Monday, April 6, 2009

Garage Sales - Love Them or Leave Them?

large garage sale sign

Me, personally? I've never had a garage sale (or yard sale or tag sale), and I can't remember ever going to one, either. But if you're trying to decide if a garage sale is right for you, here are some things to consider.

1. You can make a reasonable amount of money.

A commenter on Creative Organizing wrote, "A few years ago we had a lot of items to sell, furniture, lots of kids/baby clothes, lawn equipment and tools, etc. Held it over two days and made over $500. It was worth it for the amount we made and what we had to sell."

Matt on Unclutterer took in about $500, too.

And over on Ask MeFi, Mozzie says, "If you live in a nice area, having a yard sale can be crazy productive."

2. A lot of people don't make much money.

"Your stuff is worth less than you think," says Lori, on Unclutterer. And timgray chimes in, saying,"If your $100.00 jeans are in a yard sale they are worth $1.00."

And here's some perspective from Real Simple: Carey Rademacher, creator of ItsDeductible, a donation-valuation software program, always donates clothing instead of trying to sell it. "A bagful of brand-name or designer clothing could be worth a $250 tax deduction versus a fraction of that at your sale―if the clothes sell at all," she says.

Stephanie on Get Rich Slowly says she actually lost money participating in a neighborhood yard sale.

3. It delays the "getting rid of it" process until the day of the sale, which can be frustrating. Many people want something gone as soon as they decide to part with it.

As a commenter on Creative Organizing wrote, "There is nothing worse than making the decision to get rid of something...and then have it hanging around."

4. It's a lot of work.

Chris, commenting on Unclutterer, says, "The best time for a yard sale is NEVER. The time spent organising, running and cleaning up after a yard sale makes them pretty pointless as a cash-generating exercise. Do yourself a favour: call up a charity, estimate the value of the goods, and use the receipt to lower your taxes."

And over on I'm an Organizing Junkie, Lucinda writes, "I’d rather have my teeth cleaned than have a G-Sale."

5. There's a chance of theft, if you're not careful.

One bit of obvious advice here is to keep your house locked, and don't allow people in to use your bathroom.

MrVisible says on LifeHacker: Keep your money in a belt, something like a toolbelt at your waist. Don't use a money box. People run off with them. It can be annoying.

And Get Rich Slowly concurs: Do NOT use a cash box. Carry your money on you at ALL times. You don’t want to present a target for casual thieves. More than that, you don’t want to be duped by professional swindlers who run distraction con games.

And keep an eye on your merchandise. As SaraAB87 says on Consumerist: Don't leave cd's and other disks in their cases, THEY WILL GET STOLEN!

But here's another issue, mentioned by Chip Thomas on Unclutterer: "We listed that we had multiple TV’s for sale in our ad in the paper. ... Unfortunately, we didn’t realize this made us a target for a night before burglary attempt."

6. Some people think they're fun!

As Mark Silver commented on "I would grieve to lose the yard sale as a social form. It’s just fun to drive through town, or bicycle, and come across yard sales. It’s like a treasure hunt.

"And, when we did it, we had fun at it - hanging out in the yard, chatting with people who came by, including friends. When we’ve gone through neighborhoods where several yard sales are in the same block, it’s clear that many of them are having a great time, sipping ice tea, hanging out while the kids play.

"As a financial opportunity, it’s just eh. But, as a social ritual, and a way to keep the secret economy of junk circulating, it’s quite fun."

And Matthew Cornell added, "For me the biggest plusses of a garage sale is 1) socializing locally, 2) selling locally (reduced pollution, gas use, …), and 3) just hanging out."

If you want to have a garage sale, here are some useful guides:

[Picture: Garage sale sign sold by Sassy Signs]

Related information, from my newsletter:
10 Ways to Get Rid of Your Stuff


Janet Barclay said...

I've found some real treasures at yard sales, including a rocking chair and some favourite articles of clothing, but too often, people just put out their chipped dishes and other junk, expecting that passersby will be only too happy to take them off their hands!

I think you can make money at a garage sale if you have some good quality items to sell - perhaps you're moving to a smaller home and no longer need all your furniture or appliances - but otherwise, it's a lot of time and work and you just end up being stuck with the worst of the lot at the end of the day.

Jeri Dansky said...

Janet, your comment reminded me of something I wanted to add to this blog post: my newsletter article on 10 ways to get rid of your stuff. (I just added it to the post.)

There are many alternatives to garage sales, and many people find the alternatives work better for them.

MAM said...

Unless you itemize you don't get any tax benefit from donating to Goodwill or other charity. Since we paid off our mortgage we haven't been able to itemize. I'm not saying don't donate, just make sure you're making an informed decision. (I do donate instead of having a garage sale, because I need the stuff gone once I decide.)


Tracy said...

I love having garage sales. I live in a subdivision that holds a sub-sale every year. Since every participating household pays a small fee, the advertising is amazing and the traffic sets the stage for big profits.

I reserve a section of my basement storage room for garage sale items. When I decide I want to part with something it goes in the garage sale stash until the day of the sale. Whatever doesn't sell gets donated to charity.

If I don't have much to warrant my own sale, I set up a table at a neighbor's sale, and vice-versa.

The only thing that I refuse to sell at a garage sale is clothing. It is too difficult to keep the items organized during the sale so customers can see what they are looking and the tax deduction for clothing far outweighs what you will get for those items at a garage sale, in my opinion.

Jeri Dansky said...

Mary and Tracy, thanks for commenting - and helping to illustrate that different people will go different routes, depending on their circumstances.

Mary, I totally agree about "informed decisions."

Tracy, "basement storage rooms" aren't something most people have in my part of the country! Having that luxury makes the garage-sale approach an easier option to choose.

Louise said...

We have friends in San Jose who have a group garage sale every year. A bunch of us haul our stuff to their yard, crack open some beer, and have a great time. We model each other's clothes for potential customers, demonstrate ancient electronics and generally just goof around.

Even after 5 years of living on the road in our RV, we still try to make it back for the annual garage sale!

Jeri Dansky said...

Now THAT sounds like fun, Louise!

Let me know when the sale goes on this year?

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Garage Sales: Leave Them!

Unless you have lots of time, definitely need money and don't mind the many hassles of preparing for and holding a garage sale, I don't think it's worth the effort. Most of us have a tendency to overestimate the value of our stuff and underestimate the work that a garage or yard sale requires.

However, if it's a friendly neighborhood event that everyone enjoys, and if you can haul everything that doesn't sell off to charity as soon as it's over, I agree that sounds like it could be fun!

Anonymous said...

Now here's a topic I feel strongly about. Each to their own, but I've been there, done that and I'm never going back. I wrote a blog post about it called "Why I'll Never Have Another Garage Sale" here -

Thanks for starting a good debate, Jeri.

Jeri Dansky said...

Angela, thanks for the pointer to your post.

Cynthia, thanks for chiming in. I'm not surprised by your take on garage sales. :-)

This is fun, seeing all the different views. Anyone else?

pidgeon92 said...

This will be the third year that I organize a Street Sale for everyone on our block. The city provides barriers so people can set up tables and walk in the streets, and most houses on the block set up at least one table; several invite family and friends as well.

It's a nice neighborhood event, and afterwards I roll the grill into the street and BBQ for everyone. It's far more fun to have everyone join in than it is to be the only house on the block, and it's a good way to meet your neighbors.

Jeri Dansky said...

Pidgeon92, the more I read the replies, the more I think a neighborhood garage sale sounds like a neat thing to do. It's a party, a way to be neighborly - not just a way to make money from your stuff.

And having the whole neighborhood be part of it might encourage some people to do more decluttering than they would do otherwise.

Do you also arrange some way of disposing of the leftovers?