and eclectic furniture needed a new home.
Around the same time, Holly and I had a friend who was a sophomore in high school, and she was wanting a car. She needed a few more dollars to make that happen, though. So we decided all of the garage sale funds would go toward our friend’s car budget.
After it was all said and done we profited nearly $1000. It probably goes without saying that this experience made me a fan of hosting garage sales. Since then my wife and I have hosted two per year (Oklahoma City’s allowed limit), and we have learned a few things along the way. Below are eight tips for conducting a fun and profitable garage sale.
1. ASK FOR ITEM DONATIONS – we normally donate all or at least a portion of the money we make, which helps when asking for garage sale item donations from others. Some people don’t care why you want it, they have stuff they have been sitting on for a while that they want to get rid of. They are normally happy to dump it on your front lawn. Tell them about your cause and they might even want to contribute financially. These sales and donations were a big help for me and my wife when we rode our bicycles 500 miles down the California coast to our wedding spot via the Love Does Tour (more affectionately known as #LeftCoastLoveStory), all while raising money and awareness for a school and kids in Africa.
2. BUDDY UP – ask neighbors and local friends or family to co-host. A variety of options is what will get people to stop and get out of their cars. Have them bring their items to the sale to beef up the selection. Plus, it’s just more fun to have others to socialize with during down times.
3. ORGANIZE – a day or two before the sale my wife and I always organize our sale items in the garage. Clothes go on hangers and a clothing rack. Everything is neatly compiled on tables or in bins. That way on sale day we don’t have to do anything other than open the garage and drag a few tables outside. It’s been our experience that customers will show up early, especially if you have advertised notable items. So the less work you have to do in the morning the better.
4. PRICE ITEMS – some interested buyers don’t want to negotiate a price or ask how much something costs. Give them a reason to pick up an item and simply pay for it. Price everything!
5. ADVERTISE – My go to line for almost every garage sale customer I interact with is, “Are you out making the rounds today?” Many times I get insight as to how they found out about our sale. Below are a few of the biggest reasons we seem to get customers.
-CITY PERMIT – In OKC, the potential fine for conducting a sale without a permit is $200. We have never had a city official show up to see our garage sale permit, but we always purchase one for $7. It’s a minimal cost. And, in OKC, I believe purchasing a permit gets your sale posted on the city’s website. Serious garage sale customers will know this site well. Check your city’s website for details regarding garage sale protocol in your neck of the woods. Also check in with your city officials and / or CPA to determine if you need to report your earnings from your sale.CRAIGSLIST – I always post our sales on Craigslist a week before the sale and the night before the sale. Include pictures of items you know will spark interest.
-SIGNAGE – There are two major entrances to the neighborhood I live in, so I post signs there. I also post a sign at the nearest intersection to our home. Several customers have told me they were out with other intentions when they noticed our signs, and that they decided to stop by because of it. We have a neighbor who lines his entire driveway with flags you might see at a NASCAR race when he hosts a sale. Get people’s attention somehow!
-FACEBOOK MARKETPLACE – It’s been my experience that when someone attends a garage sale they want stuff on the cheap, and they often aren’t willing to pay top dollar for an item that actually has significant value. I put these items on display and for sale just in case (and to entice potential customers out of their cars). However, I also post these items on Facebook Marketplace. It’s been a good way for me to receive a fair return on a number of items. If the purchaser shows up during the garage sale it’s possible they might spend more money on additional items. Win-win.
6. HAVE A CENTRALIZED CASH COLLECTION LOCATION – make it easy for customers to know where to pay. In the past we have invited neighborhood teenagers (some that we’ve known for a while) over to handle a cash collection station. It frees me and Holly up to take care of other responsibilities. Many times we are raising money for these kids, so we want them to be involved in the process in some way. It’s a safe environment for them to learn how to give and receive money, since me and Holly are easily accessible if they get confused. It can also act as a “lemonade stand” and give them selling experience. At the cash station we have featured bottled water, lemonade and popsicles. It’s the goal of our cash handlers to sell these items for 100% commission. Try to recruit a youngster to help with this process. It’s hard to say no to a toothless smile.
7. HAVE FUN – we have ladder golf and corn hole sets we always set out on the front lawn. It’s a fun way to interact with customers, and a lot of times those items alone are enough to get customers out of their cars. Just be prepared to tell people over and over again that they aren’t for sale.
8. GET RID OF THE EXCESS – if you’re done selling for the year then curb it, trash it, donate it – just get rid of it! That was the original plan, remember?
9. *BONUS* | SELL FOR OTHERS – become so good at selling your items that others want you to sell their stuff for them. This has been one of the unforeseen benefits of expressing my love for conducting garage sales. I’ve had others, including a parts manager at a car dealership approach me to list their items on Facebook Marketplace in exchange for a percentage of the yield.
There is no easy way to conduct a garage sale. The fact is, it’s going to be work. For some people the amount of work it requires will seem like a waste of time, especially if you were to calculate your hourly rate.
If you go into the experience expecting to make tons of money you might be disappointed. To be honest, since our first sale we haven’t even got close to the $1000 mark again. We probably average somewhere in the range of $200 – $400 per sale, so approximately $400 – $800 per year. Looking at our budget that’s enough to take care of our Christmas shopping or vacation expenses on an annual basis or car insurance biannually. It could buy groceries for a month. It could also be a great gift to a high school student who doesn’t have the money for a driver’s education class, which has been our goal the last several sales.
In the end the money is only a piece of the puzzle. My wife and I have fun completing these projects together. And as mentioned above, traditionally we have guests join in the experience.
Garage sales force my family to evaluate the items in our home, and it gives us the opportunity to discard the things that are not adding value to our lives. Just because those items are no longer meaningful to us doesn’t mean they won’t be to someone else at this stage in life.
Do you have any garage sale wins you can share with our audience? Please comment below.