Advance preparation can lead to profitable and successful garage sales

Advance preparation pays off in most endeavors, but especially in planning a garage sale. Most sales take place on Saturdays, and starting fairly early in the morning seems most popular. Dottie Goss, family-resource-management specialist with the University of Minnesota's Agricultural Extension Service, recommends being ready on Friday night for the Saturday-morning opening. ''Be sure your pricing is finished and have a tag or piece of tape with a price on everything you are offering for sale,'' she emphasizes.

Starting times are always more important than finishing times. Often sales end when the merchandise is gone or prices have been slashed to allow a quick finish.

If you are in a group, selling several neighbors' collections, find an easy way to mark merchandise so you keep track of each person's sales. Identify merchandise with colored paper or the initials of the seller, then duplicate this information on a list of sales.

It's good to have a variety of merchandise - many items and things to interest all ages. Children often accompany their parents to sales. Some worn children's books, toys, or dolls you might have picked up at someone else's sale will be just the thing to keep them occupied while their parents make purchases.

Be sure to have change ready before the sale begins. Keep someone in charge of the money box at all times. As money increases, take some to a safe place in the house. Decide in advance whether you will accept checks. Some people find this works well; others keep business strictly on a cash basis.

Fishing tackle boxes are ideal for keeping money at a garage sale. Egg cartons with covers can be used for change. Just be sure the container you have can be covered.

Always have a contingency plan in case of rain or high winds when you intend to sell in the yard. Have a reasonably clean garage nearby and be sure it is lighted, since the day could be dark.

Establish boundaries between the selling area and the private this-is-our-home area. Define these with a sign or barricade. If necessary, have someone there to protect the area.

With advance preparation and attention to detail, a garage sale can be a successful, profitable experience - one you'll want to repeat.

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