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Garage Sales: Too Broke to Buy Stuff? Sell Your Old Stuff.

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Okay, so you look around your room and you have too much goddamned stuff. It’s a problem because you want to go out and buy more stuff, but to make room for that stuff, you’ll have to get rid of the stuff you already have that’s overflowing from your closet and weighing down your shelves to the point of them bending under pressure. What can you do? You can’t just throw it all away – there’s nothing actually wrong with it. It’s just there. Sitting there. Being useless. Taking up space that the new stuff you want to buy should be taking.

Why not have a garage sale? Get rid of the stuff you don’t want and get cash to spend on the stuff you do want. Win-win, right?

It’s not that simple. Yes, garage sales appear to just be As Seen on TV appliances and VHS copies of Titanic (you know the one; it comes on two tapes with Jack on one and Rose on the other) strewn across plastic tables in driveways. But there’s more than meets the eye. Much more.

Garage sales are for haggling. You can’t haggle if a price hasn’t been posted. Don’t be that jerk who doesn’t label their stuff. Label it. And be realistic about it. Yes, you bought that 3-in-one omlet pan, waffle iron and fondue pot for 3 easy installments of $19.99. That does not mean somebody will pay three, or even two, easy installments of $19.99 to take it off your hands. No. Think about what you’d pay for an awkward appliance that spent most of its life on the garage shelf. Fifteen dollars? Ten dollars? Think like a broke person. If you’re having a tough time figuring out what to charge, ask somebody what they’d realistically pay for your used stuff. Then label it accordingly.

And make sure it’s clean! Nobody wants to buy dirty crap from a garage sale. Nobody ever.

Now, you’ve got to get people to your garage sale. This is the part that gets screwed up the most. Signs that are too small, or too hard to read, or too sparse can drive people away from your sale. You’ve got to spoon-feed your potential customers. Think big. Think 24×48 big. The bigger the better. Go big or go home. Whatever it takes to get you to buy the biggest piece of poster board available and write in large, block, thick, colored-in letters. I cannot stress this point enough. Most of your customers will be in moving cars; driving down the road and then, out of the corner of their eye, “oh look, a garage sale!” and do a quick turn onto your street and to your house to consider buying your stuff. You want your sign to speak the loudest. Scream in the figurative sense. Use arrows if you want to. Just remember:

  • Big
  • Bold
  • At every potential corner/cross street

So now that you’ve got customers, be prepared for them. Most of them are coming early – be out there earlier. Yes, I know it’s hard to drag your still-drunk ass out of bed at 7:30 in the morning, but think about it: they’re coming by 8:00. Have your things laid out the night before so all you have to do is open the garage or front door and pull them forward. You got this. Give the customers what they want – a well laid-out sale that’s ready when they are.

And haggle! Like I said before, haggle! Don’t be one of those people who says “I put a $5 price tag on that promotional Blue Moon stein and I expect you to pay $5 for it.” No! Pretend you’re Rick Harrison on Pawn Stars! Someone offers you a dollar, say you can’t let it go for less than three! They come up to two, you tell them two-fifty! They feel like they’re getting a good deal, you’ve gotten rid of clutter and made some pocket change for it, it’s all good.

At the end of the day, the goal is really to clear out the things you’re not using anymore. Use your head. Ask yourself, “could somebody else use this?” If so, sell it. Garage sales are like an old-timey version of eBay – selling junk you don’t want anymore so you can get some money to spend on somebody else’s junk they didn’t want anymore.

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Lindsay Kramer - Bridge and Tunnel Budget Stretcher

Lindsay Kramer - Bridge and Tunnel Budget Stretcher

Lindsay Krämer lives in New Jersey with a couple of rats. They're like dogs, but smaller and cheaper. Believe it or not, there's enough to be said about New Jersey that Lindsay writes about it at Aside from that, she spends her days window shopping, trolling various forums and coming up with exciting new ramen recipes.

1 Comment

  1. Laura Benfurd
    May 8, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    “Nobody wants to buy dirty crap from a garage sale. Nobody ever.” This should be in bold print on every garage sale permit and flea market space application. Dirty crap is for Craigslist curb alerts.