Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yard Sale, Housewife Style!

(Disclaimer: This post was written earlier this week, but apparently didn't post due to Blogger being down for almost a full day. It's a little past due, but the info is still relevant.)

I'm having a yard sale this weekend. (I'm tired just saying that!) For some reason unbeknownst to me, Wednesday is THE day to have a yard sale in my area. How do people expect me to focus on my day job on Wednesdays when I really want to be out, enjoying the sun, and sailing through my neighbors' yards for treasures?? Needless to say, Wednesday is just not a convenient time for me to take off work and throw up a yard sale. I planned to host it Friday and Saturday but decided that one day would be sufficient. I'm content with anything leftover going to charity so I'll give it one honest days labor.

We had a yard sale 2 summers ago. I had just moved in with my (now) husband and we had waaaay too much stuff. In all honesty, I had too much stuff before moving in with him. I take ownership of that. So, we gathered up a couple friends who also had some stuff to off-load and had one monster yard sale.... in the rain. Booo! (Fingers crossed for sunshine this go round!) It was an exhausting two days but we did make around $300 which went straight into the Florida vacation fund. I did learn quite a bit about holding a yard sale; or rather, what NOT to do when holding a yard sale.

I spent so much prep time before the sale, most of which I'm not sure paid off. In order to save money I took tiny white return address labels that I already had and printed various prices on them. Then I priced everything. I repeat... everything! I know that's a tip people say to do when hosting a yard/garage sale but I'm doing things a little differently this time. Quite a bit of stuff is individually priced but there is also going to be a 10 cent, 25 cent and 50 cent table.

Now, I know what you're thinking- "What if people lie?" Well then I'm out 15 cents and they suffer the consequences of karma one day. If they need a coffee mug badly enough to lie about the price then I'm willing to sacrifice a dime or two. This go-round I purchased the pre-made yard sale stickers at the Dollar Tree. I ran out of $1 stickers and ended up pricing some stuff 75 cents to make life easier. Once again, oh well.

I spent so much time typing up all the price stickers last time... I'm just not willing to sacrifice that much of my time anymore. Is a profit of $200 for a yard sale worth 8-10 hours of prep time (pulling stuff out for sale, boxing and pulling everything together, and pricing items) plus 16 hours of sale time (for 2 days) plus the time/gas it takes to drive the remaining items to the Salvation Army? That breaks down to around $7 an hour... but then subtract the cost of newspaper advertising, materials to make signs, balloons, price stickers etc.

With that said, I know that this yard sale won't be as profitable as the last one we had. Last time I had many items that were new or had only been used for a couple of months. We had a few big tickets items also. This time we just don't have as much stuff to sell, so I adjusted my plan accordingly.

BUT, if you are planning a big yard sale this summer, here are a few tips, courtesy of me & the Queen (The Yard Sale Queen, that is).

  • Start collecting items to sell months in advance. Put aside a Rubbermaid tote for yard sale items as you come across things you want to sell. I would even suggest putting prices stickers in the tote and pricing items as you go- it will save you a ton of time later!
  • Before even picking the day/time to hold the sale, make sure your neighborhood or town doesn't require you to get a permit first.
  • If you don't want to pay money to advertise in the paper, turn to free sources online. A favorite is Also check and see if your area has a free weekly newspaper that will print an ad for free. Mine does, so perhaps yours does to! Sometimes newspapers will place an ad online for free but charge for a print ad... hey, free is for me! Advertise anywhere that will allow you do so without charge.
  • Use large, sturdy pieces of cardboard for local signage. A piece of 8 1/2 x 11 in. paper will not get noticed by a car driving by- neither will thin letters. Use large, colorful signs and thick black markers to direct traffic. Use arrows, list the day & time and address.
  • Have plenty of change for customers. Quarters, dollar bills, & $5 bills are a must.
  • Have plastic or paper bags for people who purchase multiple items. It makes buying in bulk convenient for customers and who doesn't have an overstuffed baggie holder looking for some use?
  • Consider your shoppers safety, especially if you are setting up shop in the yard. Make sure there aren't any large holes or dips in the ground that people might fall in or large tree roots likely to get tripped over. If so, just cover them with a table or place something nearby to direct traffic away from the danger zone. (We had a railing that wasn't stable so my husband removed it. I'd rather someone not have a railing to help them down a few steps than think they can rely on a shaky one to hold their weight. My yard sale is not handicap accessible.)
  • I like to price items in bulk, for example - all books $.25. I also only sell clothing $1 or $2 for a bag full. Clothing typically doesn't sell well at yard sales so either don't bother and donate all clothing or make it worth their while to buy more than one article. I also like to mark things as bundles. For example, each candle $.50 or $3 for the box.
  • Wipe off dirty or dusty items so everything looks nice. No one wants to buy something from you if it looks like you didn't take care of your belongings very well. This is something I usually do as I set up or I'll walk around with a container of Pledge wipes during the yard sale.
  • Place large or big ticket items upfront so people will notice them as they drive by trying to decide if they want to stop.
  • If holding the sale in your garage, make sure it's clear what is NOT for sale. Place old blankets or sheets up to cover the areas you don't want people shopping in.
  • I like to keep all money on me- just so the money box doesn't walk away. I bought a utility belt at Lowe's for $1 and it has two pockets... one for bills and one for change. It's a good idea to have someone there to help you (you know, in case you need to go to the bathroom) and you should give them a money belt too.
  • Have an extension cord on hand if you have electronics to sell. People will want to know it works.
  • I always have a freebie box and that's where I'll put small children's toys (IE: Happy Meal toys... I still eat Happy Meals, don't judge me). Parents (and you) will appreciate something that occupies their kids while they shop and what kid isn't happier after getting a free toy?
Anybody else hosting a yard sale this summer? Any tips I forgot? If so, send me an email at or leave a comment below. I'll follow up this week with a post to let you know how our sale went!

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