Moneywise: Garage sales can turn your junk into cash

It’s officially summer and in neighbourhoods across the country it’s not uncommon to see the front yards of homes littered with all sorts of personal and home goods for sale.

A garage sale is almost a kind of rite of passage from winter to summer. It’s not a terribly difficult event to put on — all it takes is some time, a few organizational skills and bit of advertising — and it can be a great way to get rid of stuff you no longer want and turn it into some cash.

Before you start you might want to check with your municipality to see if there are any local bylaws or regulations that you should know about.

There’s an old saying that there is strength in numbers. Talk to your neighbours and friends to see if they want to participate in a group sale. You can increase your chance of attracting more buyers by having a wider selection of goods for sale and you can split the cost of advertising.

Timing and pricing are important. Generally, it’s not a good idea to hold a sale on a long holiday weekend when a lot of people are likely to be away. I personally have learned that lesson the hard way.

Price items clearly and organize them together in groups – all paperbacks 50 cents and hard cover books for $1.00. Keep prices in increments of 25 cents to make calculations easy and have lots of change on hand to make the exchange of money as quick and easy as possible.

You want to be sure that everything you are selling is clean and in good working condition. Clean your dishes and glasses, buff up any leather goods, and do any minor repairs that are needed. It may sound like a lot of work, but it can result in more cash at the end of the day.

It pays to advertise. Bargain hunters start checking the newspaper early to plan their routes. Run your advertisement the day before and the morning of your sale, highlighting the major categories and brands you have on sale. And don’t forget to include the date and times of the sale and your street address.

Signage is important. Post bright, clearly-written signs in the area at busy intersections. If you know a real estate agent check with them because many real estate companies have garage sale signs that you can borrow for the event. They are very professional looking.

How you present what you have to sale is very important. Avoid putting items in boxes on the ground. Not many people will bend over or kneel down to dig through it. Hang clothing like dresses, suits, skirts, blazers, coats and jackets and neatly fold items like sheets, draperies, blankets and bedspreads.

Place your most appealing items near the street so people driving or walking by can see them. Display complete sets of dishes instead of just one. Seeing is believing. Buyers will want to see each piece in the set. Take the time to set everything up attractively.

Once your sale is over, remove the signs and clean up everything from the lawn. Your neighbours will appreciate it.

Besides generating cash, garage sales can be fun. So get a hot cup of coffee, a comfortable chair and have some fun while making some extra cash and meeting new people at the same time.

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.


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