Once again I am preparing for a garage sale. If you’d asked me in April I wouldn’t have thought I would have been able to build up enough “inventory” for a July sale, but my back porch is full, my attic steps are filled, and I already have four big boxes of toys in my office. This time around, my children have been ruthless in cleaning out their own toys. Last night we were sorting and pricing until 10:30 p.m.
I’ve held at least a dozen successful garage sales at this address since we moved into town. I now have people asking me at the grocery store and co-workers of my husband wondering when the next sale will be held. There are even those who now wait until my sale to stock their own health and beauty supply. There is always the attendee who laments my lack of some product they’d gotten the sale before. Once it was a woman asking where the Lightdays pads I’d had in abundance were with the next sale, several asked about toothpaste at another sale. And the Fisher snacks I’d bought in abundance when a $1 sale coincided with a $1 coupon I had? A couple who’d bought all I had at one sale asked where the snacks were at the next sale. These people don’t seem to understand the concept of stockpiling with coupons and sales. My “stock” at a garage sale will depend upon what I found on sale or on clearance that I was able to either get free with my coupons, or paid less than a quarter for. I don’t have control over either the coupons available or the sale prices. I do know what people like, however, and that is their own good deal. While my coupons give me great deals, my garage sales still offer them a good deal. If the local Fareway store has recently had a sale on Skippy peanut butter for $1 a jar, then I am insulting their intelligence to display the 10 jars I got free with coupons for the exact same price. That is exactly what happened this past April when I was pricing for my garage sale. Due to a fabulous Walgreens catalina deal that included Skippy peanut butter, my cupboard was overstocked with peanut butter and I was ready to price a few jars at $1 (still a good deal), when lo and behold, our local grocery store had a fantastic $1 sale. I held the jars back for my next sale, rather than put them out for the same price as Fareway. I’d rather keep them for our own use, rather than let them go for 50-cents a jar.
Let me reiterate the secrets to a successful garage sale:
#1) Run an ad. I don’t care whether you live on a main street or not, if you want a good turn-out, you really need to run an ad. Your ad should state the days, times and (obviously) the address of your sale. If it is a multi-family sale, say so as that alone can attract more potential buyers. If you have any large items, list them in the ad. Same with baby clothes and baby furniture. List anything that will attract a certain type of person, or you risk not selling it at all. (like the golf clubs my brother-in-law sold at my last garage sale. We had some people stop just to look at those) Don’t say “No early birds” in your ad unless you don’t mind offending the early bird who drops $50 in the hour before you sale actually begins. We have people waiting while we are unpacking boxes and I don’t mind at all as long as they don’t mind waiting. The first day of our sale is usually advertised to begin at 11:00 a.m. but we are outside setting up at 9:00 a.m. and have our first customer by 10:00. Set-up on the first day generally takes a good two hours, but we have to set up outside so if I had my garage all set up and advertised for 8:00, I would be prepared to open my garage doors by 7:00 a.m. You need to understand the mind-set of the early bird. Yes, there are those who only want to snatch up the antique you mistakenly priced at $1, but there is a whole group of people (me included) that shops that way, knowing that the early bird really does get the worm. If you advertise Littlest Pet Shop toys or Webkinz and you really want to sell them, it is the early bird who was smart enough to get there before everyone else who is going to buy all you have. The stragglers on your second day will buy less or ask you to go down in price. And, by day three you should be willing to go down in price. If the stuff sat there for three days and didn’t sell, maybe it will for half-price. Do you really want to lug it all back in the house?
#2) Price everything. There is nothing more frustrating for a garage-sale shopper than having to ask what price everything is. When I go to a sale where nothing is priced, I usually just walk away. The only things I don’t price are small items like the No Nonsense knee-hi packages I have three dozen of. I’ll put them in a bin and ask 25-cents each.
#3) Display everything nicely and try to have a good mix of merchandise. If you only have two tables of the same type of thing, you’re going to get a lot of drive-bys. Sadly, it is just too much trouble for the average garage sale shopper to stop their car, get out , just to check out your two measly tables of merchandise. They want to make sure the stop is worth their while. Display some of the more colorful and nicer pieces at the front of your driveway or garage. Consider having a multi-family sale. The more varied your merchandise, the more likely you will have people stopping. Thanks to my brother-in-law, in April we had a lot of “guy stuff.” While the guys checked out the golf clubs and fishing poles, their wives and girlfriends shopped my health and beauty section.
#4) Have ample change. This is the second most annoying mistake a garage sale operator can make. I am horrified when I go to a garage sale and need change and the person running the sale starts digging in their pocket for change, or worse, their fanny pack. While it is prudent to keep an eye on the money, a fanny pack full of change is not an organized method. If you plan on having sales regularly, invest in a cash box at your local Walmart. Otherwise, a craft box with separate sections or even a muffin tin to separate change will suffice in a pinch.
#5) What homeschooling mother can resist the challenge to make your garage sale a learning lesson for your children? Younger children can learn the value of money by selling their own things and older children can learn to count change. Teens and pre-teens can even run the sale during slower periods. My Emily, at 13, is a pro at counting back change just from our garage sale lessons. Even the smallest member of the family can price things with your help. Abby has been slapping on price stickers for so long that at age 7, she even knows the best place to put the stickers! She knows I only price books on the back cover, with a small sticker over the ISBN number, and by now, most of my regular customers know where to look too.
#6) Have some fun. There is nothing more bonding than having a sale with your sister, mother, or daughter and visiting with her between customers. Garage sales are a lot of work, but it is a good way to clean house and make a little money. Don’t let it all be work, though. Visit with customers who stop by, order a pizza for the family if your earnings allow, and have a little fun with your sale!