It’s yard sale season! Ahh, the lure of a bargain. . . .Since this coming Monday’s episode of Frugal Coast2Coast is all about yard sales, I thought I’d take a little time to day to talk about hosting a yard sale, and then on Monday to talk about shopping at them!
So maybe you’ve got a lot of stuff, extra stuff, stuff you really want to get rid of. So you figure, heck! I’ll have a yard sale.
But where to start?
Organizing and Advertising
Before you do anything else, you need to take a minute and check your local laws. Some municipalities require paying for a permit in order to hold a yard sale, and police will actually cite you if you do not have it. (I saw this happen in Colonial Heights Virginia). In other places you just stick your stuff out on your lawn and go for it!
For advertising, check way in advance what the requirements are to get your sale in the paper. You may need to give several weeks worth of lead time. Make fliers and post them at you local grocery stores etc (with permission of course). The day of the sale make sure you have signage at all the major roads with arrows showing the direction to the sale.
It is easy these days to find pre-printed yard sale tags at your local dollar store etc. Personally I find the denominations to be to high for my sales-I really don’t need a bunch of $10 tags etc.
You can also print your own stickers on the computer using labels. This can be a frugal choice if, like me, you can occasionally find computer labels at the dollar store (I always stock up when they have large packets of Avery stickers-about once a year). I printed 2 prices per small address label, then cut them all in half.
I’ve also found from experience that stickers do not stay on clothing. I tried one year using a stapler to staple the stickers to the clothes, but that proved difficult to remove. The last yard sale I had, I bit the bullet and bought some of those hanging tags-the ones that are sort of rectangular and have a loop of string on them. I’ve found that most clothing has a buttonhole, loop, or sizing tag that you can loop the string through. There are a few clothing items that have flat tags instead of looped tags. I’ve had to use a sticker on those and hope for the best. Since in my experience this only happens on the less expensive clothes, I’m not so worried. If the price falls off, I’ll just lowball the price.
An alternate method for marking merchandise is to do it “thrift store style” and simply put up a sign that says a standard price for like items. This is much easier than marking individual items, but only works if they are all of similar quality. For example I have used a sign that says “Hardcover books $.25, Paperbacks $.10 unless otherwise marked”. If there were specific books that were worth more, such as the cookbooks or knitting books, I priced them individually.
Another techinque is to group like items together as a small lot. It makes them more likely to sell. I like to buy a box of Gallon sized zippered baggies from the dollar store and place items inside them. It looks like much more of a deal to buy 5 or 6 headbands in a baggie instead of having them all laying there priced separately. An added benefit is it all goes-no single orphaned headband left over.
The key to pricing is to be reasonable. This stuff is junk that is taking up space in your house. The whole point here is to GET RID OF IT, while making some money. Don’t mark it like it is a priceless antique-unless of course it is.
I buy a good percentage of our clothes at thrift stores and yard sales-so I bought it all at a pittance to begin with. I price that stuff accordingly when I am trying to sell them. I tend to use up my “under a dollar” stickers pretty quickly.
If I decide to mark something more expensively, it is because I have already decided that I’m willing not to sell it unless I get that price.
If you are really in a rush, or don’t know how much to ask, try marking it “Make an Offer”. If they offer too low you can always counter with another price.
If you are holding a single sale where multiple people are selling, you have to figure out a way to keep track of the sales! The easiest method I have found is this-have each seller mark their labels with their initials. Take a notebook & make a page for each set of initials. When you sell items, remove the price stickers and stick them on the correct page of the book, or write the amount on the page. The money all goes together in the same cashbox. At the end of the sale add up each persons page to see how much money they made. Distribute the money accordingly.
The Cash Box
Make sure you have something to keep the money in. This sounds basic, but it isn’t something you want to be running around trying figuring this out after folks start showing up.
Whatever box, basket or envelope you are starting with needs some “seed money”. Remember that these days EVERYONE is starting their day with $20’s from the ATM machine, so you will probably have to make change frequently. It wouldn’t hurt to go to the bank prior to the sale and get $50 of change in $1 and $5 bills. Then make sure you put a note IN THE CASHBOX stating how much seed money was started with (and in the case of a multi-participant sale at one location, who gave the seed money). Even if you are running a single family sale, you don’t want to count that seed money into your profit at the end.
Don’t ever leave your cashbox unattended. Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone were ethical and trustworthy?. Let’s not tempt anyone to do anything they shouldn’t.
Watch out for Yard Sale Shysters. I haven’t had this happen myself, but have heard about it. Stand firm if you know that someone has switched price tags on you or taken one off. Also stand firm if someone comes back later and tries to tell you that you gave them the wrong change. (ie “wait, I gave you a $20, not a $10”) Try to take a good look at the bills when you are given them so you can be SURE that they are not telling the truth. Just remember, you don’t need to argue with them, it’s your sale! Just be firm. If someone is giving you problems, go ahead and ask them to leave and lose the sale. They aren’t worth it.
Don’t forget to have a free box. Really, you’d be surprised at the things you think are complete garbage that someone else will be thrilled to take. Your bits and pieces might be exactly what someone is looking for to complete their latest craft project. I know of one lady who used to pick up baby toys that were in really horrible shape-she gave them to her dogs as chew toys. Hey, even if you don’t get any money for it, if it keeps it out of the landfill.
Make sure you have plenty of plastic bags. These days that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Even though I shop mostly at Aldi’s and Save a Lot where I have to bring my own bags I seem to be swamped with the things.
Consider selling refreshments. Maybe you could let the kids handle that and earn some money! It would be a great way to foster a little entrepreneurial spirit. In the past I’ve sold muffins and banana bread slices at the yard sale-apparently some folks head out yard sale-ing without eating breakfast. Don’t necessarily count on it as a huge money maker, but if you have the time it can’t hurt. Some cheapo brand sodas (in types that you wouldn’t mind drinking if you don’t sell them) and a coffee pot brewing with some disposable cups are good ideas as well.
After The Sale
Bag it all up, and place it in the back of the car. Right away. Before you change your mind. You wanted to get rid of this stuff, don’t bring it back into the house or it might hang around for another 10 years.
You might even be able to arrange for a charity to come and pick it up for you right after the sale.
So what are your best tips for holding a yard sale?
*Remember-it is illegal to put anything in a mailbox! Leave the fliers in the door, or knock on the door, introduce yourself and hand the flier to the homeowner.
Photo by StopnLook