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Last Chance Yard Sales from Start to Finish

Fall is here and you were meaning to have a yard sale all summer to raise some extra cash but you didn’t quite get around to it. Don’t worry – it’s not too late! I just had a yard sale a few weeks ago and made around $200-250. I will tell you how you can quickly and efficiently get one together for the next weekend.

First, decide which weekend you would like to hold your yard sale. Check the weather if you are planning on having an outdoor sale. If you have a garage or tent you may want to have them ready as a back-up in case it rains. I will add that if your schedule permits, you will want to hold your sale from a Thursday or Friday through Saturday. Having your sale on Sunday is usually a waste of time. More and more people are having sales as early as Thursday and even Wednesday! Everybody knows that the sale usually does its best the first day. After you decide on a date, contact your local paper and/or advertiser to list your sale. Keep the add simple but make sure to include key items, such as furniture, collectibles, etc. and use words such as “multi-family,” “huge,” and “moving sale.” These terms indicate that you have a wide variety of items and it would be worth the customers time to check it out.

Next, make plenty of signs to put out the night before your sale. I recommend going to the dollar store for poster board or foam board at around 50 cents a piece. You can then cut the poster board in half so that the sign will have the info on both sides. If you already have stakes or metal sign holders use those, otherwise you can go to your local hardware store and get 2″ wood pieces and have them cut to size for you. If you are handy, cut the boards at an edge so that they have a pointed end to put into the ground. You can also get yard sale signs at hardware stores but sometimes they are very small and you want your drive-by customers to see clearly where your sale is located. Make sure to put up signs at any road where the driver can turn in to get to your sale. Also make sure you place signs at any close-by busy intersections. Another very important tip: Always ask the homeowner or business owner’s permission to place the sign in their yard. A lot of people will vindictively rip your sign right out of the ground if you do not convey this simple courtesy and most people will gladly allow it since you were nice enough to ask.

Now you are almost ready. You just need stuff for your yard sale! Clear an area where you can store all items for your sale until the big day arrives. Place items in a garage or area where you can easily place them out on your sale day. I recommend pricing and cleaning the items as you go. For tags, I usually use plain white sticky labels and cut them into thirds and use a sharpie to price. I will go into how to price items a little later in the article. This is a great way to declutter and get rid of things you do not need. Go through your closets, basement, attic, garage and the forgotten storage unit. A lot of people own storage units, as do I, and upon inspection after some time has gone by you will find a lot of saleable items that you no longer want in your unit. It’s amazing how you will pay a storage fee for these items every month and then when you actually take the time to go through it how little you actually want to keep. You may even realize you no longer need the storage unit after all and that will save you money every month in storage fees.

Big sellers at yard sales are: DVDs (I sold for $1/each and they disappeared within minutes), mens dress clothes – especially ties (I sold out of ties at 50 cents/each – even the outdated ones), tools and parts (handymen go to sales specifically looking for any tools), rugs, furniture, old computers, artwork (keep the price low and these will sell), yarn and fabric or art and craft supplies, cookbooks, kids toys and clothes. I also made sure I had plenty of 10 cent and 25 cent little items for the kids – the change adds up!

Things that do not do so well: Old and out-of-date clothes, shoes, books, anything dirty or broken, light fixtures (I think anything that looks like you may have to hook up yourself deters people from buying unless they know what they are doing).

Now that you have all of your items stored, priced and ready to go you will need a way to display them. I recommend rounding up as many tables as you can (fold out tables) or tarps. If you don’t have any tables, ask a friend or family member – someone you know has some fold-out tables. Go ahead and put up the tables the night before so when you get up it will be easier to start setting up. I always put like things together, for example have a table for womens clothes, a table for books and videos, a table for knick-knacks and a table for tools. Artwork can be stood up along the house or garage so that the customer can see them. I separate out nicer clothing and hang them up. Utilize your space and map out where everything can go so that it makes sense to someone looking through your goods.

When pricing items – keep it low! No one will spend what you paid for the item new even if it is still new in the box. People are looking for the best deals. I always ask myself as I’m pricing, “Would I pay x amount for this item at a yard sale?” For clothing, ask 50 cents each, books for a quarter, knick-knacks 25 cents to $2, VHS tapes for 50 cents, DVDs for $1, furniture is a little harder to price but make it reasonable. Some people are afraid to ask for a lower price even if they are interested and might leave instead of make an offer. You might want to place a sign somewhere stating – “Make an Offer.” If you think it will sell at a higher price do not give in to a ridiculously low offer but the goal is to sell as much as possible, make as much as possible and get rid of some clutter.

Make sure you have plenty of change ($50 in ones, $20 in fives, some quarters and dimes) and a box to hold the money in. Make sure to have a sign at the place where your sale is taking place – you can get balloons from the dollar store for $1/each. Also, make sure that you set up early because everyone likes to be the first customer so that they do not miss out and you will have people showing up before your listed time on your signs and ads. Do not hesitate to take reasonable offers – it is better to get something for the item you no longer want than nothing. On your last day, give deals such as a bag of clothes for $1, or 3 items for $1 – remember you want cash rather than all of your stuff back!
When the sale is over, hopefully you won’t have many items left but you can take the left-overs to your local thrift store for donation. You can get a receipt and use it as a write-off on your up-coming taxes. Most thrift stores allow you to fill out your own receipt so make sure you accurately list all items for the maximum amount. Good luck and remember – if you’re flexible with your pricing the money will add up. Make sure your location is in a busier area or close-by. This is one of the best tax-free ways to make some extra cash. Oh yeah…and have fun!

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