garage sale lessons learned

9 April 2012 at 11:29 am 1 comment

This past weekend my fiance and I hosted our first garage sale! I’d done a few garage sales in my time, but Mike had not, so he was nervous about how well it would go and how much money we might be able to make in one morning.

Overall it was a HUGE SUCCESS!!! We sold half to two-thirds of the items, thus clearing out the back room where we’d been storing extraneous items, and after expenses we made a whopping $450! (That is really good considering the lower cost of standard of living in our area.) But along the way we learned several lessons.

1. CREATE INTEREST – I decided to theme the garage sale and called it a “Bride & Groom Garage Sale”. I wore a white summer dress with a cheap Wal-Mart veil and a button that read “Bride to Be” while Mike work a ribbon that read “Groom to Be”.  A lot of people who came commented on the outfit and the idea. One of our customers even said, “When I saw that in the paper I told my husband, we have to go to that one!” The unique approach in the ad and the request from others to “help us pay for our honeymoon!” generated interest and got people there!
Next time we are even thinking of having a sort of guest register there with a space where they can offer us advice.

2. PRICING – We grouped similar items together on the tables and priced them at about the same price, which made it easier for people to shop and easier for us to remember how much things were. I had a 25 cent bin, a 50 cent bin, and many $1.00 bins. We also only priced smaller items for either $1, $3, or $5. Often they sold for less, but having set prices to start with made it easier to barter later.
For larger items, I usually estimate how much I want to get for that item and then up the price tag a little, so that I have some room to barter without feeling I got taken. For instance, I had a TV set – older and bigger than most people get now. I wanted to get $30 for it if possible. So, I set the price at $40. I ended up selling it for $28. It was less than I hoped to get, but not $10 less, because I’d started a little higher.
Also, for things like stuffed animals offer discounts for taking more. We priced the stuffed animals at “$1 each. 5 or more at 50 cents each.” There were at least 4 people who went through and chose 4 more animals after they found one they liked, so that they could pay 50 cents each. Not only did we get rid of more toys that way, but by buying 5, we upped a $1.00 purchase to a $2.50 purchase.

3. BARTERING – I was constantly talking to shoppers and offering them deals when they would ask about an item. For instance, if someone said, “How much is this?” and it was priced $5, I would usually respond with, “It’s priced for $5.” Then I had to watch their expression. If they thought it was too much and they really seemed to like it, I wouldn’t wait for another question, I’d just say, “But I will take $4 for it.”
I have been to garage sales where the hosts sit the whole time and just wait for people to come to them with items they want to buy. If you really want to make it a garage sale, you need to be interacting and noticing what people are interested in and offering them deals.
Also, joking around helps a lot! While people would browse I often asked them to purchase anything, because it would help with the honeymoon fund. Some people bought $1 items just to help out. And even those that didn’t wished us well, and offered advice. Of course, we were grateful for every purchase and made sure to tell every customer so.

4. PLASTIC BAGS & SERVICE – We had a little “check-out” station, of sorts and taped a bag full of our old plastic bags (saved from months of shopping) to the table, so that people who selected several items I could get them a bag, so they could take all the little items to the car easily.
Often I offered to give them a bag even before they finished shopping and I would calculate their total as they went along, so that they would keep shopping instead of stopping, because their hands were full.

5. HAVE CHANGE – Necessary to every garage sale is a ready amount of change, so that when people give you $20 bills for a $2 item, you can give them correct change and not be too long about it. We didn’t have an actual change drawer, but that wasn’t a problem. We are thinking of getting one for the next sale though.


Results from our BRIDE & GROOM GARAGE SALE:
1. END SOONER – We scheduled the sale from 7am-2pm, but the crowds slowed down at about 12 noon. And those that came in the afternoon didn’t make large purchases. Had we ended earlier we would’ve made about the same amount and we wouldn’t have spent as much time in the sun.

2. BE READY FOR EARLY RISERS – Both Mike and I are not early morning people. We set the sale to start at 7am and started getting tables and stuff out at 6:30am. There were 5 cars of people ready and waiting for us. It turned out alright, but we weren’t really prepared for the early crowd and so it took a bit before we really had things running smoothly.

3. PREPARE FOR SIGNAGE SABOTAGE – we had 4 signs stolen. We think it might be the local HOA, but are unsure. If we’d had some doubles up or other contigencies, then it wouldn’t have mattered, or we could’ve replaced them.

4.  WEAR SUNSCREEN – Neither one of us wore sunscreen and after standing in the sun all day, we are both really feeling it!

5. OFFER FOOD – Mike realized it might be profitable to offer cool sodas and snacks to shoppers and when several children stated they were hungry, we both thought that would be a good way to up the overall profit.

Like I said, overall it was a great success!!! And Mike feels more comfortable preparing for the next one. We also both have a better idea about how the whole thing needs to run and what items will sell well.



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wedding bells! fabulous food ~ our dinner at The London West Hollywood

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Heidi Gifford  |  9 April 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Awesome Megan!! I am so glad that it went so well for you!!!

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