One of the greatest fears we had as a military family was becoming overweight and I remember one scenario as if it were yesterday. The scales tipped precariously and I groaned—overweight again! About 3,000 pounds to be precise. This was going to cost us a lot. Moving a family of seven in the military while we were only allowed 18,000 pounds made us expensively overweight at 21,000 pounds of household goods. It was time to have a huge garage sale and lighten our load.
Not only do garage sales simplify your life by helping you de-clutter and not go over on your moving allowance weight, but they also provide a way to keep more change in your pocket if you learn how to navigate them wisely.
Here are the top ten tips to host a successful garage sale this summer.
- Collect – Throughout the year, throw stuff in a big box marked, “Garage Sale.” Not only will you relieve clutter, you’ll soon have enough diverse items to host a sale.
- Location –You may want to buddy up with a friend whose house has a better location to catch the attention of drive-by traffic. Or, ask a neighbor (or two) to host their own sales—you could get three times the garage sale traffic with combined sales.
- Advertise – Blast it to all your Facebook friends and tweet it, post it in the local penny saver paper and put it on base bulletin boards. For local advertising on the day of the event, use brightly colored poster board and a good contrasting color. Keep the lettering brief and legible and tape some balloons on it as you post these in your neighborhood.
- Price – If you price your product, you are more likely to sell it. Most people don’t want to keep asking, “How much for this?” Although there will be some who will still barter with you on the price—but that’s to be expected. Begin pricing items weeks before the sale, placing them in a “finished” pile in your garage.
- Cash – Have at least $20 in coins, 30 one-dollar bills and 6 five-dollar bills. Keep your moneybox in a safe location and never leave it unattended. Bring each $100 earned into your house for safekeeping.
- Checks – Never take a check from someone you do not know. This isn’t anything personal, its just good business. Most people know to bring cash.
- Hold – Never hold an item without a substantial non-refundable deposit and a deadline for when they must pick it up (before your sale ends). You don’t want the customer to not return because then you’ve lost your opportunity to sell it.
- Marketing – Place furniture and bikes that will draw attention by the curb where people can see them. Try marketing ideas such as “buy three books/get three free.” It’s amazing how well this works—people respond to the word “free”!
- Clean –If an item looks newer because it’s clean, you’ll be able to get as much as 50% more for it. Run sturdy plastic toys through the dishwasher, spot clean the armchair, and polish wood furniture—it’s worth it!
- Expand – Let your kids get in on the action by selling lemonade on hot days or coffee and donuts on cool mornings. Be sure they understand how to make change and how to be courteous to customers. Who knows? They may earn enough to fund their college education (or at least buy a new bike!) For a complete list of 30 “Jobs for Kids” for free, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ten Things You Should Never Buy at a Garage Sale
- Mattresses – With bedbug infestations abounding, it’s just not worth the risk. Plus it’s difficult to be free of the remnants of the previous owner.
- Swimsuits – Anything that hugs the body can be washed in hot water, but repeatedly doing so also means that they are more likely to tear.
- Tires – If they have been in an accident, they are unsafe. Don’t buy them without a certified history.
- Bike Helmets – These are designed to sustain only one accident and you can’t always tell if they have been damaged.
- Car Seats – Studies show that one in ten used car seats are unsafe.
- Cribs – It’s hard to track recalled cribs and it’s better to err on the safe side so avoid these used.
- Laptop Computers – These are more risky because they’ve been carried out in the world instead of sitting safely at home like a desktop computer.
- Shoes – These have been molded to the previous owners foot and will likely cause discomfort to big and little feet alike.
- Sheets – Even though they are washed in hot water, that’s not a 100% guarantee against bedbugs.
- Baby Bottles – While cracks and hygiene can be an issue, the real danger is the chemical BPA that’s present in older bottles. As of June 2012, the FDA no longer accepts that as safe.