As I price items for our community’s yard sale this weekend, I try not to think of the difference between the original price and the price I’m writing on the sticker. My primary goal with the yard sale is to get rid of some clutter, but the extra cash will be nice, too. While most of what I make will simply be recouping a small portion of money I already spent, I expect to make a true profit on some of the things I’m selling. Here are five ways to actually make money at a yard/garage/tag sale:
Sell things whose value has appreciated since you bought them: A typical yard sale at my house brings in about $100. My parents generally make much more at their yard sales. What’s the difference? They have a lot of great old stuff that’s been sitting around their house for decades – you might call these things “antiques” – and they can put higher prices on them than what they originally paid.
Look for deals throughout the year: I buy a lot of personal hygiene products and other small items that are free or very cheap because of coupons, rebates, and store clearances. Usually by the time yard sale season rolls around, my storage closets are overflowing. I keep what I expect to use in the next year and sell the rest for about half the store’s usual price (but more than what I paid.) Yard salers love to find great deals on new items, and the buyers don’t need to know that you didn’t pay the price that shows on the still-attached store tag.
Buy box lots and split them up: One family in our area has a yard sale twice a year, and their abundant merchandise is organized better than the goods at our local Wal-Mart. I always wonder how they fit all the stuff in their house! I’m sure they make at least a grand at each sale they hold. It’s obvious that they could not possibly have used everything themselves, and though I’ve never asked, I believe they must do what I have done on occasion: buy box lots at auctions and sell the items individually. In many cases, a single item in an auction box lot can sell at a yard sale for more than the entire box. This is because people are often willing to buy the one thing they want rather than pay the same amount and have to store or throw out the rest of the things in the box.
Add value before selling: If you have something you no longer need, think of ways to make it more useful and appealing. One year, my father got free bolts of heavy fabric from a warehouse that was clearing out its contents. He cut the fabric into pieces and sold the pieces as tablecloths for $1.00 each. They sold far more quickly (and for more money) than the bolts as a whole would have sold. A word of caution: be sure that your alterations truly make an item more valuable; don’t destroy a collector’s item.
Shop for yourself at yard sales: If you go to yard sales regularly, you will soon get a feel for how most people in your area price certain things. Buy things that are underpriced (whether you will use them or not), take good care of them, and sell them at a future yard sale for a price typical of your area. If you’re feeling ambitious, take your goods to a yard sale at a friend or relative’s house in an area with a higher Y.S.C.P.I. (Yard Sale Consumer Price Index).
If you can use something (such as kids’ clothes and toys) for a year or more and resell it for the same price you paid at an earlier yard sale, your initial cost is more like placing a deposit on something you’re borrowing rather than buying it outright. True, you might not be able to resell everything, and you might not even make your money back when you consider travel expenses, but you should at least be able make back a greater percentage of the price you paid than if you had bought your things new.
Have fun bargain hunting, and whether you make $10 or $1,000 at your next yard sale, may it truly be a profitable experience!