How to Have a Successful Yard Sale
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Last weekend we had a yard sale that brought in $1,138.05. That’s partly because we had a lot to sell and partly because we’ve figured out what it takes to have a successful sale. Want to know my secrets? Here they are.
1. Advertise everywhere you can.
We listed our yard sale in the newspaper and on Craigslist. We sent out an e-mail on our neighborhood listserv, and we put up tons of signs to draw in drive-by traffic. You might also find it worthwhile to post a message on Facebook, if you have a lot of local friends following you. Anything you can do to get the word out is worth doing.
2. Create buzz.
Yard salers are great triagers. They’re going to read through all of the sale listings in the paper, and they’re going to go to the most promising sales first. Make sure you’re one of those sales by highlighting what makes your sale special. Here’s the ad that I ran for last weekend’s sale:
One For the Record Books
Cleaned out our garage & MILs, too. 50 years of accumulation. So much stuff we’ve filled two yards. Antiques, artwork, furniture, housewares, clothes and more. 201 Someplace Ave. Someplace Historic District. Saturday & Sunday. 8am.
And here’s why I think this ad works:
It mentions that there’s over 50 years of stuff, that we cleaned out two houses, that we’ve filled two yards, that we have antiques, artwork and furniture and that the sale is located in a historic district (a good indicator that they’re really are going to be antiques up for grabs).
3. Have your sale early in the month.
People will still have money to spend.
4. Have a multi-day sale.
Stores don’t sell all their stuff in one day, and you won’t either. Have a two-day sale, and you’ll sell a lot more stuff. I like to have a Friday/Saturday sale, but a Saturday/Sunday sale can work, too. If you run a half-off sale the second day, you’ll have a lot less to pack up when you’re done. A nice bonus.
5. Price everything.
Shoppers will buy more stuff, if they know what things cost without having to ask. That doesn’t mean you have to slap a price sticker on every item. Save yourself some time by making signs to cover groupings of items – adult clothes $1 each, hardcover books $1, paperback books $.50, etc.
I have a tagging gun that I use to tag kids’ consignment sale items and products that I sell on Etsy, and it’s great for sticking a price tag on stuffed animals, linens and other items that a sticker tag is likely to fall off of.
And if you want to sell a lot of stuff, be sure to price your stuff accordingly. If shoppers check the price of a few items, and find your prices too high, they may leave without looking any further.
Not sure how to price things? Check out my printable yard sale pricing guide.
6. Clean things up.
Take a few minutes to clean things before you sell them, and you’ll get more out of them. When I’m selling puzzles and games, I check to make sure all the pieces are there, and if they are, I make a note of it on the price tag. And if I’m selling a kitchen gadget or an electronic, I also pull out the users’ manual and tuck it with the item. Now that I keep a user’s manual binder, they only take a second to grab.
7. Make your sale easy to shop.
Group like items together, and use signs to help customers hone in on the things they’re looking for. I’ve found that clothes sell best when they’re hung, and that jewelry sells best, if I take the time to bag it, or attach it to index cards.
8. Put your best stuff up front.
Many yard salers shop from their cars, and will drive right by, if they don’t see what they’re looking for. So, place your biggest and best items close to the road, where they’ll be easy to spot.
9. Place toys on a tarp.
It’ll be easier for kids to shop, and they’ll stay entertained longer while Mom and Dad shop.
10. Keep small valuables close by.
Most shoppers are honest, but you’re going to get a few with sticky fingers. Protect yourself from losses by placing small, valuable items where you can keep an eye on them. At our most recent sale, that meant placing electronics and jewelry close to the checkout area.
11. Set up a checkout area.
There’s nothing more frustrating than being ready to pay for your yard sale purchases, and not knowing who you’re supposed to pay. Eliminate the guesswork for your customers by setting up a designated checkout spot. This will also give customers a place to start piles while they shop, and it’ll give you a spot to store your yard sale supplies. Some good things to have on hand: a notepad for taking down offers, marking items as sold and writing driving directions (if you’ll be making a delivery), extra yard sale stickers, tape, pens, a permanent marker and trash bags.
12. Designate a spot for hangers.
After years of collecting, I finally have enough hangers for a yard sale, so I’m doing my best to hang on to them. I’ve found that creating a designated drop spot for hangers encourages shoppers to remove them while they’re waiting in line (time saver), and it helps to ensure that nobody walks off with them. Because when there are a million things going on, it’s really easy to forget to ask for them.
13. Load up on bags, boxes and newspaper.
Customers will buy more if they have a big box to tuck things in while they’re shopping, and checkout will go much more smoothly, if you have plenty of bags and newspaper on hand for wrapping purchases. I save worn out gift bags and store bags of all sorts, so I’m always ready for my next sale.
14. Place impulse items at checkout.
Magazines and small items sell well at store checkouts, and they sell just as well at yard sale checkouts. I always stick my magazines at checkout with a big “Magazines $.10 Each” sign, and they sell like hot cakes. I even have several women who’ve told me I’m their favorite source for magazines.
15. Have a free box.
I fill ours with promotional items that we’ve gotten from area businesses, kids’ meal toys, and other odds and ends. Basically stuff that isn’t quite sellable or ready for the trash pile.
16. Set out a “waiting on a woman” chair.
Give the guys a place to sit while they’re waiting for their wives to finish shop, and you’ll sell more stuff. And in case that sounds sexist, let me just say, in my case it would be a “waiting on a man” chair. My husband always seems to take longer to shop than I do.
17. Stop by the bank for change.
You’re going to have lots of people paying with $20 bills at the start of your sale, so you need to be ready to make change. Start with $50 in ones, $50 in fives and $10 in quarters, and you should be in good shape. I prefer to keep the money tucked in my pocket, where it’s harder to steal. If you decide to go the change box route, just make sure it’s attended at all times. You don’t want someone else walking off with your profits. And with that in mind, I also think it’s smart to pull your $20 bills from time to time, and to hide them somewhere in the house.
18. Keep books and valuables indoors until the morning of.
If you live in the South, as I do, the humidity will cause books, magazines and artwork to curl if you leave them outdoors overnight – even if you tarp everything. So, it’s best to bring these things out right before you open. And if you have something that’s valuable, keep it locked up overnight, so no one is tempted to walk off with it.
19. Throw something in the crockpot.
You’re going to be starving when lunchtime rolls around, and you’re not going to have the time or energy to make something, so throw some ingredients in the crockpot in the morning before you head out. Fast food may sound tempting, but it’ll cut into your hard-earned profits
20. Be ready for early birds.
People are going to show up early for your sale – even if you include a “no early birds” note in your ad, so be ready at least an hour before you’re scheduled to open.
21. Don’t let anyone push you around.
Haggling is fun, but a few shoppers are going to take it to a level that just isn’t fun. Decide what you’re comfortable accepting for things before hand, so you can deliver a polite, but firm “no” when someone tries to bully you into accepting a ridiculously-low offer.
22. Post “looking for” signs.
Have something you want to buy? Post a couple signs at your yard sale, and you may just find someone who has what you need.
Have any yard sale tips to share? I’d love to hear’em.
Wow, over $1,100.00 in sales?! That’s impressive for sure. I’ll use your tips on my first sale of 2015 in a few months. I clean my stuff and advertize the sale as best i can. But i never made anything near what you did. Good job! And i have a few unneeded antiques too. Maybe folks around me are either looking for rock bottom prices. Or there just super cheap. I like to haggle. But i won’t give stuff away either. If i wanted to do that. I’d save myself the hassle and just donate my unneeded items. Fingers crossed. 🙂
WAY TO GO ERIN!!! that’s fantastic! good tips too. wonder how a mountaintop yard sale would go? got tons of stuff to get rid of….
Are you planting your garden on the cabin property or doing your yard at your home? Sure should pay attention would have loved to been to your yard sale with that much profit it had to a fantastic sale. Thanks for the great tips its a lot of work I stopped having yard sales and donate my “stuff” to Salvation Army or the “Lords Disciples” as they give everything away to those that need it.
Hi Mary, we’ll be planting our garden at our house this year. I’m itching to start working on a garden at our weekend homestead, but building the cabin is taking all of our time right not, so I’m trying to be patient. We plan to timber five acres for an orchard. I’d love to be able to plant fruit trees this fall, but we’ll just have to see what our time and budget allows.
Your yard sale sounded fantastic. I have one trick I like to use in my ad. I state “NO EARLYBIRDS! YOU WILL BE CHARGED DOUBLE THE PRICE!!!” This will hopefully keep people from showing up early.
Great post. I bookmarked it for a future sale! Where did you get the clothing racks that you hung the clothes on?
I borrowed them from my mother-in-law. They sure come in handy, and they fold up when you’re not using them.
I use a metal or strong wooden pole and place them on the steps of two ladders.
Getting ready to do my very first Yard Sale! Your post has provided a lot of good info and I am so grateful.
Thanks for posting.
Glad to hear it. Hope you have a great sale 🙂
I printed your pricing guideline. It appears some of your pricing is okay. But there are items that I am not willing to sell this cheaply. For instance, I have designer suits that I may have paid in excess of $300.00 for. No way will I sell them for $1 – $3. Even at very discounted prices they should probably be in low 3 or high 2 digits. But thanks for the info.
Wow, thanks for all of the tips, I wouldn’t have thought of all of that.
Another tip would be to warn people to keep all of their back doors and side doors locked to their house. That way when it gets busy you don’t have to worry about someone sneaking around to the back yard to rob you when they think everyone is outside.
I’m about to have a yard sale with my grown daughters at one of their houses, we all will be selling our own things. Do you have any advise as to how to keep the money separate when people buy some of each of our items together, and/or haggled their way to get to that price? Should we have three cash boxes or an apron with three pockets? Should I use perforated tags and keep the bottom half? I’m trying to figure out the easiest way. Any advice would be much appreciated.
Hi Christine, An easy way to keep track of everyone’s earnings is to use a different color sticker for each person or to put initials on the tags; then, peel the stickers off items as they sell, and put them on a piece of paper that’s been divided into columns — with one column for each person. This makes it painless to total things up at the end. There are also yard sale apps that do the same thing, if you want a techy solution.