Garage sales 101

Key factors determine whether your garage sale will be a financial windfall or a wasted afternoon

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    Promoting your garage sale with several signs and flyers will help generate more customer traffic.
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Saving Pennies or Dollars is a new semi-regular series on The Simple Dollar, inspired by a great discussion on The Simple Dollar’s Facebook page concerning frugal tactics that might not really save that much money. I’m going to take some of the scenarios described by the readers there and try to break down the numbers to see if the savings is really worth the time invested.

Naomi said, Garage Sales – it takes a day to set up; we usually purchase lunch that day because we’re busy (day before and day of) and can’t make lunch…and usually gross about $150 – 200.

I’ve found that garage and yard sales can vary greatly in their success level depending on a wide variety of factors.

The amount of promotion If you promote your yard sale with signs and flyers, you’re going to get a lot more traffic. The more you promote it, the more traffic you’ll get. Savings tip: I tend to try to schedule yard sales in conjunction with my neighbors so that we can promote our yard sales together. Our town has a regular “city wide yard sale,” so we’ll schedule things in conjunction with that.

The weather on the day of the event If the weather is beautiful, you’ll see more traffic. I’ve actually postponed yard sales because of forecasted bad weather (since I do much of my promotion during the week before the yard sale).

Meal preparation What I often do is prep all of our meals two days in advance of the yard sale. I’ll make food so that it’s easy to pull out of the fridge and eat at the table. Often, we’ll just have sandwiches for lunch the day of the sale, eating while the sale is going on. If you find yourself ordering food, you’re going to reduce the profits from the sale.

Quality of items If you have good stuff to sell, you’re going to make more money than if you’re selling retreads from previous sales. People go to yard sales to find bargains on stuff they actually want. If all you’re offering is well-picked-over stuff, you’re not going to make a lot of money.

What I usually do is give away what’s left at the end of a yard or garage sale. I’ll take the remnants to Goodwill and other stores and give them whatever they’ll take. If there are still items left, I’ll often trash them, as they have little value (I didn’t want them, my customers didn’t want them, and Goodwill didn’t want them). This ensures that the next yard sale I have will be all new items, not retreads that didn’t sell before. This drastically increases the percentage of sales I’ll make.

I also make sure the items are as clean and presentable as possible.

Quantity of items The more you have, the more you’ll sell. Of course, there’s a caveat along with that…

Organization of items If you throw everything out there in a mish-mash and it’s hard to find all of the items or find similar items, you’re going to have a hard time making the sale. This means using your space effectively so similar items are near each other and as many items as possible are easily accessible.

All of these factors play a role in garage/yard sale success. The fewer of these things that you successfully pull off, the less you’ll sell at your yard sale and the less you’ll earn per hour of time invested.

The last yard sale I ran, I netted about $600 after expenses. I estimate that 30 hours of work went into the yard sale, giving me a return of about $20 per hour. (Of course, I was selling off items that I already owned.)

A poorly managed garage or yard sale earns pennies for the hours you invest. A well managed garage or yard sale earns dollars.

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