How to Set Up a Yard Sale

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Spring and summer are the best times of the year to host a yard sale. the weather is nice, children are getting out of school, many people are moving into new homes, and it’s just nice to get outside. I have fond memories of going to yard sales with my Mom when I was a…

Spring and summer are the best times of the year to host a yard sale. the weather is nice, children are getting out of school, many people are moving into new homes, and it’s just nice to get outside. I have fond memories of going to yard sales with my Mom when I was a kid – I loved the excitement of not knowing what you were going to find next. Maybe it was the perfect toy, a stack of old books, or a beautiful piece of antique furniture. I’m a sucker for history and old things, and enjoy rummaging through yard sales, flea markets, and antique shops.

Later, we hosted a few of our own yard sales. As my siblings and I got older, we outgrew our old toys and clothes. I remember going through toys and clothes and helping identify which items we wanted to sell and helping set up the tables and items in the garage. Then we held the garage sale and we got to keep some of the money from the toys we sold. I don’t remember how much we earned (it couldn’t have been a lot), but it was exciting!

Since I’ve been on my own I have only held one garage sale, though I’ve wanted to several times. Unfortunately, I lived in apartments and other places where we couldn’t have a yard sale. So I was limited to selling items on Craigslist, eBay, and to acquaintances.

Now that my wife and I recently bought a new house, we are planning on hosting another yard sale in the near future. And we’re both excited about it. We know it will be a lot of work, but we will be happy to clear out space, make some money, and even have a little fun! Here are some tips to help get your yard sale off and running

Tips for Hosting a Yard Sale

Start early. Begin organizing early and use a separate location in your house for staging. This could be a section in your basement, your garage, a spare room, etc. This will help you keep everything in one place, have a better idea of what you are selling, and make setup easier (just transport it from the staging area to your garage when the day arrives). You may find it helps to organize items in similar groups, then start labeling the prices.

Price your items. Pricing is an interesting topic – no matter what you list as the price, many people will ask for a discount, and if you are giving away some things free, they will assume other things are free. So be prepared for hagglers.

Another tip before settling on prices – determine your goal. Are you trying to maximize your money, or trying to get rid of as many things as possible. Ideally, you want a mix. You want to get the most money you can out of your items, but you also want to get rid of as much as possible.

My goal was usually to clear things out, so I was almost always willing to work on prices, especially if someone bought several items. But there were some premium items on which I wasn’t willing to budge on price. I just politely informed the individual that the item was already a great deal and they could take it or leave it. Sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn’t, and I was OK with that.

Advertising and promotion. Yard sales will get the most traffic when they are well advertised. The best places for this are places like Craigslist and local papers. If you want more foot traffic, then organize a community yard sale, which is a virtual lock to bring in dozens of cars – people love to shop multiple houses at once! It’s also a good idea to place signs at busy intersections near your home.

Have more than one person there. I always recommend people run garage sales with a partner. This gives you company and helps you run things more smoothly. Two people make it easier to deal with hagglers, take a break, and keep an eye out for thieves – and unfortunately, they exist.

Watch out for thieves. It’s unfortunate that we even need to write this tip down, but it is necessary. My family was victimized by garage sale thieves when I was a kid. A common tactic is to have people working in teams – one person distracts you while the other person takes items. Sometimes someone will ask to go inside to look at items you may have inside, to use the restroom, or something else. I recommend placing everything that is for sale outside and posting a sign informing visitors that there is no public restroom – then stick to your rules.

Watch out for the early birds. An “early bird” is someone who shows up before the announced start time, sometimes while you are setting up, or even before. They want to get a jump on the competition and scoop up any good deals before their competition. Many of these people are professional resellers and are looking for a score that will net them a good profit. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s capitalism at its best! But in my experience, some early birds and professional resellers can lean toward the rude side and expect you to bend over to their desires (for example, they want you to open your garage door at 6 am when you aren’t planning on starting until 8 am). My recommendation is writing “no early birds” in your ad and dealing with them politely, but firmly if they become insistent. Remember, this is your house and your stuff, not theirs.

Have plenty of change. Go to the bank before your garage sale and load up on change and small bills. I found that a roll of quarters and a $50 stack of ones was enough, but it all depends on how much traffic you get and how your items are priced. You also want to make sure you have enough other change as well, such as $5s and $10s.

Stock a cooler with drinks. Another way to make a little extra cash and keep people around for a few extra minutes is to stock a cooler with ice-cold drinks and sell those to customers.

Have fun! Yard sales are a great way to meet new people, learn about the local area, and have a good time. It’s fun to share stories with people about the items you are selling, and it’s nice to watch something go to a new home where you know it will be used instead of sitting unloved in your basement.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes,, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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