How To Throw A Successful Yard Sale
This month we finally threw our first yard sale!
We really had no idea what to expect ~ how to price things? how to make creative yet functional displays? But with a little research and an organized plan our yard sale turned out to be a bigger success than we hoped for! Here's some of the things we learned along the way and the ideas we'll be sure to use again next time!
Expect Early Birds
Brian and I wanted plenty of time to set up and knew Early Birds were sure to arrive before start time, so we decided on a 8am-1pm sale, thinking maybe some people would show up at the earliest at 7:30am. The night before we set up our tables and display stations and the following morning woke up at 5am with the idea that we would enjoy coffee, price some last minute additions, take showers and still have everything set up and ready to go by 7:15am. Boy were we WRONG!
We started taking things outside at 6:10am, thinking we were ahead of schedule. The first cars started to drive by at 6:30am ~ it was still dark outside ~ and by 6:45am we had our first 'customer'. I kid you not when I say it was booming by 7:15am and by 8am the first rush was gone and more than half our stuff had sold!
Would we allow earlier birds again? ABSOLUTELY!! The goal is to sell stuff, right? So why turn them away? We decided to stay firm on our prices during the first hour, and really only negotiated with those buying a lot of items.
It also helped that we were prepared which leads us to the next section:
Start at least one month in advance! This will give you plenty of time to go through your stuff and decide what you'll be selling and getting rid of. A few weeks out start requesting paper bags when you check out at the grocery store and begin saving your newspapers. Our stash of paper bags along with newspapers came in very handy to wrap breakable items and bag up people's buys. Decide on a tentative date, but be flexible around weather. We ended up pushing back our sale two weeks in a row due to a rainy forecast. Tag as you go! This came in very helpful, as I rounded up items, I went ahead and placed tags on them with brief descriptions (i.e. Black Lamp with Shade). I held off on pricing, and dedicated one day to price everything at once. The day before run to the bank for change ~ think small bills with plenty of $1 and quarters if necessary. The night before, set up tables and displays and be sure to wake up extra early the day of.
No one will show up if they don't know about it!
There are so many options out there for free advertisement. We posted an ad on Craigslist the Wednesday before and another one on Friday. Be sure to add enticing photos along with an address or street name. Here's what ours looked like:
We also made signs that we posted throughout the neighborhood and at major intersections (be sure to check out your local rules & regulations before posting signs) . Make all your signs alike, so people can easily follow them to your location. Keep wording minimal and font BIG. We kept ours simple in black and white.
Our signs ended up costing us about $1.60 each to make, using white poster board, black markers and garage sale stakes. While we kept our advertising minimal, other options include posting ads on social media ~ reach out to your friends and family via Facebook & Twitter and advertise in your local newspapers for a small fee.
Price To Sell
First things first ~ set your expectations & goals!
You're not going to make money off of stuff. For example that picture frame you bought from Target for $12.99 isn't going to sell for $15. In fact, it probably won't even sell for $5, even though it's brand new with tags still on it. If you're not willing to sell your Grandmother's Heirloom Dresser for $20, then you may want to consider other selling avenues, like Craigslist, Ebay or consignment shops. Truth of the matter is people shop yard sales for huge bargains and deep discounts, and honestly they don't care that you spent $12.99 for a picture frame ~ they want it for $1!
Our philosophy? Only sell items you would easily and happily give away to goodwill, keeping the mentality that 50 cents is better than nothing. This way you're not disappointed or upset at how little your items may actually go for.
Yard Sale Pricing Guide
Think 10-20% of retail ~ go higher for new or perfect condition items and lower for used and worn. Keep prices consistent, with like items similar. For example most of our small housewares were $5 and under. We didn't want to fuss with small change, with the exception of magazines, priced 25 cents, all items were initially marked $1 or more. Individually price your merchandise! This leaves no room for questions and frees you up from continuously answering how much is this? Leave room for negotiating! Expect for people to offer less on an item, in fact we recommend encouraging it! As people walked up our drive we greeted them with 'Good Morning, see something, feel free to make an offer". Build that expectation into the price. For example I had a large basket I would have happily taken $7-$8 for; I marked it $10 and received a $9 offer ~ done!
Don't haggle over every single item. For those people purchasing multiple items, I went ahead and gave offers on the whole ~ if they came up to me with $23 of stuff, I'd respond, "Ok, total is $23, how's $20 sound?". If people overhear you're willing to give discounts on multiple purchases they'll pick up more stuff! Don't be afraid to put FREE on it! Broken tools or items that could possibly be throwaways (we're not talking obvious trash here), try to give it away, you never know what someone may have a use for.
CLEAN your merchandise! I'm not saying spend hours of your time cleaning stuff, but you'd be surprised what a little dusting can do. For example I had a black table lamp with a white lamp shade that had been collecting dust in my attic, frankly it looked dirty and old. 30 seconds of dusting and lint rolling & that guy looked brand new! It probably only would have sold for a couple bucks, but by making it look cared for it was one of the first things to sell and went for $8!
Decide ahead of time where you want to place your departments ~ yes I said departments! The more organized your yard sale the easier it is to shop! Don't throw and cram a bunch of random stuff onto one table. Organize it in the same way a store would: household items, furniture, jewelry, clothing, tools, kid stuff ~ you get the idea. Here's what I realized, the Early Birds and hardcore yard sale shoppers want to go through your stuff as quickly as possible and get on to the next yard sale. While they love the thrill of the hunt, the serious ones aren't going to spend a lot of time going through an unorganized pile of junk. So, by organizing and separating departments they're more likely to buy more stuff and they're more likely to pay top dollar for it! Place enticing items near your mailbox ~ similar to a store window! We placed a vintage school desk, colorful pillows and large baskets. As people drove by, they were sure to stop. For the main setup we used tables and displays throughout our yard creating a huge L-shape ~ we had a man table that included tools, golf balls and old electronics. Then it led into our clothing department ~ a garment rack hung nicer, gently used items, many of which I steamed ahead of time (again, by doing this I was surprised at how much they sold for, most of my casual dresses sold for $10-$12). A small table had t-shirts and pants folded on it. Jewelry, purses and scarves were displayed on Pegboard which was leftover from our Mudroom. We attached the pegboard to our porch with zip ties and then hung accessories from it. We strung twine from our porch to a tree creating a clothesline that hung linens and dish towels. A long table displayed baskets, candles, picture frames and other housewares. Keep shopper's hands' free!! This is by far the best retail trick to use! If you see someone holding a pile in their arms, offer to hold it behind your 'register' i.e. your porch or under a table. With hands free they're more likely to pick up more stuff!
Best Advice I Received
Was from my mom, which, if I'm completely honest, she pretty much said everything above! She was great at reminding me that the end goal was to get rid of stuff! If things are marked high, people won't even bother negotiating, they'll quickly get back in their cars and go on to the next one. If prices are reasonable they're more likely to buy and buy more. What would you rather? Sell one item for $10 or ten items for $1 each? Again, the goal's to get rid of stuff!
We don't have big ticket items like furniture?
Is a Yard Sale still worthwhile?
We didn't have any furniture other than a small ottoman, and besides some rugs most everything was priced $10 and under. You have to weigh your options and keep in mind there is quite a bit of time and work that goes into throwing a yard sale. If you only have a few things it may not be worth your time. Either donate those items or store them in your attic for a future yard sale.
So How Much Did We Make?
Our goal was $100 ~ anything less and we figured it wouldn't have been worth the effort and time. We were secretly hoping to make $150 and would have been thrilled to break the $200 mark. Drumroll please....we ended up making $512!! I'm still tickled over this! Our most expensive item sold for $45 and most everything else sold for $5 and under. In the end the leftovers only amounted to two small bags which we dropped off at Goodwill.
Needless to say we were thrilled with the outcome and plan to someday do another one. The sale itself went so quick that I never had a chance to snap so photos. Here are some additional pics I had placed on Craigslist. And FYI, the pictures must have helped because most people said they found us through Craigslist and multiple people showed up to buy the rug pictured below.