The weather is getting nicer out and that means one thing…garage sales! A garage sale is a great way to make quick money in just one weekend! This how-to guide will help you from the beginning to the end and have cash in your pocket.
As we have been discussing more of a minimalist lifestyle, it is time to part with items that we do not use that can make us money.
Read just one of these garage sale tips and tricks at a time. Complete it. Then, come back to read the next one.
Organizing and planning for a garage sale can be overwhelming, but following this guide step-by-step on how to have a successful garage sale will make it a flawless process.
Tips to Prepare for Your Garage Sale
1. Declutter room by room.
This first step to organizing for a garage sale should start at least a few months in advance (if not happen all year long). If you’re really rushed for time, consider this to be something like a speed-clean of your home!
The absolute first thing you’ll want to do to get ready is to declutter each room in your house. Depending on the size of your house, this step might take longer than one weekend.
As you are decluttering each room bring the item(s) straight to one central location where you’re collecting all of your items for your garage sale.
For example, I have a collection of mugs. Everyone who knows me knows my obsession. I have tamed back after watching a TED talk on how collections can cost you money.
How much is one mug though right? When I get new mugs, I do like to get rid of some older/used ones. I would bring the mug I was selling directly to the box labeled kitchen items. I would finish decluttering the kitchen and bring items to the collection area then move on to the next step.
2. Sort and organize items.
Some people are excellent at staying organized, and they’ll sort their items as they go about collecting them up. And some of us need to do a little more refining of what we have before it’s ready for the sale, making it easier for potential shoppers to find what they might be looking for.
Using boxes, separate folding tables — whatever you might need to use depending on what you’re selling — organize your items by rooms of the house, type of product, etc.
You might put, for example, all of your furniture items together in one place, regardless of what room they’d belong to, as opposed to putting the extra family room chair with the pictures, lamp, and books you removed from that room too. (This would also make it easier to cover all your things to protect against rain, should that become a concern!)
2a. Clean your items!
It should go without saying, but most people would rather buy clean items than dirty. How can I tell, for example, if it’s just dust or light mold on something that’s been in your basement for years?!
If it’s reasonable to do so, give everything a quick clean as you sort through and organize it all (even if it’s just wiping old dishes with a dry cloth) to give your buyers the best presentation you can. A clean treadmill will sell for more than a dirty one, that’s a promise!
3. Price your items.
It’s worth giving your items a quick price as you work on sorting and setting up. If you find that everything is a small item for only $0.25 each, and your total max profit could be $50, then is it really worth spending 2-3 days sitting outside hoping to sell it all?
In addition, garage sale pricing is something that simply takes time to do — deciding the price and writing it on little stickers or making a price sheet for it all is important to make sure buyers can decide immediately whether they’d want an item or not, without needing to wait for your attention to tell them the price.
Garage sale goers are looking for a deal and you are looking to make money. Pricing your items to sell is important as you are trying to get rid of them. As you are pricing, think as if you were the buyer at another garage sale, how much would you pay for the item you are pricing? I would not spend more than $0.75 for a mug at a garage sale.
There are so many different ways you can label your items for a garage sale. The most common are dot peel stickers you can write on the price, peel and label the item. Amazon is full of different garage sale pricing stickers. I like the ones that have prices already on them because it eliminates the step of writing the price over and over again. Most prices at a garage sale all have the same range and you want to make sure you have a lot of those stickers.
If you have items in boxes on your driveway you can do two things. One simple way is to just label the outside of the box with how much each item in the box is. Another unique way to spice up your garage sale is to use chalk to place the price on the driveway outside the box. If your garage sale goes for the weekend and it rains or gets dewy, just make sure you remember to touch it up in the morning before the sale!
If you’re an old pro at either hosting or shopping at garage sales, then you’ll likely have a good idea of how items should be priced going into hosting your own sale.
If you’ve never hosted a sale before, however, you might consider pushing your sale date out into the season by at least a few weeks, to give yourself ample time to browse a handful of sales near you first so you can watch what people like and buy, and what pricing they end up with.
(Yes, I’m encouraging you to go do your research by eavesdropping on a few haggling conversations!)
4. Discuss a multi-family garage sales with neighbors.
This step is not an absolute necessity, obviously, but it is a good way to increase the probability of your success.
Waiting until you’ve got all your items collected is smart so that you’re not going to risk talking your neighbors into doing a garage sale if you don’t end up meeting the sale deadline yourself!
Hosting your own garage sale is obviously a great way to make sure that buyers would buy YOUR items instead of your neighbors. The advantage of including your neighbors in a larger size “neighborhood sale,” however, is in the marketing power. Garage sale hoppers love to be able to wander through multiple collections of items in a short distance – within walking distance is absolutely ideal!
Chances are very good that you won’t have the exact same items out as your neighbors do, so you won’t have much concern for competition, but the increase in buyers that stop in will help you sell so much more of your stuff!
The other hidden advantage of planning a multi-family sale is to keep you accountable. If you’re planning your own sale and feel like pushing it back a week or two, you can. If you’ve got a set weekend with 2+ families planning for holding the sale, you have no choice but to have all your items ready by then!
5. Plan and/or set up your space.
If you’re just planning on hosting your sale in your driveway only, then you won’t have much set-up to do until the day of. Mow the lawn, make sure any flowerbeds are weeded, and sweep the driveway if needed. You want your house to look presentable – if the outside of a home is rundown people will question the quality of the items that came from the inside of it! You will also want to sure you’ve got tables or shelves (preferably weather-proof) to display your items on.
You don’t need to be fancy – while some people may prefer to go buy a few plastic folding tables to hold their items, you could definitely get away with dragging your kitchen table outside for the weekend or making some simple rough lumber tables/platforms that can easily be broken down later.
If you’re planning to host a literal garage sale, inside your garage, then you definitely need to make sure that your garage is clean and organized by itself before you can start setting up any for-sale items.
You might even consider grabbing a cheap roll of plastic sheeting or some cheap tarps with which to hide the items in your garage that will NOT be for sale (like yard tools or bikes hanging on the walls) to make things even easier for you come sale day. Why keep answering the question “is that for sale?” if you don’t need to?!
6. Choose a date and look into any necessary permits.
Obviously, deciding a day is pretty important. You may have had one in mind already before you even started to declutter, or you might have been waiting until you felt “ready” to host the sale, so you wouldn’t be scrambling at the last minute to get everything ready.
Check the weather for a few weeks out if possible (and think about whether your target weekend is normally during a “rainy season” or a heat wave or the like), and choose a date that fits around sunny but not sweltering days, holidays, etc. Hosting a garage sale on the Fourth of July weekend, for example, most likely won’t bring the highest number of buyers your way.
Don’t forget to include your neighbors in this conversation if you’re having a multi-family sale!
And believe it or not, some towns and cities actually require you to apply for a “garage sale permit” and pay a fee in order to have one. They will also often have specific rules as to how many signs you can post, the maximum radius from the sale location that signs may be posted, the hours it can run for during the day, max number of days, etc.
Call your town clerk’s office to ask about holding a garage sale. Be sure to go about the proper steps to get these permissions from the town and follow any rules about signage, so you don’t get hit with a big fine for not complying!
7. Coordinate your helpers!
If you’re going to be moving furniture outside in preparation for your sale, you might well need an extra set of hands (or more)!
You’ll also want at least 2 people available for all of your garage sale hours so that someone can be sitting outside keeping an eye on things at all time, but still have at least a backup person for bathroom breaks! If you can have 2 people sitting out at the sale at all times, you’ll be able to get buyers in and out much more quickly and smoothly as well.
8. Get change.
This one step is often forgotten in the hustle of getting the garage sale ready. Take a break, you deserve one! Get into the car and take a ride to the bank. You will want to have a variety of bills and change. Have about $100 in change:
- 1 roll of quarters
- Dimes- 1 roll
- 1 roll of pennies
I have plastic bags saved up for taking my dog for walks. Make sure you can provide our shoppers with a bag for their purchase.
Better yet use PayPal to collect money for free from your customers by selecting family and friends. You can also use services like Stripe, Apply Pay, and Venmo to make it more convenient for your customers. This is also a great way to get more items sold since buyers typically have a limited amount of cash on them, but nearly everyone has a debit or credit card with them!
Tips to Advertise Your Garage Sale
1. Look for creative advertising opportunities.
As soon as you know the date and times for your garage sale, start advertising! There are so many free ways to advertise for your garage sale. Craigslist is the first place I would start. Start your ad with just the dates and times. This way you feel committed to the sale and people can plan their routes.
Then as you finish up decluttering and you have your sale set-up you can upload pictures. Do not upload pictures of your tables with all the items, that just overwhelms people. Take pictures of your “big items” and make a killer description of how much more you have that they will have to come to see.
gsalr.com is a website and app you can advertise for free on. The app plans out different routes and provides the garage sale goers with guided driving directions to the sales. You can upload pictures of your big ticket items and is simple to use.
But don’t stop there! Some town newspapers may offer free garage sale listings for a limited window of time (such as just the week of the sale). One of our local radio stations offers free on-air garage sale advertising, where you can submit the date and location of your garage sale posting online and one of the DJ’s shares the info in the afternoon.
Check if any local hang-outs or businesses offer a free community bulletin board as well, such as coffee shops, libraries, boutique stores, salons, or even doctor or vet offices.
2. Get signs for your garage sale.
You can be savvy and use poster board (or even cardboard!) and markers you may have lying around your house. However, you have to keep in mind that people that are driving by are your biggest advertisement. This awesome kit on Amazon is amazing and has everything you will need for your garage sale.
If you live on a busy road you have an advantage over people that live in neighborhoods. If you live in a neighborhood you will have to be strategic with your sign placements. Make sure you always have a sign or two on a street with a high volume of traffic – the more people that drive past your sign the more chances of someone coming to your garage sale.
Make sure your signs are placed in many different spots and give clear direction on how to get to your house.
In today’s world of everyone being online, we have a big advantage in letting people know about our upcoming garage sales.
Post images of your items on your Instagram and ask people to message you for sale dates and info if they’re local.
Make a Facebook event for your garage sale and ask friends and family to share. This is actually a great way to possibly get some advance sales of your bigger items since you can easily accept payments right over the internet (even through Facebook Messenger itself!) and then simple coordinate a pickup time!
Tips for the Day of Your Garage Sale
1. Rise & Grind, It’s Garage Sale Time!
Make yourself a nice cup of coffee and head out to your sale. Do any adjustments and last minute re-organizing of your items.
As you get ready for buyers to arrive, remember these things:
- Greet all your customers when they approach your house.
- Try to make connections with people, they will be more willing to buy from a friendly conversation.
- Ask if there is anything in particular that they are looking for, in an effort to help drive a speedy sale. Customers appreciate getting in and out quickly!
- Politely direct them to additional items that are similar to the one(s) they are interested in, but don’t be pushy. You want to sell your items but being overly salesy will drive people away quickly!
- Let shoppers know you are willing to negotiate prices they see. You are getting rid of these items for a reason. It is better to lower the price and sell it than losing out on a sale altogether.
2. Double-check that your sale is appealing.
Keep items tidy as the day goes on an people may paw through boxes and make a mess. It’s not just the first customers of the day who have a first impression of your sale!
Making sure that some of your items maintain a good, customer-friendly sorting organization such as:
- Clothing items stay grouped by gender, size, season, etc.
- Shoes are sorted by men’s/women’s/kids, as well as size.
- Movie cases are all facing the same direction, and easily browsable by alphabetical title or by genre.
- Dishes in any sets are kept together.
- Consider sorting out any antiques you may have to keep separate from the “everyday” versions (this can be a separate table or area for antiques, and you can more easily ask higher prices for these unique items).
- If you have items that you will not negotiate pricing on, consider sorting those out from those that are up for haggling.
You might also consider having bottled water or even light snacks for your buyers. Many people will stay longer if they’re taking a quick water break (especially on hot summer days!), and that might give them an opportunity to spot something they’d want but might have missed otherwise!
Do you have kids that could make some money at this sale? Have your kids set up a stand to sell lemonade or food. Some of the garage sale goers have been out all morning and would love a bargain for a drink and something quick to eat. Start your young entrepreneur while they are still young. A lot can be learned by running a simple lemonade stand!
3. Be flexible on payment methods.
As mentioned earlier, accepting more than just cash is not just possible in today’s world but also a great way to increase your sales.
Make sure you’ve got a good wifi or cellular data connection if you’re going to be using your laptop or tablet to let people make an online payment to you, and be sure to have cash change available for your customers that prefer traditional payment methods.
4. Be a little wary and stay safe – keep a phone nearby.
This may depend on where you live, but you do need to keep a wary eye on who is coming to your home for your sale.
Keep little kids in the house or with a designated babysitter (either the other parent, having a grandparent or other relative that’s there solely for the purpose of watching the kids).
Make sure older kids that may be helping with the sale are aware of things like “stranger danger” and stay within your sight at all times.
Keep a phone nearby in case there’s some emergency or (God-forbid) a call to the police is warranted. You never know who might show up at your home, and if things get out of hand the very last thing you want to do is turn your back on someone who is getting aggressive with you, to run in the house for a phone.
Make sure that someone has eyes on the cash box and any laptops or tablets used for online payments at all times. It won’t do much good to have a garage sale if your profits are stolen, or if they need to be put towards replacing a computer!
Tips for After Your Garage Sale Is Over
1. Before you clean up, list the remaining items online.
While everything is still at least somewhat organized on your tables, take pictures of everything and list your unsold garage sale items online. This might be through Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or even eBay or Amazon for smaller, shippable items.
Just because your garage sale is over in the physical world, doesn’t mean it needs to be over in the digital world as well! You never know who might still be interested but couldn’t attend your sale for one reason or another.
Another option if your items aren’t shippable or if you aren’t comfortable using that selling format is to visit a local pawn shop and see if you can’t sell anything there. For kid and baby items specifically, look in your area for dedicated children’s consignment shops, since you’re likely to get a better price at these specialized locations than at a general anything-goes pawn shop.
2. Clean up what’s left and donate.
If you won’t be selling anything by one of the after-thought methods above, or if you tried and couldn’t, then it’s time to donate the rest.
When your sale has come to a close, start boxing up your items that are left for donation. Don’t second guess on bringing items into your house. The only time it might be worth keeping an item that didn’t sell is if you know you can sell it on Craiglist or eBay for a quick profit. You were selling everything for a reason, to organize and minimize.
Pack up the car and bring the items to a local Goodwill. Keep your receipt somewhere safe for the next tax season!
Did you know that you could make an entire side hustle out of selling those unsold goods online? You can learn all about how one couple makes 6-figures a year doing just that, in the course from Flea Market Flipper!
3. Celebrate your success! (A little bit.)
Now that you’ve got more room, more cash, and more joy in your life, take some time to congratulate yourself on a job well-done and give yourself a little reward – just don’t go overboard. Maybe treat yourselves to a dessert-only date, or ice cream cones with the kids!
The best idea for how to ensure your garage sale profits don’t go to waste is to have a plan in mind before the sale even starts. Some ideas for how to “celebrate” by putting your newfound cash to work might include:
- Enjoying a satisfying boost to your debt payoff efforts.
- Use the money to increase your retirement contributions for the year.
- Work on bolstering your emergency fund.
- Use it to cover anything in your budget that may have been over-spent.
Final Thoughts On How To Have A Successful Garage Sale
All of the above steps guide you as a sort of checklist to make sure your sale runs as smoothly and low-stress as possible.
But maybe even more important that the steps is to remember to just relax and take it for what it is. You most likely won’t sell every single item, and you’ll probably spend a lot of time sitting around feeling like you could be doing something more useful with your time (maybe bring a book out with you)!
That said, what WILL likely happen is that you’ll end up with a cleaned out house, at least a little more cash in your pocket, and the satisfaction of knowing you’ve got less stuff to take up your space, your time in cleaning it, or your sanity in wanting it gone.
Clean out your home, and clean up your mental health at the same time!