Monday, June 10, 2013

10 Tips for a Successful Garage Sale - What I've Learned While Taking a Blog Break

I've been quiet on the blog for the past 3 months, but I'm back and sharing a few things that I've learned while away.  I first shared about how Paint Transformed My Life and today I want to tell you about something else I have is a secret: 

I am a Garage Sale Rock Star (and I believe you can be one too)
Growing up I helped my mom with multiple garage sales and I LOATHED them.  In almost 13 years of marriage Josh and I have never attempted to do one - I was scared!  When I thought of garage sales I pictured unnecessary haggling (you know, someone offering you 10 cents for something that is only a quarter to begin's a QUARTER people!)  I also envisioned massive amounts of work with little pay-off, and so everytime over the last 13 years that the thought of a garage sale crept into my mind, I would immediately pack up our junk and just give it away.

However, since we are taking our family of 4 to Europe this summer for missions we have been looking for anyway possible to make some extra money (*cough - Josh's singing telegrams).  I decided a garage sale was in order and we had 4 families donate to our cause.  We had a massive amount of junk...and some good stuff too.  But it was worth it because at the end of 3 hard days of work, we made over $2,000!

I've had a couple people ask me if I have any tips for a successful garage sale after this, and although it may have been an absolute fluke, I feel like I did learn some things that ended up making this venture successful.  So here are my 10 tips to becoming a Garage Sale Rock Star (take them for what they are worth - about 10 cents):

1.  Ask rich friends to donate stuff to your sale ;)
I'm only half joking here.  People in the US have too much stuff and many people would happily give you their junk if you simply asked.  We asked only a handful of people and everyone we asked was happy to donate!  We offered to pick up their donated items, and for many of them they saw this as a way to bless us AND they got rid of items like a life size Pluto stuffed animal - it was a win-win for everyone!

2. The High-Low Pricing Game 
(Price Items to Sell BUT Also Price Slightly Above What You Want)
People want to feel like they are getting a deal at a garage sale, so items should be priced cheaply.  HOWEVER, people also want to feel like they worked to get that deal and will almost always ask you to come down on your price.  Therefore, there is a fine line in pricing.  As I priced items I would ask myself what the minimum I wanted for the item (so that I could keep it cheap), and then I would price it slightly higher.

For instance, if I wanted $5 for an item I would price it at $7 or $8.  This gave me room to negotiate and I didn't start the day off frustrated that I wasn't making what I felt was a fair price.

We let Selah keep $1 of her profits and went to the dollar store
3.  Let Your Kids Join in the Fun
We talked up the garage sale to Selah for weeks and she decided that she wanted to have a cookie/lemonade stand.  She was quite the sales girl too!  Starting at 8am she asked almost every person who came into our yard if they would like to buy a cookie...and who can say no to this face?

Needless to say, we SOLD OUT of cookies at 11am on Friday...and she had a blast while making a little extra cash.

4.  Use Social Media 
The power of Facebook and Twitter really is amazing in situations like this.  We probably sold over $500 worth of stuff to friends and acquaintances via facebook.  I made an album of pictures and posted them to facebook the night before our sale.  Before we opened our garage doors on Friday morning we had reserved 5 items for friends and several others were requesting our address to come check out our wares for themselves.

So don't be afraid to use social media to highlight your garage sale.  Your stuff could be just what a friend has been searching for, AND it makes the day more fun as friends pop by to see what you have for sale!

5.   Choose the Date for your Sale Wisely
We had our Garage Sale the Friday & Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.  I initially thought this was going to be a poor decision, but after speaking with several of our garage sale patrons who frequent garage sales, I discovered that this ended up in our benefit.  There were very few who had garage sales this weekend and so we had little competition.  This was a fluke for us...but I do think that choosing your date wisely is important.

Think about when pay day falls each month...
Think about the weather...

And consider opening your sale for Friday and Saturday.  We had an excellent crowd come by on Friday morning - people who came with a purpose.

6.  Write a Great Ad 
I started calling our garage sale "The EPIC Garage Sale" a couple of weeks before it ever occurred.  I was trying to psyche myself up for this giant task that I was inwardly dreading so I kept calling it epic to try and make it sound fun and important.  Because it was in my mind, we used the word Epic in all of our ads.  It was silly really...but I had numerous people come by and say - "Is THIS the EPIC Garage Sale?"

Words like giant or big or multi-family are used often so try using an adjective that is out of the ordinary and perhaps you will hook a few more buyers who are intrigued by your creativity.

The rest of our ad was just a list of items we had for sale.  No fancy sentences or flowery statements, just a straight forward list (furniture, electronics, home decor, children's items, stroller, rugs, grill, sporting equipment, etc).

7.  Display Items Well
Sorting through piles...
I learned this from an HGTV show - display items so that they look their best.  I am kicking myself that I deleted these pictures, but I displayed my rugs nicely, sat chairs and a side table on them, and over and over people stopped to take a closer look because they could picture those items in a house.  I also tried to categorize items so that as you walked around the garage you could see all the home decor in one place, all the sports equipment in one place (I actually called it the section of Good Intentions), etc.

Lastly, we set out the items that we felt would draw people to the sale in the driveway close to the road.  So, as people drove past they could see furniture, our grill, a child's play table, etc.  "If you TEMPT them they will come."

8.  Keep Your Eyes on Valuable Small Items
We had two small electronics stolen during our sale and it almost ruined the sale for me.  I was mad at myself because I had intended to keep an eye on these gems.  BUT, with over 20 people in our garage, wearing Haven in a baby carrier, and helping Selah to pour lemonade, there was a good hour when I lost track and found myself looking up to realize a video camera and digital camera were gone.  UGH!

So, come up with a plan.  Have family or friends help out and just keep an eye on small valuables.

9.  Close Early & Make Final Deals
There is no sense in staying open until 6pm if the crowds disappear at 2pm.  End on a winning note and try to avoid exhaustion.  Most garage sale shoppers know to get there early so your best opportunity to make a profit is in the morning.  As your crowd disappears (especially on Friday) don't be afraid to close down at 1 or 2pm (remember, you still have another day to sell and you will need your energy). 

On Saturday as the day progresses start slashing prices and let everyone know that you will make them a deal.  We wanted to empty as much of our merchandise as possible so we made some killer deals at 1pm on Saturday.  It felt good to wrap things up by making sales of $50 and watching as people loaded our stuff into their cars.

10.  Let People Know Your Story and Listen to Theirs
We had a few conversations over the course of two days that helped us to let go of a few items that had sentimental value.  In fact, we had one conversation with a family from Czech Republic who ended up purchasing a desk from us.  We listened to their story of moving to America and their dilemma in trying to find any furniture with a European flare.  We also got to share about our trip to Czech Republic and we made a brief connection right there in the garage.  

I sold some baby stuff to a new mother and we connected over stories of sleepless nights and new born smiles.  I actually concluded the weekend with a new appreciation of connecting with others in my community - I met a widow who lives five houses down and yet who always stays behind her closed door.  Josh talked business with a few who came through our garage, and this sale...that I was woefully dreading became a weekend of small conversations that left me grateful to live in a city like Lubbock.

So those are my 10 tips from our garage to yours!  And perhaps the best tip of all - Give Thanks!  Whether you make $2,000 or $200 - people are buying your things that you no longer want.  So, choose a weekend, sort through your junk, get some friends to donate to your cause, and have fun meeting new people!  I hope at the end of your next garage sale you too feel like a Garage Sale Rock Star!


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