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Home > Tips and Hints > Garage Sale ideas and tips from a frugal Mum - Part 2

Garage Sale ideas and tips from a frugal Mum - Part 2
By Deborah Taylor-Hough
Monday, 2 June 2008
Viewed : 17441 time(s)
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About the Author

Deborah Taylor-Hough

Iím Deborah Taylor-Hough, author of several books including Frugal Living For Dummies(r) and Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month.

Deborah Taylor-Hough has written 2 article(s) for egaragesales.

If you haven't already read it, be sure to read part one of this article. To view it, click here. 

Be sure to display your clothing nicely. If you have a free-standing clothes rack, put it in the garage for your sale to hold nicer items. Clothing on a table should be sorted according to general sizes (baby things, kids clothes, adult men, adult women), and folded and stacked neatly. I had to go back over to the clothing table several times each day and restack, refold and resort the clothes, but it was worth the effort (almost everything sold -- even stained stuff and things with holes in the knees). 


People don't enjoy digging through piles and piles of mix-n-matched junk clothing, but when they see everything looking nice and neat -- displayed like they'd see it in a store -- they quite happily stand there and sort through the items.

I also washed clothing and stuffed animals before putting them out for the sale. It not only makes the items more attractive, but you can also get a higher price for these items if they look as close to "new" as possible.

Rather than pricing each piece of clothing individually, I just put a big easy-to-read sign over the table (I hung mine on cardboard from the garage rafters at lower-than-eye-level right over the clothing table). I sold clothes for "50 cents each, or three for $1 (unless otherwise marked)."

One of the most important tips (you're probably going to think it's crazy -- but trust me!) is playing quiet background music while people shop. Set a mood conducive to shopping. Don't play music that's loud or too lively -- it'll make people a bit hyper and more apt to shop too quickly. You want them to relax ... shop ... take their time ... enjoy the process. Probably an easy-listening station that plays familiar songs from the 70's and 80's would be ideal. People would hum and sing as they shopped -- maybe not leave until their favorite song's over. Ever notice the background music in many restaurants and stores? Usually just easy listening, easy-to-hum-along-with songs.

I personally chose a Classical music station (the normal station I listen to) since I had to sit there all day for four days listening to the music, too -- I didn't want to lose my mind listening to music I don't normally play (although I'm sure a lot of people would lose their mind listening to Classical all day!). My customers enjoyed the music though, and several even commented about what a nice tone it set to my sale.

One morning I was noticing that people weren't browsing like they had been earlier. They were just running in, looking quickly, and then running out again and not buying anything. It seemed strange since that hadn't been the tone of the sale during the previous days. Suddenly it dawned on me that I'd forgotten to turn on the radio. Within just a few minutes of playing quiet background music again, the shoppers slowed down, took their time, and started BUYING things again. That quiet, soothing music completely changed everything.

1) On those large colorful signs that you post around town for your sale, be sure to list some of the items at your sale: tools, baby items, clothing, housewares, collectibles, etc. (and please don't forget to take your signs down after the sale is through!).

2) Stock up on bags from the grocery store so you can offer to bag up purchases for those customers with armloads of small items.

3) Another quick tip: make people comfortable. Since I've worked for many years in "people" oriented jobs, this practically comes as second nature to me, but I've been to so many garage sales where the people holding the sale just sat there and glared at you as you shopped. I wanted people to be comfortable and feel welcome at my sale.

4) Say "Good morning" or "Hi!" to everyone who comes to your sale. We were experiencing a heat wave the week during our sale last year, so we talked a lot about the weather. This is definitely the time to make just idle small talk ... don't get personal ... just greet them, SMILE (!!), make a comment about the weather (or some other innocent remark), and maybe ask them if there's anything specific they're looking for. If someone comes and goes without buying anything, still say as nicely as possible (with a smile, of course), "Thanks for stopping by! Have a great day...!" Not only is it a nice thing to do, but other customers will overhear you and it'll make them more comfortable, too.

5) Consider providing coffee if it's a cold day (offer it free for donation only), or ice cold lemonade if it's weather like we had last year (your kids can man the refreshment table -- my daughter made some extra money for a future trip to Mexico she's planning with our church youth group).

6) I personally think it's better to price things a little bit on the high side, rather than too low (I'm certainly not talking about setting prices comparable to the local antique stores, but you don't have to price things for 10 cents, either). If someone really wants an item that they feel is over-priced, they'll make an offer. This gives you room to come down a bit with your price. But lots of people won't haggle over prices -- they'll just quite happily pay whatever you ask for things (within reason, of course).

7) Since I planned on doing a garage sale again in the future, I didn't come down on my prices too much since everything that didn't sell the first time around will just find it's way into my next sale.

8) If your goal is to clear out as much stuff as possible (and make a few pennies on the side), offer some sort of great deal on the afternoon of the last day such as: everything a customer can stuff into a shopping bag for $1, or half price on all items after 12 noon on Saturday, or Freebies in the late afternoon of the final day of your sale.

For Part One of this article, click here.

Deborah Taylor-Hough (free-lance writer, wife and mother of three) is the editor of the Simple Times and Bright-Kids email newsletters. She's also the author of the popular book, Frozen Assets: how to cook for a day and eat for a month, the newly released Frugal Living For Dummies(r) (Wiley, 2003), and A Simple Choice: a practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity.

You can find her website at 

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