Earth Day: Love your planet & pocketbook

By Michal Ann McArthur, Bend
Author of Choking on a Camel

One good way to take care of the Earth is to reuse and recycle what you no longer need. One good way to take care of Earth and your wallet is to take those items and hold a yard sale. Last June, my girlfriend did just that. Not only can she now park her car in her garage, but she also made $1200.00. You might be tempted to say, not bad for a couple of days’ work. But actually, there was a whole lot more to it than that. Successful yard sales don’t just happen. To maximize your profits, you have to plan ahead and work hard. Here are some things you can do to assure your success:

Choose the right time of year. I’m already seeing signs for yard sales starting to pop up amidst the spring flowers. As soon as the weather is nice enough, have your sale. If you can swing it, late May and early June are optimal times. People still have money to spend in early summer and haven’t yet crowded their schedules with too much to do—summer sports, vacations, home projects, etc.

Choose the right days. My friend made 65% of her sales on Friday. Weekdays especially appeal to two groups of shoppers: Moms who can shop while their children are in school (if you have a sale before school lets out) and professional collectors and dealers. A Friday-Saturday sale is better than a Saturday-Sunday sale to attract these professionals.

Get good advice on pricing. My girlfriend called a local second-hand dealer who came to her home at no charge and suggested prices. He pointed out what was of more/less value and why. She also got advice from people who used to own an antique store. If you’re not sure about the value of something, investigate before you sell, especially works of art or possible antiques.

Publicize widely. Of course, you can put an ad in your local paper, but there are places where you can advertize for free, like Craigslist. Churches, grocery stores, and senior centers often offer free bulletin board space. Be sure your road signs are large and easy-to-read. And don’t forget to take them down after the sale. Outdated signs clutter up the community and frustrate shoppers who are trying to locate sales. State clearly the hours of your sale and whether you will sell to early comers. Even when you do, people will show up early. Know in advance how you will handle this.

Use good pricing strategy. Opinions differ on whether or not to put a price on every item. Pricing everything is time-consuming. Plus, if shoppers feel your prices are too high, they tend to leave. My girlfriend put a price on a few important items and had a price in mind for the rest. She found that shoppers love to negotiate and that an important part of yard sales is the “art of the deal.”

Market your goods like a pro. How you display your goods makes a huge difference. Lay out as much as possible on tables. Put the eye-catching, hot items out front where they will attract shoppers. As people drive by, you want to give them a reason to get out of their cars. Sell with a friendly, out-going attitude; point out good deals and bargains.

Have enough help the day of the sale. You have to watch people or some will rip you off. That’s a sad fact. One person alone can’t keep an eye on everything. Have somebody in charge of the money box at all times. And of course, have on hand at least twice as much change as you think you’ll need.
Arrange for a charity to come pick up the leftovers. This way, joy of joys, you won’t have to haul anything back into your garage or burden the Earth by throwing leftovers away.

Cash in your pocket, parking space in your garage, and items recycled rather than tossed into a

landfill—I’d call that a successful sale. Yard sale money isn’t easy money, but you can succeed with some hard work and savvy strategies.

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