As you may remember, we’re gearing up to move across town this month. In preparation for the move, we had a yard sale at my mom’s house. We combined it with her annual “decluttering” yard sale. I spent many hours reading tips on yard sales, making signs, pricing items, borrowing folding tables, putting up signs, etc. In the process, I learned some very valuable lessons about having a yard sale. Here are 9 of my best yard sale tips.
1. Start planning at least 2 weeks in advance
Although you may think you only need a few days to throw together a sale, you’re wrong. You need time to price everything, make signs and borrow tables. Yes, you really do need to price everything. Contrary to popular belief, pricing everything is your best option. There are many people like myself who will simply walk away from a sale where items are not priced because I HATE asking for prices.
We use these stickers to price our items because you can run them through a printer and print ANY numbers you want. We print tons of 25 cents, some 50 cents, a bunch of $1 and then a few of other prices from $2-10. Anything priced higher than $10 is printed on a piece of white paper with the name of the item. Don’t do anything other than quarter and 50 cents for items below $1. It gets confusing adding up 5 cents here, 10 cents there, etc. Make it easy for yourself and just do 25 and 50 cents. Anything worth less than this can be put in a FREE box to draw in people driving by.
Plan to have the sale 2 weeks out from when you start planning. If a week passes and the weather looks good for the next weekend, go ahead with the sale. If it looks too hot or stormy, push it back a week. Also, keep an eye out for upcoming church rummage sales or other events that are near your home so you can plan to advertise and draw in anyone driving by (see tip #5).
2. “Nice weather” doesn’t ensure a successful yard sale
While I’m on the topic of weather, you may think a sunny and warm, but not hot, day is best. You’d be wrong. When it’s sunny and warm, people are having barbecues, going to the zoo, playing outside with their kids, etc. They may be visiting yard sales as well but you’d be surprised at how many will not. The best weather is a partly or mostly cloudy day with moderate temperatures (upper 60s to lower 70s). The main key is SUN. If it’s sunny, people won’t spend as much time at your yard sale. I’m not sure what the psychology is behind it but that seems to be the key. This is a more important factor in the summer. A sunny fall day would probably be fine for a sale.
3. Price lower than you think
While pricing at item, decide what you’d like for the item and then divide it in half. Sorry to burst your bubble but yard sale patrons want BARGAINS. At our sale, I priced items at about half what Goodwill would charge for the item. At the end of the day, HALF of my items were still there. If I had slashed all those prices in half, I believe that more of it would have sold. Why do I think that? Well, at 2pm (our sale’s “official end time”), we put up signs saying “Everything HALF OFF”. We had several stragglers from 2 to 4pm and guess what? Our items were selling a lot faster with NO haggling whatsoever.
4. Make your signs readable at 30+ mph
You only need TWO things on a yard sale sign: the words “YARD SALE” and an arrow pointing drivers in the correct direction. If you make your signs look good enough, people will follow them because they’ll “know” that your sale is worth it and that your signs aren’t old.
Here’s what we did for our signs. We got 6 sheets of yellow poster board from the Dollar Tree and we cut them in half. This made a 14″ by 22″ piece of paper. Then, we took a thick red marker and wrote the words “YARD SALE” in big capital bubble letters and filled in the bubbles with red. Next, we drew an outline around the red letters with a black marker. Finally, we drew a big black arrow pointing in the correct direction.
The picture to the left is one of our actual yard sale signs. The letters are almost 6″ tall EACH. There’s no doubt that you could see this sign driving 30 miles per hour. Total cost is ~$6 for 12 huge signs. The only thing I would change for next time is cutting out arrows from black cardstock instead of drawing them on. They took a long time to fill in and I ended up with too many right arrows. Oops! If I had taped or stapled on the arrows instead, I could have changed that in a jiffy!
5. Advertise near other sales in the area
Look at the yard sale ads in your paper or on Craigslist a few days before your sale. If you find any church sales, multifamily sales, estate sales or sales that stand out to you and they are near your sale, plan to put signs outside of those sales. You would not believe how much traffic you can get from this tactic. We put up signs near a large church rummage sale and a huge neighborhood sale and we got a LOT of their customers as well. Other events to consider advertising near are summer socials, fairs, community events, and heck, even birthday parties at the nearby park! You might not know about parties in advance but if you live near a park and you notice parties there fairly often, put up a sign.
6. Find a gimmick
You might think that gimmicks are silly but you would not believe how much people love them. Our gimmick was “buy a tote for $5, get everything inside for FREE!” We sold 5 of the totes in 2 hours. People loved the deal. The totes mostly had junk (I mean “random stuff”) but a few of them had leftovers from my mom’s yard sale last year. We also had a huge deal on baby clothes. We set out empty diaper boxes and said “Fill a box with baby clothes for $3.” I didn’t keep an exact count of how many of these boxes we sold but it was at LEAST 10. Baby clothes can be a hard sell sometimes, especially newborn to 6 months sizes that babies grow out of in a matter of weeks but this gimmick sold them in about an hour!
An easy gimmick to try is three $1 items for $2 or five 25 cent items for $1. You can also do “free with purchase” type gimmicks.
7. Prepare for early birds
No matter what you do or what you say in your ads, people WILL show up early. We started setting up our sale at 6:45am for an 8am start time. We had literally ONE box unpacked when someone showed up for the sale. I really wanted to scream and cuss her out but I stayed calm and tried to be friendly. I asked her if there was something she was looking for so I could tell her what box it was in. She didn’t have a particular thing she was looking for so she just walked around a bit peering into boxes and then left. Every 10 minutes or so another early bird popped up. Most of them were obviously antiques or flea market dealers as they had particular items in mind (big money makers from my experience). When they saw we didn’t have what they wanted, they left.
My best advice for dealing with early birds is to say “Early birds welcome but you pay DOUBLE the asking price” and stick to that.
8. Get up EARLY the day of the sale
Think about when you should start setting up the sale. Okay, then get up 1-2 hours earlier than that. Regardless of how much time you think you need, you need more. We were rushed to get out the door on the morning of our sale and we left a lot of items behind. One of the biggest things we left behind was a box with LEGO minifigures in plastic baggies. We had specifically advertised that we were selling LEGOs (and we had early birds asking for them) but we accidentally left them behind. Phillip did pick them up later but since most of the people interested in them had been by at 7 or 8am, they never sold.
9. Don’t expect a certain amount of money
When I was reading lists of tips or articles about having yard sales, I was thrilled to see so many people saying they made $300, $500 even $1000 at their yard sales. I didn’t expect to make $1000 or even $500 but I did have a goal of $200 for my part of the sale. How much did we actually make? Well, between my mom, her neighbor (who put in 2 boxes of items) and us, we made a total of $271. Phillip and I brought home $139.85, my mom cleared $112.15 and her neighbor made $19. Not quite the amount I was hoping for but still a respectable amount of money for a few hours of work.
Are yard sales worth all the time and effort?
So do I think it’s worth it to have a yard sale? Heck yes! Even if you only make $100, you’re still decluttering your home. You might also meet new neighbors or old ones you’ve never met before. It is also a great teaching tool for kids (if you have kids, that is). You can set up a table just for them and have them sell old toys or books they don’t use anymore. Everything they earn goes towards something they want such as a new toy, going out to Chuck E Cheese’s, summer camp, etc. You could even offer to match whatever they make. Do it and watch your kids search every inch of their room for toys and stuffed animals they don’t want anymore.