Family Finance: Plan a Successful Yard Sale

Jennifer Wray

It seems like the spate of neighborhood yard sales begins around Memorial Day, peaks in mid-June and sputters out by the time late summer arrives.

But I’m here to tell you that this time of year is perhaps the very best time to have a yard sale. After all, the weather isn’t brutally hot, and chances are you (and your potential customers) are home and settled back into your non-summer routine. Plus, the changing of the seasons is always a good time to reevaluate what you own and what you’ve outgrown (literally or metaphorically).

Before you start rummaging through closets, digging through the boxes piled in your basement or raiding your kids’ toy boxes, however, you’ll want to research your municipality’s rules regarding yard and garage sales. In Columbus, for example, city code allows for two such sales per year, no permit required. Here’s a sampling of other local laws regarding such sales:

  • Worthington charges $5 for a garage sale permit; residents can hold only one sale within 12 months.
  • In Upper Arlington, residents can have one yard sale every six months, limited to the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Yard sales are allowed in Bexley just once a year, during the city’s Community Yard Sale & Freecycle event.

Get Organized

After ensuring that everything is on the up-and-up, organize the items for sale. I suggest doing this at least a week beforehand, if not on a rolling basis throughout the year. Be realistic about price points and your goal: Is this intended to be a major revenue source, or (more likely) is it a way to declutter your home? If the latter, set a goal of clearing out the merchandise ASAP. If you have big-ticket items, be sure to give them extra attention when advertising the sale. (More on that in a minute.)

Think about the schedule. While many folks opt for Friday to Saturday yard sales, as someone who works a 9-to-5, Monday to Friday schedule, I’m a Saturday to Sunday gal. Others may decide to simply host a one-day sale. Also, be realistic about time—both the time it will take to bring your items to your garage or yard for display, and the time early birds may arrive (in my experience, they land an hour in advance). Also, think about how late to go. I’ve found hosting a yard sale is exhausting, and crowds of shoppers tend to disperse as the day progresses, so mid-afternoon is a good time to wrap things up and give you time to recover for day two.

Don’t forget to advertise the sale in both the physical and online spheres. Place a classified ad in your local paper, post on Craigslist, and share in your community’s buy/sell/trade and yard sale Facebook groups. Lead with those special, big-ticket items, and be sure to take (and post) clear photos of them.

You’ll also want to post signs around your neighborhood a few days in advance—just be sure check city regulations first. Remember to include your address and the sale dates and times in large, legible type on all signs. (Remember to take those signs down when your sale is complete: No one likes a litterbug.)

Before the big day, make sure you have plenty of dollar bills and coins to make change. I like to start with $50, but whatever the amount, write it down so you can accurately track how much the sale yields. In addition, consider whether you might want to take payment using tools such as Venmo, which does not tack on a fee, or PayPal, which does.

Setup Tips

Think about merchandising. You might want to group like items together (so all children’s clothing is in one place, for example) or sort by price (such as a bin where everything is 25 cents). If you have card tables or other display surfaces, so much the better for expensive, smaller or more delicate items. Clothesline and coat hangers also can be used to great effect when displaying belongings for sale.

Finally, have a wrap-up plan. Perhaps you’ll be more willing to haggle with customers looking to wheel and deal at the end of the day. Consider doing a bag sale at the end, where customers pay a flat amount to fill a grocery sack with as many goodies as they can stuff in it, or offer BOGO deals. Inevitably, you won’t sell everything, so make a plan for donating the remainder. Organizations such as National Kidney Services and Furniture Bank of Central Ohio will even arrange for pickup of high-quality goods.

Jennifer Wray is a freelance writer, mother and fan of all things pop culture.


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