Archives for June 2012

Lesson Learned: How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

My name is Jon, that is Jon without an H. This is the first article I am writing for the site, so I thought I’d start out with a good one… how to do a successful garage sale. Just so you know, my Mom is Kathy with a K, and so I have been involved reading this website from the beginning. We are currently in the process of leaving one stage of life, being in the Army, and moving to the next. One of the big headaches during this period is moving. We will be moving from Texas to California in about two weeks.

From Mansion to Shack

We don’t live in a mansion… at least not by American standards, but when my Wife and I travelled to California to look at homes, we were dismayed to find that for what we paid for out current home in Texas, 2000 sq. ft., built in 2009, we could only afford a home that is about 1300 sq. ft., built in 1965 in California.

As much as this hurts our egos, it is a great opportunity to clear out some of the clutter we have been collecting for the last 7 years in the Army. You see, when I met my wife, she had an apartment full of stuff. The problem was… so did I. And of course, my stuff was better. Except that she didn’t think so, so we ended up keeping all of it. For some reason around this time, I also decided to put all my efforts towards building an industrial sized cabinet shop in my garage, complete with a 650 lb wood planer and top of the line lathe.

The problem: Where do we put all of this stuff in a house with 700 less square feet?

The Solution: We don’t…

We had talked about selling stuff in a garage sale a little bit, but never gave it much thought until about a week ago. We walked into our garage for the millionth time looking for a screwdriver, and had to maneuver around the old crib (that we are saving for the next baby, even though this one hated it and never actually slept in it), the old changing table, the planer, the lathe, the drill press, ladders, cat litter (the cat is staying in the garage right now because we are showing the house, and cats smell), and about 200 other things that we “need,” but never use.

So we decided a garage sale would be in order. What better way to get rid of stuff then selling it for 95% of what we bought it for… right.

Preparing for the Garage Sale

I like checklists, and having a checklist for your garage sale is an absolute must. I say this because we didn’t do it, and we started forgetting all sorts of little things. So here is goes.

  1. Pick a date. Saturdays and Sundays are the best, because everyone has off from work. Make sure you also have time the night before to prep things, like signs.
  2. Get all necessary materials:
  3. Bright colored signs (neon green seemed to work the best)
  4. Black paint and a small brush to paint the sign (markers aren’t as clear in the sun, and take forever)
  5. Stickers for prices, its best to use something colorful so it stands out. You can also have a second color, and then on the second day, if you want to get rid of things quicker, say its a “red dot” sale or something.
  6. Tape to hang the signs, or whatever you need, situation dependent.
  7. Hard cardboard or wood to put behind the sign so it doesn’t bend in the wind.
  8. Another option is to get pre-made garage sale signs, but we didn’t do that, so I can’t really speak to it.
  9. A place to put your money, away from others and keep all bill denominations separate. This makes it much easier to make change and keep count of what you’ve earned.
  10. A book or laptop to use as a ledger to keep track of what you’ve sold and for how much.
  11. Music, so you don’t go insane sitting outside all day.
  12. Shade, because its hot, especially in texas.
  13. Have an abundance of change ready. Coins, ones, fives, tens and twenties.
  14. One last thing, some places require a permit to have a garage sale. I think our town does. I didn’t get one, but I guess I just took that risk. I did see a cop go by once, and he didn’t arrest us, so I think we’re okay.

Online Advertising

The best way to advertise is to post on craigslist. Even though it feels weird to post your address, you have to, or else no one will know where the garage sale is.

Here is another checklist.

  1. The title must be clear, we said: Garage Sale, Sunday 20 MAY, Starts 0830, Address.
  2. Post this title a second time in the body.
  3. You can set your price at whatever you want, but I chose $1, because I figure that sounds better than $10,000,000.
  4. Give directions to your house. Believe it or not, some people still don’t have GPS (ahem…cough…Kathy with a K).
  5. List out all of your items. It doesn’t have to be every single little knick knack, but if it is large or worth more than $5, you should list it.
  6. You can update the listing the day of, so be prepared to take a picture out front, and post that on the listing. People love pictures.
  7. List each major item individually on craigslist. For my big tools, as well as bikes, cribs… pretty much anything worth more than $50, I posted individual ads with pictures. This really helps, because most people stopping at garage sales only want great deals, for $10 or less. This way you can try and knock out two birds with one stone.

Craigslist can be a little creepy, so just use good judgement. Never take checks or money transfers. Don’t deliver your items, just have them come to you. And if a sheik from Abu Dhabi says he has a $44.5 million transfer, but he needs your $50 bucks to make it go through, because you are an American citizen… its a scam.

Garage Sale Tips – The Day Of

The day of, you should wake up extra early. For my brother, that means 1000 AM, but for us, it means around 0500 AM. We had a little coffee and sat outside on our backyard set, for the last time hopefully, because it was for sale as well. We had prepped the signs the night before, so I jumped in the car and put them at the tricky turns leading to our house. I had one at our house, one down the street and one at the entrance to our neighborhood. In retrospect, we should have put an extra one, at one more turn. Another thing we should have done is put clear arrows point where to turn. We may have lost one or two people because of it… I guess we’ll never know.

The Layout

I tried to keep things generally grouped together so it made sense. I put tools with tools, and baby stuff with baby stuff. For the most part, this worked well, so I would do it again.

I made sure to sweep the driveway before setting up and the garage after, so it wasn’t covered in dried up worms or weird bug shells.

The morning started off slow, but by¬† 1000 AM, it started getting pretty crazy. There was a constant stream of about 5 people or so, browsing at anyone time. We had labeled quite a few items, but we didn’t label them all. Big mistake, we had to walk around having people ask us “How much?” Its much easier if they look and see a price tag. This helps for two reasons. One, you don’t get nearly as tired, because you can stand in one place. Second, when you see people, at least when I do, I tend to get sympathetic and lower the price I wanted instantly… even without them asking. My wife is the same way. If you write the price down before hand, you take away the awkwardness and you can be more cold and calculated about it. Then it gives a good starting point for bartering.

Its also important to not be weird. Say hi to people when they show up, be friendly, make small talk. We met all sorts of neat people from all over the area, so it actually was pretty fun. Most of our neighbors came by at some point in the day to say hi and ask when we were moving.

Pricing Your Garage Sale

This is always a tricky thing, because its your stuff. So you obviously want to price it high, probably close to what you bought it for. Here is my general rule of them.

Unless it is brand new, in the box, untouched, take the price you paid, and half it.

You paid $100 = they pay $50.

Remember people are looking for bargains at garage sales. And you are looking to clear your clutter. Let me just get this out of the way right now… You will not become rich from your garage sale.

The point is, your extra stuff has an unnoticed emotional cost, and time cost, with cleaning it, moving it, storing it… it all adds up, so its best to take a little monetary hit now, and save big bucks in the long run.

Some people like to barter, but if they look interested at the price you set, but put it down, drop the price a little. You don’t have to tell that to the next guy if the thing doesn’t sell, but you have a much better chance of selling now, when someone is interested.

I missed a bunch of chances for selling my miter saw, because I refused to drop from $125. It is still sitting in front of me while we speak.

If you can avoid doing the garage sale alone, its best to have a partner. That way someone can get food, man the sale, or just to keep you company when no one is around.

Calling It

I can’t say exactly when it is best to call it for the day. I think you’ll know because people just stop showing up. For us, it was around 1400 (2:00 PM for you civilians out there). Once you do call it, make sure you take down your signs. They look tacky if just left up, and they probably have your address, so everyone knows who left them up. We decided to go for a second day, which actually worked out. We ended up selling a few more of the big items that had been laying around the first day.

Grand Total… $120,000

Not really, but after all is said and done, we walked away with about $410. That is pretty good, considering most of that was from small items for $1-10. We did not sell the bikes ($300 and $500), the planer ($800), lathe ($4000), christmas tree, grill or a few other things, but in terms of space, we probably sold about two rooms worth of stuff that we didn’t really use. And that translates to about 400 square feet. If you consider that a house in California, where we are buying, is worth about $300 per square foot, thats about $120,000 worth of house that we don’t need. So I think it was worth it.

So go ahead, and have that garage sale.