You can put a lot of work into getting ready for your garage sale, but if no one comes . . . you’ve wasted your time and energy.
Before I share tips to get people there, please be aware that you need to check the regulations for your city. Some cities require permits, limit the number of sales you can have, and even limit what you can sell. I was very surprised to learn last year that many of the towns in my area do not allow the sale of new items at garage sales. Some people said that they had been shut down or fined for selling new clothing or items they had gotten for free with coupons. It isn’t the case in all areas, but you should check beforehand to avoid any problems. It would be frustrating to lose any of your hard-earned profit because of ignorance. Also, many cities limit where you can place your signs and have city workers who will pull them up. You may not know why your traffic suddenly decreased until you go looking for your sign that evening.
Learn when to have your sale:
Know that generally, your first day will be your best day. My aunt (the queen-mother of all garage sale-ers) lives in Kansas. In her city, it is common to start a garage sale on Thursday and hold it for several days. Where I live, however, a garage sale starting on Thursday is uncommon, and so most people don’t even look for them on Thursdays. Then, when they do look at garage sale listings for Friday or Saturday, if they see that they missed the first day of the sale, they assume that it’s been picked over and put it on their list of “if I can get to it” sales.
Consider starting your sale early. You want people to come to your sale first, while they still have all of their cash. If most sales start at 8 a.m., and you start yours at 7 or 7:30, they’ll hit yours first. Of course, they’ll get there at 6 or 6:30 . . . (Don’t try starting your sale at 10 a.m. People will still be there at 8 am, and you’ll just be mad. If you don’t go ahead and start, they may not come back, and if they do they’ll have already spent quite a bit of their money by 10:00.)
You should also try to find out when garage sales typically end in your area. Here, all garage sales are done around 2 pm, and people don’t come after that. My next door neighbors should have read this post, because they stayed open one Saturday until 6 p.m. I watched and they had maybe 2 people stop by after one o’clock (other than my kids who kept buying things for nickels).
Learn how people find garage sales in your area.
The best way to learn this is to ask someone you know who goes to garage sales, or by visiting other sales in your area like I advised in this post. In some areas, newspapers are the best way to advertise. Where I live, in a smallish town of about 20,000, you can usually hit all of the garage sales in one day. The paper is the primary advertising method. People who want to go to garage sales get a newspaper and then use it to find all of the sales in the area for that day.
However, where my parents live, the newspaper is not the primary advertising method. It is a much larger city, and looking at the newspaper is confusing because people generally don’t know where everything is, like they do in a small town. There, signs are the best way to find the sales. Knowing this can determine how many days you should hold your sale. In my small town, where the newspaper rules, a one-day sale is fine because the vast majority of traffic is informed and direct – they’re looking up my address. But in the larger city, a 2 or 3 day sale may be better as most traffic is “drive-by” and more days open means more people stopping by.
And of course, use Craigslist. It’s free and there’s no reason to NOT use it in addition to whatever other method is the norm for your area.
Get the most from your signs.
Signs should be in neon colors. My aunt and I often laugh and say that this should be required. Bright colors make them stick out from real estate or election signs, and if you can see them from farther away, you’re more likely to be able to slow down in time to make the turn. On your sign, your address should be the main, largest information. It is pretty obvious that a neon home-made sign at the corner of a neighborhood is a garage sale sign, so “Garage Sale” can be written smaller. The driver is trying to catch a glimpse of your address.
The picture at the top of this post shows the best sign method I’ve found. If you don’t have a solid metal sign that you can tape your neon poster over, putting it on a box and placing a brick or large rock inside the box to keep it from blowing away is a good solution. Posterboard on a stick may fold or flop in the wind, which will make it difficult to read.
If you live in a city that is strict about sign placement, you may need to ask permission to put signs in the yards of people who live on corners of streets that lead to your house. A creative and effective solution to this problem that I once saw was a family who moved their vehicles to the street corners where people needed to turn to get to their sale. They put huge neon posters on their cars giving directions.
Get the most from your Newspaper Ad and Craiglist.
Know when your paper comes out. I lived in a small town once whose newspaper was mailed out on Thursdays. Yes, mailed. Therefore, if someone had a Thursday sale, no one even knew about it until Thursday when their mail came. And here, even though the paper comes out daily, it doesn’t come out until late afternoon. Yes, late afternoon. So, if someone has a Friday sale, they need to be sure it comes out in Thursday’s paper. Make sense?
For a newspaper ad, use all of your allowed words, and use them wisely. For my paper, there is a set price for garage sale ads with a 25 word limit. There is no reason to not use all 25 words. “LOTS of misc.” or “Too much to list” doesn’t get people to your sale. They might come to yours after they go to the others who listed the items they were looking for, but by then, they won’t have as much money to spend!
Be specific in your ad. If you are selling any furniture, be SURE to list what it is. Couch, dining table, bookshelves, crib, recliner, bunk-beds etc. are all items that people specifically look for at garage sales. Along the same lines, if there’s anything that you feel is really worth something (and it didn’t sell on ebay or Craigslist first) list it in your ad. Designer purses and Dept 56 Christmas houses will sell much better if people come looking for them, rather than if people just happen to stop by.
I always list general clothing sizes as well. My ad will look something like this:
1234 Anystreet Saturday– 7am-? TONS of clothes, Boys 4-6, Girls 2-4, Women L-XL, riding toys, Books, home décor, teacher materials, videos, fridge, stroller, much more.
It doesn’t have to be beautifully written, it’s the STUFF that gets them there. If you’re in major decluttering mode like I am, you might try what I did last year. I put in my ad that all clothes would be 25 cents and most items would be under 1.00. It worked! I’ve seen other sales do this, and they’re always the busiest.
If you live in a place that is difficult to find, you should use your 25 words to give succinct directions to your house. An example might be: “Bellview Street – at the very end of Park Lane,” or “behind *** Shopping Center.”
On Craigslist, put your city and zip code in the title. You aren’t limited on words there, so you should list all the categories of items that you are selling, and specific directions. Always say “. . . and much more!”
If you plan ahead and make good use of advertising, you’ll have the best traffic possible for your sale. More traffic means more money, and best of all . . . MORE STUFF GONE!