Get the Most Out of Your Next Garage Sale


"Going green" is more than the movement of the moment; it's a way to conserve limited resources and funds in a tight economy. Garage sales are a great way to jump on the "reduce, reuse, recycle" bandwagon while also cutting down on clutter in the home.

Your trash is someone else's treasure, so why not pass the kids' old soccer uniforms and those VHS baseball documentaries on to someone who'd be delighted to have them?

Follow these tips to make sure your garage sale runs smoothly from start to finish.

Define your purpose. If you're planning a garage sale to pass on your unwanted stuff, get to know your neighbors a little better and maybe earn a little cabbage in the process, great. But if your real plan is to recoup the original value of your unloved possessions, consider either donating or selling them on consignment instead.

Selling on consignment is a great way to unload expensive items that are in excellent condition. In a consignment sale, you consign your goods to a second-hand shop, which places it for sale. For that service, the shopkeeper take a percentage of the sale. Check out to locate a shop near you and for some helpful tips for selling on consignment.

If you decide a garage sale is the best way to go, keep in mind that garage-sale shoppers are hunting for bargain basement prices. Mark up your castoffs and you'll likely double your work hosting a sale only to end up donating everything when it doesn't sell. Be willing to haggle, but set your bottom line ahead of time -- particularly for big-ticket items -- so you can keep your cool if negotiations heat up.

Spend money to make money. Plan on incurring at least a few expenses when hosting a garage sale, including advertising and supplies for pricing and signage. Don't go crazy, however, or you'll cut into your profits.

First, place an ad in a daily newspaper that lists the day(s) of the sale as well as the start and end times. Most garage sales are held on weekends, and many begin on a Friday. Be sure your ad runs on both the Sunday and Thursday before the sale; avid garage-sale shoppers check for ads on those days while mapping out their shopping routes. Don't forget to either write "rain or shine" or provide an alternate rain date in your ad. Finally, place an ad in the garage-sale section of, a free online service known to savvy bargain hunters nationwide.

Instead of renting tables, which can get expensive, see what you can borrow to display your wares instead, and have tarps handy in case of rain. Many newspapers and real estate offices provide free garage sale signs, but if you decide to make your own, remember: neon pink poster board is your friend. That and a fat black marker will grab the attention of passing motorists and draw them right to your garage door. Finally, keep pricing simple and sanity intact by using color-coded dot stickers and simple monetary increments: a quarter, fifty cents, a dollar, etc.

Make it a community effort. If you have kids, have them set up their own table to sell clothes, books and toys they've outgrown. Getting kids involved earns more than money; they'll receive valuable lessons about the cycle of "stuff" and the importance of reusing old items. They may even learn a trick or two about how to haggle.

Consider getting your neighbors together to host a multifamily garage sale. Not only can you then split the cost of placing a newspaper ad, but larger sales tend to draw larger crowds, thereby increasing the likelihood of selling off more of your things.

Decide where to send any leftovers. Before drafting that first "Garage Sale" sign, decide what you'll do with the items that don't sell. You can arrange to have them picked up by a local charity or haul the stuff there yourself; either way, have some empty boxes ready for any remaining goods.

After your sale, either make a list or take a quick digital photo of donated items to attach to your receipt for tax purposes. See IRS Publication 561 to estimate the value of the items donated. You can also give a shout-out on a free Web service like Craigslist or the "free stuff" section of Freecycle. Just be sure to hold off on posting these items until after your sale, or you'll lose paying customers to post-sale freebie-seekers.

Whether your garage sale is an annual event or a one-time purge, a little planning will make the sale run smoothly while finding a home for your unwanted possessions.

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