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Garage Sale Tips and Tricks

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Knowing a few tips and tricks can help make your garage sale successful. This is a guide about garage sale tips and tricks.
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By 3 found this helpful
June 27, 2007

After taking my grandmother around to hundreds of garage sales when I was a teen, I began having sales when I was married. Here are some of my tips:

Setting Up

Great signage is one of the single most important factors that can make a sale a success! Not just a good sign, but lots of good and accurate signs with arrows at all possible points. Write them on bright colored poster board or glue this onto weighted boxes at the most strategic points; corners, intersections, and medians (if not illegal where you live). Without breaking the law, there are ways to get around it if you cannot "attach" to a telephone or public utility pole, or if a land owner thinks they own past a sidewalk to the street. Get permission from an owner before placing a box at their corner, home or retail location. Have the garage sale on the weekend, Friday to Saturday, then possibly Sun, 1:00 PM to dark, is a good way to avoid problems.
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  1. Make the sign with a wide tip permanent marker in dark large lettering.

  2. Cover the lettering/sign with clear plastic and tape in case of rain.

  3. Well in advance of the sale, drive the area and study where the traffic flow/reasonable eye-sight and distance from stopped traffic and from the ongoing traffic view is. Giving the potential buyer about three car lengths to see and assimilate the sign info is critical. The good thing about using a mid sized box with a large rock to weight it down is that it is not likely to blow over, nor is a disgruntled buyer as likely to knock down your sign or steal it outright, as was my experience one year.

  4. The morning of the sale, put your cash box and signs in your car and drive to put them out, before your sale begins. I find that hours complicate things, so I recommend describing exactly where it will be in the title: use, yard sale, garage sale, driveway sale, patio sale, lawn sale, sidewalk sale, or neighborhood, church, or private sale, helps the buyer to prepare and to look for the location without such stress. You may know where you live, but they do not. You are trying to draw them in, not keep them away, right? Use correct arrows to help them. Do not use a sign with the arrow in the wrong direction. Take a hammer if using a sign, and plenty of medium rocks, if using boxes. Plan no more than you can carry in one or two trips.
Dress well when you place them out, because some buyers will see you right away as you are placing the boxes. Have some adult at your home while you are gone, because you cannot beat the first buyers from the first box/directions, back to your home. Have your cars placed in front of your home, out of the way in your driveway, and if necessary, use the car to place a "Sale Here" box on top of the car, for those to see from a distance who are near and driving up wondering where your sale is. I will not shop a sale that has no prices on the items. I use a roll of narrow masking tape and write the price/short description on every single item the week/day/night before. I will not shop a messy, dirty sale, with things thrown all over the grass with no care. Take the time to use whatever you have to display items in some reasonable order to make your sale, "buyer friendly". I tend to think a seller is sizing me up in order to judge what I might be able to pay, and am offended and not likely to buy anything at all. Remember that your sale is not the only one in the city. Your things may not be as important to others as they are/were to you. You're not a retail store, nor are your things always another man's treasures. In fact, most things are truly junk, not treasures, I believe. In the heat of the summer, place the sale under the shade of a tree or set up patio umbrellas, or an inexpensive canopy. If cold, have it inside a warm garage, or defer to spring/summer/fall.
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Pricing And Selling

The rule of thumb is to price about 10% of the original value of the item, unless new, then you can double it, or take "offers" and the chance on whether they want it or not. When using masking tape or labels for prices, attach them to the inside of lapels, underside of collars, and not on any outside area, because the sun can melt some of the adhesive to fabrics or plastic. Another way to price is to have a large well placed/written poster near the cashier area with summaries: dresses $____, blouses/shirts $_____, shoes/bags/hats $ _____, furniture as marked. Remembering that in most cities, there are limits to the number of days one can have a sale in their home. Ours is three days, three times a year, I believe. I forget from year to year, and suggest that you check. Regardless, keep in mind that you only have a few days to make the sale and move your things out of your way for some price. Put enough thought into it that you decide in advance, not at the sale, what is your minimum price, because most want to "bargain" for the lowest price, usually asking, "Will you take $________for this and this?" Choose found/used doors covered in table cloths for sale tables on top of lawn chairs, smaller tables, TV trays, tire stacks, boxes, etc. Try not to sell too much at a time. It's confusing and messy. If it is your first sale, be very careful because you may not know the value of your belongings passed down to you from relatives. I lost precious items this way, only regretting it later. Get books from the library about what is more valuable at a sale. Remember that collectors buy one at a time, usually, and go to other sales to get familiar with pricing in your area. Do not keep a cash box in full sight, but rather use a fanny pack around your tummy and keep it zipped up and in front of you, keeping a sharp eye and feel on it at all times. I have had two cash boxes stolen off a table next to me at sales. Keep a calculator handy inside your fanny pack rather than to rely upon your scrambled memory at the moment. Keep whatever large bill an individual has given you in between three fingers of one hand, while you give/count change with the other, so there is no misunderstanding about the correct change. Remember that you cannot deplete your only change (starting with about $25 at the beginning of the sale, in mixed bills/change of quarters only). Also, in this day and time, with so much crime/poverty rampant, watch children who walk out with things in their hands, watch adults who wear jackets/hats, and groups where one tries to keep you engaged in questions while the others steal. This happened to me several times. Do not have two cashiers. Thieves will get a price for something or two from you, pick up a third or fourth and walk to the other cashier saying that you said, $____. The second cashier will shout the price out to you and you will not realize it was not just for the items you quoted, and cannot see the extra items in the buyer's hand(s). Save and use every possible bag you have so that everything gets bagged as they leave the sale. This way, if someone carries something out in their hand, you can more easily see it. Always have at least one other adult as a helper/substitute for when you need to take a short break for any reason. Two more helpers is even better, so that one can always watch for thieves.

Organization

I like a sale that divides men/women/children/ family/infant areas, to make my shopping easier, friendlier. Also, do not set your prices too high, and do not reduce your asking price too much, to avoid those who want something for nothing. Save that for the very last hour of your sale, and you will have to bargain, often time for the whole remaining lot, at a price. When selling clothes, wash, fold, stack/hang them, to get the best prices. Good toys need to be near the check out table and off the ground. Tough, more used child-proof toys can go on the ground for testing by a child. If selling hats/shoes, become totally familiar with them and have helpers to watch buyers head, feet, hands, arms, purses and signaling to one another. There are many scams and opportunists today that frequent all sorts of sales to rip folks off. There are also some very kind, honest buyers, but a few only appear to be when, in fact, are "dealers in disguise" who are buying your item as cheap as they can talk you down for, only to sell it for a huge profit. These often buy a lot of merchandise and use the excuse "since I am buying so much, will you take $____ for them all?" Seldom is it a bargain for you, unless it's the end of the sale and you really want to move the merchandise and not have to store it. I have "given away" items rather than have to store them, so the bottom line is yours. Once you make a decision, don't look back with regret, let it go and relax, you've got a garage sale to clean up. Another kind of garage sale that I benefitted from was one with all "giveaway prices". This was a Christian family who would have just donated good items to charity, but decided to ask a little something and enjoy seeing who got what. It was a god-send for me when I needed clothing for cheap, because I had almost no money. I got whole outfits for $.50/1.00. The elderly need and appreciate low low prices, as well. If you have sales regularly, as some in our area do, all rules are different, prices are usually fixed, and there's less negotiations. But when you see lots of dust and rusty junk, you can know that it's not a true garage sale, but is likely just someone who perhaps has sales for a living.
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Be Honest

Don't sell anything that's booby-trapped, damaged, broken beyond repair, rotten, or contaminated without telling the buyer about it. Do unto them as you would have them to do unto you: the Golden Rule. Be honest with yourself, asking, "are my things out of style, coming back into style, or all worn out?" Price accordingly. Listen to what a buyer is saying, especially if more than one says something. If no one is buying, either your prices are too high, your products too bad, your signs are gone/moved, or you may have something negative in the sale area, such as wrong music, eating during the sale in front of the buyers, your animals/children under foot, some unpleasant odor in the air, or something broken and obviously not worth the price. I prefer electronic items to be together, tools to be together, and toys to be together. Have as little as possible out that is not for sale. Sold" signs on items is OK, but not too many. I like having a table from which to buy a good cold canned drink for $1.00, And perhaps a packaged healthy snack. Watch the ground on which you have your sale. Keep it clean, clear, and safe, so that buyers are welcomed, not soiled or sorry.

Smile And Welcome Everyone

You have taken the time to sell on little sleep and short patience with the disarray of your belongings or someone elses. Be patient. Take a multivitamin for your nerves, or have a cup of coffee before the buyers arrive. Don't chit-chat on the phone while you have buyers. Be interested in them, but give them plenty of time/space to think and shop. They'll be able to buy more, if they want what you have. Walk around, sit little. Keep your eyes open. Act kind but firm. Wear a bright colored shirt/blouse so that helpers can tell inquirers who to pay. I play gentle Christian music at my sales, because I believe it draws honest folks, disarms/discourages thieves, and blesses all who hear. I watch the weather and plan accordingly, with plastic ready and available, plans for moving items in case of downpour/high wind/night time. I never leave my items outside for the next day, unless there is too much junk i'd just as soon someone steal. With every purchase, I appreciate getting a "thank you, i hope you enjoy that!", it helps in case the person might tell someone else about your sale. Also, should you have address labels to spare, keep them handy for anyone who might need to return or send another there. Don't give them out for no good reason. Have a sign that says, "all sales final" or "we cannot guarantee used items. Choose wisely and please handle carefully. If you buy or break it, you own it." One of my most favorite signs is just outside of the buying area/fence. On a child's art easel, "Thanks for coming. God bless you." seen as the buyer leaves, and "Welcome. Come on in!" on the side seen as they come in.

Helpful Hints

Never talk to others or your helpers about how much you have made in your sale. Never lie about something. If you don't know, just say that. If you do, tell the truth, the buyer might want it anyway. Take the condition of an item into consideration as you price/bargain, and remember how much time you have left in the sale, unless you like storing leftover items for the next sale. During one of your breaks, empty your cash/fanny pack into a private place in your locked home. If you are robbed or held up, the loss will not be as great. Keep only the bare minimum and accept no very large bills for small purchases, suggesting that there is a store nearby where they can get change for it. Do not deplete your change, unless the sale of the century for a big profit. Do not try to babysit during the sale. Pick up your boxes every single PM To assure yourself of having them for morning. Good luck and God bless you! I believe the most important things to remember are: good signage, greatest locations, price all items fairly, keep it clean, stay alert, and have pleasing music playing. By Lynda from TX

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Comment Was this helpful? 3
March 19, 20120 found this helpful

Great article. In addition to signs, it is a good idea to advertise the sale on Craigslist. Many buyers check craigslist before they leave the house to see where the garage sales will be that day. You can mention some of the better items that you have for sale in your ad. This will bring out buyers who are interested in that item.

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June 4, 20170 found this helpful

Clothes hanging at Yard Sale

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There are a number of creative ways to hang or layout clothes so that your prospective yard sale buyers can easily see them. This is a guide about displaying clothes at yard sale.

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June 7, 20170 found this helpful

Garage Sale Items With Price Stickers

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Despite the lower prices that you can typically find by shopping yard sales, sometimes unethical customers will attempt to swap prices on items to get even better deals. This is a guide about preventing customers from changing prices at a garage sale.

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June 4, 20170 found this helpful

Couple Putting up Yard Sale Sign

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Modern technology can make mapping out your route for yard sale stops simple and streamlined. This is a guide about mapping my garage sale route.

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By 4 found this helpful
September 1, 2011

Here are some tips to have a great garage sale. Pick the right date, the first and fifteenth are when people receive their social security checks and/or pay checks.

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July 7, 2012

I know with all the yard sales this time of year, many people are buying second hand and giving new life to their finds. When pricing items, many types of pricing elements are hard to remove and leave sticky residue.

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By 5 found this helpful
August 27, 2008

When you are looking for something in particular at yard sales and don't see it, just ask. I have found that sellers are "motivated to sell" once they have started and will sometimes go into the house and bring out the item you are looking for.

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August 2, 20109 found this helpful

When having a garage sale, set out a few empty laundry baskets for your shoppers to grab and fill up. Makes it much easier for them to shop and also, they will more than likely buy more because they have an easy way of carrying around they items.

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By 2 found this helpful
July 5, 2013

I have been to and I have had many yard sales and I have noticed a few things that would affect how well a yard sale pans out.

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September 3, 20141 found this helpful

garage sale

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This is a guide about preparing for a garage sale. A garage sale is a fantastic way to get rid of unused items and make a little extra money. Planning your garage sale well helps ensure it's success.

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August 21, 20042 found this helpful

I just had a yard sale this past weekend and tried several new things that I thought may be helpful to others looking for yard sale ideas.

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May 5, 20102 found this helpful

The yard sale season has begun in the area where I live. I have already purchased many items this year that were priced with either "store-bought" price stickers or purchased labels with the price hand-written.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 13, 2008

When organizing I always find things to sell in my annual garage sale. I put these items in boxes labeled by price ($1, $5, etc.) This saves a lot of time later when I actually price the items just before the sale.

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Fisher Swanson and Susan Sanders-Kinzel0 found this helpful
May 6, 2003

Spring is the time when we all start thinking about Garage or Yard Sales again. It is a good way to make some extra money and get rid of extra items. Garage Sales can be fun but are time consuming and can be hard work. Good planning can help you have a successful sale.

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August 17, 20110 found this helpful

Garage Sale Sign in Front of House Having a Sale

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This is a guide about promoting your garage sale. Having a garage sale can be be a lot of work with little reward if very few people show up. Promoting your garage sale will help ensure you have a successful sale.

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August 21, 20040 found this helpful

"The signs of the season are here: "Yard Sale, Garage Sale, Moving Sale, Estate Sale." It's time to clear out the old and the unwanted and, for some of us, a time to find new treasures. Television programs that show people picking up pots or paintings for a few dollars and selling them for hundreds or thousands can bring out the spirit of adventure in a lot of us. Especially for these folks, the weekend treasure hunt season is on!"

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March 7, 20050 found this helpful

Get boxes NOW and start the year off right, by decluttering your home, closets and garage. You can also price items at the same time. You will be ready in the spring for a great Garage/Yard Sale. You can do a little at a time.

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September 2, 20040 found this helpful

Bag Bargains is the quickest and easiest way to accomplish reducing and make a little money, too. We have had great success with all the little items that accumulate in junk drawers, etc.

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April 30, 20040 found this helpful

During your yard sale, play soothing, classical music. Your customers will browse longer and hopefully buy more. Playing loud, get-up-and-go music will have them leaving sooner. By Anna

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

June 8, 20092 found this helpful

Here are garage sale tips shared by the ThriftyFun community.

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June 9, 20090 found this helpful

Can I just add something that I don't think people really think about. I'm an avid yard/garage saler. I am out there every weekend looking for bargains and have been inside many garages, porches, basements...etc. One thing that puts me right off a sale is a stinky garage/basement or stinky clothing. I don't think people who are having the sale take notice to the odors around them and their things.

I entered a garage a few weekends ago and had to quickly exit as the entire garage smelled of dog urine. It was strong and uncomfortable to be in. I noticed others entering and leaving quickly too. So I wasn't the only one. This wasn't the first time. I've been in musty moldy basement sales too. It's very off putting and I often will not purchase anything from these sales for fear the smell may be absorbed into the items.

Clothing is often stored in boxes and trash bags leaving them smell strange too. I once got $10.00 worth of infant clothing home only to have to throw it all away due to a strange smell that wouldn't wash out, obviously from the container they were stored in.

So if your planning a sale, take notice of any foul smells your garage may have. Sniff your stored clothing too, don't just check for stains, check for odors as well.

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June 13, 20090 found this helpful

RUDE PEOPLE: Several years back we were moving to a much smaller home & had to sell everything we owned so we had 3 HUGE garage sales to do this. We lived in a middle to upper-middle class neighborhood & what surprised me the most were the totally rude people. Be careful not to get bullied by people like these. For example, I was selling a ruby-type glass tumbler & this gal asked me if I had another one, so I said I'd go & have a look. Well, unbeknownst to me she followed me into my house & into the kitchen & started going through my cupboards! I had the hardest time getting her to leave because she all of a sudden pretended to not speak very good English.

Another rude behavior was people getting mad & angry about prices (I'm an avid garage-saler & thrift-shopper so I know how to price...very low!). Some of my finer pieces of furniture were marked at $20 - $30 & even though they were marked people would get downright angry that I wouldn't sell them for five dollars. Just keep a happy attitude & realize that most people are super-friendly & wonderful. Just keep smiling!

Lastly, mark things up a tiny bit. People expect to haggle. If you want $1 for something then ask $1.50, if you want $20 for something then ask $25. If you want a dime for something then ask for a quarter (I disagree with #4, people love to buy things for a quarter!). Also have a box marked "FREE" for some of the things you just want to get rid off. You may add to it towards the end of the sale.

If you run an ad in your local paper or on Craig's List make sure you post "No sales before 9:AM (or whatever) or you'll have the early birds knocking on your door before you're ready. Usually these early birds are people who make their livings re-selling good deals they find.

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March 26, 20132 found this helpful

I have tons of kids stuff that I would love to clear out. I have no idea how to have a yard sale. I have never really been to a yard sale, but would love to get something for all our old and unneeded items. Can anyone help a first timer get started?

By Trisha S.

Answer Was this helpful? 2
March 31, 20130 found this helpful

Hi, Trisha! Our family had a couple of yard sales last weekend.

Some suggestions:

1) Advertise. Check the local papers about rates to advertise your yard sale. Put signs up the day before, if you're allowed (and remember to take them down after). Tell your friends.

2) Organize. Put price stickers on beforehand. Clothes should be on hangers or on a table. Knickknacks and other items should be on tables (even a board on two sawhorses will work nicely).

3) Most yard sales are on Saturdays.

4) Check the local regulations for yard sales. Some require permits, some limit how many yard sales per year.

5) IF you are in a condo complex, check with the HOA. They might only allow a yard sale once per year (a complex-wide sale). If so, you might have to have your yard sale someplace else if their date is too far away.

6) Drinks, munchies, and sunblock--remember all three. Drinks to prevent dehydration, munchies for hunger, and sunblock + a hat to keep from sunburn and headache.

7) Set up early the day of the yard sale--many people bargain-hunting early.

8) Bags and change--very important. Bags to carry things away in, and change because people don't always have exact change.

Hope that helps!

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By 1 found this helpful
October 29, 2010

Once I was online and discovered some funny amusing stories that actually occurred at garage sales. Is there anyway we can make a spot here on Thriftyfun for each member to post their funny stories. I would really enjoy reading these and perhaps posting some. Thanks.

By Carol from Waynesboro, GA

Editors Note: Please post your garage sale anecdotes below.

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October 30, 20100 found this helpful

This isn't garage sale humor, but it's funny.

There is a grocery store in town which would give out free items each week with a $25 purchase. My Mom was working there in early April as a product demo lady. A man she knew approached her and asked her, "Do you know what's Freezer Sweet?" She said she didn't know but would find out. She went and asked a shelf stocker, "What's Freezer Sweet?" He didn't know either. So she went back and told the man that the stocker didn't know what Freezer Sweet was either. The man gave her a strange look and said, "I didn't say, 'What's Freezer Sweet'. I said, "What's free this week?" She was so embarrassed she said, "April Fools."

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January 13, 20110 found this helpful

Recently we were going to have a yard sale fund raiser. I do caricatures as a hobby. So on 4x4 pieces of plywood I painted a picture of a yard; swing set with child swinging, flowers picket fence. With a for sale sign stabbed into the yard. we placed these signs out by the road as the tables were being set up. Before a single customer looked at our stuff a woman pulled up and bought the signs from my husband. Imagine my face as I watched my husband throw the signs in the back of someones pick up, and them drive away. I was even more shocked to see him put in the collection box from his first sale. More than the sale would make all day!

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April 17, 20040 found this helpful

HI, I am getting ready to have my first garage sale in the middle of next month. Anyone have any tips to make it a success? I have a bunch of reasonably good stuff that I would like to turn into some cash to help fund some camping trips we want to go on this summer.

Thanks in advance, Anne.

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By guest client (Guest Post)
April 23, 20040 found this helpful

My Sis & Brother-in-Law held huge annual garage sales. He's quite a character and would play the theme music to the old tv show, 'Bonanza'. When someone would offer a very low price, he'd just reply that they could come back after the sale, bring a beer, and they'd negotiate. Brightly colored signs put up VERY early, easy to read - simple - arrows (like follow the errows) works. Be sure to take them down right away, and donate anything unsold for tax purposes. Don't panic - It's a day-long task, but it can be lots of fun. Beware of people wanting to use your bathroom - you mignt not notice what they are really doing - just a tidbit of info (say your dog won't allow anyone into your home).

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By guest client (Guest Post)
April 23, 20040 found this helpful

If you have never had a yard sale ... visit other yard sales and get an idea of what things normally sell for. You may be surprised!

So many times, people have a feeling they are going to make a killing, I always price my items based on what I would pay at a yard sale! I generally sell most of my items ... I must be doing something right. Remember there are not too many fools around that are going to pay high prices at a yard sale.

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AdviceFebruary 22, 2012
Guides
Couple Putting up Yard Sale Sign
Mapping My Garage Sale Route
Garage Sale Sign in Front of House Having a Sale
Promoting Your Garage Sale
Clothes hanging at Yard Sale
Displaying Clothes at a Yard Sale
Garage Sale Items With Price Stickers
Preventing Customers from Changing Prices at a Garage Sale
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