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Garage Sale Tips Part 2: Pricing

More tips from The Girl Who Knows Too Much (about garage sales).

Once you’ve established some realistic expectations for your garage sale, let’s talk pricing. Even though you’ve given up the idea of buying a new car with your proceeds, it’s okay to be honest about wanting to make some money. If you didn’t want to make money, you’d just donate all of it.

Before I start with pricing tips, let me remind you that if you think something has real value, try selling it on ebay or Craigslist first. If your garage sale is two to three weeks away, like mine is, now is a great time. While working in the garage on Saturday, I pulled out a few things to do this with myself. They are specialty items like dance shoes, sought-after toys, or boutique clothing. I view this as giving these items a shot at making some real money. If they don’t sell, I will stick them in the sale and price them low to get them out of here. At least I’ll have no what-ifs or regrets.

Now for the pricing tips.

1) Less may mean more.

Lots of items sold at low prices make more money than a few items sold at high prices.

Let me share a story. It’s a real story told to me by a friend, but know that it is not unique. I’ve heard it from many people with slightly different details.

She was having her very first garage sale. She had four kids, and was quite well off. She lived in a beautiful home, one that people would assume had nice things to put in a garage sale. She had many generous relatives who gave her very expensive clothing for her kids.

She put the nice clothing on hangers and arranged it by size, season, etc. She looked at each piece and priced it according to what she (who is used to paying “store” prices, and knows the high-end brands) thought was a rock-bottom price. Generally 2-4 dollars apiece. As an afterthought, she decided to also sell the stained onesies and sleepers, but since no one would want those, she put them in a box and labeled it “25 cents each.”

Can you guess what happened? No one even looked at the nicely hung clothing, but pretty much fought over the stained sleepers.

The reality is that people probably did look at the hung clothing, but when they saw prices that they considered high for that area, they didn’t bother to keep looking. But “25 cents” caught their eye. She should have taken those nicely hung clothes to a resale shop first, seen how much she could get for them, and then put the leftovers in her garage sale for a price more in line with the garage sale prices in her area.

Just last week, I went to a sale like this. The dresses were beautiful, but they were about a size above my daughter’s current size. They were priced between 2 and 3 dollars. If my daughter needed dresses and was wearing that exact size right now I might have purchased 3 at that price. But if they were priced at .50-1.00, I probably would have taken everything she had, and saved them for future use. And I don’t think it’s just me, since I got to this sale quite late and her racks were still full.

Now, please note that pricing is different in different areas. Like I said in the first post of this series, do your homework. Ask your friends who have had garage sales if they sold a lot of clothes. If they live in your area, and sold a lot, try the price they did. If they didn’t sell many clothes (or toys or whatever you’re selling) try a lower price.

Here’s how I operate as a garage sale shopper. If an item of clothing is 3.00, I probably won’t buy it, unless it’s in like-new condition, is exactly the right size, I NEED it, and it’s the end of the day and I haven’t found anything else. If it’s 2.00, I might buy it if all of those things are still true, but I’ll try to talk myself out of it. If it’s 1.00, I’ll buy it if it’s in really good condition. If it’s .50 or less, I’ll tear through that pile and grab anything that MIGHT work. Guaranteed, I’ll spend more money at the sale that prices things at 1.00 and under. And they get rid of more stuff.

I’m focusing on clothing here, but the concept applies to all of your stuff. I’m not suggesting you sell a couch or recliner for 5 dollars, but if you’re thinking you want 300 dollars for a 15 year old couch, you should probably think again. A bread machine new in the box might go for 15 dollars, but a used one with the manual missing probably won’t.

Don’t just discount the original store price you paid, think garage sale price. A Little Tikes car that was originally 50 probably won’t sell for 40, but it might roll on out for 5 or 10.

2) Remove emotional value.

This is difficult. You remember that toy on the day that you gave it to your daughter and her eyes lit up. This memory can keep you from seeing that it is now rather fuzzy. A stain might not have been noticeable when your son continued to wear that shirt, but it’s noticeable to the person who is considering paying 2.00 for it. Garage-salers love church garage sales because generally, the people pricing the items don’t have any emotional attachment.

Remove the emotional value when you price the item, but let yourself cry when you see it leave your driveway. I boo-hooed when we sold our crib.

3) Make money on stuff that people don’t buy.

What if “people don’t buy clothes around here”? This is true in some areas. Where I used to live, clothes didn’t do very well. At least I thought they didn’t until I went to a sale where they had a big sign that said “All clothes – 25 cents.” I had never looked at adult clothing at a garage sale before, but that made me look. I even went to the seller and asked if it really meant “all” clothing. Yes, it did. I found some really cute clothes there.

The next day, when I was having my own garage sale (yes, I know), I decided to try the same thing. It worked, and I made more money than I had ever made at a sale before. See, I have three kids, and I have a problem with excessivity (nice made-up word for collecting clutter/being a slob), so I generally have a lot of clothing to sell. If I sell 100 pieces of clothing, that’s 25.00. And at my last sale, I decided to be crazy and priced clothes at .50 apiece, and still it left my garage like crazy. I probably made at least 100 to 150 just on clothing priced at .50 an item. Not bad!

And blanket pricing, meaning posting a sign that says “All ________ – $1.00” makes people look at things that they might not otherwise look at. It also helps things even out in the end. While it may kill you to “give away” that Gymboree sweater for a dollar, you may also giggle with glee that someone paid 1.00 for those shorts with a hole in the crotch.


4) Know your business:

Remember that garage sales operate on cash. Once people are out of money, they’re out of money. If they come to your sale first because your ad said you had exactly the items they wanted, but your prices are higher than most garage sales in your area (and they know because they shop garage sales regularly), they are probably going to keep on going to other sales. Why would they spend 5.00 to purchase one item at your sale when they might get to another sale and buy 5, or even 10 items for that 5.00? You want them to spend the money at your sale, and you want that stuff gone!

______________________________________

If you’re trying to get rid of things, price them low. It is amazing how quickly quarters and one-dollar-bills add up. A few years ago, I had a huge sale. I priced almost everything at 1.00 or less. Truly. The only things higher than that were a bassinet which I sold for 5.00, a set of dishes which I sold for 5.00 and a recliner that I sold for 40.00. I made over 250.00. Not bad!

Higher prices=fewer sales=more clutter staying in your garage=less money made overall.

Disclaimer:

Here’s where I state that there’s always the possibility that I’m wrong. You could have a very rich, spendy person, pockets full of cash, who comes to your sale. They might absolutely love everything that you have deemed to be junk. They might be fully aware of “real-store” prices for all of your items, and realize what fabulous deals they are getting. It could happen, and to a degree, does happen occasionally. But it’s a gamble.

I’m not a gambler.

The next post in this series will cover set-up. I’ll also share some tricks and a few things to avoid. It will answer questions such as: Do I put a sticker on each and every item? Do I have to hang up all of my clothing? When and where should I have the sale?

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Comments

  1. 1

    You know, as much as I enjoy shopping at garage sales, I would never hold one. I feel that I make far more 'money' [albeit not 'cash in hand] by donating my reasonable quality used goods to charitable organizations – I get a deduction against our taxes for the value they set – and for us it works out to be at least as much as I might make at a sale – plus I don't have to spend all the time and energy involved in planning, prepping and supervising the sale.

  2. 2
    Mrs. Clean Freak says:

    JUSt had a yard sale this weekend. I simply love the tips so its making me wanna get another crack at it! Thanks! New Follower by the way *smile*

    http://www.thrumommieiez.blogspot.com

  3. 3
    Melissa says:

    I’m considered the Garage Sale Diva amongst my friends. Another tip I have about the pricing – everything is in 25c increments. It makes adding things up easier. YES, I KNOW some things may only be worth 5c – BUNDLE!!!! That’s another of my FAVS – bundle. Another way to get rid of it but still make something off of stuff.

  4. 4
    Susan E. says:

    I have a question–My husband and I are preparing for a monster garage sale of items that we bought from several storage unit auctions. I have TONS of clothes–we’re talking at LEAST 20 trash bags. I was thinking of selling all shirts for $1, pants/jeans for $2, and jackets/coats for $3, all kids clothes for $1 (which will be negotiable based on the item, like onesies, etc.), then half price on Saturday (we’re having a three-day sale). Does that sound about right? Some of the clothes are not big brands, but others are. Some still have tags too. Thoughts?

  5. 6

    My husband and I adopted a little boy from Ethiopia and summer of 2012 we held two HUGE yard sales to help cover the cost of the adoption. We received donations from friends, family and strangers, so much that one of the yard sales was held in the 4,000+ sq ft fellowship hall at church and it was packed out! We obviously could not have priced everything, it would have taken weeks to do that, so we priced only the large items and everything else was a barter at the cash table. I can’t remember the exact totals but we made several thousand dollars between the two. For clothing we had a flat rate of $2.00/grocery sack then later in the day dropped it to $1.00. I helped my sister in law last summer with her yard sale and we did the same thing, only priced larger items and clothing sold by the bag. Saves a lot of headache and time!

  6. 7

    Thanks for the tips! I am in my year of de-cluttering and found your website a few weeks ago. We have a neighborhood-wide garage sale in 2 weeks. I did take some stuff to the consignment shop, and although they were name brand and in great condition they didn’t take ANYTHING! So at least I know! I plan to hang the dressy, work-type clothing on racks and sell for $2 each or 3 for $5 and the folded clothes in bins for $1 each and buy 2 get 1 free. Does that sound reasonable? Since it’s a neighborhood wide sale, we get lots of traffic. And as a bonus, we arrange for a charity to come on Saturday afternoon to pick up any leftovers! So NONE of it will come back in the house.

    I’m blogging about my own de-clutter journey. Check it out!

    • 8

      Wow! Isn’t it frustrating when that happens with a consignment shop?!?!

      Pricing honestly depends on your neighborhood. If this sale is something that happens regularly, I’d check with neighbors to see how they’ve successfully priced their clothing in the past. If they say “People don’t buy clothes!” that means their prices were too high.

  7. 9

    As someone who regularly shops garage sales, I love all your tips! I’ve thought about writing something similar someday on my blog too, as I’ve often gone to sales and wished that I could’ve left the sellers with some tips…instead of leaving the sale with nothing. 🙂

  8. 10

    My rule of thumb is: If it was ME going to a sale, how much would I (underlined and bold!) be willing to pay? I won’t pay much so I price my own things VERY cheap. When they sell quickly, I question whether I should have put a higher price on the item. 🙂 Bottom line, though…. I sell a lot and have very little to send to charity. I had my mom’s entire wardrobe to sell after she passed away–$1.00 per item-no matter how fancy it was. Shoppers commented that, another sale was pricing clothes $4-$5 each! They looked at EVERY thing I had hung out! I reminded people that the last day, everything would be HALF price! You wouldn’t believe how many return customers I had or customers their friends told them about!

    • 11

      Yes!!! It’s amazing how people will REALLY look when an entire category is one low price. If the first thing I see is 5.00 (too much in my opinion for a garage sale), I won’t even look at the other stuff because I assume it’s out of my price range. I’m sure I’ve missed a few $1 items I would have purchased.

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