How to Hold a Profitable Garage Sale

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The secret to a profitable garage sale is ample preparation and a good team. Do the prep work in advance, and you can relax and be friendly on the big day to enjoy happy customers and pleasing profits.

Things You'll Need

  • Ledger Books
  • Calculators
  • Boxes
  • Tables
  • Newspapers
  • Classified Ads
  • Pencils
  • Cash Boxes
  • Price Tags
  • Flyers
  • Volunteers
  • Classified ads
  • Bags
  • Signs
  • Price tags
  • Clothing racks
  • Cash boxes
  • Ledger books
  • Schedule your garage sale far enough in advance so that you can place a classified ad. Hold your sale on a nonholiday weekend unless you live in a resort town with lots of vacationers. Check the long-range forecast for good weather.

  • Dig through your garage, attic, basement and house for stuff to sell. Include everything you want to get rid of--one person's junk is another's treasure.

  • Spread the word among friends and family. The more you have to sell, the larger the crowd you can draw. Offer to sell their stuff for a 20 percent commission.

  • Scrub, wash, polish, dust and launder anything you plan to sell. If an item needs a simple repair that could greatly improve the price, fix it.

  • Round up volunteers if you expect large crowds. Friends and family may be willing to help for a free meal, the chance to sell their own junk, or just the fun of it.

  • Print up one-page fliers advertising your sale and put them up at local coffee shops, laundries, grocery stores or community centers.

  • Place large, neatly printed signs in your neighborhood the night before or the morning of the sale. Put signs in front of your house as well.

  • Use masking tape and a permanent marker to mark everything with a price. "$1 or less" tables or boxes save time and attract shoppers. Leave room to bargain down when pricing items. Remember that you're trying to get rid of your stuff when you price it. You may have spent a fortune on that Beta VCR, but you'll be lucky to get a quarter for it now.

  • Hang clothes on makeshift racks. Borrow portable tables to display items. Put crowd-pleasers (furniture, tools) up front to entice people. Have a "10 cents" box to encourage further browsing.

  • Set up your cash table near the entrance. Have plenty of small change, a cash box, a calculator, pencil and pen, a ledger book (to inventory commissions), bags and boxes, newspaper to wrap valuables, and a tape measure.

  • Make sure there's plenty of parking; relocate your car if necessary.

  • Be cheerful, get people talking and encourage haggling. Many people are reluctant to haggle but find it's fun once they start.

Tips & Warnings

  • Schedule your garage sale with payday in mind, typically the first and 15th of the month. People are more likely to splurge on a treasure with a fat paycheck in their pocket.
  • Make sure there's an electrical outlet or heavy-duty extension cord accessible so shoppers can test electrical appliances.
  • Give your neighbors a courtesy call beforehand to warn them of your sale. They'll appreciate it, and may even have some stuff to add to the sale.
  • Donate whatever is left to a charity that has a pick-up service.
  • Some cities require permits for garage sales. Other cities prohibit signage. Check municipal rules in advance to avoid any problems on the day of the sale.
  • Protect yourself against theft and fraud. Display small valuables within eyesight. Keep money in a zipped fanny pack if you're bustling about. Keep large sums of money locked in the house. Do not accept personal checks.
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