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How to price garage sale items

By Gary Foreman

The New Frugal You
New Frugal You columnist Gary Foreman
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters. He writes "New Frugal You," a weekly Q&A column about frugal living, for CreditCards.com

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert Dear New Frugal You,
I just got remarried, and happily reside in a blended family with four children. We have a lot of duplicate stuff. I thought that a garage sale might be a good way to clean out a garage full of boxes and make a few bucks at the same time. I'm not really a garage sale person, so I don't know what to expect to get for our stuff. Can you give me some clues as to how to price things to sell? -- Joni

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Joni,
Good plan! Instead of letting things clutter your garage and gradually lose value, sell them and have some extra money for your summer vacation or paying off some debts.

As you probably guessed, pricing garage sale items isn't an exact science. But there are some guidelines that can help.

Begin by doing a little research before your sale. Visit local thrift and consignment shops to see what other similar items are selling for. See what's available on Craigslist. Search eBay and other auction sites. Spend a Friday or Saturday morning visiting different sales, too. Scout out pricing and get a better feel for how successful garage sales are set up.

Then check the Salvation Army donation value guide. It covers everything from clothing to household items. They list both a low and high price. You'll probably want to be nearer the low price unless your item is either new or in very good shape.

Also, consider your neighborhood when pricing. If you live in a nicer neighborhood you probably can price things a little higher. But don't get greedy. You'll turn off prospective buyers if they think you've overpriced items.

A general rule of thumb is that items will sell for about 10 percent to 15 percent of retail. Don't go much above that figure unless they're in high demand (think baby clothes), the items that are in very good shape or are a premium brand that buyers will recognize.

Your presentation makes a difference in pricing, too. If your goods are displayed on tables they'll be worth just a little more than if they're spread out on the ground. Having an extension cord available to test electric tools and appliances is important. If you can't prove it works, potential buyers will price it down in case it doesn't.

Packaging your treasures can make a difference in their value, too. For instance, small appliances are often hard to sell. Few people shop for a used coffee maker at a garage sale. But if you put a coffee maker, toaster, microwave oven and a few pots and pans together and mark them as a "First apartment starter set," you'll increase your odds of selling. You can do the same thing with children's clothing. For instance, package everything in a girl's size 7 together for a single price. Or group games together as a "game night kit."

Make sure that everything is clearly priced. Garage salers are known to be hit-and-run shoppers. They're busy people with many stops to make, and many will immediately leave a sale that has unpriced items.

During the sale, watch how shoppers react to your pricing. If a number of them pick up the same item, look at the price and put it down, they're telling you the price is too high. You'll want to reduce the price.

Be prepared to bargain with your shoppers. Have a minimum price in mind before the sale. There are some things that you probably don't want to sell if you don't exceed that minimum.

On the other hand, some things simply have little value to you. On those, it's better to make a few dollars than to let them collect dust in your garage. Know in advance which items fall into which category.

Finally, don't limit yourself to selling everything at the garage sale. Some items will sell better and for higher prices in other places. Furniture is one example. True, you may find someone through your garage sale who snaps up your sofa and upholstered chair. But you're more likely to have success in Craigslist. Some designer or high end items will do better at a consignment shop or online auction, especially things such as fine jewelry or high-class collectibles.

Joni, a garage sale is a great way to turn clothes, small household items and knickknacks into cash. I hope that your sale is super successful!

See related: Price ranges for common garage sale items, Video: How to accept credit cards at a garage sale

For more than 35 years, Gary Foreman has worked to help people get the most for their money. Prior to founding The Dollar Stretcher.com, he was a financial planner and purchasing manager. Gary began The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters in April 1996. Today the website features more than 6,000 articles on different ways to live better for less. Gary has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, The Nightly Business Report, USA Today, Reader's Digest and other newspapers and magazines. Gary answers a question about a budgeting or saving issue from a CreditCards.com reader each week. Send your question to The New Frugal You.

Published: May 17, 2012


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