You sure can’t beat pulling in a bit of cash for items you no longer want or have use for…but, truth be told, garage sales are a lot of work! You don’t want to put in all that work for a “flop”. I have been a garage sale shopper for as long as I can remember and have learned quite a bit over the years about what goes into having a “good” garage sale. Here are my Top 10 Tips for putting on a successful sale:

10. Move your cars out of the way. Save all your good parking spaces for your customers.

9. Open early. And be ready. The first few hours the first day of our garage sale are often the busiest. “Die hard” garage sale shoppers are up at 6 am Friday morning to hit the sales at 7. (Well, around here–Denver, CO–garage sales typically start on Fridays, but where I come from–Lincoln, NE–Thursday seems to be the starting day)…anyway, whatever the starting day, be ready! Whether you are good to go or just getting set up, they will be there at 7 or 8 am the first day of your sale.

8. Make sure you have plenty of change. If you don’t have it on you, go to the bank the day before your sale and pull out several several 5 and 10 dollar bills and LOTS of 1s, plus plenty of coins. (If you price everything in increments of 25 cents, you can save yourself some hassle by just carrying quarters…but you may want to have a few dimes and nickels anyway, because someone is going to want to offer 15 cents for your quarter items. )

7. Say “hi” or “good morning” when people show up. Not only is this just good manners, it will likely also increase your sales because now you are a “real” person whom they are doing business with. After your friendly greeting, though, you should leave them alone and let them shop. While you want to keep an eye on your possessions, you don’t want people to feel uncomfortable because you are watching them like a hawk.

6. Involve your little entrepreneurs by having them set up a lemonade stand. I almost never pass up a lemonade stand while garage sale shopping…and am often quite grateful for a cold drink (on that note, you should figure out a way to help them keep the beverages ice cold). If you don’t have any kids that are “lemonade stand age” (I don’t), take over concessions yourself. Put some bottles of water (or cans of pop) in the refrigerator in your garage and put up a sign on the side of your house. You can boost your profits a bit as you fill your shopper’s need for hydration. My little ones are still too little to set up a stand, but they still enjoyed some fun outdoor days with mom and dad:

5. Draw in “drive by-ers” (people who slow down and crane their neck while driving by in order to determine whether or not they want to stop and get out). Even though it is a GARAGE sale, I would advise that you don’t keep many of your items IN the garage…bring them out to the driveway. This makes your sale look bigger and people can see from the road a few items that catch their eye.

Still, just know that you WILL have people drive by…seemingly determining that none of your stuff is even worth getting out of the car to look at. Don’t let yourself be offended. Maybe they are on there way to an appointment, or have crying kids in the car, or maybe the only thing they are really interested in finding today is a plastic babypool or dining room table (big items they would be able to see from the car). Hey…it is better than not even checking out your sale at all, right?

4. Hang up your clothes. Suspend a broom or hoe between a couple of ladders, or hanging on rope from the rafters in your garage.

Clothes folded on a table will not stay folded long, so your clothes will end up in a jumbled mess no one wants to dig through and all of the price stickers will rub off onto one another. It is much easier to browse through clothes hanging on a rack and they just look nicer–and therefore more expensive. We also had a box of our more worn clothes or those of little value which was labeled “fill a sack for $1.” (If you do this, you might want to quickly sift through the sacks or watch out of the corner of your eye as people fill them. Some of the clothing items I had hung up with individual price tags “walked away” from our sale in people’s $1 sacks.)

3. Set things on “tables.” While I can’t really say that I would turn an item down that is displayed on the ground, I think that items displayed on a table are more likely to catch your eye, are easier to brouse through, and maybe even appear to be of nicer quality. You don’t have to go out and buy a whole bunch of tables for this (that would severely cut into your garage sale profits), be creative. We used a door set on top of a set of sawhorses:

…and also a few boards set on top of a couple of trash cans:

2. Label everything with prices. When I shop garage sales, it really annoys me to have to ask the prices on several unmarked items. Often I just don’t…and therefore don’t buy it. I think it is important that everything have a price, even if you will accept another offer. This gives your customer an idea of where to start–at least there is a ballpark price range already established. It is OK to have several items set at one price with a sign rather than individual tags (i.e. paperback books at a quarter, hardbacks at 50 cents, or magazines 10 for a dollar)…but have that information clearly marked on the box or hang a sign from the table.

A few more notes about prices:

  • If you are thinking something should be priced at somewhere between 3 and 6 dollars. Label it $6. This gives you room to bargain and still get a price you are comfortable with.
  • On “big ticket items,” discuss with your spouse (or whoever else might be managing your sale with you) what your bottom line price is. Not only will this ensure that you are on the same page with the value of your items, but it will also make it easier to be firm when someone offers too low of a price…because you can “blame” it on your spouse.

1. And the number one, most important thing for having a successful sale: good signs! No one is going to buy anything if they can’t find your house.

Set up large double-sided signs on main street entrances into your neighborhood. Mostly this sign just needs to grab peoples attention and have a big arrow telling them to turn. But it can also be helpful to include your address, days you are open, or some of the key items you are selling.

Once you have caught a shoppers attention and gotten them to turn into your neighborhood, direct them to your house with additional signs or arrows. Be sure all of your signs and/or arrows match and can be distinguished from other garage sale signs.

It might help to print out a map of your neighborhood and mark where you want signs so you know how many to make. Put them at places where people will need to turn:

But also to encourage people to continue going straight if they have to drive a way before turning:

You might want to put them at places where they need to follow the curve of the road:

…and you will want to put some where other people’s signs might turn them off your path:In addition to good signs, you can increase your garage sale traffic by choosing a weekend that your neighborhood or a neighboring one is having a neighborhood garage sale to take advantage of the bigger signs and advertising. You can also post free ads for some of your items on Craigslist. We did this for our bigger ticket items, like our old dining room table:

OK, garage sale shoppers and sellers…what am I forgetting?

Do you have any more tips to add for how to set up a successful garage sale?










  1. Aunt Amber says:

    Great Post! I am glad you emphasized good signage, because there is nothing more annoying than turning into a neighborhood and being greeted by absolutely no more signs. An address is not enough. We need arrows!

  2. MOM says:

    I like to get my morning coffee at garage sales!! Put a pot of coffee on and make a sign for it! I’ll buy a cup!

  3. lisamarie says:

    excellent tips. i had AMAZING success with my last garage sale– my 2 boys ran down to the street corner with our signs and danced around like madmen. it REALLY worked – scads of my customers mentioned the cutie kids with the dancing signs!

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