Garage Sale Success

by Kim Danger

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If you're like most Americans, you have lots of stuff. We are a country of consumers. We buy, buy, buy, and most of it ends up in boxes in our closets and basements. Unfortunately, we don't clear out our house as much as we clutter it up. To avoid the pack-rat syndrome, consider having a garage sale. A garage sale is a great way to get rid of unwanted junk, plus make some money. Here are some tips to help make your sale a success:

Collect Items

You can never start too early when it comes to collecting items for a garage sale. I keep a large box in my basement for garage sale items all year long. During the year when I come across an item I no longer need or want, I throw it in the box. An even better idea is to mark the items before they go in the box. Marking your items will take longer than you think. Don't leave it until the last minute. If you do, you may be up very late the night before your sale!


You'll want to include the following information in your ad: Date and times of the sale, your address, and special items you have for sale that will draw customers. Be sure to mention specific items that are in demand (Little Tikes toys; collectibles; furniture items). If you're selling kids' clothing, list the sizes you have. If a lot of your items (especially clothing) are name-brand, it doesn't hurt to mention the specific name brands as well. In my area, people make tracks to sales with kids' clothes from BabyGap and Gymboree. Make sure that you have signs strategically placed in your community. Place them in high-traffic intersections within a few miles of your home. If you live in the boonies, include directions in your ad. Use sturdy cardboard and big lettering. Drive by your own signs to make sure that they are visible from a distance. If your sale is on a rainy day, use crayons. They won't run like markers do.

Price Your Items

Mark every item. You'll avoid a lot of questions and haggling this way. Groups of similar items like books or video cassettes are an exception; it might be easier to just mark them 25 cents each rather than mark each one. Items such as this are also great to offer a deal: 25 cents each or 5 for $1. A general guideline is to price items at 1/4 or 1/5 of the retail price. However, this is a very general guideline. You may be able to get more on some items and much less on others. Obviously new items will bring more (especially if the price tag is still on it!). You'll want to consider the demand for the item you're pricing. Clean and repair your toys. It is amazing how much more money a shiny toy will bring than a dull, dingy one. When pricing, use quarter-dollar increments. Making change will be much easier.

A Note on Clothing

I've found that people are willing to spend good money on quality kids' clothing at garage sales, but not adult clothing. If you have a lot of adult clothing that is in good condition and still in style, consider taking it to a consignment shop instead. Kids' clothing can sell anywhere from $1 to $5. If it's stained, however, don't mark it more than a quarter.

Make it a Group Thing

Invite friends to join you. You'll be able to advertise a wider variety of merchandise and attract more shoppers. You can split the cost of the ad and take turns at the checkout counter. Plus, you'll have more fun that way! You may also want to recruit neighbors for a block-wide sale.

Display Your Stuff

Arrange to have plenty of clothing racks and tables. People won't want to go through piles of junk. Hang clothing if at all possible. Not only will they be easier to view; their perceived value will be higher. Be sure to put away any items you don't want to sell, otherwise customers will ask about them. If you have a lot of things in your garage you don't want to move, consider putting up a curtain or tarp to hide them from view. If you have a long driveway, make sure to use it. Put high-interest items on the side of your driveway (Kids' toys, Furniture, Tools (so the men will want to stop!) so they're easily visible from the road. As your sale gets picked over, be sure to re-arrange merchandise to fill holes.

Create the Atmosphere

Have pleasant easy-listening music playing in the background; shoppers will linger longer. If your sale is on a hot day, you may want to have a large tub filled with ice and cans of pop for sale. Have proper lighting; be sure that it isn't too dark in your garage.

Open your doors!

As a courtesy to your customers, don't allow early sales. I've been to many a sale at the time they SAID they would open, only to find they opened early and the item I wanted was already gone. Don't allow people to come inside your home. Some customers may ask to use the bathroom, phone, or try on clothes. Be prepared for this, and be ready to tell them no.

Finishing Up

Be sure to remove your signs promptly. You won't want people knocking on your door after the sale is over. Now comes the fun part... counting the money!

Kim Danger is a work-at-home mom to one-year-old Sydney. Read more of her money-saving tips and ideas on her website,

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