Garage Sale Tips and Tricks

Knowing a few tips and tricks can help make your garage sale successful. This is a guide about garage sale tips and tricks.

June 27, 2007 Flag
3 found this helpful

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.
  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.

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.


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.

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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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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March 19, 20120 found this helpful

I have a few more tips. The past couple of years I have noticed 3 trends @ sales. The first is what we refer to as "the ebayers" These are the folks who have professional signs, a dozen of each item, brand new clothes with tags (obviously an overstock lot), tons of beanie babies and Mcdonald's toys and high price tags!

These are the folks who hold quarterly sales (sometimes more) to get rid of the items they can't sell on ebay, the auction house, etc. The storage bidders fall into this category too. No disrespect to these guys but they need to understand that Garage Sales are for bargains! That's the whole purpose! Most will not budge on the prices because they will just try again on ebay.

I don't care if its brand new, used, 19th century, etc...if the price isn't reasonable I'm not buying it! We can usually tell these sellers as we drive by, and we just keep going. Either lower your prices to Garage Sale standards or sell elsewhere.

A word of advice when negotiating... don't think aloud, ask your partner, etc if you could make more $ selling the item on ebay or that its worth $_ on ebay. I stop all bargaining and walk when a seller says that. Why are you selling it @ a garage sale then?

Trend #2 dealers. She mentioned this in the article, but I think it needs to be stated again. Watch out for dealers. They will not only low ball you, but they also will wipe you out! I don't know how many times I've pulled up to sale as truck packed full is leaving, and the seller remarks that the man or woman just bought half of their lot! These ppl will turn around and ebay or retail for huge profits. I've seen a few ads specifically stating No Dealers/Re Sellers Please. Trend

#3 Selling for acCause. I don't want to sound cruel here, so please don't take this the wrong way. A lot of people have started to have sales to fund certain charities, causes, mission trips, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. Its a great way to raise money and awareness. My issue is with the pressure @ some of these sales.

As a buyer, sometimes I feel obligated into buying. Its an uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps tone it down a notch. Sell baked goods or handmade items for said cause. Have a giving jar. And unfortunately, in these times, how do you know the $ is really going to said cause? Its sad to even write that, but it's the truth.

My other tip would be to try to organize clothes. There is nothing worse than having to squat it in the summer heat, going through piles of clothes, checking sizes and then having to find out how much they cost. Well...the box full of random clothes is worse. I walk right by.

Hope this helps both sellers and buyers! Happy hunting!

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July 7, 2012 Flag

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. The best thing I have found for marking your price is painter's tape. It is designed to be easily removed without leaving any tell-tale sign it was placed there. And it's easy to write your price on and easy to tear. So that makes it time efficient not having to use scissors to cut. While preparing for a yard sale is time consuming, this will help make thing go a little bit quicker. I have bought things in the past at sales and some things were damaged just trying to remove all the sticky stuff.

By Tricia from VA

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July 10, 20120 found this helpful

I have never noticed anyone doing that before. If someone wants an item bad enough, they usually just take it. I have noticed that happening at my yard sales and at flea markets. It seems you almost never notice and item being lifted until the traffic drops off or you are packing up. But that happens with almost everybody that holds a yard sale.

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July 17, 20120 found this helpful

While this seems like a great idea, being a veteran garage sale hostess I find that if the tags are easily removed there tends to be more theft at the sale. Also it just takes a bit of mineral or vegetable oil to remove left over residue from a tag and this should not harm any item. Good luck at your sales ladies!

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September 1, 2011 Flag
4 found this helpful

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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August 27, 2008 Flag
5 found this helpful

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. My mother even asked if a plant was for sale and the owner chose to sell it.

By DebraDee from Marion, NC

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November 13, 20090 found this helpful

I have done this. I was looking for a computer chair at yard sales, looked around and didn't see any, so at the last one, I just asked. Her husband went in the house and sold me the one he had for $10.00. Sometimes it's something that they never thought of putting out.

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I totally agree with you. We have done many garage sales and had many sales. You are right on.

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June 8, 2009 Flag
Deborah Shelton2 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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July 23, 20090 found this helpful

Also try grouping like priced things on one table and putting a sign that says "All books $1" instead of marking each one, will help reduce your energy.

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August 2, 2010 Flag
9 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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January 23, 2005 Flag
0 found this helpful

To make more money at your next yard sale, sell refreshments, too! Watch the sales for a few weeks before your event, and stock up on canned sodas at bargain prices. The day of the sale, put them in a cooler with ice and put up a big sign "cold drinks, .50" or whatever ...

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July 5, 2013 Flag
2 found this helpful

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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July 13, 2008 Flag
0 found this helpful

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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April 5, 2010 Flag

Any suggestions on how to price items that customers can't physically change by swapping stickers or move to another area with a lower designated price? I want to do this without marring the object.

By SuSu from Birmingham, AL

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April 8, 20100 found this helpful

Have a 50 cent box, a $1.00 box or rack, etc. Put up a sign that says, Everything on this table is $1.00. People don't like to ask the price at yard sales and some people do like to bargain with you. You could put plastic shopping bags in an area of certain items and put up a sign that says, ex: Fill a bag of children's clothes for $5.00.

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April 9, 20100 found this helpful

I really don't think that there is a way to stop someone from being dishonest. Since I'm the one who usually prices things at our yard sales, I know if someone has changed a tag or not. I usually tell them that someone must have changed the tag, what the real price is, and ask if they still want the item. If the person looks unusally needy, I sometimes just give it to them at the cheaper price. I figure "what goes around, comes around," and trust that when I need something, it will be there for me. There is one family in the neighborhood that routinely changes prices at yard sales to get things cheaper, that really isn't bad off. I let it go a couple of times, but no longer will. I'd rather give it to a needy person than be screwed by someone. I've also very politely asked dishonest people to leave when they've brought items with changed stickers to me. They act different when they are trying to get away with something, and they know that you know what they've been up to. Looking them in the eye and stating, "I've changed my mind and no longer choose to sell this," gets the point across.

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July 5, 20100 found this helpful

Hi. I've had close to 60 yard sales over the last 20 years including some big charity fundraisers. I mark everything with 3/4 inch wide masking tape (cheapest one at Home Depot). You can just write what the item is, GF Grl $5 (George Foreman Grill), or GE PHN $2 (GE Phone). For items tape would obviously damage (ie. decorative paper storage boxes or a finely painted plaque), just pull off an extra long piece of tape and fold one third of it back on itself sticky sides together, that part is your label.

Attach remaining sticky part where it cant damage (on the inside edge of paper lid with label end hanging down to be seen). On a figurine attach to the bottom of the figure with price seen without picking up the item. I mark clothes for size and price but do not attach tape to the outside of the garment. Blouses, shirts, coats, jackets, vests and PJs are priced inside just below the collar. Slacks, shorts and skirts are taped on the rear inside of waistband. Use brand or color initials to ID item Fashion Bug (FB), LC (Liz C), RD PNT (Red Pant).

Keep your writing larger for size and dollar amount. The ID abbreviations are just an "aside" for you to know the price tag is on the correct garment. If you've been using pre-made tags this may seem like a lot of work, but for the average yard sale it's easy. I write mostly directly on the tape roll using a permanent non smear marker. I definitely would never recommend not pricing items as I know for a fact pricing items increases sales. For a 2006 AML Leukemia benefit I insisted on and personally marked every item that jam packed sixty (8' x 3') tables. This remains the most successful benefit with which I have been involved.

Good Luck with your sale.

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August 21, 2004 Flag
2 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 6, 2003 Flag
Fisher Swanson and Susan Sanders-Kinzel0 found this helpful

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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June 25, 2004 Flag
7 found this helpful

When going to yardsales, bring some slightly colored sunglasses (amber). It will show all the stains on cloth that you can not see with the naked eye.

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