Debt Management

3 keys to successful yard sales: prepare, advertise, organize


If you just want to clean clutter, do the minimum. But to make above-average dough, you need to create a better-than-average yard sale

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Question for the expertDear New Frugal You,
All winter we’ve been stashing away items for a yard sale. We added a bunch more during spring cleaning. I’ve noticed that some yard sales seem to really do well while others are a flop. What can you tell me that will help me have a successful yard sale? — Daphne

Answer for the expertDear Daphne,
Ah, yes, springtime! When our thoughts turn to barbecues, June weddings and yard sales!

And, you’re right. A successful yard sale is more than tossing stuff onto your front lawn and counting your cash at the end of the day. Making good money on your yard sale takes planning and execution. Let’s see if we can’t help you do just that.

Begin with your goal. Is it more about removing clutter? Or are you serious about making money? If you’re just cleaning house then keep it simple. Do the minimum and let it go at that.

If, however, you want to make above-average money, you need to host a better-than-average yard sale. You need to be better-prepared, better-advertised and better-organized.

Choose your date carefully. You don’t want to be competing with a big event at your local high school or a holiday weekend. People generally have more money at the beginning of the month. So the first Friday or Saturday could be a good choice.

Begin collecting your merchandise a month or more before the sale. Search your home for items to sell. Go room to room, including basement and attic, looking for things you no longer want or need.

Have enough to sell. Shoppers will drive by a sale with just a few items. If you don’t have enough, encourage relatives and co-workers to bring their stuff to sell at your sale.

Ask your neighbors to join in. Don’t look at them as competitors.  Two and three family sales will attract more shoppers.

Advertising is key. Newspaper circulation may be down, but yard salers still pick up the Friday edition or local shopper paper looking for sales. Don’t skimp on the ad length. Longer ads hint at a big sale and will lure more yard salers.

Use any and all Internet resources to announce your sale. Sites such as and allow you to post your ad for free.

On the day of the sale, signage will be important. Make signs  noticeable. Bigger signs are easier to see and read than smaller ones. They need to be readable by someone driving at 30 mph. Many shoppers stop on impulse. It’s not necessary to put your address on the sign. An arrow pointing the way is enough.

Organization and how you display counts. Make it easy for shoppers. Some are looking for clothes. Others for kitchen appliances. Group similar items, especially clothes. Browsers like it if all the boy’s size 8 items are in one place.

Display as much as you can on tables. Items are easier to see and reach if they’re not on the ground.

Items should be priced. Either with individual tags or signs saying that “all books are 25 cents.” Make sure your tags are legible.

Pricing items is almost an art. You want to be high enough so that you have room to bargain with hagglers. At the same time you need to recognize that what something cost new or what you paid for it doesn’t matter now.

Keep a list of higher-priced items at your checkout table. Some people will try to change tags; a list of the more valuable items will help you catch any price changers.

Be prepared to make change, and protect your cash. Never leave your cash unattended.

Have someone to work the sale with you. While you don’t anticipate trouble, it’s good to have another set of eyes to prevent shoplifters or anyone who’s overly aggressive.

Have a plan for after the sale. Collectibles and high-end clothing are unlikely to find instant buyers at reasonable levels. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t sell. After the sale you can offer them on eBay where collectors can find you.

Know which items you’ll return to your home, which you’ll sell online and which you’ll freecycle or give to charity.

Hosting a successful yard sale isn’t difficult. But, it does require a good, well-executed plan. I hope that yours is a huge success!

See related: Making big money at garage sales

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