Garage sales are a great way to make a little money

If you’re like most people, you have a spare closet filled with clothes you haven’t worn in a long time and may never wear again. Or, if you’re recently married, you may now have two of everything, including sofas, televisions, stereos, and microwave ovens. And when was the last time you actually had room to park your car in the garage? 

Do you really need all the stuff that’s cluttering up your home? Probably not. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who do, creating an opportunity for you to make some extra money while freeing up needed space in your home. Yes, it’s time to hold a garage sale.

You’d be amazed at what all that stuff is worth on the garage sale circuit. From small ticket items – books you’ve already read, CDs you never listen to, clothes that don’t fit – to such big ticket items as furniture and electronic equipment, there are people who will buy it at bargain prices.

Planning a successful garage sale can be broken down into three primary concerns: promotion, pricing, and presentation.

Promotion.  To promote your event, buy a classified ad in your local newspaper starting a few days in advance and running through the last day of the sale. Include the address, with directions to your home from a nearby main road, and list some of the nicer items that will be available. Also, include the hours of operation, which should be as early as possible to accommodate the serious garage sale addicts. Signs strategically placed around the neighborhood are also a great way to help people find your house.

Pricing.  Your next priority is pricing. By visiting some garage sales in your area beforehand, you’ll see what people will pay for certain items. Typically, prices run at about 20 percent of retail because people like to feel as though they’re getting a bargain. Also, to make the handling of money easier, have plenty of change ready and price items in multiples of a quarter. If you have a lot of inventory on certain items, offer discounts to buy several. For example, if you have 50 CDs priced at four dollars each, selling out will net you $200. But if someone wants to buy the whole collection, cut the price to $150. After all, there’s no guarantee that you’d sell them all anyway. Another good strategy is to cut prices in half during the final hours. The more you sell, the less you’ll have to deal with in the end. And remember, by that time, all the really good stuff is gone, so shoppers need some extra incentive to buy.

Presentation. Finally, you should concentrate on how you present your inventory. In retail stores, this is called merchandising, and it’s just as important for you as it is for department stores. Put as much clothing as possible on hangers and display them properly, with a full-length mirror nearby so people can get an idea of how a garment will look when worn. You can even set up a small dressing room by hanging blankets in a corner of your garage. Make sure you have batteries and electrical outlets available so shoppers can try out electronic equipment.

Finally, you can donate any leftover items to charity and take a tax deduction, provided you keep good records on the contribution. Plus, you’ll avoid cluttering up your home all over again.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.