From Trash to Cash: Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

How do you know when spring has officially arrived?  Is it the return of the song bird?  Is it the lengthening of the day, the warm sunshine, or the fresh air?  For me, it’s the emergence of “garage sale” signs that go up every weekend.

This phenomenon occurs every year.  As people get into spring cleaning, they start pulling stuff off the shelves and before you know it, you have a pile of things in the middle of the room.  Much of it has lost its luster, but the thought of just throwing it away makes you cringe, so you do the next best thing: have a garage sale.

I honestly believe garage sales have been around ever since the invention of the garage and while I’m no expert when it comes to the front yard marketplace, I’ve been around enough to know there are certain things you should do.  Here’s my personal compilation of things to do regarding garage sales:

1.       Advertise, advertise, advertise

If there’s one thing experienced shoppers and sellers agree on, it’s that a successful garage sale takes a lot of work.  You have to pick the right day, you have to pick the right time, you have to pick the right items to sell, and you have to get the word out.  A popular place to advertise your garage sale is craigslist.  Local newspapers and neighborhood newsletters also offer opportunities to attract would-be shoppers to your event.

In addition to advertising, make signage that is easy to read and draws attention to your location.  Remember, you are competing with moving sales, yard sales, and other garage sales, so make yours stand out!

2.       Put a price tag on everything

It will take a lot of effort but no matter how big or small an item, you need to let potential buyers know what you’re trying to get for it.  Place stickers with prices on the top of each item or group items together that are equally priced.  For larger items, use larger tags.

3.       One man’s trash is another man’s … garbage

Do not try to sell items that are incomplete, broken, or otherwise useless.  It’s a bit tacky and makes it seem like you’re just trying to pawn off junk.  If you have items with missing parts, place them off to the side and offer them as replacement pieces or giveaways.

4.       Think from the shopper’s perspective

You’re asking people to pay money for the personal use of used stuff so you need to convince them that your stuff is better than that junk down the street.  Start by putting your best stuff out in front.  Most buyers will drive by a location first to see if there is anything worth stopping to look at.  Big items like furniture, equipment, and electronics are attractive and are much more likely to get shoppers out of the car.

Keep the area with items for sale clean and organized.  Consider placing similar items, such as kitchen goods, in the same place.  Place items that come in loose pieces together in a bag and if you are trying to sell items that would be of interest to young children, place those items at a child’s eye level.

5.       I don’t care how much you paid for it, everything’s negotiable

People go to garage sales for a bargain, not to buy designer clothes.  They are there to see how much they can get for as little as possible.  Expect them to ask you to accept less than what the tag says.  That’s part of the game.

If you’re not willing to sell it for that much, just politely say “I think it’s worth what I’m asking,” and leave it at that.  They may or may not agree, but I’m convinced that it never hurts to ask.  Besides, if the item is that expensive, and that worth it, you should probably try selling it on eBay.

6.       Offer your guests good will

If you have a huge pile of Happy Meal toys, don’t think you’re being savvy by putting a 10 cent sticker on them.  Offer good will by setting them in the “free” pile along with the incomplete set of encyclopedias from 1985.  Hand out stickers, balloons, and other trinkets to kids.  This will keep their parents around longer as they focus more on the items for sale.

7.       Get your family involved

If you have children, get them actively involved.  They could set up a lemonade stand to offer visitors refreshments.  They are also valuable during the set up and take down of the event.

8.       Think safety

It’s very important to remember there will be strangers on your property so be extra cautious.  Look around the area for any potential hazards, such as sharp objects or unstable ground.  Keep items that could be dangerous to children under supervision or out of reach.

Be smart about handling money.  You are operating in a cash-only environment, so keep cash under lock and key or close to the vest.  Have plenty of small change on hand.  ATMs generally dole out $20 bills so don’t be surprised if that’s the primary size of bill that’s handed to you.

9.       Everything’s better with friends

Invite friends, family and neighbors to join in the festivities.  The more items you have to display, the larger the crowd you can draw.  It will also help defray some of the cost associated with advertising and just makes the day more enjoyable all around.

10.   Have fun

Perhaps the most important element is if you are having fun, your guests will have fun and that’s what a garage sale is all about (well, that and selling unwanted stuff).

For more helpful tips on having a successful garage sale, visit these websites:



More like this:

Young man working

Mindful Money Management

As the world attempts to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdowns and tentatively eases up social distancing restrictions, I noticed something ...
Read More
Three Ways to Skin the Asset Allocation Cat

Three Ways to Skin the Asset Allocation Cat

Choose the one that is right for you based on your objective and level of involvement ...
Read More
The 3 Most Important Accounts To Your Financial Foundation

The 3 Most Important Accounts To Your Financial Foundation

Having total control over cash flow is a critical step toward optimal financial wellness, yet it proves to be more ...
Read More


Be the first to know when new resources are published.