Now is the perfect time to have a garage sale. Kids are back in school so you have a little time to sort through things. It’s time to clean the coat closet, put away summer things and get things in order for colder weather. And, many people will be looking for deals this time of year on off-season items.
Extra money this time of year is handy, too, especially if you’re bringing in the harvest and need kitchen or garden tools to do it. Looking even further ahead, you might see the need for wood or stoves or other cold weather products, so here’s your chance to get a fund started for that!
The first garage sale I ever had was at an old house in the country. Town was to the south and most of our traffic came from that way. Our garage sale was north of the house. You couldn’t see it very well from the road, so we put out signs which were too small to read at 55 miles an hour. I skimped on the ad because the classified rates were high. After paying for that ad, we made around $16.00, which we promptly blew by going to town for hamburgers because we were too tired to do anything else.
Loosely translated, we broke every rule in the book and it’s a miracle that we didn’t come up with a loss instead of breaking even. It was an expensive lesson.
Over the years since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to put on a successful garage sale and how to survive it!
Before the Sale
Make your garage sale visible. If people can’t see at least a part of it when they drive by, they won’t stop. Put out real goodies where they can see them. Antique or baby furniture, games, collectibles – anything that will catch their attention.
Even sales that are advertised and have signs on every corner will bomb if you can’t tell what they have, or if it looks like you need to walk inside a garage or shelter to see what’s there. People are lazy, so make it look like it’s worth stopping by.
Put up big signs and mark them with BIG, BOLD lettering. Only die-hard garage salers will stop and get out of the car to read your address and even not all of them will. Your job is to capture every potential customer you can, so go the extra mile.
Even if people come with the intent to bargain, a price that’s out of line will put them off. If you want a rule of thumb, 10 cents on the dollar is usually a fair price, depending on the age and quality of the item, but take the time to familiarize yourself with garage sales in your area. Try to price according to what people expect.
Mark a price on everything. Some people don’t mind asking or offering, but there are some who will walk away from the very thing they want if they don’t see a price on it.
You won’t need but a few pennies, if any at all (depending on how you’ve priced your items), but it will take more nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar bills than you think. The first time someone buys $1.35 worth of things and pays you with a $20 bill, it can wipe you out. Get at least a full roll of each of the coins and 20 or so dollar bills, then a few fives and tens.
Arrange the goods so that your tables look colorful and full, but not cluttered. Use boxes to hold smaller things and group similar things together for easier comparison. Avoid putting anything on the floor if you have room on a table or bench. Kids might love sitting on the ground and going through boxes, but older people will not.
Something in human nature doesn’t want to disturb a well balanced arrangement, so people will leave an item on the table rather than breaking the effect. Your display is for the purpose of selling your goods, not decorating a table. Perfectly folded and displayed clothing or linens may stay that way; leave a little to be desired by being just a little careless with them. DON’T refold items and tidy the tables every time a customer looks through things. Tidiness is NOT a virtue at this point, unless, of course, items are in total confusion – that will put people off, too.
Don’t put all the tall things in the back and shorter things in the front, especially if your tables are wide. Instead, group taller things together at one end of the table so they’re easier to reach without fear of breaking or upsetting something else. Try to arrange things so that everything is within easy reach.
During the Sale
Don’t be afraid to barter. If someone wants that pile of books for $2, when you’ve marked it for $6, negotiate until you settle on a fair price. Don’t give up items early in the game for much less than you have marked. You have a better chance of getting what you want if you wait it out. However, if you’re in the last few hours and you still have too much merchandise, cut prices, bargain, ask for offers… do whatever you need to get it sold. Better a coin or two than a box full of things you don’t want.
Make yourself comfortable by having quick access to cold water or other drinks or snacks and dressing comfortably. Don’t try to do it all yourself, but plan so that you and someone else can take turns. When it’s not your turn, go inside, eat, answer the phone, change into warmer/cooler clothing or whatever gives you a real break.
Have a book or craft handy for those times when no one is around but you can’t leave.
Turn off the cell phone, have someone watch small children and minimize interruptions when there are people around.
Pay attention to your customers, but don’t comment about what they’re looking at unless asked and don’t follow them around or make them feel as if they’re being watched.
After the Sale
Have meals already prepared or at least planned with a minimum of fuss so that you’re not tempted to spend your hard earned money right away. It’s more relaxing to eat at home after a long day of watching a garage sale, anyway.
When you’re taking your loot to the bank, stop by and get yourself an ice cream cone. You deserve it for following through on it all!