Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tips from a Yard Sale Junkie

By Rachelle J. Christensen

The tulips are blooming and the yard sales are looming. Time for one of my favorite activities—yard sales!
When I moved into my house about five years ago I was able to help furnish it with finds at local yard sales. Everything from designer curtains to garbage cans, bookshelves to framed pictures were acquired for a fraction of the price I might’ve paid. I’ve been going to yard sales for years and I think there’s an elementary science to success, so I thought I’d share some of my tips with you.

Tips for Buyers:

Don’t Be Afraid to Bargain. Most people want to get rid of their stuff—hence the yard sale. Most people also aren’t very savvy when it comes to pricing. So if you think something is over-priced, don’t hesitate to make an offer. I would say roughly half the things I purchase at yard sales are the result of a little dickering.

Visit Yard Sales Early and Late. Early in the morning, you get first dibs on the good stuff. Later in the day, people are ready to close up shop and will often reduce prices. They’ll also be more open to accept counter-offers if it’s almost time for the yard sale to be over.

Carry a Notebook. Jot down addresses when you pass a sign. Organize your list of places to go by direction and create a route to travel for your yard sales.

Use Small Bills. I use an envelope with twenty one-dollar bills and then I might have a couple $5 or $10 bills for larger items. This helps in case the yard sale host doesn’t have enough change. It’s also fun to set a budget for yourself. For example, I get $12 for yard sales today, once it’s gone, I’ll go home. It’s amazing what you can buy for only $12.00.

Examine Items Carefully. Look for chips, cracks, or other defects. Be sure to ask if you can plug in anything electronic to make sure it actually works.

Wash Before Using. Even if an item of clothing or stuffed animal looks brand new, I wash everything I buy to eliminate germs, etc.

Do Your Homework. If you’re shopping for large ticket items like furniture or appliances, check local internet listings of people selling similar items to get an idea for a reasonable price. This way you’ll be aware when you find a really good deal.

If you don’t need it, don’t buy it just because it’s a great deal.

Have Fun! I enjoy going to yard sales because in less than an hour, I can usually visit five or six and spend less than $10.00 on everything from children’s books to a new shovel and garden hose.

Here's an $8.00 find from a yard sale!

Are you thinking of holding a yard sale? Here are a few tips to increase your sales success:

Take the Bargain. At the end of the day, do you want to have to haul off remains to be donated or would you rather have fifty cents for each item? Be willing to take offers from potential buyers and you’ll increase the money in your cashbox quicker.

Make it Big. If you’re going to take time to make a sign, make sure the address is bold, legible, and posted in a highly visible area. Take note of city restrictions and don’t post signs illegally. Many communities have a board, website, newspaper area, etc. for you to post details about your yard sale.

Location, Location, Location—pick a central location, well-populated area. If you have a friend or family member that lives in a better location, see if they might want to host a joint-yard sale with you.

Pricing. A good pricing rule of thumb is to mark the item to 5% or 10% of whatever you purchased it for. An example: you purchased a shirt for $20, sell it for $1.00. You purchased that bookshelf for $100.00, sell it for $10.00. Of course, this may vary according to how new your items are, or the demand, but largely this is a good rule to follow.

Use a Cash Box. Fill it with several small bills and change, especially dollar bills. Make sure that the cash box is never left unattended. Many people wear an apron and keep the money in a bag in the pockets.

Go Light on the Clothing. Unless it’s baby/kid clothes. When I see a yard sale with big piles of clothes, I steer clear. If you are going to sell clothing, arrange the items neatly and price very low, as in 50 cents or less. Baby/kids clothes are a popular item if they are clean and priced right. Use a table and fold the items for display.

Bag It. Collect used grocery bags to have on hand for purchased items.

Track Sales. Have a calculator and notebook handy to keep track of sales and other information.

Donate. If holding a yard sale sounds like too much of a hassle, consider donating. There are many places you can donate to and receive a receipt for your donations which are tax deductible.

Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy the yard sale season. There are endless treasures waiting out there at a yard sale near you just waiting to be discovered.
What great finds have you purchased at a yard sale?

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