Planning the Perfect Yard Sale

June 20, 2016

Late spring and summer are better known to weekend deal hunters as yard sale season in Colorado. Seemingly every neighborhood has at least one house hosting a sale with a myriad of different items of varying degrees of quality and usefulness. But for every few thousand broken wall clocks or half-used cans of WD-40, there’s the rare treasure worth thousands.

If you’re planning to go from the shopper to the seller and throw a yard sale, here are some tips to help you stay organized, hopefully get a ton of people, and make a nice profit all at the same time.

Timing and promotion

First, schedule the date for your sale. Given how unpredictable Colorado weather can be it’s advisable to plan no more than 10 days out so you can keep an eye on the weather. The time of day should also be a factor, since afternoon showers are almost guaranteed until early autumn.

Naturally, the tried and true method of sticking a sign out on the road pointing to your house still makes sense (just make sure you’re following your city or town’s ordinances). But it’s the 21st century, right? Make a Facebook event for your sale and tell your friends to share it on their news feeds as well. This one tactic will get the word out and enlist your friends and family in advertising your garage sale without having to aggressively ask them to share the information.

Facebook isn’t the be-all and end-all, though. Nextdoor, Craigslist, and other platforms can be ways to get the word out locally.

Inventory

Next, go through your home and carefully curate items to sell. Do you have pieces of furniture that are in good condition and are easy to move from your home to the lawn? Can you imagine someone purchasing the item? If you are selling clothes, are they somewhat in style? Here is a very brief list of items that you could sell:

  • Ski equipment
  • Golf equipment
  • Dishes
  • Clothes
  • Bikes
  • Books
  • Electronics
  • Furniture

There are an endless number of items that can be sold, but the true keys to getting people to buy your stuff are the condition of the item, how easy it is for people to take it home, and a splash of pricing flexibility.

Don’t forget to ask for a helping hand. It’s difficult to run a great yard sale by yourself. See if you have a friend or family member who could contribute items towards your sale and lend a helping hand at the same time. If you decide to do this, figure out an easy way to pay your friend for what they sell. The easiest way to do this is to have a list of their items and the price they’re asking. Then, as each item is sold, mark it down and give your friend the cash at the end of the day.

Logistics and setting up

Pick up tags and easily removable stickers so you can price your items. Begin pricing your items two or three days before your sale with the goal of having that done a day before your sale. Don’t put stickers on the front of the following items: mirrors, frames, or books. Your customers will end up having to scrape off the adhesive from the sticker off of the item that they bought.

Take some time to figure out how to set up your items so your customers will have a pleasant shopping experience. Make things easy to reach, hang clothes on a clothing rack, set up dishes, books, or other items on a table. You can even group items together to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. Just make it easy for people to browse around and look at your items.

Set up some chairs for browsers who might need to sit down for a second and set up a water bowl for people who are walking their dogs and discover your sale. Play some music and create a nice and cozy atmosphere for people hanging out at your sale.

Closing the deal

Make sure you consider pricing and how people can pay. Typically, people will pay using cash. Make sure you have at least $20 in change and $150 in bills broken down in smaller denominations.

Also, let people know that they can use Paypal or Square as a payment option! This is great for the person who discovers your yard sale accidently and only has credit cards on them. You do pay a small service fee but that’s better than losing a potential sale because they didn’t have cash on hand.

Don’t get too bogged down on the price tag. If the original price is making the customer balk, then try to meet them half way, toss in some other items, or get creative. Think like a retailer—buy one get one free, 50% off a certain dollar amount, and other marketing techniques really do work.

Yard sales can feel intimidating, but they don’t have to be. With just a little bit of preparation and planning, you can bring in some extra cash. Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Leave them in the comments!

This post was written by PERA member Michelle Jackson, a former University of Colorado employee and personal finance/lifestyle blogger. If you’re interested in writing for The Dime send us an email at dimecontact at copera dot org.