Is a garage sale right for you?

I’m seeing a lot of garage sale signs in my neighborhood lately. If you have things you’d like to move along to new homes, is running a garage sale a good idea?

The answer to that question will vary from person to person. The first consideration is whether or not you can even have one, logistically. If you live in a condominium complex, for example, there are likely to be regulations about such sales. Some cities have laws about garage sales, too.

But if there are no such issues, the following are some things to consider.

The upside of garage sales

The obvious advantage of a garage sale is that you make some money. And unlike some other ways of selling, like eBay, you don’t need to worry about shipping things after a sale. Yes, you could also donate your items and take a tax deduction for the fair market value (assuming you’re filing U.S. taxes). But if you don’t itemize your deductions, you won’t get any financial benefit from making the donation.

Knowing you are having the sale might inspire some additional uncluttering. Some children get into selling their old toys, especially if they get to keep the profits or if the profits are being donated to a good cause that is meaningful to them.

Some people really enjoy the social side of garage sales. They can be a fun way to get to know your neighbors better. But if you’re an introvert, the social side may be a drawback rather than a benefit.

The downside of garage sales

One of the largest downsides I see is that people set aside things for a garage sale and then never have one, so the unwanted items continue to take up space in the house. Even if you do have the sale, you’ll have things accumulating until the sale date, rather than leaving your home immediately as they could if chose to donate instead of sell (or chose another sales method that got individual items out of your home more quickly).

Another significant downside is that a garage sale is a lot of work. Successful garage sales usually involve a lot of preparation (making signs, placing ads, getting permits if needed, determining pricing, figuring out how to best display the items) as well as continual work on the day of the sale. And there’s post-sale work, too: taking down those signs and disposing of anything that didn’t sell.

And while you can certainly make money through a garage sale, it may be less than you expected. Garage sale shoppers are looking for bargains and will often haggle over your prices, even if you thought they were very low already. That haggling can be especially stressful if the item in question is sentimental in some way. Another consideration: If you have bad weather, you might get fewer shoppers and make much less money than expected.

To avoid garage sale regrets, you might want to estimate your probable profits, using realistic estimates on what is likely to sell and at what prices. (Visiting other garage sales in your area could help with this.) Then you can decide if you feel that amount of money is worth the time and effort the sale will require. Some people are fine with making as little as $50 or so from a sale, while others would want to make much more.

If you do decide to have a garage sale, Geralin Thomas has a lot of good advice for running it successfully.

3 Comments for “Is a garage sale right for you?”

  1. posted by Christine on

    I generally agree with many of your points on Yard Sales. When we have had successful Yard Sales in the past – and this year – has been just before a MOVE. I personally feel a Yard Sale is successful if all of these goals are achieved:
    1. you make a visible dent in the amount of stuff you want/need to get rid of
    2. you make at least some money
    3. at least 90% of what you put aside for the Yard Sale does not go back into the house

    When you are organizing your Yard Sale you should decide what you want to do with items that are left over: donate (charity or friend/relative or ?), put aside to re-sell (possibly after improving it somehow), take to the dump OR as a last resort keep.

  2. posted by Kathleen on

    The “best” yard sale I had was combining forces with a neighbor so we had double the items to sell and there’s was always at least one person there to manage things. Downsides: Had to haul stuff over there and (of course) not everything sold so some stuff went to donation. Upsides: Spending time with a friend de-cluttering and selling instead of shopping at a sale.

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