Making the Most of Yard Sales


By Candice Choi -- AP Personal Finance Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — If one man's trash is another man's treasure, then what untold riches could a yard sale bring?

The truth is that selling your books, DVDs and unwanted gear from short-lived hobbies probably won't fix your money problems. But a yard sale isn't about raking in big bucks.

"We needed to get rid of a lot of stuff, and you earn a little bit of money on the side," said Mike Amundsen, a 62-year-old retired resident of Covington, Ga., who made about $200 from a recent two-day sale.

Aside from getting rid of clutter, a yard sale is also a chance to get to know your neighbors and put entrepreneurial skills to the test.

You won't be the only one hocking your wares. Online hub says garage sale listings increased 200 percent in the past two years. At, posts in June were up 35 percent from a year earlier.

So regardless of what you call it — a yard sale, stoop sale, tag sale or garage sale — here's how you can make sure it runs smoothly.


Once you settle on a weekend, check to see if you'll need a permit.

Some cities set aside a few days every year when you can hold a yard sale without a permit. Coordinating your sale to happen on one of those days would also reduce the need for advertising.

"The entire city is synchronized, so everyone knows to go out on that day," said Joel Risberg, who owns, based in Pomona, Calif.

Otherwise, see if your neighbors want to have yard sales on the same day. The bigger the hoopla, the more people you're likely to attract.

The next step is figuring out what to sell. You don't want to have any second thoughts.

"You can't think that 'Oh this person isn't worthy of the quilt my grandmother made,'" said Jon Fulghum, author of "How to Throw a Good Yard Sale."

Get consensus among family members so there are no spats if a cherished item shows up on the sale table.

After you get a sense of how much you're selling, size up whether you've got enough manpower. On top of lugging everything out and setting it up, you'll need to repeat the process if the sale is over a couple days.


There are a few ways to advertise your sale for little or no money.

Web sites such as, and offer free postings. A basic ad in a small, local paper might cost between $50 and $100. This is probably a better option for bigger sales where you expect to sell more.

In the days leading up to the sale, post notices at community centers, supermarkets, churches or wherever there's a bulletin board. If you live on a road with little traffic, place poster boards on main streets pointing the way to your home. Amundsen of Georgia found this was one of the most effective methods for attracting potential buyers.

Provide enough signs so drivers don't get lost, but make sure they're placed responsibly. For instance, don't hang your poster from a stop sign. Amundsen suggests keeping signs simple — think "Yard Sale" and a big arrow.

"If someone's in the car, they don't want too much to read," Amundsen said.


Everything at your yard sale should be clearly tagged with a price. No need to get fancy; masking tape and a magic marker should do the job.

There are no rules on prices, so do a gut check. How much would you be willing to pay? Tack on about 15 percent of that amount to factor in the haggling you'll likely encounter.

If you're still unsure about prices, visit a few yard sales to see what others are charging.

One popular pricing strategy is offering discounts for multiple items. If books are 25 cents, for instance, offer five for $1. You also want to keep things simple. So if you have a pile of stuffed animals, put them all in a box marked "50 cents." Consider having a "FREE" bin for items you think people won't buy.

Remember that people expect steep bargains at yard sales, meaning most items shouldn't be more than a few dollars.

"Some people don't have a very good concept of what a yard sale is — they price like they're an antique store," said Risberg of


You don't have to transform your yard into The Gap, but presentation can make a huge difference in sales.

Consider arranging tables in a U-shape, so people can start at one end and finish at the other. Group items in categories such as toys and children's books, clothes and household appliances. In case someone wants to see that any electric items are in working condition, run an extension cord out to the sale area.

Be creative about displaying your wares. Stack boxes or use ladders as shelves if you don't have enough table space. To hang clothing, try laying a broom across two step ladders.

"People don't like to dig through boxes of mixed junk," Risberg said.


The night before the big day, invite a few neighbors over for a pre-sale. This gives you a chance to alert them about the event and ask that they keep street parking open.

Before the sale starts, make sure you have enough plastic bags so people can carry home their purchases. Also stock up on small bills and coins to make change.

If it's hot on the day of the sale, you might want to put out a jug of ice water or have your children set up a lemonade stand. At Amundsen's sale in Georgia, he filled a cooler with bottled water and charged people 50 cents a pop.

Playing music at a low volume can make the mood more inviting. Once people start arriving, greet them warmly and be approachable, but don't stare or be overbearing.

"You're not going to sell anything if you're sitting in corner not saying anything," said Fulghum, who has been an avid yard sale shopper for the past four years.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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