Smart Spending

It’s Now Fashionable to Make Extra Money by Having a Garage Sale

I remember when I first encountered the term “used cars”. It connoted doubts and worry. Then I heard the term “pre-owned” cars. Before I knew it, my upscale neighbor in the McMansion was driving a “luxury pre-owned vehicle” and boasting about his great deal.  Cars were officially okay to be pre-owned, but would “gently used” items also come into vogue? As a garage sale enthusiast, I certainly hoped so! And with the continued downturn in the economy, that seems to be the case.

For several decades now, I’ve sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of everyday items at flea markets and garage sales, and threw garage sales, tag sales, and estate sales for others. And I have honed my own tricks and techniques of how to get the most people to sales, how to keep them there, and how to sell them the most things for the highest profits.

I have also, since the great recession, seen the types of shoppers at garage sales shift dramatically. I see every demographic at garage sales now, from dealers and collectors, to day-trippers, to people who are buying necessities because they just can’t afford retail.  It now seems quite mainstream to shop at and host garage sales.

So a bad economy is a great time to capitalize on that popularity by having your own garage sale. With my tried and true theories, I can help you make more money and sell more things, and it need not be as difficult as you may believe.

If you think you have nothing to sell at a garage sale, think again. All you have to do is go through your home, room by room, to see all the items that you no longer use or want.  And when I tell you that I have sold everything imaginable at garage sales, I mean it. I once sold a rock holding a door open for $5. I could not make this up!

People no longer go to garage sales just to find antiques and collectibles; they go to buy household necessities for kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, garage, etc.  From furniture to bedding to artwork, from stuffed animals to jewelry to musical instruments to tools, someone wants everything, whether it is for their own use or for resale.

Some interesting items that have recently been purchased at my sales include: old sporting equipment to be hung on a child’s wall for decoration, broken tools and metal debris purchased by an artist for sculptures, electrical items purchased by a science teacher for class demonstrations, stray pieces of fabric and wallpaper for framing to become inexpensive art, old sinks to become an outdoor coolers. The point is that very little really needs to be thrown away, as someone can find uses for your unwanted things, even if they are not pristine.

I know people who have worked hard to have a garage sale and felt they sold very little and made next to no money.  That’s because they made some very classic mistakes.

The six quick tips below are my golden rules for garage sale success.

  1. Have clear, simple signs. They should be doubled sided and contain two things – an arrow in the direction of the sale and the day and time of the sale. Period. Write in waterproof ink or buy pre done signs. Better to put a sign in the ground than tape to trees or telephone poles.
  2. Take out an ad in your local paper in the yard sale section. You can also advertise for free on garage sale sites like,, and and on your local or Craig’s List. More people will come from ads than signs, but you need both.
  3. Everything must be tagged. Be a cashier at your sale, not a negotiator. Many people are too shy to ask how much something is and, contrary to popular belief, most people are not hagglers.
  4. Put all small items on covered tables. Use shower curtains, sheets, fabric, I don’t care, just cover the tables and you’ll get more for your items.
  5. The most powerful words at your sale: NO and FREE. Don’t be afraid to turn down an offer. Many times the person will buy the item anyway. Offer free items with purchases, or buy two get one free. FREE with a catch. Just like in advertising. It works.

So, go have that sale! De-clutter, have fun, make money! You can find more information in my book, Ava’s Guide to Garage Sale Gold, which can be purchased at or on Amazon Kindle.

Follow Ava Seavey on twitter for more tips @garagesaleava