HOW TO...Have a Yard Sale
“One man’s garbage is another man’s anniversary present"
- Hal, Malcolm in the Middle
It’s spring, time to think clean. It’s also time to get rid of stuff. Most folks put stuff in one place, an attic, a basement a hallway, a garage, where ever. But doesn’t it seem to be spontaneously regenerating. Up here in New Hampshire, we use our garage. It doesn't have cars in it, but tons of stuff sharing space with the chipmunks. Now it’s time. It’s time to free ourselves of some earthly possessions. And as Frugal Yankees that means only one thing - Yard Sale!
Some call it tag sales, yard sales, garage sales, barn sales, moving sales. It matters little. This folkloric event has not received any academic interest, so the history is appropriately clouded. Some maintain it came from the Romans. Seems those good soldiers of Caesar would hawk their plunder on the streets looking to make a few bucks, probably for a night on the town.
In the days of tall masts, a ship’s Captain would often sell off unclaimed cargo on the wharves. The French have a word, ‘arrumage’ which means ‘to pack with cargo'. Do you think we got the word rummage sale from them? Probably.
The modern garage sale came into our collective consciousness right after World War II. As the big demographic move from the cities to the ‘burbs began, clutter needed to be gotten rid of, Heck in the ‘burbs’ there were actually garages. And the need to unclutter our lives remains a driving force. To make money at it is even better. So that’s what we are going to do. The Frugal Yankees will help you unencumber yourself of some worldly possessions and make a few bucks at the same time. This is good, because you are not sending stuff to the landfills and you are saving for your retirement.
The decision has been made, a yard sale is operative. Now you need to engage the entire family. This will be helpful so you’re not doing all the schlepping and family projects are a good idea.
That’s the first order of business. Here are a few guidelines.
- Not every day is good for a yard sale. For example, don't schedule your sale on a holiday weekend unless you live in a tourist town.
- Saturdays are usually the best.
- Earlier in the day is better than later.
- Try to schedule your sale near the 1st or the 15th of the month because those are paydays for a lot of shoppers.
- The best months for sales are: April, May, June and September, although in New England October can work.
Grab a calendar and find a good weekend date. Factor in local people movements. If you in the city, Memorial Day is probably not a good time; folks are heading out to the beach, mountains, or nearest bbq. Now that you’ve picked the date and before you schedule anything, check with your city or town officials to see wif there are regulations. You may need a permit.
2. EARLY PREPARATION
Select a good staging area. One area for items to be sold. Another spot for items need to DO the selling: tables, pens, bags, etc.
Determine who is doing what. Who makes signs and puts them up? Who sets prices? Who runs the show? Who is responsible for advertising?
3. MARKETING AND ADVERTISING
Like any event, marketing and advertising needs some thought.
Here are a few ideas:
THINK BIG - Go in with neighbors and split ad costs. Hey, a multi--family yard sale draws.
GOOD SIGNAGE - Good graphics really helps. Easy to read really helps.
Put signs everywhere. Make small signs highlighting big items, and hang them on bulletin boards at local stores.
For ‘day of’ signs, be sure they are the same color, visible from a moving vehicle and have arrows. Put them on the streets leading to your house and at major intersections. Good signs are critical!
After it's over, take down the signs. Your neighbors will be pleased.
ADVERTISING: Place ads in the classified section of local papers especially if it comes with an on-line site.
Check out Craig’s List and other web-only sites. Use the same copy for all. There are some national web sites, but they are spotty. One is FreeGarageSale.com, but we advise, keep it local.
Here are some copy tips. Make the ad interesting. e.g. ‘The Mother of all yard sales’, ‘forced to move, forced to sell’, ‘multi-family blow out’, etc. Oh yeah, don’t use misc. Misc means junk.. Use “and much much more!”
3. ORGANIZE & AMASS
As you run up to the day of your sale, place items to be sold in specific places and keep like items near each other.
Make notes as you go along especially if you’re doing the pricing and if you’re planning on taking a break.
During your sale, keep busy by organizing the empty spots to make it look full and attractive.
Here are some tings to have on hand:
- Suntan lotion
- Extension cord or electrical outlet
- Tape measure
- Rag for cleaning items
- Magic markers and paper
- Scotch tape, duct tape
- Cash box or someplace to put money.
- Water and paper cups (as a courtesy)
- Hand dolly if there are big items
- A strong back to move big items.
4. LURE MALES
Put "man" things near the road or driveway. Men resist stopping, but if there are some tools, lawnmowers, sports equipment, etc. in sight, they are more apt to say OK and visit your sale.
5. BE ATTRACTIVE
Appearance is vital. A bedraggled sale won't draw as many folks as a sale that looks like fun and interesting. Display some really cool items at the end of your driveway. Some folks drive by slowly, take a quick look, and decide whether to stop.
Put ‘not for sale’ signs on items that are not for sale. No doubt someone will still want to buy it, but as the sign says, it’s "not for sale".
6. DON’T BE GREEDY
If you want to get rid of stuff, price it to move. If you have antiques or old jewelry, don’t sell it in your yard sale. That’s what eBay is for.
7. CLEANLINESS COUNTS
Have someone, probably your kids, wipe everything down and make it look as good as it can be. Spider webs turn people off. Cleanliness pushes sales.
8. BAG IT
You know all those grocery bags you’ve been collecting? Here’s where you use them. If you run out, pop over to the local grocery and ask them for some.
Having bags makes your customer feel better about the transaction.
9. CLIMATE CHANGE
If it’s hot, have a yard umbrella or two.
If it’s hot, have or sell cold drinks.
If it’s chilly, have some hot coffee.
Be flexible and use your kids. Set up a lemonade stand at the head of the driveway. Sell brownies or doughnuts. Be creative and have fun.
10. BE HELPFUL
Be sure there is an extension cord available for testing.
Make sure you have plenty of change. You can get it at the bank -ones, quarters, fives. Note how much you start with. Deduct that amount at the end of the day to determine your sales. We suggest a ‘bank’ of $100 to $150.
Don’t sell anything for less than 25¢.
11. AN OUNCE....
Don’t be careless with your money. Be sure it is secure at all times. It is sometimes wise to do a ‘bleed’ every once in a while. Take some money from the sales and put it safely in your house.
When it’s over, it’s time to clean up. Send someone to take the signs down. Sort the remaining items into piles for the Salvation Army, the dump, etc.
Now grab your cashbox and see how you did. A good yard sale can generate $200 to $500, depending on the stuff, the location, the weather and more, but still that’s not too shabby.
Congratulate your family and yourself. You did a good job It was probably fun and you’ve got some good family stories to share.