It’s that time of the year: garage sale time! Check out my top tips for how to hold a garage sale!
My absolute favorite time of the year is fast approaching! Those beautiful, glorious spring and summer months when you can drive down just about any major suburban or rural road and see multiple signs for garage sales and estate sales! These places are just packed full of lovely treasures to be found, treasures that just need a little cash and a little TLC. And they are the perfect opportunity to make a little extra cash yourself!
A few years ago my husband and I held our own epic garage sale. No joke, we called it: “The Most Epic Garage Sale Ever.” One of our customers even said to me that she came to the garage sale specifically because we used the word epic in the title! And as we learned the hard way, executing an amazing garage sale can be tricky, difficult, and time-consuming. So after experiencing it for myself, I wanted to provide y’all with my top tips for a fool-proof guide on how to hold a garage sale!
1. Read your city’s bylaws, and register with the city if necessary.
The very first step is to read your city bylaws! The rules on holding garage sales (and estate sales) vary on a city by city basis. This is a very very important first step. Some cities do not allow garage sales at all, some cities require no notice of garage sales, and some cities have regulations stating you must register with the city (and on occasion some will charge a small fee). Do this before you do anything else!
If your city has regulations against garage sales, it’s not the end of the world. Recruit your relatives or close friends to see if anyone else is interested in co-hosting a garage sale at their house (and check their city bylaws too!).
2. Pick a date!
The next step is to pick a date! This will depend on the weather in your area, mostly. In the Midwest, June or early July are ideal times. You want it nice enough outside where a lot of people will want to come check out your sale, but you don’t want it to be too hot since everyone will be outside browsing your wares. If you must do it later in the summer, consider renting or borrowing a large tent under which you can keep all your items (this is great if you are expecting rain too!)
Tip: Don’t plan your garage sale on a major holiday weekend! You’ll want to enjoy your time with family and friends, and customers likely will be doing the same with their own families!
3. Tell your friends and family.
Tell everyone who you are close with that you are hosting a garage sale. Your family may even donate items! We were lucky in that my in-laws had a lot of items in their basement that they were no longer using and were willing to donate to our sale. Friends and family are also great resources for other items you’ll need for the sale: folding tables, tents, etc. Keep in mind that once again your must check your city bylaws regarding profits. If your friends or family donate items and don’t intend to make any profit from these items, there are no problems. However, if friends or family donate items and expect to be paid the profit on those items when they sell, your city may have restrictions on this. Be sure to check for rules regarding “multifamily sales.”
4. Gather your sale items.
This is the most time-consuming step: accumulating all your items for sale. Maybe you have already started to do this as the thought crossed my mind when I realized how much stuff I wanted to get rid of that “hey, maybe we should have a garage sale!” Go through each room in your house and commit to getting rid of a certain number of items. Go through your closet, and have your kids and husband go through their closets as well. Give them a dedicated number of pieces to get rid of, too! Kids can also go through the toy box to get rid of old toys to make way for the new. The incentive is this: half the money they earn selling their old clothes and toys they can spend on new clothes and toys, and the other half goes into their savings account.
It is easiest to sort items as you gather them. Get some big bins or even just trash bags, and label them with the types of items you seem to be gathering. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Shoes and accessories
- Home decor
- Linens and towels
Sorting them as you gather them will make it much easier to set up your garage sale in an organized manner – which your customers will greatly appreciate! You should also at this point be gathering any materials you will need to set up the sale, which can include
- sale signs,
- bins and tubs for containing like items,
- Sharpie markers,
- a lockbox, and
- folding tables.
5. Price and label your items.
Keep in mind that you want to sell your items! If you price them too high, people may not even be inclined to make an offer. Check out pricing at some other garage sales in your area to get a feel for what to list similar items for at your own garage sale. Some of these items will help you to quickly tag items:
For items such as books, CD’s, DVD’s, records, and other items that you have a large quantity of, write out signs:
- “Books: $1 each, or 6 for $5”
- “DVD’s: $4 each, or 3 for $10”
Bundling items together will increase the chances that someone will pick out just one more item, making you a few extra bucks!
6. Advertise, advertise, advertise!
There are two main types of advertising you need to consider: signage and online advertising.
- Signage is important to get the word out to people on the street about your sale. How many times have you been driving on the weekend and turned down a street to check out a garage sale because of the sign on the road? For me, this happens all the time! It is important that you make your signs large, visible, and sturdy, with large, clear, easy-to-read handwriting. Remember: people are driving at least 20 to 25 miles per hour as they pass your sign! Don’t make it hard for them to catch the address or the times!
- Online advertising is equally as important these days. Websites like Craigslist, Yard Sale Search, and Garage Sales Tracker make it super simple to register your garage sale so that people can look it up online. Be sure to include some high quality photos, especially of the items you think will be the most popular!
7. Head to the bank.
This is an important step, and one that I feel gets overlooked. We almost overlooked it ourselves! You will be making money during the weekend, but you will start out with whatever cash you have in your wallets to make change with. Don’t be the person who can’t make those early morning sales because you don’t have change! Head to the bank and take out a couple hundred dollars in small bills: $1, $5, and $10, but $20 and $50 bills if you have quite a few larger ticket items such as electronics, furniture, etc. You can keep your money in a small lockbox throughout the day, and I would recommend that once you have a decent amount of money made, you should intermittently take large chunks of it inside the house for safe keeping: don’t keep all of your money out there in that lockbox!
8. Sell away!
You are now totally prepared to start the sale! If you have a tent that you have rented or borrowed, set it up the night before and start storing all your items underneath. I recommend starting your sale around 9:00am or 10:00am, to give you time to set up in the morning. We had all of our items in the garage in storage bins ready to pull out the morning of the sale, and it took us about 2-3 hours to set everything up.
Tip: Some garage sales encourage early birds: customers that come before the sale starts to get their first pick. This is up to you, but I would recommend including in your online listings whether or not you encourage early birds, and I would also recommend writing a sign on a piece of paper and taping it to your gate or fence in front of your house “No early birds!” or “Early birds welcome!” This will let early birds know if it’s okay to walk up your driveway to start checking out items or if they need to wait until the official garage sale start time.
Now it’s your turn: what are your most memorable garage sale tips? Share with me by commenting below, and good luck on YOUR next garage sale!