How to Have a Successful Garage Sale Pt. 4 – Running Your Sale and Cleaning Up

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You started planning early.  You researched the best advertising options to attract buyers to your sale. And, you’ve got it all set up and ready for traffic and sales.  How do you run a sale?  I’m so glad you asked, because I love working garage sales!

Before you think about anything else, put your change money in a fanny pack and don’t take it off!  When things get really busy it’s not uncommon to be tallying up a large purchase with 3 people in line and 3 more wanting to ask questions.  It’s easy to set the money down or step away without thinking about it.  I’ll save you the horror stories- just trust me on this one!

Now, we’re ready to talk about other parts of running your sale.

  • If at all possible, have your kids at another house during the sale.  If not, have one adult keep an eye on them during the sale.
  • Lock all doors into your house except the door going into your garage. (keep it locked too if you can)
  • Don’t allow adults into your house unless you know them.  I only let small kids in to go to the restroom and myself or someone working the sale with me will accompany them.
  • Have a minimum of 2 adults to work your sale. I recommend 1 adult per 4 shoppers.  Sometimes you can’t avoid crowds, but if you have an adult watching kids you can stick your head in the house and ask for some backup.  When things get busy-things tend to walk off. Just having my husband come out during a crowded time and walking around the sale is helpful.
  • Decide on a system for tallying payments before you get started and stick with it.  It’s confusing when multiple people deal with the money in different ways. I’d recommend a large spiral notebook with a column for each family participating in the sale.  For each sale put the amount for each family in their column and then tally the line to make sure it matches to what you told the buyer. With a multifamily sale it’s helpful if you can have 2 people dealing with the money so one can sort tags by family and one can do the tallying.
  • Greet people when they walk up.  It breaks the ice and makes them more likely to ask questions.  It also gives you an opportunity to ask if they’re looking for anything in particular.
  • Walk throughout your sale area, straightening items as you go.  People are less likely to swipe things if you’re making the rounds.  Plus it’s easier to see things on tidy tables.   You are also able to see the items that people are taking an interest in, but the price seems to deter them.  Mark these items down throughout the day to better your chances of making a sale.
  • If a shopper is walking around with a lot of items, offer to set the items at the checkout area.  Or, give them a bag to carry items in. You do have to be careful that someone doesn’t walk off without paying for a bag full of items though.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle with someone, but be more flexible towards the end of the sale when you may not have another opportunity.  If I’m asking $10 and someone offers me $9 I’m probably going to take it because I’d rather have $9 than nothing. If they offer $5 I’ll probably pass. Sometimes the buyer will walk away over $1 difference and sometimes they’ll agree to your price when you say you can’t go any lower.   I’ve even had people come back hours later to say they decided they couldn’t pass it up. Sometimes I get drastic offers early in a sale and I’ll say that I’ll consider a lower price on day 2.  It’s all a game, but be open and willing to play! :-) (otherwise post a no haggling sign LOL)
  • Be open to quantity discounts.  It’s not uncommon for someone to offer $2 for 9 shirts that you had priced at a quarter each.
  • Remember to stop for lunch and to hydrate!
  • Consider offering bag sales or % off discounts.  “Stuff a bag of kids clothes for $2”, “Stuff a bag for $5” and “50% off after noon on Saturday” are common discounts that I’ve seen.  I personally prefer to only offer these discounts on items marked $1 or below (which most of my items are).
  • The first day of your sale will typically bring in more money than the 2nd or 3rd (hence why I said to not mention it’s the 2nd day of your sale when you relist/update on Craiglist), so don’t be dissappointed if you bring in less.  If you make more, you did a fabulous job of advertising and getting traffic to your sale!
  • Remember to have fun. Enjoy your time visiting with neighbors that stop by to shop and with your friends/family that work the sale with you.
  • Don’t forget that you’re helping your family’s bottom line by getting some money back for items you no longer have a use for. If you’re selling items for less than you paid for them, each dollar you earn is tax free-making it worth nearly twice as much!

When it’s time to pack up, decide if you want to take down your signs or hope for a last minute sale while you’re packing up.  I usually wait until we’re about halfway through packing up.

  • Walk through your sale items and pick some of the best items as bones for your next sale. They might be items you’re hesitant to let go of, or items that lots of people looked at but didn’t buy. Take these boxes back into your house before packing up the other items.
  • If you don’t usually itemize your deductions on your taxes, box up all of the items to donate (should be about 80% if it’s your last sale of the season) and load them into your car so you can drop them off at goodwill the following week.
  • If you usually itemize on your taxes, take digital pictures of items that you’re going to donate.  You’ll need to report them by condition- basically good, fair, or poor. Clothes need to be reported by type and condition.

I labelled this picture so you could see how I sort them.

These are the categories:

  • Boy’s
  • Girl’s
  • Infant’s
  • Men’s
  • Women’s
  • Toddler’s
  • Costumes
  • Shoes
  • Maternity
  • Coats etc
  • Accessories.

Within those categories they’ll want to know how many are dress clothes, pants, shorts, t-shirts, polo shirts, etc.  It seems like a lot, but if you plug it all into ItsDeductible – a free online charitable item value program – within a few days of the sale, it goes really quickly.   Save those pictures as proof of your donation and be sure to get a receipt from the charity.

  • Wait until you’re nearly packed up to take down your tables.  They become a hazard if they’re leaned against other tables or walls -especially if your kids come out to “help”.
  • Add up all the money and subtract the starting change.  Then total the column for each family and add them together.  Hopefully this total will match the total money collected.  If not, decide how you’ll split the overage or loss between the families.
  • Use some of your garage sale proceeds to order take out or pick up fast food for dinner.  Your body will thank you :-)

This post was originally published on April 12, 2012.

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