Yard Sale Mistakes I’ve Made

I loooove a yard sale.  I rarely go to them, but I often think fondly of them when rising from my bed on Saturday morning…the treasures, bargain-basement-priced treasures: I really should go.

Though I don’t go to many yard sales, I host a yard sale almost annually.  And I’ve learned a few things, most of them the hard way.

When a little boy unzipped his pants and almost peed on several items for sale until his dad noticed and shifted his aim at the last moment.  I was glad nothing took a direct hit.

Mistake #1

Not advertising.

One year’s yard sale was a particularly half-hearted effort.  I threw up a few signs at key intersections close to our house, but they shriveled up after one night and you couldn’t read them.  I sat outside for three hours that Saturday, and two people stopped by.

If you are going to have a yard sale, 1) advertise on Craigslist and 2) make decent signs with large letters, and put them up on Thursday or Friday.  Use pizza boxes or foam board, not poster paper.

If you are too cheap to advertise in the newspaper, like me, these two advertising avenues are critical.  Having said that, I have plenty of yard sale friends who just drive around and stop if they happen to see a yard sale in progress.  BUT I personally have to map it all out and print out directions from place to place.  It keeps me sane.  I am not free enough in my spirit to wander aimlessly early on a Saturday morning.

Yardsalequeen.com has some classic examples of bad signs.   She also has a lot of helpful tips.

Good idea#1
Have the yard sale Friday afternoon AND Saturday morning.

This may sound like overkill, but we tried it last year and sold a bunch of the big ticket items Friday afternoon.  If you are going to go through the time and effort of assembling, sorting, and pricing your unwanted items, you may as well go all out for the actual yard sale.
Mistake #2
Putting Rings Where They Could Get Stolen…They Will.
I put out my rings on the far side of the driveway.  They were a pretty easy target.  If you have something that you might still want to hang on to after the yard sale, or something relatively valuable, showcase it on the table where you are working or directly in your line of sight.  I was sad about those rings.
Good idea #2
Keep your money in an apron or fanny pack.
 Hopefully, you will have a lot of money.  Keep it on your body.  I like to wear those tool aprons like you see at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Mistake #3
Never changing your prices.
 My motto is “Someone is Paying Me to Haul Away My Unwanted Stuff.”  Keep this at the forefront of your mind.  I price stuff pretty cheap initially, and then Saturday for the last hour I send the kids out with posters that say, “Everything Half Off.”  At the end of the day, I don’t want any stuff leftover.
Be willing to bargain with folks.  If you never come down on your prices, you end up stuck (again) with that item that has not left your storage room in five years.  Having said that, price your stuff with some cushion built in, so that when someone wants to haggle, you can drop it down a little and still make what you wanted.  I generally price stuff at about a third of what I’ve paid; I’ll price it at half if it is a desirable item in really good condition.
You can always go down on price, but you can’t come up.
Good idea #3
Let the kids sell something.
I don’t give the kids money that we make from selling their clothes, but I let them sell their own toys.  One time I even let my youngest price his own toys, and he sold someone a GameBoy for $5.  Part of me was horrified because I thought he could have gotten more, and part of me was glad because it didn’t look like the folks that bought it for their little girl could have afforded much more.  
I used to make cookies and let the kids sell those, but people just bought them to be nice to the kids.  We found out last year that drinks sell better, but even then I usually just break even.  This year I’m thinking of setting out a big water container and coffee maker with cups and just leaving a tip jar.
Mistake #4
Not putting something out because you are sure it won’t sell.
Listen, the human mind is a wonderful and amazing thing, and you can’t know that Aunt Gina’s busted-up watering can might make the perfect lawn ornament for someone.  Put a price on everything, even things that you think no one would ever want.  I am always surprised at what folks will buy.
Last year we put out an old kerosene heater that was broken and missing pieces.  Several people asked about it, one couple finally bought it, and another person came back later just to see if it was still there!  Amazing.
Potential Good Idea #4
Craigslist/Facebook Pre-Yard Sale Sale
A few things we’re selling this year are on the nice-ish side, so I thought I would try listing those items and their prices individually before the yard sale on my Facebook page and on the Craigslist ad for the yard sale.  I can’t decide if this is a good idea or not; it may be a hassle.
Two more weeks until D-Day!  I usually use the money we make for home stuff that isn’t in the budget or kids’ clothes.  It’s not a ton, but every little bit helps. Plus, you get to meet people in your neighborhood and you get rid of things you didn’t need.  Worth the effort, I’d say.
Here’s how Justin and Will do yard sales. They think it’s worth my effort, too.





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