Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How To Have A Successful Yard Sale

So, you've got a lot of crap... er, I mean, secondhand goods that you would like to get rid of, for one reason or another. Well, you can trash them, burn them, bury them, donate them to a thrift store to get a tax refund, or sell them for pennies on the dollar. Which sounds most appeasing to you?

If you picked the last choice, then you took the first step in clearing out excess junk and making some extra money on the side. Good for you! If not, did you even look at the title of this blog post?

Regardless, yard sales are the literal representation of the old adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." They're a conglomerate of strangers who come face-to-face to accomplish one common goal: move old stuff out for a nominal fee.

Perhaps you've been to several yourself, and you feel it's time to give it a go. Or maybe you've held some in the past, but have been discouraged with the results. Either way, I present to you a pick six of tips, "Do's" and "Don'ts" if you will, that will prepare you to have a successful yard sale. Buona fortuna.

*Pick Your Time and Date Wisely
There's a good reason why most yard sales are held on Saturday mornings. They don't interfere with one's priorities - such as school, work, church - and it's early in the day, so most people can afford several minutes of their time to check out what others are selling. That's not to say yard sales can't be held any other day of the week, or even later in the day, and be successful, but you'll maximize the number of people who'll flock to your yard sale and walk away with something if you do so on a Saturday morning. I recommend holding it from 7 to 11 AM, because that'll give you plenty of time to manage it without compromising much of your day, plus you'll attract the early birds, who typically are bargain hunters from the get go.

*Advertise By Any Means Necessary
Unless you think frugal folks have telekinetic abilities to sense yard sales within a five mile radius, please make yours known. The easiest, and cheapest, method is to create several signs on bright colored posterboard with the time, date, and address of your yard sale. Arrows pointing in the direction of your house (or apartment) are always helpful. As far as when you should post them, do it in the afternoon before the day of your yard sale, or get up early in the morning before you commence it. It's best to put up the signs within a few blocks of your residence on street corners. These will act like open invitations to lure people into stopping by to see what you have. If you really want your yard sale to go beyond your immediate living vicinity, fill out an ad in the classifieds of your local (or regional) newspaper. Where I live, the basic cost to advertise a yard sale in print and online is $12.00 for one day, $19.00 for two days, and $29.00 for three days. I especially recommend doing this if you have a lot of stuff and/or big, expensive items to sell.

*Keep Your Prices Uniform
Make life easier for yourself and whoever shows up by implementing fixed prices for each set of items you intend to sell. For instance, perhaps you have books in various formats you want to see go. My idea is to sell paperbacks for 50¢, hardbacks for $1.00, and textbooks for $2.00. That way, there are no discrepancies based on the length of the book nor the name power of a certain author. If you don't like explicitly writing down prices for every category, like books and clothing, try a color coded system of stickers and give each color a value. For instance, green can be 50¢, yellow can be $1.00, orange can be $2.00, etc. Have your prices rounded to the nearest whole dollar, if you can, because that'll make determining the total cost less complicated for you and them. If you absolutely must, you can resort to using denominations which include 25¢, 50¢, and 75¢, but I urge you to keep these partial figures as such (i.e., 50¢ items instead of $1.50). I also recommend keeping all the little things you want to sell for under $5.00, since no one would even considering buying everyday trinkets from a yard sale for more than that. In fact, $5.00 may be a stretch. But, ultimately, it's your prerogative.

*Make a Checkout Stand
Have a visible table that'll act as the hub where all transactions must take place. Put this either toward the rear where you can see all activity going on, or close to the front of your driveway or lawn, just as soon as people start to come over. This will help protect against theft, because you won't believe how low people will go to steal items from a yard sale. When storing money, keep it in a lock box or close to your person in an organized manner. Have plenty of quarters, one- and five-dollar bills, should you need to make change. When giving someone their appropriate change, always hold the money they give you in an open hand, that way they won't accuse you of shortchanging them (literally). And, of course, don't forget to put a "Not for Sale" sign over the front of your table.

*Have Some Additional Help
The bigger your yard sale, the more assistance you may need. Don't get me wrong, a yard sale can certainly be anchored by just one individual, but it never hurts to have extra helping hands. A spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, good neighbor, or other relative ought to be more than happy to help you out. They can act as your cashier while your tending to your stock, or vice versa. Anything more than three people (including yourself) running a yard sale is a tad extraneous, unless the extra help is necessary. To show your appreciation, you may want to cut them a share of the profits, say 25% for one or 40% split between two, but don't forget that so long as it's your yard sale, you're the one who gets the majority of the earnings. Unless it's a joint effort.

*Be Open for Compromise
This will be especially true as your yard sale winds down, and you're looking to do away with certain items. To entice whoever shows up in the waning hour(s), declare that certain items are marked down, say 50% off the original listed price, or that buy X, get Y free specials are fair game. Remember, the whole point of a yard sale is to get rid of stuff you no longer need at bargain prices. If that means taking less than what you initially wanted, should you choose to do so, then more power to you. You're a little bit richer, and someone's a little more content with what he or she found. Everyone wins.

*Buy Stuff for Cheap to Make a Profit Off It
This is taking cheap to new heights. Don't think for a second that you can buy $50 worth of stuff from a Dollar Tree and expect to price everything at $2, ergo resulting in a $50 surplus in your pocket. One, most of that stuff wouldn't jump out in a yard sale anyway, and B, most people expect the vast majority of items to be sold under two bucks. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Especially if they happen to shop at Dollar Tree.

*Expect Everything to Sell
There's nothing more devastating at the end of the yard sale than to realize your expectations for sales trended downward. Truth be told, it's highly unlikely that everything you put up for sale will go to a new home on the first try because you have no clue what others are after. Maybe they're antique collectors for a unique mantelpiece. Or maybe they're looking for a specific size of clothes. Or maybe they're just browsing, looking for something that will jump out before their very eyes. Yet that's also the beauty of yard sales. What you consider worthless (okay, 25¢ is more like it) may be exactly what someone else is looking for. But until they come to you, you'll never know. It's all in the timing.

*Sell "Personal" Items
In this regard, I mean don't sell stuff that has you all over it - literally. You may be as handsome as George Clooney or beautiful as Jennifer Lopez, but no stranger would ever want to buy something with your face on it or your surname branded across it. Unless they have the same surname, but even that's kinda weird. If you really wanna get rid of something with you as the centerpiece, you may be better off destroying it if you don't feel like keeping it anymore.

*Sell Temporary Household Goods
In other words, don't toss in items that can be bought at a Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or any other store with walls in 'em for just a few bucks more. The underlying premise behind yard sales is that you're selling used items. Why buy a used box of nails if you can buy a new set for a few bucks? Just because people go to yard sales doesn't make them misers. If anything, it makes you look like a penny-pinching weasel.

*Overprice Your Items
This is the common flaw when devising a yard sale. You must understand that people who go to yard sales are looking to snag a deal. Selling items based around a MSRP is never a good idea, because if they wanted to buy clothes or kitchenware or anything else at full price, they would've gone to a department store in the first place. My rule of thumb is to price items at 10% of their original value. That's right, ten percent. You can go below this value if you feel it necessary, but don't expect many takers if those dollar signs creep even halfway toward double digits.

*Get Desperate to Sell
If there's a cardinal sin when it comes to yard sales, refrain from selling items you know won't even go. These include items that are incredibly dirty, old, outdated, hazardous, and even downright useless. White undershirts with yellow deodorant stains does not a great steal make. Nor construction tools that look like they've been to Hell and back. Nor an eight-track tape of a Conway Twitty record. And not only will you come off as desperate, people may make mental notes never to come back to your residence should you throw another yard sale again. If these items haven't been touched by strangers in several yard sales you throw, do everyone a favor and either dump it or donate to charity.

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