07 May 2013

How to Do a Garage Sale

I've been doing garage sales about every other year now and I make a lot of money each time. Since I'm getting pretty good at this shit, I thought I'd share some tips with the rest of the world. It's really a great way to make some extra petty cash for summer activities. 

First thing is first. There are 4 tiers of jetsam:

1. The Good Stuff (Meaning great stuff you just don't use, like barely worn expensive shoes or a designer purse, silverware, china, collectibles, etc.)

2. The Big Stuff (Furniture, fire pits, grills, power wheels, bikes and the like.)

3. The Stuff (clothes, small appliances, housewares, small cabinets, DVDs, children's toys, planters, lawn chairs and things along those lines.)

4. The Junk (Broken things, paint-stained clothes, dirt crusted crap in your garage that doesn't resemble anything of use, nasty skanky work shoes, old  underpants, anything rusty -unless it's a Coca Cola sign or antique- and garbage like that.)

Step one, get a drum liner and THROW THE JUNK AWAY. No one wants that mess. Do not attempt to sell it. Do not insult people by donating it. Pony up for the extra garbage sticker and clear some room. It will not sell and it will make all your other stuff look gross by association. You want to present your stuff as good, clean and useable, not creepy and skeevy. 

Step two, Take your GOOD STUFF and put that shit on eBay. People go to garage sales for deals and you will never get a fair price for that Waterford crystal, or your grandma's china, hawking it on your front lawn. ...Unless you live in a really fancy community, and even then, those bitches are CHEAP! You put the nice stuff on eBay to reach the largest market and ship it off. 

Step three, we are left with BIG STUFF and STUFF. This is where we achieve synergy with Craigslist and our garage! Some people think you need little price tags, and flags, and free lemonade to entice shoppers. I say bull. All you need is: A digital camera & access to the internet, A big roll of blue painter's tape and a sharpie. (A long table or two also help!) The most I'd "splurge" on after that is making a sign for your busiest corner to alert drivers by to your sale.

(*Also consider a neighborhood, or block-wide garage sale. You get twice the traffic!*)

First, the weekend before, clean your garage & sweep it out. Put everything that is NOT for sale along one or two walls and hang a tarp from the ceiling to hide it. (You can go to a party store & get one of those long rolls of vinyl tablecloth covering too and just staple that to the rafters & hang it to the floor in sheets. You can get a nice, cheery color, like yellow or bright blue, something that makes your place look clean & bright, not like a dingy garage. 

Then, you take the first few days of the week to sort your stuff out. Clothing by size & gender, housewares, furniture, nice toys, small toys, games, etc. 

Take photos of a few of your "best" big items. On the Thursday before the sale (Or Friday if you are only doing Saturday and/or Sunday) post an ad for your garage sale on Craigslist with the photos. Remember to include the time you will open, otherwise people will be milling about your lawn at 8AM. 

The night before, set up shop. 

I like to put the clothing, folded & fanned into rows on top of a long table, so all the colors & patterns are visible to catch someone's eye. I hang dresses on my ladder. Put all the housewares together, on another long table, or arrange the items on bookshelves you might be selling. Toys and kids' stuff, I drag out on my driveway, the bigger stuff on display and the smaller stuff in tubs. As moms bring their children, the kids congregate around the toy bins instead of crowding the garage. 

Then, break out your roll of painter's tape. (It's that blue masking tape that peels off any surface with ease.) Tear or cut tags to put on each item (except for clothes). Pricing is key, because I have been to plenty of garage sales where they have beat up dressers with $40 price tags on them and ashtrays for $7. No. If something is truly splendid, put it on Craigslist by itself. But do not think because something is "solid wood" or since you bought it for $400, that anyone will pay more than $15-$20 for it. Really, most things cap at $10. If it's a nice piece of furniture, you can go up to $40 or $50. If it's a power wheels, $150, or a nice grill can go for $50-$70 (if it's LARGE and NEAR-PERFECT.) Again, anything $20 or over, mention in your Craigslist ad, specifically. Most garage salers don't intend on spending much. For instance, I advertised my Olympic barbell and plates set. I sold it within an hour of opening. Another man came looking or it and ended up buying my old fridge. Two high ticket ($100, $30) items gone in the first hour and a half because my ad enticed them to come with real money in their pocket, instead of singles. 

On the flipside, don't go too cheap, either. I NEVER go under 50 cents. What the hell am I going to do with nickles? Besides, it's less complicated at checkout when you're not doing any more math in your head than you have to. 

My scale looks something like this: Kids clothes 50 cents a piece (every outfit is $1), Adult clothes $2 a piece, Childrens' fancy attire $3, Adult dresses $4, A suit might be $5-7. Most photo frames are $1 each, except the 3x3 kind, which I price at 50 cents. Small appliances like coffee makers and crock pots can go for $5 in good condition. Small cabinets, $5, Bookshelves, $8-$10, Baskets & vases are 2/$1. Larger children's toys and items like a walker or blocks table can go for $5, while games go for $1 each. $2 for medium toys and the rest in a 50 cents bin. I put stuffed animals in a $1 bin.

Also, clean off those crusty ass toys! If it is in good condition, you can ask a few bucks for it and get a few bucks for it. If it's all nasty, the mom will probably gasp "Eww! Timmy put that down!" Again, this is the gross by association thing. No one wants to buy petrified spaghetti O's. All your stuff will have a greasy feel to it if you display battered, goobered and stained gear.

Make some signage like "Adult Clothes $3 each or 2 for $5" and "Kid's clothes 50 Cents ea." Tape those on your tarp above the clothing. Then, make smaller signs that say gender & size range. Tape them to hang over the appropriate spot of the table. Do this with your dresses & suits, too. Your price tier should be 50 cents, $1, $2, $5, $7-8, $10, $20, $30 $40, $50, $75, $100, and so on. SIMPLE MATH. Trust me, when you have four people trying to shove singles at you, you do not want to be thinking, okay 10 cents, plus 40 cents plus 35 cents, plus a dollar 60... You want to be thinking .50, $1, .50, $2.

Take old plastic grocery bags you have accumulated for "car garbage bags" and hang them on the back of a chair. They will come in handy for people buying a lot of clothes and small nick knacks.

Okay, do you have housewares, clothing and children's toys separated? Is there a clear sign on each bin? A blue tape pricetag on everything else? Your garage looking clean and not creepy? Craigslist garage sale ad up? Great! Get some sleep.

On the big day, you want a good breakfast and a helper, so when you have to relieve that breakfast in a few hours, someone is there to supervise. I always start with some quarters, 5 singles, a five and a ten. I put my money in an organizer or box inside my house. I can do this, though, because of proximity. I prefer not to let anyone know where the money is or how much I have stuffed in there. I'll have some singles in my pocket. You may want to post a sign at a busy corner.

Have some nice tall beverages out there, maybe some snacks, too, and relax. Set up an umbrella and a few lawn chairs for you and your buddy. I had a few glasses of wine one afternoon, because, according to my friends, it made me "friendlier." (Not too much though, or you'll be giving everything away or throwing up in your lawn, which is a major turn off.) Most of all, don't make it feel like you are "waiting" for people. Do crosswords, talk, never seem desperate to sell.

Now, if you have genuinely good stuff at a low price, most people will buy it, no questions asked. But some will want to barter. I don't like bartering. It's annoying. I never barter 50 cent things. And I rarely barter on the first day. I say "Come back Sunday if you want half off." I say it with a big smile and a friendly laugh, though, as to not offend. If someone is buying a bunch of stuff and asks for $10 instead of $12, I'll usually let that slide, but other than that, I say "priced to sell" with a smile. I have learned if someone wants something, they'll pay for it. I've also learned people who try to barter you down to ten cents often pay with a twenty dollar bill.

Once the sale/weekend is over, don't sweat anything you didn't sell. It can still make you money!  If a big item doesn't sell, put it on Craigslist for a few weeks until it goes. Itemize and donate the rest. I've saved many a dollar at tax time. Just remember to itemize everything for resale value and staple it to the receipt.

Bim bam boom. A day or three of fresh air, a clean garage, cash in your pocket. Money back at tax time... #winning. Good luck!

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