Should you have a garage sale?
Are your bills piling up or you just need some extra cash and think a garage sale will help but don't know where to start? The following questions and answers will help you decide whether or not a garage sale is a good idea for you.
This chart might also help you decide if you should have a garage sale.
First, a garage sale can be a life-changing event ... really
Holding a garage sale makes you realize that no one else values your treasured and valued possessions like you do.
Before the garage sale you had a collection of valued and treasured possessions that you paid your hard-earned money for and may have spent your valuable time researching the best buy and agonized over the decision to buy or not.
Then, going through closets you realize the amount of money you've wasted over the years with impulse buying.
Then you watched as people inspected your possessions with unappreciative looks, at best, and left without buying anything.
You are left wondering why your stuff isn't good enough to even give away! Why did you value it so much? Why did you buy it in the first place? Why does your life revolve around the struggle to earn money to buy stuff that, in the end, has no value?
Some people's lives have changed with this realization.
Ready? OK, let's ask some more questions...
What is the purpose of your garage sale?
Do you want to just get rid of some clutter or do you want to make as much money as you can in the process?
- If you just want to get rid of some junk and don't care about making any money then stop reading this right now.
Having a garage sale will be too much hard work. You will be better off donating your "good junk" to your local charity for some good karma and possibly a tax deduction in April and dump the rest.
- If you want to make lots and lots of money then stop reading this right now.
A garage sale won't make you rich. Don't believe the claims of how to "have a huge money making garage sale" or "get rich with garage sales". You won't get rich on 'garage sale' prices.
- But, if you want to get enough money to buy a new dishwasher, or TV or as much money as you can for your 'junk' (average profits from a garage sale is $500 - $700) then, keep your goal in mind and read on.
A garage sale provides a great lesson in life skills for your children
Use the opportunity of holding a garage sale to help teach your children valuable life skills. They can have their own table of toys, books, clothes, etc to sell or they could run their "lemonade stand". Life skills would include:
Decide what they want to achieve with a garage sale. For example a cleared shelf, cupboard, drawer, a specific amount of money for a wanted item or special event, money to donate, etc. Give them something to aim for.
- Investigating & Researching
Visit garage sales in your area to see what they are selling, how they have set up their sale, what prices are they asking, etc. Discuss what was good and bad about the various sales.
- Planning & Prioritizing
Make a detailed list of what needs to be done, when and who will do it. What jobs need to be done first and what relies on others to be finished first. The Freebies has a handy plan and checklist for jobs involved for a well-planned garage sale.
When going through their unwanted belongings they need to decide want to keep, what to sell, what to donate and what to through out. What prices to use.
Group items for the garage sale (eg toys, books, games, clothes, shoes, etc). Plan how they are going to be arranged on tables.
Allocate tasks leading up to the day and for during the day. Ensure everyone supports each other.
- Selling & Negotiating (factors & process)
How best to arrange items on tables to help people buy. What prices to use at the beginning of the sale and marking down during the day. Different sales techniques. Different negotiating (haggling) techniques. Keep track of their sales during the day to see if they are going to reach a monetary goal.
Go to the bank to get change. They will learn how to recognize the various bills & coins. Adding and subtracting. Dividing when applying discounts. Show them how to take money and give change.
- Saving, Donating, Buying
After the sale, did they achieve their goal? What would they do differently next time? Discuss the value of things and if they are really important. Was the garage sale worth the effort?
First, the 5 best tips for a successful garage sale
You have to devote time to all 5 to have a successful garage sale.
- You won't have a successful garage sale if you don't plan.
- You won't have a successful garage sale if you don't prepare.
- You won't have a successful garage sale if you don't properly clean and present your items for sale.
- You won't have a successful garage sale if you don't have people to buy your stuff.
- You won't have a successful garage sale if you don't have patience when preparing and on the day to enjoy the experience.
When is the best time to have it?
Well, unless it's the middle of winter and your letter box is under 2 feet of snow. If you wait for 5 years, your junk will also be out of date and old fashioned and harder to sell. By having it now or this year, at least your junk will still be in fashion and in demand which means it will be easier to sell at a higher price.
Are you able to have other people help you?
It's really hard to prepare for and run a garage sale on your own. It's also risky from a security point of view. Are you able to enlist the help of at least one other adult to help prepare and run your garage sale with you? It's easier, safer and much more fun if you can have three or four adults to help. Here are some ideas if they need encouragement:
- Let them sell some of their own unwanted items to earn some money of their own.
- Offer them, say 10%, of the profits.
- Offer a nice brunch or lunch.
- Offer to help them with theirs when they have one.
If you have a toddler - can you organize a baby-sitter?
Don't try to run a garage sale at the same time as trying to look after your toddler. Apart from not being enjoyable, it isn't safe.
Are you covered for accidents?
Check that you are covered for accidents by your renters/home owners insurance. If your garage sale is a one-time event for the sole purpose of selling unwanted personal items, your home-owners policy is likely to provide liability coverage. Check you have enough. If your garage sale is a regular weekly or monthly money-making event, your homeowners policy may not cover you and you may need business insurance instead.
Can you have a garage sale in your area?
Check if your local government has restrictions on garage sales. Hopefully, you can call or email someone with these questions:
- Do I need a permit? If so, how much will it cost and how long will it take.
- Is it the same permit for garage sales and yard sales?
- How many days can a garage sale go for?
- How long can I stay open (hours, days)?
- Can I put up signs?
- Where can or can't signs be placed?
- What size and number of signs can I use?
- Can I post flyers?
- Where can or can't I place flyers?
- What are the rules for rain dates?
- Am I allowed to conduct a garage sale in my desired location?
- Can I put merchandise on my driveway or on my lawn or on the footpath?
- Can I sell home-baked or pre-packaged food? Some will require a food retailer license along with complying with the health regulations.
- Can I sell new items? Some will require you to be a registered retailer which brings related sales and income tax issues.
Can you have a garage sale when you want to?
If you already have a date in mind:
- You will need a minimum of 3-4 weeks to prepare for a successful and enjoyable garage sale. I have done a lot of garage sales over the years and I have found it to be more enjoyable if I allow 2-3 months though.
- Check that your immediate neighbors aren't planning any big parties with lots of guests and cars for that date that may make parking a problem.
- Check if your neighbors are planning a garage sale too. Having a multi-neighbor 'group' sale is by far the best way to have a successful garage sale. If they aren't planning on having a sale too they may have some items they would like to sell in yours. A big single garage sale is the next best thing to ensure a successful garage sale.
- Check there aren't any big events on or public holidays at the same time that might draw the crowds away.
- But then, check if there are any big events nearby that might attract big crowds! Hope they see your signs!
- If you're in a country town, plan you garage sale around a local event when there are more people in town and it's more likely neighbors will be having their garage sale too!
- Hold the sale during spring/summer to reduce the chance of it raining on your day. It isn't pleasant trying to get all your items you spent arranged on the front yard back under cover from the rain. Less people are likely to show up too if it's raining.
NEXT: Garage sale alternatives