This Mommy Runs on Caffeine

This Mommy Runs on Caffeine

November 12, 2013

Operation Yard Sale Complete! (And Some Advice for You!)

We had our annual purging yard sale this past weekend.  I love the idea of having someone pay you to take away your stuff!  It is a shit TON of work but worth it in the end when you rid your house of items that you no longer need and get to make a bit of money in the process! I also love GOING to yard sales and I have my pet peeves so I try to be a mindful seller as well.  Yard sales are for bargain hunting for sure. (I decorated the entry way of our house in garage sale chic with the help of a few cans of spray paint and some imagination for under $30.) 

My BFF, Leah, is my yard sale companion, in addition to my begrudging hubby we usually make a good tag team. You will want more than one person to (as in you plus one or two!) at your sale.  It will get CROWDED at times- usually between 8 and 9:30.

So my first tip is preparation in the signage and in the merchandising.  You can't expect to put up signs scribbled on notebook paper in BIC pen (or paper plates with SALE and an itty bitty arrow on them) and drive traffic to your sale.  Furthermore, throwing out everything on the driveway in one pile is a no-no.  

Another note about signs....  Please, please, take the time to take down your signs. It’s not only inconsiderate to your ‘customers’ that try to find you, but it’s also good for Mother Nature. 

One thing that I hear regularly hear at our sales is “Great Signs!” They are large (18 x 24)  DOUBLE sided signs, on ground stakes with very large red print that says YARD SALE with an equally impressive arrow directing the way. I make them on the computer (four sheets of paper per sign) and tape them onto what I’ll call campaign signs (you know the ones that you see along the road during election season?)- and then they can be shoved into the ground. I've had these for years and they are reused and even borrowed for acquaintance's sales.

Remember, you have about three seconds to catch a passers-by attention and make them turn the car in your direction. It’s not necessary to put the time and date, as long as you put them up and take them down (appoint a family member to help) when your sale is going on; nor should you try to list items in 8-pt font. (If you want to list items, try craigslist- that’s another good way to advertise or find yard sales!)  I can guarantee that if you take the care into making good, attention catching signs, you will actually make more money. Our sale this year netted a fair amount for our efforts, we average about $500 with the highest price point was about $50. 

My other 'expert' advice? 
  • Take a few weeks to plan your sale to give you time to clean, mark and sort your items- and to make the signs too. Clean and Marking are operable words here.  Although I didn't mark 2/3 of the stuff due to time constraints, I marked the items I wasn't flexible on the price about $5 to $10 more than I wanted.  The rest I had an idea somewhere between $1 and up.
  • Let your friends 'shop' the night before!  This is a great 'excuse' to get some last minute help, but also give them a good deal on things that are perfect for them.  My friend Michelle walked away with two huge bags of clothes for $30!
  • Make good signs- yes, this is the third time I've said it, but.... at least get the poster board from the dollar store and make large letters on it! You can affix it to a box weighted with rocks to keep it standing!
  • Post your Sale on Craigslist earlier in the week with highlights and then edit it again the night before to appear for the sale day.  Don't forget to remove the ad once your sale is over.
  • People will shoplift at your sale.  It's a sad fact but it will happen.  We post a person at each end of the driveway to deter that and they have to pay to get to their car. 
  • If you want to get really organized, while "spring" (or winter/ fall, etc) cleaning, and you come across an item that you don't want, after inspecting it for defects- slap a price sticker on it and throw it in the Garage Sale box tucked away in a hiding spot!
  • Ask your neighbors, friends or family if they would like to participate. The more wares at your sale, the better. Also, they can bring tables (see below).  Multi-family sales always draw a crowd.
  • They will come, and they will buy, especially if they don’t have to bend down to look! Borrow as many portable tables and shelves as you can. I attribute the success of our sales to the fact that nearly everything was on a table, clean (if you pick it up and say, ewwwww, so will someone else!) and (most) clearly marked. The fact that people didn't have to rummage and bend down will make them look longer!
  • Don’t forget to get change- I usually go with $70 to start, with $1's, $5's and $10's and a bunch of quarters.   You will have many people that will give you a $20 for $3 worth of stuff!  Carry your change in a purse and put larger bills in the house when you can.  A Cash drop for those of you that have ever worked retail)
  • Make a sign at check-out that says " CASH ONLY" and “All Sales Final”
  • Have paper and plastic grocery bags on hand to wrap fragile items and to bag peoples purchases. Offer them bags and they will fill them- more money for you and less to haul away later.
  • Purchase the little priced dot stickers at the dollar store and use them in a very visible spot on the item.  It will save you from having to answer “How Much?” 500 times in one day. If you priced it higher than someone wants to pay, they’ll generally ask if you’ll take X amount. Masking Tape and sharpies work well too.  (I skipped this cardinal rule and although I may have suffered from sales from it, I was crazy busy with life to do pricing justice.)  I just knew in general what I wanted for an item in ADVANCE.
  • See above? If the time has to be picked up with two hands, a good rule of thumb is to use a larger sticker or affix a piece of paper. Also, be aware of where you stick pricing stickers- make sure you won't ruin the item
  • Sell in multiples for better value- books, CD’s, clothing. I love sales where I can find three paperback books for $1 or fill a bag with clothes for $5.  Get creative with your marketing to attract a sale- group items together- like "new parent's must haves," "college student's dorm room"
  • Mark items in multiples of 25 cents- it will be easier to make change.
  • Have an extension cord handy to test out electrical appliances and hook up your radio for musical ambiance
  • If you think you can get more for an item individually, either consign or Craigslist it by itself. People go to sales wanting a deal and expect to pay about 20% at most to retail value.
  • Be prepared to haggle and deal.  It's an art form.  People will also low-ball you and you need to decide in advance what your strategy is.  I have had buyers offer me $3 for an item marked $20- that's a stretch.... I'll take $17.... you'll get the idea once your sale begins
  • What to price items:
    • Shoes- $2 to $5 depending on wear and brand
    • Baby Clothing- name brand (Gymboree, GAP, etc.) $1 to $3 depending on quality.  I did $1 for each piece and it went flying off the tables.  
    • Adult Clothing- .50c to $3, Denim $5- it's a crap shoot-  I did fill a bag for $5 and sold quite a bit
    • Baby Equipment- check to ensure it's not recalled, has all the parts and sell for about 30% of retail. (Play Yards $20, Blankets $2, Strollers- $20, etc.)  
    • Toys- $2- $5 depending on items, Board games and puzzles should be closer to $1- they are a hard sell but will if priced right (people are afraid of missing pieces)
    • Books- Hardbacks for $1 each, Soft, 3/$1, Kids books .75c
    • CD's/DVDs- $1 to $2
    • Home Decor- under $10
    • Kitchen Stuff- under $5
    • Appliances- check retail prices and CL and price accordingly
      • people don't care what the sentimental value is to you, if you can't bear to part with it, don't put it in the sale.
      • if you think you can get more elsewhere, sell it there but the whole point of the sale is to watch it walk away.
  • Don't put the shit back in your house once you are done! 
    • I was pressed for time this sale and paid someone to clean and haul away the items at the end.  BEST. MONEY. SPENT.  I'd already spent enough time getting ready for it, and it prevented me from thinking I needed to keep the items.  They have already been setting out of view for months, no need to bring it back inside!
  • Be respectful of your neighbors and post no parking signs- I posted no parking signs in front of my two closest neighbors to avoid having cars stop in the middle of my sale blocking the view of 'driver's-by' and also for noise.  Starting your sale at dawn is mean for your neighbors.  It's their weekend too!
  • Check your HOA and city rules for sign posting and sale-hosting laws.  Some cities don't allow sign posting on their landmarks or more than one sale per year, etc.
Phew! It's a lot of advice but I hope it will help you have an incredibly successful sale!

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