I’ve had a strong desire over the last few weeks to de-clutter our home. Currently, our closets, attic and garage are all packed full with things we rarely use. My wife isn’t a big fan of yard sales (hosting them, that is) so it looks like me and the kids may be on our own if we plan to get rid of some of this stuff. Growing up my mom was the queen of yard sales. We used to joke that if I didn’t want something included in a yard sale I should lock it away in my closet. Looking back, she was setting a great example in the hopes I wouldn’t grow up to be a packrat. Admittedly, I have accumulated my share of our household junk, and I am trying to inspire members of our household to get rid of theirs. Yard sales are also a great way to generate some quick cash to get that emergency fund in place, or to contribute to your debt snowball. Here are a few yard sale tips our family has implemented over the years to have a successful yard sale.
- Schedule yard sales around the first of the month. Most people who are paid monthly, or bi-monthly, receive a paycheck around the 1st of the month (or the end of the previous month). For this reason, we try to schedule yard sales on the first Saturday of the month.
- Check the 10-day forecast. Nothing ruins a good yard sale faster than rain. Keep an eye on the 10-day forecast before submitting your advertisements and selecting a date. There are no guarantees, but significant weather patterns (fronts, tropical systems, etc.) are fairly predictable within a couple days.
- Plan on starting early. Most hard-core yard sale scavengers will start looking around 7:00am (some as early as 6:00am).
- Consider a pre-sale the Friday night before and invite your friends and coworkers. Assuming you don’t mind friends going through your belongings, ask them to come by the night before to look through things ahead of time. I’ve sold some larger items by doing this, including computer monitors, baby furniture, etc. A side benefit of a presale is the more you sale the night before, the less you have to put out on Saturday morning.
- Join forces with friends, neighbors or family members. Block yard sales, or multifamily sales, tend to bring a lot of foot traffic. Consider splitting the cost of advertising amongst all participants and use a portion of your sales to pay for it.
- Check out free advertising sources. Credit union bulletins and community websites are a great source to advertise your yard sale. Many people also list their yard sales on Craigslist.
- Use traditional advertising (newspapers) for larger sales. If you are planning to try and sell some high-end items, such as electronics, furniture, or a used car, consider paying to advertise in your local newspaper.
- Keep it simple. Nothing works better than poster board and Sharpie markers. If you have some old boxes lying around you can also gather up some pieces of cardboard to write “YARD SALE” on and include your address.
- Piggyback on neighboring sales. This is a little trick I picked up as a teenager when my mom would send me around the neighborhood to hang up our signs. I looked in the newspaper Saturday morning to see if there were any other yard sales around our house. I would go to the end of the street these sales were on and hang a sign for our yardsale with a big arrow pointing in the direction of our house. As people left the advertised yard sales they would inevitably see my sign and then look for ours.
- Advertise around heavily traveled intersections close to your neighborhood. Once you get potential customers in your neighborhood, use remaining signs to lead them to your house.
- Keep a count of the signs you post, so later you can remember how many to take down. There is nothing worse than seeing a huge, hot pink YARD SALE sign for one that happened last month.
- Leave sentimental value inside the house. People shop yard sales for one reason – to get a deal. Just because the change purse used to belong to your great, great Grandmother who brought it with her from Ireland, it doesn’t mean you should stick a $10 price sticker on it and call it antique. Remember, things are worth only as much as people are willing to pay for them.
- Sell kids or baby clothing from a big box or plastic bin. Based on the type of clothing, set a fair price for the entire bin and hang a sign made from a half-sheet of paper indicating the price of all items. For example, “BABY CLOTHES – $0.25 each.”
- If you are short on folding tables, sawhorses and a sheet of plywood make a good table. If you have some old sheets, hang them over the plywood to protect against splinters. This also provides some space under the tables to hide your empty boxes, or additional inventory.
The Day of the Sale
- Use a staging area the night before the sale. If you have a garage, or another enclosed space you can safely store things overnight, it helps to set up tables the night before. Our family backs the car out of the garage, sets up tables and throws out everything from the boxes the night before. At 6:30 the next morning all you need is some help walking the loaded tables out into your driveway or yard.
- Have plenty of change on hand. The day before the yard sale I usually make a run by the bank to get some smaller bills and rolled coins. $50 in quarters, ones and fives ought to do it.
- Consider getting a cash box. Make change from the cash box and place larger bills underneath the cash tray. If your yard sale becomes wildly successful, consider making a cash drop by withdrawing the larger bills from your cash box and taking them inside the house. This minimizes the chances of someone making off with all your cash.
- Remember safety – use the buddy system. The people I’ve encountered in my experience hosting yard sales have all been honest, hard-working folks and genuine collectors. However, the allure of electronics and cash sometimes brings unsavory guests. These types like to try to create a distraction so another one can make off with the cash box. Work in pairs and assign someone to always have an eye on the money.