How to Make More Green in Your Next Yard Sale | Smart Change: Personal Finance
Liz Weston, CFP®
A successful yard sale involves hours of preparation and a lot of hard work. Also a failed sale. I’ve had both and can say with confidence that the money-making version is the best.
If you’re ready to take advantage of the warmer weather and the opportunity to retreat, consider these tips from the experts (and bitter experience) for good cuts.
Set your goals
First, consider whether a yard sale is the right approach for your goals. Yard sales and their cousins—garage, real estate, transportation, and sales—can help you get rid of things and collect some cash. But you can’t expect to get top dollar.
If making money is your priority and you have time to wait for buyers, consider offering your most valuable items elsewhere. Check out auction sites like eBay; Apps including Letgo and OfferUp; Platforms like Craigslist, Nextdoor, or Facebook Marketplace; Cargo stores or even pawnshops.
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If you just want to get things out of your home, donating unwanted items is usually the quickest and easiest option. (You’ll only get tax credit for your donation if you’re one of the few who itemize deductions.)
If your goals are relatively balanced – you want more space and more money, for several hours of work – a yard sale may be the best option.
Go to your limits
Consider recruiting at least one other family who can contribute items and helpers for the sale. Shoppers want to see a variety of merchandise – there’s a reason many yard sale ads use the heading “Multi-family sale!” – And the whole experience is more fun with friends.
Gadgets, kitchen gadgets, sporting goods, and camping gear are often the top draws, says Chris Heska, who has run yardsalequeen.com since 1996. What’s not usually sold: Anything that’s broken or heavily stained. Old technology can be hit or miss. Our friends couldn’t find a VCR taker or the Princess’ phone. But vinyl can be popular.
Expect to spend several hours collecting, sorting, and pricing your items. Heska says pricing is essential — many people won’t ask how much something costs, so you’ll lose sales if there’s no label. You can find suggested yard sale price lists online or check for other sales in your area. When in doubt, Heiska suggests pricing something between a quarter to a third of the cost of a new item. In some areas, 10%-20% of the original cost is often the norm.
“You have to think about shoppers,” says professional organizer Cindy Seidler of Los Angeles, who manages the properties and moves sales to clients. “They don’t go into these things to drive retail prices.”
Pro tip: price as you go, so you’re not trying to do everything right before the crowds arrive. You can use duct tape and a Sharpie, but I invested $8 in a bulk pack of pre-ordered price tags that were ordered online. Each of the three sellers used a different color, which made it easy to keep track of the day of the sale. We’ve also bought some change: quarters, individuals, and a few big bills. How much we started with is a matter of controversy. I’ll get to that later.
say the word
Craigslist is a good place to advertise your sale for free, but it shouldn’t be the only site. This is the mistake I made in a yard sale that failed a few years ago, with fewer attendances and fewer sales. One such attendee explained that seasoned shoppers check out yard and garage sale sites. (Search for “yard sales near me” to see which ones pop up and offer free listings.)
This time around, we’ve advertised on a few of those sites in addition to Craigslist, Nextdoor, and Facebook Marketplace. We also used some of our social media accounts to let local friends know about our sale. We used old school signage, too: bright yellow yard sale signs, taped from a dollar store and taped at several local intersections with the address, date, and time plotted big enough to easily see passing drivers.
It also made our sale a “shopping experience” in Seidler’s words. This meant borrowing tables and clothes racks from friends to keep things off the floor, group similar items together and, eventually, create bundles of items and lower prices. For example, we collected all the remaining crafts in a box and sold the lot for $5. (At this point in the day, I no longer cared who his stuff was; I just wanted everything to be out of my driveway.)
Our five hour sale was a blast and netted close to $600. As mentioned above, we didn’t exactly track how much money we put into the sale, so how much we cleared is a matter of debate. We will pay more attention next time, because for sure there will be next time.
This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by the Associated Press.