Tips for a Profitable Yard Sale: Make Sure It Will Be Worth the Effort!

Profitable garage sale

A yard sale offers the allure of profitable decluttering—what better way to clear out all your unneeded sports equipment and gently used furniture than to sell it all to happy buyers!

If you’re not realistic, however, you may just be left with handful of small bills, piles of remaining items you now need to donate, and more than a weekend lost to the project.

Profitable garage sales take time and energy. The below tips will help ensure your efforts will pay off.

Have a financial goal for your yard sale

Maybe it’s paying off a credit card debt or topping off your emergency fund. Maybe it’s an opportunity to help your kids earn a bit more.  Knowing how much you want to earn will motivate you, ensure you actually can earn that much before you take on the project, and reinforce your determination to be accountable to that goal once you find yourself with a pocket full of easily-spendable $5s and $10s.

Know what sells…and what doesn’t

According to research from pricing guides like these, big ticket garage sale items include:

  • Furniture
  • Lawn mowers, trimmers, power tools
  • Sporting equipment, bikes, toys
  • Kid’s clothing
  • Electronics like stereos or computers
  • Leftover home building/repair materials like bricks, stonework, tiles, and light fixtures
  • Clean linens
  • Dishes, appliances, and household décor

This author listed what sells by demographic:

  • Men buy tools, movies, sports stuff, office and computer equipment.
  • Women buy health and beauty products, craft supplies, kids’ books and toys.
  • Teenagers buy old cell phones and video games.

Magazines won’t move. Just recycle them. Travel memorabilia and regional items can have too much of a personal value to them. Many sites suggest that the money you (won’t) make on clothing (besides kids’ clothes) just isn’t worth the work to set it up.  The rational? These days you can find clothes in good shape at thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army.

Make the price right   

Consult yard sale pricing guides like this,  this, or this to get an idea of what things go for. Consumer Reports recommends you consult statricks.com, which pulls information on what things are selling for on a variety of platforms.

You may be surprised….and discouraged.

Examples of garage sale pricing:

  • Children’s clothing: A quarter for a shirt, $3 for a jacket
  • Home décor items: $3-$5
  • Coats: $10 – $30
  • Adult clothes: $3-$5
  • Books: $1 for hardcovers, $.50 for paperbacks.
  • Costume jewelry: $1-$3
  • Old cell phones: $1-$3
  • Cell phone accessories (headset, charger, belt clip, car charger): $.50 each
  • Good furniture: no more than 1/3 the original price
  • Lower quality furniture: between $10 – $30
  • Electronics should be priced no higher than 1/3 their retail price or, if still-in-the-box new, no more than ½ the original price.

General tips for pricing and negotiating include:

  • For large ticket items, add 20% to 30% to sticker price for room to negotiate. Assume people will haggle. Write “firm” on things for which you don’t want to entertain best offers.
  • Put a price on everything. Some people just won’t bother to ask.
  • Make pricing easy to see: use neon stickers and a big permanent pen. If necessary, label nearby items and display tables with “not for sale.”
  • Consider opening the sale to friends and coworkers before the day and price your items a bit higher for the convenience.

Having trouble pricing your beloved items at rock bottom prices? Remind yourself that whatever doesn’t leave your yard that day is going into the donation bin.

Be cash savvy and secure

Keep your house locked during the sale and keep your phone or other valuables on you.

Set up a designated cashier toward the back of the sale (and near the door to the house) or carry money in fanny pack or an apron with lots of pockets.

Plan on a visit to the bank the day before to ensure you have lots one dollar bills and at least one roll of quarters. Then price everything in increments of $.25.

Place valuables by the interior door of the house or garage so you can keep a better eye on them.

If you are willing to accept credit cards via smartphone or tablet you may increase your chances of making larger sales. But be sure it’s worth the price for you: Square readers and PayPal here, for example, link your device to your bank account. Beware that you will be charged a fee for each exchange (somewhere between 2.5% – 3.5% of the sale and a “swipe” fee of approximately $.15 to $.30 per transaction). You will need to set up the system least 5 business days before the sale. While they do work for garage sales, the risks to the seller can be dire. You may be better off just pointing your buyers toward the nearest ATM.

Set up like a pro

This site suggests you clean off pricier items. “If you are selling a large item such as an elliptical or a dining table, clean it up and make it look ready to use. Get rid of any dust or dirt. People are more impressed with items that look nicer and are willing to pay more for them.”

Display lawn mowers, stereos, and sports equipment near the front of the sale to attract men and other shy buyers.

Display popular “finds” like collectibles toward the back of the sale. Collectors enjoy the hunt and will pass by your other items as they make their way to the back.

Hang clothing (on a bar between ladders, for example) so it’s easier to rummage through and keep organized.

Include a “Free” box for toys and other giveaways.

Consider stocking a cooler with cans of soda and water bottles and sell them for $1.

A little preparation goes a long way

Consider consulting a garage sale checklist as the day approaches.

Good signage and advertising are essential. Post the information on sites like your neighborhood Facebook account, NextDoor, and Craigslist. Hang signs the night before at main intersections that are legible and have large arrows pointing in the direction of the sale.

For all advertisements be sure to include, the address, the date(s) of the sale and the starting time.

Start organizing and setting things up a few days in advance.

Gather old grocery bags and newspapers on hand for shoppers to pack their purchases.

Have a plan for stuff that doesn’t sell. Get them to the donation location! You’ve worked too hard to not enjoy a clean space. Don’t let it all sit in the garage for the remainder of the season.

Having second thoughts?

Are you on the fence about putting in the work? While some people enjoy the hustle of a sale, others are more skeptical. This author calculates that most sales bring in around $300, which adds up to somewhere between $13 to $40/hour. If that doesn’t sound worth it—or fun— to you, consider selling your stuff online instead.