Garage Sale Tips: Estimating When You Have Enough Stuff To Make It Worth It

In the mood to have a garage sale and clean house? Better find out if you have enough goods to make it worth your while.

Garage sales are one of America's favorite hobbies. We enjoy driving around a nice location to spot the familiar signs and stop for a look. Then we buy the novelty item or a hard-to-find antique before making our way home, satisfied with the exchange.

If you're thinking about hosting a garage sale, do you have enough items to make it worth your while? Here are a few things to consider:

1. Add up your costs. Estimate how much advertising, sales preparation, and replacement items may cost. This will give you an idea of how much inventory you will need to sell to break even or make a profit. Advertising may include newspaper ads, laminated signs, and signposts, while preparation means price tags and table signs, and replacing items you sell with new ones (like a lawnmower).



2. Gather your stock. For a few weeks, go from room to room, including garage, basement, and shed, to make a list of items you plan to sell. For example, in the kitchen you may find two gift teapots that have never been used and are just taking up room, so sell one or both. The shed may be full of tools that are no longer needed since your husband passed away. In the bedroom closets are unworn clothing and outgrown kids' things, along with toys, books, and miscellaneous items.

Note it all.

3. Figure a tentative price for each item. It is advisable to ask one-third of the original price for a used item that is in good condition. For example, if you paid $15 for a new floor lamp five years ago, ask $5 for it now as long as all parts work, including switch and cord. Items that are not in top condition should be priced accordingly. And it never hurts to have a "free" box of goodies for customers to take. You can build rapport while cleaning house at the same time.

4. Compare your list of saleable items to the list of expenses to see which comes out ahead. Keep in mind your hoped-for income is only potential; you may not be able to sell all merchandise on your list, or you may end up reducing prices to sell things. Give yourself a margin of error. For example, if your stock includes 70 items totaling a possible $400, be prepared to deal with a more realistic figure of half that, perhaps $200, in deciding if you are ready for a sale.

5. If the two figures are close, consider postponing the sale until you have more stock. Or you may want to co-sponsor a neighborhood sale with other families. Sharing advertising expenses does not mean sharing profits. The more goods that are available through the shared ads, the more you may be able to attract buyers, thus putting you in a good position for sales. Some neighborhoods plan an annual sale with sign-up sheets for families who wish to participate; often each family pays just pennies for advertising, depending on how many take part.

Planning a garage sale can be fun and profitable, but don't count on the latter until all expenses have been accounted for.

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