With the advent of the Internet, sites like eBay, Craigslist and FreeCycle have made garage sales something of a relic. Yet none of them replace picking through another person’s discards on a Saturday morning after your second cup of coffee or your first, depending on how eager (and competitive) you are.
Garage sales were a pastime in New England, where I grew up and where they were also known as yard sales, tag sales, rummage sales and estate sales. It was the only place you could even find things like a used stationary exercise bike or a gently used game of Clue. It’s debatable whether going to garage sales is more fun than having them. When a couple of families team up, camp out in the front yard with beach chairs, a jug of lemonade and a till, it’s a party.
If you are getting the itch to go garage sale shopping , here’s our road map to make the most out of them
Hunting and Gathering
Gone are the days of ballpoint pens and classified ads. Now, there are more streamlined ways to find buried treasures. Four sites that can help you find garage sales in your area are:
Take GarageSaleFinder.com. This is a site created by Valerie Cudnik, an avid garage-saler. She loves the hunt, but hates wasting gas money and time in the process. At GarageSaleFinder.com, you can find garage sales (or post your own). Just plug in your ZIP code or state for a list of possibilities. I found over 25 within about twenty minutes of my house on Memorial Day weekend. Most were pulls from Craigslist postings and included single family, multifamily, estate, group/charity and neighborhood sales. The site is free and offers printable turn-by-turn directions to the garage sales of your choice. For the technically inclined, you can download the list of garage sales to your personal GPS device.
Another way to plot out garage sales is to simply Google “garage sales” and the name of your town or city. You’ll find a plethora of compiled garage sale listings. FOX television stations seem to offer a garage sale site as a public service in many of the cities they have affiliates in, like St. Louis and Tampa.
If you’re a member of the high-tech crowd, you’ll need to check out the Garagesalestracker iPhone app. It lets you hunt for garage sales on the road, rather than map out a game-plan before you leave the house.
Setting Up Shop
Now let’s discuss the benefits of having a garage sale; the most obvious being the ability to clean house and make a few bucks in the process. Yes, there are other newfangled ways to do this, but here’s why garage sales can trump them. Selling on eBay requires paying a fee and wrapping whatever you’ve sold and hauling it to the post office. Selling on eBay can also take days. A garage sale is done and over in a day.
With Craigslist, as with eBay, there’s the time-consuming process of selling one item at a time. Craigslist also involves meeting strangers at your home or a mutually agreed upon spot. This requires scheduling and a certain amount of trust. Maybe you’ve also wasted plenty of time on a Craigslist no-show. Very frustrating.
Thousands of websites can offer basic tips on how to run an efficient garage sale and these ten suggestions from GetRichSlowly.org should get you moving in the right direction.
- A group sale is better than selling alone. More stuff draws more traffic.
- Be prepared. Be ready to go the night before so that you don’t have to rush around in the morning.
- Plan your sale layout with customers in mind. Use marketing tricks to make your customers more likely to purchase your stuff!
- Price things carefully.
- Label things well.
- Be friendly. Greet people as they arrive — chat if they’re chatty.
- Do not bad-mouth your items.
- Be willing to bargain, but be less flexible at the start.
- Keep a ledger. Jot down a description of each item and how much you sold it for.
- Do not use a cash box. Keep your money on you at all times.
Here are a few more factoids to help move your merchandise:
- The Garage Sale Handbook is $9 and can be ordered at: http://www.ifg-inc.com/GaragePage.html.
- National Garage Sale Day is August 14th, or the second Saturday of August every year. This year, it’s book-ended by National Kool-Aid Days which are held between the 13th-15th.
- Some cities, like Beverly Hills, California or Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, mandate that you apply and pay for a yard sale permit. Even with that, homeowners in Beverly Hills can only hold yard sales in the back of their homes. Typically these permits cost around $10.
The Element of Surprise
Perhaps the reason garage sales are so much fun and they’ll never go out of fashion is the fact that you never know what you’re going to walk home with. You will also likely come home with a story… about what that doodad does, how old it is or how cheap it was.
My husband and I bought our last house at a yard sale. We were driving through a neighborhood we thought we wanted to move into and we came across a sign in the yard of a lovely little home that said, “Yard Sale. And The House is For Sale, Too.” The owners might have been as surprised as we were when we put in an offer. In true yard sale form, we offered less than asking, and drove away with a house and a tale to tell.
Published or updated June 2, 2010.