Clean out your closets and make a little extra money with these easy garage-sale strategies.
Sign for yard sale
Credit: Thayer Allyson Gowdy

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Instead of giving away or throwing away miscellaneous items this season, why not channel your child’s inner entrepreneur and throw a garage sale?

Kids love garage sales, and they’re a great way to make some extra cash, get outside and free up some space in your house, too.

A triple win. Now here’s how to make the most out of it.

1. Place Your Ad Here

Have your kid help you write an ad for your local newspaper and put signs up around town. Less is more when it comes to effective advertising, so skip the glitter (unless your kid feels really strongly about it) and make signs using bold markers with your address, the date and time of the sale and an arrow pointing in the right direction.

2. Enlist Some Helpers

Have your kid ask a friend to chip in for the cause, both by putting her stuff up for sale, too, and volunteering to help the day of. Not only will this double the selection of items for sale, you’ll have an extra pair of hands to help. In the days leading up to the sale, look over and clean all the items. There’s nothing worse than selling a pair of jeans for $3 and remembering there was a $20 bill in the back pocket.

3. Consider Your Layout

When it comes to rummaging through other people’s used stuff, presentation matters: Have your kids help you arrange all items by category, and make it easy to navigate between sections. Instead of throwing books into a box, line them up on a bookshelf for easy browsing. Hang up clothes on an old shower rod and order them by size. (No one wants to dig through piles of precariously stacked T-shirts, and you don’t want to be the one stuck folding and refolding them.) Place hot ticket items near the end of your driveway to lure in customers. If people driving by see something that catches their eye, they’ll stop to take a look.

The same goes for the kids' stuff. Kids love shopping at garage sales almost as much as they love putting them together. So help your child go through all her goodies and separate out the really good stuff to make sure it’s properly displayed.

4. Create Ambiance

Just because you’re setting up shop in your front yard doesn’t mean it can’t have the vibe of a classy boutique. Play some nice background music so shoppers aren’t perusing in silence. If your kid is really into it, he could even open a lemonade stand and sell packaged snacks or your favorite homemade cookies to make some extra cash. Make sure to have a garbage can nearby to keep things tidy.

5. Advertise Each Item’s Value

Make sure all your items are clearly marked with price tags, which will discourage bargain-hunters from offering a bargain-basement price on items that aren’t marked. We recommend setting your kid up with masking tape or blue painter’s tape and letting him go to town once you’ve decided on the prices. After shoppers take their items home, they can remove the tape without the sticky residue that stickers usually leave.

For bigger items like furniture, make large price signs so shoppers aren’t searching for that small, elusive price tag. Try these tips to spruce up drab items:

  • Put (half used) batteries in that remote controlled car so shoppers can test it out.
  • Have an electric outlet available so customers can try plugging in their just-purchased blender or lamp.
  • Many of your items were probably once featured in catalogs or online. Clip out old ads of your camera or Amazon printouts of kids’ toys (with the original price, of course).

6. Don’t Overprice

The main thing to remember is not to overprice. Although it’s nice to make money, clearing out that excess clutter should be your ultimate goal. A good rule of thumb is to sell things for one-half to one-third their original price. Your kid might be very attached to that old stuffed animal, but even though it’s super cute, it’s still a secondhand product to a new owner.

Also, try to price things with round numbers–25 cents instead of 15, $2 instead of $1.80. This way, you’ll avoid juggling loose change and making math errors when calculating totals.

7. Be Thoughtful About Checkout

Instead of putting all your money in a tin, both you and your child can tie on your cutest aprons with pockets so you have cash on you all the time (assuming she’s old enough to handle the money, of course). Have lots of small bills to make change for customers, and when they’re ready to pay, tally up their items and keep a ledger of what you sold for how much. Once your customers have selected their treasures, have your kid help them wrap up breakables in newspaper and provide bags for easy transport. As the day winds down, don’t be afraid to lower prices or offer everything half off.

Stick with these rules of thumb and you and your child should have a successful garage sale on your hands.