Every year, my neighborhood has a HUGE garage sale. It’s a big production. It is heavily advertised in the paper and online, there are lots of signs and balloons posted for miles, shoppers are given maps at the entrance of the neighborhood, security guards are called in, and our neighborhood even has temporary Porta-Potties installed to handle the masses. Yes, it’s a big deal here in my neighborhood. Every year I declare firmly I will not participate however every year when hundreds of shoppers are walking and driving by, I feel compelled to put something out in the driveway for sale.
I don’t like garage sales mainly because of the haggling aspect (see Tips #4 & #5), but I’ve learned a lot from the ones I’ve held. If you are braving holding a garage sale, here are my tips for keeping your wits.
1) Don’t sell anything of sentimental or monetary value. Garage sales are notorious for summoning all bargain hunters with 25 cents in their pocket. Garage sales are also for those Ebay-ers and “pickers” and “storage war” people looking to buy your stuff for cheap and then re-sell it. If you can’t bear to sell your item 20% or less off the retail price, don’t put it in your garage sale. Another test is if you can’t donate it, don’t put it in the garage sale.
2) Don’t sell antiques, coins, stamps, music, sports memorabilia, artwork or records. If you don’t know the value of these collectables, don’t attempt to sell these at your garage sale. We’ve all heard stories of people paying $5 for a painting that turned out to be worth thousands of dollars. Besides, this isn’t the right crowd to sell your collections.
3) Don’t have the mindset that you will make a profit at your garage sale.Unless you found something for free or are selling off gifts your Aunt Ellie gave you (which is bad karma anyways), don’t expect to make money. If you have the expectation of getting rid of “junk” instead of your “prized possessions,” you’ll feel better at the end of the day.
4) How to deal with the hagglers. There are many garage sale buyers who just love the haggling aspect. At my last sale, I had a book for sale for 25 cents. That same bargain hunter in Tip #1 had 25 cents but wanted to haggle down to 10 cents. Really? Do I really have to haggle over 15 cents? (This is why I loathe garage sales!) I felt ridiculous saying no so I agreed to the price because this would have been a book I would have given away. P.S., this garage sale “shark” gave me a $20 bill for which I had to make change!
5) How to deal with hagglers, Part II. If I were so inclined with my garage sale bibliophile shark above, I could have said in a confident voice:
“Sorry but 10 cents is too low. I’m asking for 25 cents. How about 20 cents?”
“It’s still early in the day but if this book is still available at the end, I might consider your offer.”
“Sorry, I just can’t go that low. I really need to get 25 cents.”
6) Set up a “Bargain Table.” This can lessen the haggling if you have a table with items priced for $1. If shoppers believe they are getting a deal at the bargain table, they may be less likely to haggle over the price.
7) Donate your extra stuff. This is my #1 tip for clearing out your garage and attic. On my tax return, I was able to write off hundreds of dollars because I donated a lot of household goods to my local Goodwill and other local charities. This was far less of a hassle and I financially came out ahead. I would much rather donate my book collection than to painfully haggle and sell each book for pennies.
By the way, our neighborhood garage sale will be in June. I think I’ll plan to be out of town that day!