by Leah Ingram
This month, I organized a community yard sale. Its purpose was to be a small fundraiser for our middle school (and we succeeded on that front), but more importantly, it was a service we wanted to offer folks like myself, who live in a place that is not conducive to having a yard sale.
All told the event was a success. We sold 27 spots and made a couple hundred bucks to help support middle school field trips and other services that our budget-strapped district can no longer afford to finance. Nonetheless, were I to do this event again, there would be some things I would keep the same and some I would change up. In case you’re planning your own yard sale, you may find these “keep” and “change up” suggestions to be helpful.
Set up in a high-traffic location. We were lucky enough to secure a large patch of grass on the school campus, which happens to be on a main street in our town. We were adjacent to one of our school’s parking lots that visitors use when coming to our little tourist town for the weekend. Nearly everyone who parks in this lot had to walk by or through our yard sale to get to the sidewalks that lead into town, and this created an ideal high-traffic situation for all of our yard sale participants.
Time your yard sale to piggy back onto another event. We chose to have our yard sale on the same weekend there was a special event going on in town, an annual festival that draws people from hundreds of miles away. Additionally, there was a school play the same day as our yard sale, so lots of parents would park in the lot near where we’d set up. This combination allowed us proximity to tons of potential shoppers.
Use the “Priceline” approach to pricing.I know that many people spent time pricing their items before bringing their things to the yard sale. I was going to do the same until my mother, a veteran yard-sale organizer, told me not to bother. She suggested we take a “Priceline” approach and let people name their own price or at least ask us to name the price. Though it was somewhat annoying to keep having to answer “How much is this?” I found that answering, “How does $X sound?” made most people accept our suggestion or at least offer a counter–and then we made the sale.
Have plentiful, clear signage directing people to your yard sale. I used a combination of sandwich boards and lawn signs that not only told people when our yard sale was but I also included directional arrows to quite point them in the right direction to find our yard sale. While the high-traffic location helped draw drive-by traffic, the signs had helped to draw them in as well.
Arrange to have someone take away the leftovers at the end of the day. My mother told me that allowing sellers not to bring home the items they didn’t sell would be a huge selling point. And she was right. I arranged for a good cause to come at the end of the yard sale with a big truck, and take anything that the yard sale participants wanted to donate and didn’t want to take home with them. Case in point: it took two cars loaded with stuff for me to set up my yard sale area–I had that much to sell. Going home? All I had was my folded-up table and some empty bins. Best of all: I can walk around my basement again, which is where I’d been storing most of the stuff I was planning to sell at the yard sale.
Move the starting and ending time up. We were supposed to run from 10 to 3, but as soon as we started setting up around 8:30, we had shoppers. Additionally, by noon, there was a real lull in traffic, and that foot traffic stayed low until about 2:30. So while we had some decent traffic for the last 30 minutes of the yard sale, I don’t know if it was worth waiting around for those two hours for the customers to come back.
Skip the “rain or shine” rain date. Originally, our plan was to have a rain date, when, rain or shine, the event would take place. Lucky for us, the day of the sale had picture-perfect weather. Our rain date, on the other hand, was dreary, dark and wet. If we’d had to have our sale that day, there would have been zero traffic. Even though there was a special event happening in town on our rain date, no one was out–and they sure as heck weren’t shopping for yard sales. Next year, I’ll be sure not to take the “rain or shine” approach. It won’t be worth it.
Let people bring their own tables. We sold spots at a certain price for us to provide a table, and then offered a discount if you just wanted a spot but would bring your own table. While 17 of the 27 people who bought spots wanted us to provide a table, the set up and clean up required to haul out and then put away that many tables wasn’t worth the little extra money that this “convenience” provided. Next year we’ll just sell spots for a fixed fee, and the table situation will be left up to each individual seller.
Bottom line: I got rid of tons of clutter and made some extra money–actually more than I’d ever made at garage sales I’d had in the past or even from selling stuff on CraigsList. Based on this year’s success, I would definitely participate in this kind of yard sale next year.
Tell us: How have you made your own yard sales successful?
Most mothers teach their kids to cook and clean. Leah Ingram’s mother taught her to compost. These days she’s passing along this green message to her own daughters as they all try to live a green and frugal lifestyle as The Lean Green Family. She’s the author of Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less“Suddenly Frugal:How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less.” Visit her blog, Suddenly Frugal.