Artsy-fartsy photo of our yard sale reflected in the unsellable TV.

Artsy-fartsy photo of our yard sale reflected in the unsellable TV.

We held our yard sale yesterday, and I am still exhausted. It was a total success. We sold darn near everything, and the total take was $487.50. I had placed an ad in the local paper for $34, which means our total “profit” for the day was $453.50. Not too shabby. I’m happy to have so many of our unused items go to new homes, rather than the landfill, and to have made enough cash to feed us for most of our upcoming vacation.

This is not my first yard sale that has resulted in >$400 cash coming in, and I think I’ve figured out a few tactics that ensure success:

1. Wait until you have a few really good tings to sell. We decided to sell our kayaks (it’s time to upgrade form 1 person kayaks to tandems, since the kids are now too big to sit between our knees), a 6-seat patio set (recently replaced with an 8-seat picnic table), and a bunch of crystal that has been sitting in boxes in the basement for 3 years, waiting in vain to be used. These items served as the Big Draws to get people into the yard to look around.

2. Place an ad listing your Big Draws and some of the other stuff. I advertised that we were starting at 9:00, and someone came and bought the kayaks at 8:30. Even with the kayaks sold, the ad including them drew people to our yard all day. We also had people come because we mentioned comics and books in the ad. All 4 boxes of comics were gone by 9:10!

3. Let people come pick up the big items later, if they ask. The patio set sold pretty early, but people kept stopping to come look at it. Though  disappointed to hear it was sold, many of these people stay to buy a handful of books. We probably sold $15 worth books alone to people who wanted that table.

4. Choose your day wisely. We scheduled our yard sale (and lemonade stand) for the same day as a major regional soccer tournament held two blocks away. There was so much extra traffic on our street that we never needed to place signs around to direct people to our sale.

5. Take advantage of or create a cross-selling situation. Partner with neighbors to have simultaneous yard sales. One of our neighbors was cleaning his garage yesterday, and our customers kept wandering over to make offers on his stuff, even though he wasn’t intending to sell anything! We did let our own kids have a lemonade stand at the corner, about 50 feet away from the yard sale-this benefited them more than us, but it was a good learning experience for them. Combining the yard sale traffic as well as passing soccer families, they managed to turn a small profit:

Thing 1 and Thing 2 manning their stand.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 manning their stand.

6. Price things to move, but know what you really want to get for the big things. We didn’t bother with price tags, but never sold anything big for less than the minimum price hubby and I agreed on in advance. For the Big Draws, we always asked for a little more than we wanted and let people bargain down to the price we had in mind. For the little things, like books, we priced them to sell in groups. Books were a quarter each, or 5 for a dollar. Most people bought in groups of 5-it’s basic human instinct to go for the perceived bargain. Big stores make that work for them, so why shouldn’t you?

7. Stage your items in groups. Any furniture I have I set up in little vignettes, sort of like IKEA. The books were eventually grouped by type and author. And we always kept the Big Draws in clear view, even after they were sold.

Of course, there were mistakes made as well, and those were learning opportunities:

1. Be ready well in advance of your advertised start time. We weren’t prepared for the people showing up at 8:30.

2. Be aware of outside issues that might effect an item. I really thought the TV would sell, if only for a few bucks. We had replaced it months ago with an HDTV, and had just kept it until the spring yard sale purge. But people thought we were selling it because it wouldn’t work with the digital switchover this weekend. It’s still at the curb-people won’t even take it for free!

3. Have lots of toys for the kids. A box of toys keeps the little ones busy while Mom shops around. We had a harder time with the kids after one family bought the only box of toys we had out-at least until I remembered the pile of hula hoops in the shed.

3. Curtains are HARD TO SELL. I tried leaving them in a bag, heaping them our of the bag, draping them over the fence, and finally just piling them up on a tarp before someone even touched them.

4. Don’t put your stuff to the curb right after the sale. This is one we learned last year. Some people who had cased our sale early in the day without buying came back in the evening to help themselves once things were “free.” This time we kept everything except the TV for next year’s sale, in case perhaps science fiction books are the rage next year.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hit up the kids for some of that leftover lemonade and cookie bars. I think we’ve all earned it.