It’s springtime, and the weather has started warming up in the Inland Northwest. That means it’s Garage Sale season around here. If you have done some spring cleaning, or tried to get to your gardening supplies in the garage, or tripped over your old golf bag to get to the yard maintenance equipment, it may be time to consider turning all of those old items into cash. But where to start? Follow these 9 easy steps and you will pull off a garage sale that hits the mark.
1. Determine your objective
It’s extremely important to know what you are trying to accomplish with your sale, before you even get started. It will inform all kinds of decisions along the way. The two primary objectives most people have when deciding to do a garage sale are:
- Lightening the load – in other words, getting rid of all the extra “stuff”
- Maximizing the financial return on your items
If your primary objective is to get rid of as much of the extra stuff you have lying around as possible – perhaps because you are planning a move – then you will not need to be quite so worried about your pricing. You can afford to be aggressive with your prices from the beginning, because you want your items to move.
If your goal is to get the most for your items as possible, it may mean you have to wait until the right buyer comes along to appreciate the value of the things you are selling. You won’t need to be as hasty parting with your 1976 Sears home console of the Pong IV video game, which may fetch you up to $250!
If you are doing this garage sale as a family, be sure to gain consensus around this objective to avoid any family tensions the day of the event!
2. Collect & identify your best items
Gather your items in one spot, ideally in your garage, and start sorting by category (tools, lawn care items, kitchenware, household items, clothing, etc.) Beware of trying to sell items of sentimental value. You may find that this issue is in direct conflict with your objective! Better to find a “keepsake” box in your attic and place it there, than endure the stress of trying to part with the item on sale day.
Make a note of your largest, highest-quality items plus your primary categories of items. Those items will be included in your advertising. Check out this article for thoughts on the best-selling garage sale items.
3. Decide on your day(s) and time
Know the popular days and times your area likes to hold garage sales. If you have a lot of stuff to sell, it is sometimes nice to have a 2-day sale, particularly if your objective is to lighten the load. It simply gives you more time to sell your stuff.
If you are not in a rush to free up the space your items are taking in the garage, you may want to work your way through all of these suggested steps, and save the actual date-setting for one-week out so you can see the weather forecast. Then you can plan on pulling the trigger on your advertising the week before (and the morning of) the event. Doing so may give you added peace-of-mind about the weather’s impact on your sale.
4. Line up your promotional efforts
It’s pointless to go through the effort of planning a garage sale if no one shows up to shop. Getting the word out is crucial. Listing your sale in the classifieds (online and/or print) and Craigslist, plus using signage, are the primary methods that work best.
- Decide in advance how you feel about “early birds” (the people who show up 30 minutes to an hour before the designated start time looking for the best items and deals). If you don’t mind them, be prepared for sales to happen before you are done setting up! If that kind of thing might drive you nuts, be sure to state in your ad, “no early birds.”
- It is highly effective to join forces with your neighbors and plan a block-wide or street-wide garage sale to increase traffic. Be sure and confirm you have at least one other family involved before using the term “neighborhood garage sale” in your advertising or you could end up with some grumpy shoppers! If this isn’t going to be a neighborhood affair, be sure your nearest neighbors are informed of your plans so you keep the peace. Don’t be surprised if some of them put out “no parking” signs on their lawns!
- Plan to promote your sale in a variety of classified listings, including Craigslist, which is free. If you have time, consider highlighting a handful of the high-value items individually, with photos, to try and attract the non-garage sale types who may be looking just for that particular item. Include the details of your sale in the post. Be sure to include your full address and zip code, for easy mapping of your location, and the specific date, day of the week, and times. In addition to your local paper, research specialized classified publications – like the Nickelsworth – as an option. The Nickelsworth is a weekly print publication that has very reasonable rates, and duplicates their listings online for free. You don’t need to spend more than $30 for decent exposure in a variety of print and online listings.
- Signage is critical. Scout out busy, high-traffic intersections for your prominent signage, and make sure you post your signage safely and legally. Use consistent looking signs so followers know they are headed the right way. Put the date/time/address on at least a few of them. Factor in traffic being able to view your signs from both directions. This article has some great practical tips for garage sale signage.
The remaining 5 steps are covered in Part 2 of this article.
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