Yard Sale Tips and Tricks

How to hold a successful yard sale:

Tip #1 PREPARE: A week before the sale, start organizing, sorting, and pricing. The day before the sale, group everything so that we could move everything out into the driveway/lawn in an organized manner, not a chaotic mess. Create a plan for what was going to go where, how it would be laid out, how many tables, shelves, clothing racks, etc. we needed and gathered them up. Essentially, prepare for several days. 

Tip #2 PRICING: Price everything so that it’s a deal, and make sure you put a price tag on everything, to avoid on the spot brain freeze or haggling. The general rule is 50-30-10 – new, unused items get priced at 50% of their retail cost, slightly used items = 30% of retail, and used items = 10% of retail. Also, if you’re selling books, CDs, or other small items, try a “Buy 1, Get 1!” or similar package deal. For customers, this feels like a great deal (so they buy more) AND all of that stuff you don’t want anymore goes away. By the end of our sale, I was ready to start giving books away to people just so I wouldn’t have to box them up or move them again, but because we did a package deal, almost all of them sold. 

Tip #3 STAGE THE SHOW: We ran out of tables to put small items on, so I got a little creative and pulled out a large tarp and some clean, blank cardboard to make a display on the ground. Guess what? Nothing on the ground sold. NOTHING. The lesson? Get everything up off the ground and onto tables, shelves, and clothing racks. Even if you have to fake a clothing rack with a sawhorse, do it. People browsed the…ahem…WELL-LOVED snowboarding jackets my husband put on a clothing rack far more than the adorable, barely worn baby clothes I had on the cardboard/tarp on the ground. It makes literally no sense – baby clothes are usually a hot ticket item at yard sales. And being a picky perfectionist, these were barely worn, excellent condition, name brand clothes. Next time, that stuff gets a prime spot on a table and we’ll see how it goes. 

TIP #4 PUT THE GOOD STUFF IN PLAIN VIEW: this is veering into Captain Obvious territory, but here’s where I almost went wrong with my layout. I had a plan in mind so that buyers in our driveway would see a few key, big ticket furniture pieces first… until my husband pointed out that by placing those items where I wanted them, the “drive-by” shoppers wouldn’t have a good view. And we wanted anyone driving by giving our sale the slow roll glance to stop. So we reorganized the layout so that the antique mahogany bedroom suite was front and center, calling out “Yeah, you should stop. This is worth your time,” to everyone who slowed down to take a peek at what we were selling.

TIP #5 CASH: Do. Not. Forget. The. Bank. Barely by the skin of our teeth, we remembered to go get plenty of ones, fives, tens and quarters. By the end of the day, we were swimming in ones and fives, but in the early morning, everyone was passing us twenty dollar bills for purchases of $1.50. Eeeesh.

TIP #6 TREATS: Have kids helping out with your sale? Why not let them get in on the money making lesson by selling homemade cookies, brownies, donuts, muffins, coffee, or lemonade? You’ll be shocked at how much money they make.

TIP #7 STOW THE LITTLE ONES WITH FRIENDS ANF FAMILY: Kids helping out with baked goods is one thing, but trying to keep track of a toddler while managing a yard sale is a totally different type of cat herding. Not only are you likely/hopefully going to be in a high traffic location (i.e. close to the road) but there will be strangers roaming around, and people buying the toys that your child might suddenly decide are NOT FOR SALE. If you can, save yourself the stress. Our daughter spent a blissful day with her Nana, unaware that we were unloading her baby toys that we’d been hiding in the basement to the highest bidder. She’ll never know they’re gone, we didn’t have to stress about keeping an eye on her, and we made plenty of money to splurge on some new, age appropriate toys for her. Win-win.

Tip #8 FREE PILE:  Each time we have a yard sale, we have a pile of free things that we place by the curb.  Carpet remnants, old plastic chairs, paint cans, even my old teaching worksheets– it attracts drive-bys and everyone loves something for free.  Be sure to announce your free pile in your online ad!

Tip #9 GET SOME HELPERS: One or two extra people are necessary for managing traffic, fielding questions, keeping the goods organized, or making change.  Reward them with an early bird showing and let them set aside a stash to be negotiated at the end of the day.  Remember their worth, so don’t penny pinch.  Depending on what they want, I will most likely gift them the treasures as a “thank you” for helping.  It can be a lot of grunt work, so reward accordingly.

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