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Friday, August 21, 2009

Prudent Penny: Holding a Garage Sale

Holding a garage sale will test your stamina, your strength and all your nerve. It is not a project for the weak of spirit.

The key to a successful garage sale is organization. Plan way ahead on a date and coerce--er...I mean ask for help from family and friends. The bigger your sale, the more bodies you'll need.

Hopefully, by the time you have your sale you'll have already visited plenty of other sales in your area. I've found most areas have their own protocols for timing, days, and signage. If you live in a city with strict ordinances, check with them before you have your sale. I've seen some very unfriendly police officers break up a sale on more than one occasion.

Here are my tips for staying on top of the madness.

• Price EVERYTHING. I don't care if you use pre-priced tags (found at your local Walmart), or colored stickers, or if you price everything with red crayon, just make sure everything is marked. Not only will you save yourself aggravation during the height of sales frenzy when everyone descends on you at once, you'll also likely make more sales.

If I walk into a garage sale that has nothing tagged, nine times out of ten I will walk out. Usually the seller doesn't know what he wants to sell his items for and will size you up before giving a price. I've seen it happen where the same seller gave two different prices to two different people for the same item. I just find that unethical.

• Keep like things together. Clothes in one group, electronics in another, decor in another area. We even categorize our books by subject or genre.

• Sell more by making sure things are clean. If they are dirty or dusty, buyers expect a discount.

• We've never encountered any stealing, but I've seen people try at other sales. The more eyes you have on your grounds, the less trouble you'll have.

• Keep electrical cords nearby so buyers can test electronics and appliances.

• Never, ever let anyone into your house. We once had someone ask to use our bathroom. A man--yet. I don't think so.

• Keep your money box in someone's possession at all times. We always keep it further inside the garage---next to the rottweiler.

• Price conservatively, but within the 10-20% price point. I like to price big or pricey items just a tiny bit higher to allow for negotiation later.

• Put big or colorful items close to the front to draw passerby traffic.

• Embrace your inner weirdness. We had an old blow up Godzilla that stood six feet tall. We set him up at the driveway. Instead of 'garage sale', I made all my signs say: Monster Sale. People came from everywhere. They had to stop when they saw Godzilla.

• Speaking of signs...please write your information in BIG, BOLD letters. The faster traffic goes by where you place your signs, the bigger your letters should be. Lettering should be at least three inches tall. Arrows are also greatly appreciated.

• If you place your sign at a major thoroughfare, but live five miles away, say so on your sign. People will assume the sale was canceled if they don't see any assurance that you're still up ahead.

• Your biggest rush will be in the morning, but don't discount afternoon traffic. Plan on an all day event unless you live in one of those neighborhoods that close up shop at noon. If you have help, make sure they're out helping people and taking money while you mind the till.

I wrote a whole book on holding a garage sale and shopping them. Get it here!


And what would one of my posts be without a story?

One of the pitfalls of garage sales are the salers who insist on visiting before dawn. No joke! Keep the lights off and the garage or yard gate closed to keep the early birds at bay.

One year we had a particularly aggressive crowd. One by one they would unlatch the gate and waltz in while we were setting up. It was still dark for crying out loud. We kept shooing them off. The sale would not start until 7am--no earlier.

Greg even put a lock on the gate to keep people from coming in. No luck. They were so anxious to get to our stuff they CLIMBED the fence.

Greg had had enough so he did the only thing left to us. He put out Isis, a rottweiler who was as friendly as a new puppy. But hey, she was a rottweiler, and those strangers didn't know she was friendly. She patroled the gate, back and forth as more and more people showed up.

Not a single garage saler tried the gate again until Greg put her up and unlocked it.

Good dog, Isis. She got a cookie for that.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --

For more Prudent Penny posts go here.


The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

These are some great suggestions! May I add a couple of notes? I used to feel the same way about prices being marked, but I've found it's a regional thing. Where I live now almost no one marks prices. Rather than give up garaging, I just got used to asking. And you're on the money with the bathroom advice, but I would probably tell someone where the nearest fast food place was as an alternative. When ya gotta go...

Maria Zannini said...

Ack! A whole region without prices? LOL. We don't see that often here.

I don't like to keep asking for prices. It wastes time. Unless I see that their prices are very reasonable, I don't bother. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Thanks for stopping by, Queen!

Marianne Arkins said...

I won't buy if I don't see prices... I'm not a bargainer, so I just want a marked price. I walk away otherwise.

And as for potty breaks? When I was pregnant, I had to go every five minutes. Thankfully, people took pity on me -- but then I was 8 mos preggo, looked 12 mos (I gained a LOT of weight and had a huge baby) and must have looked pretty harmless, lol.

Love the Godzilla :-)

Maria Zannini said...

LOL...well, a big preggy woman might have changed my mind. But a dubious looking young man--no.

Shelley Munro said...

Garage sales always seem to attract a lot of attention here in NZ too. I've never tried to have one before, but I think the advice to price stuff is a good one.