Emergency garage sale

A couple of months ago I got a flyer saying there was going to be a neighborhood garage sale in June.  At first I was excited because a neighborhood sale offers the best opportunity to make money since it will draw a bigger audience than a normal sale.  But then I realized I wasn’t going be able to participate because a) my boss was on vacation that week so I couldn’t take time off and b) my husband had completely taken over the garage because of a few projects he was working on.  So I resigned myself to missing out.

The sale was scheduled for this past Friday and Saturday.  I was working from home Friday and saw all the buyers I was missing out on drive  by and said something to my husband.  He turned around and said, well let’s have a sale on Saturday.  At first I thought he was nuts, but then I thought about it a bit and figured it wouldn’t hurt to make a go for it.  So around 2pm Friday we decided to have a garage sale at 8am Saturday.  I also had plans for Friday night.  My husband immediately set about cleaning out a third of the garage for me while I finished working.

As soon as I was done working, I started getting out the boxes of items I’d been sticking it in the attic in anticipation of the next sale.   I started pricing and organizing items as best I could.  I also started looking around the house for other items I could possibly sell.  I worked up until it was time to go see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  When I returned home at 11 I started moving things out to garage, finally heading to bed at 1am.

The next morning I got up early and started setting up shop.  We were able to open at 8am.  But since this was day 2 for the neighborhood sale,  things started out slow.  I only made one $3 sale in the first hour.  I told myself I’d be happy with selling $50 worth of stuff.  Eventually traffic picked up and my husband kept bringing out more items to sell.  We finally got rid of the basketball hoop (for $10 since it needed a new net and was not in the best of shape) and a gas weed whacker.  I was happiest to sell my son’s entire collection of Mega Bloks Dragons (about 12 sets) so we could get them out of the house and my son could earn a bit of cash.

In the end, we did much better than I anticipated.  We brought in just under $250 and got rid of some items.  When it was over, much of the leftovers went back into totes for the next sale, and the rest went to Goodwill.  By Saturday dinnertime  I had cleaned everything out of the garage so my husband could change the oil on Sunday.

Garage sales and pivot tables

I’m a data driven person. I love to study data and look for trends or patterns. When I have a garage sale, I am uptight (some people might use a different word) about collecting info from the sale so I can analyze it.

This is how the operation works:

1) We write down all sales in a notebook, with a quick description of what it is, how much it sold for and who it belongs to, so they can get credit for the sale.  I also track the sales by the hour they were made.

I don’t type the data directly into a computer because I don’t want to have to worry about people walking off with my laptop when my back is turned.

2) I transfer the data into Microsoft Excel so I can use it to crunch the numbers.

3) I use Excel to create pivot tables summarizing the results.  Pivot tables are a tool for summarizing data and presenting the information in a simplified way.

One of the big benefits of using pivot tables is I don’t need to use a calculator to figure out how much money each person made.  With pivot tables, I can easily summarize the garage sale detail in many ways. I’ve been collecting data for my garage sales for ten years.  Below are some samples of the reports I can create.

Ten years of garage sale data

I’ve posted a copy of the Excel file with the Garage Sale Summary so you can take a look if you’re interested or use it for your own sale.

Let the countdown begin

In April I got a flyer from a neighbor announcing a neighborhood garage sale at the end of June.  It’s been three years since I hosted a sale so I’m ready. I’d be stupid to pass up an opportunity like this.  I have lots of work to do to get prepped.

This past weekend I bought out three totes (yes I know I bought way too many) of Polly Pockets and accessories for my daughter to sort into semblances of the original sets.  I’ve been prodding her to find other items she’s ready to get rid of and she’s motivated because she’ll get to keep the proceeds.

I’ve been re-posting items on Craigslist , Ebay and Amazon in the hopes they’ll sell at higher than garage sale prices.  (I netted $28 on Amazon selling a Tiffen Circular Polarizer that I couldn’t sell for $8 at my sale three years ago.) I’ve been affixing price tags on clothing, old games, toys, CDs, video games, anything I’m ready to get rid of.  I hate going to a garage sale where things aren’t priced.  Luckily I had picked up some new price tags at the dollar store back in March.  I’ve also been grouping like items (books, CDs, etc.) to make it easier when I setup for the sale.  I have bright yellow paper to print some pricing signs (Books $1 or 6/$5).  I also started a tote for FREE items to entice people to get out of their cars and check out my sale.

My neighbor is taking responsibility for advertising the sale so I don’t have to worry about signs and such but I will still post an individual ad for my garage sale on Craigslist in order to drive as much traffic as a I can. I need to line up extra tables so we can have as much elevated surface area to work with.  I’m planning on using our pop up canopy to offer shelter to items outside the garage.

I’ve still got lots to do but I feel like I’ve made good progress.  Only 17 days left…

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs

It’s a common sight in the spring and summer to see garage sale signs posted on telephone poles, street signs and stop signs.  I’ve noticed that some people are getting a little more creative with the materials they use.

If you can, pick a material that’s impervious to wind and rain, so you can post your sign days in advance and be sure the sign is still there at the time of the sale.  You also want to be sure signs are well attached so they don’t blow away.  The choice of sign material and what you’re adhering it to will determine how best to attach it.  I’ve been known to use cheap clear packing tape to criss-cross the sign to the sign post in a 3-D figure eight.

Last year, someone in my neighborhood used tote lids, both large and small, to make their signs and used screws and bolts to attach them to sign posts.  Those signs weren’t going anywhere.  I thought it was very creative, though I wouldn’t recommend it unless you don’t plan on using those lids again since they now have a hole or two in them as well as writing on them.

In the last year, I’ve seen both vinyl and wooden siding used for signs.  Both are rigid enough to withstand inclement weather and make good sign material.   They would also be easy to nail into a telephone pole.

A good way to attach signs to sign posts is to use cable ties aka tie-wraps since the posts have holes at regular intervals.    This means you need to create one or two holes in the sign near the edges so the tie can reach.

Here are some more tips for creating signs  and advertising your sale.  Garage Sale Finder also has some good tips on making signs.  Just be sure to take your signs down when the sale is over.

Garage Sale Finder

Have you ever wanted to quickly find garage sales located near you? You can try looking in the classifieds in your local paper, in hard copy or on-line. You might also try Craigslist. It’s hard to tell at a glance which ones might be close and which ones are further away.

Garage Sale Finder (GSF) has a great tool, the Garage Sale Finder Map, which shows all of the sales closest to the zip code you enter.  The map shows color coded flags for all of the sales, which indicate the type of sale: individual, multi-family, estate, group/charity or neighborhood.  Click on a flag to get details on the sale.  This is usually the description from Craigslist, or whatever source GSF found the sale at.  You can also add the sale to your route and use the My Route tool to get directions from home to each of the sales.  Yyou can download the list of garage sales to your GPS  if you like.  GSF lets you select which days you want to see sales from to narrow your search to sales that are open on Friday, for instance.

Garage Sales near zip code 14624

GSF appears to get most of the sales off Craigslist.  People can enter their sales directly into GSF if they like.

I’m a visual person so I find the Map tool the easiest way to judge if there are any garage sales near home or work.  The next time you’re in the mood to hit some sales, first check out Garage Sale Finder.

Get Set

I’m almost ready for this year’s garage sale. I’m not hosting it, my sister is. Her neighborhood has an annual sale which brings in lots of traffic, which is great, though it also means some competition.  This also means I don’t need to make signs or worry about advertising.  The sale is only 2 weeks away so I’ve really kicked into high gear.

A few weeks ago I started serious sorting and organizing.  I’ve been collecting stuff for the sale throughout the year and stashing it in my basement.  Books, video games, CDs, movies and some toys are currently listed on various selling and swapping sites so they’re already organized so I can easily access them when an item is requested.  When I come across other items that I want to sell or give away, I just stash them in a box in the basement. When the box is full it gets put up in the attic until close to the garage sale date.

This is also the time when I start getting on my kids to give up toys that haven’t played with in a while.   I  enlist them to help me sort through parts and pieces.  Last week, my daughter was very helpful in sorting through her Bratz collection to match accessories and feet with each doll.  Yesterday I had my son put together Lego Bionicle sets to make sure all the pieces are intact.

Once items are sorted I use inexpensive zippered bags from the dollar store to  keep pieces together.  These bags are great because it’s easy to see inside them and you can write the price of an item directly on the bag with a permanent marker.

I’m constantly scouring my house looking for more items to  sell.  Since the sale is at my sis’s house I’m boxing everything up in totes as I group and price them.  The totes work great because I can put them on the ground without worrying about items getting wet.  They can also be flipped upside down to act as tables to put things on.  I’ve got totes full of clothes, some filled with toys and some with household items.

I’m starting to pull out the tables I’m going to use too.  I’m collecting plastic shopping bags for the sale.  You want to make sure you have a big enough supply to make it easier for people to carry their purchases.

Every once in a while I’ll hop online to see how much an item might be going for on Ebay or Amazon.  I’ve posted some items on both sites  since I figure I can get more for them online than I can ask for at a garage sale.  I’ll see if I can get any takers in the next couple of weeks.  If not, I always have the garage sale to fall back on.