Garage Sales: Are they Worth the Effort?

driveway full of garage sale items“Would you take 50 cents for this?” Is a question that anyone who’s ever had a garage sale has heard countless times. Having a garage sale is definitely one way of getting rid of the excess stuff in your life. But is it a good idea? In my opinion, that’s a definite no.

First, a few facts about garage sales (alternately known as a yard sale, or rummage sale.) Did you know that in any given week in the U.S. there are 165,000 garage sales? Or that 4,967,500 items are sold each week?

A Thousand Easy Steps

Let’s look at the things you have to do in order to have a garage sale. First, you have to find stuff to sell. If you haven’t ever had a garage sale, then you are probably in luck and have a number of items you can part with. This is especially true if you have kids that have outgrown their baby or toddler clothes. This stuff goes quite quickly. However, if you’re one of those people that have a garage sale a couple of times a year, the pickings get to be pretty sparse fast.

Once you’ve accumulated all the stuff you’re willing to let go, then you should really look at that pile again and determine if it will sell. At any price. I’m talking about those shoes that you haven’t worn since you stepped in dog poo. If you won’t wear them, you think someone else will? Wait a second, bad example—I’m sure the average garage sale scrounger would take a chance on those. But how about that pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses that is missing one bow? Time to place them in the trash.

Now that you’ve got your pile of items, it’s time to label each object with a price sticker. The hassle is coming up with a price. You don’t want to price it too high, because on Sunday evening it will still be sitting there. And you don’t want to price it too low because you need to leave a little room for negotiation. Speaking of negotiation, I refer to the first sentence in this post: “Would you take 50 cents for this?” This type of dickering is infuriating, especially when the original price is 75 cents. Or you’ll have the person offering $10 on those once-used snowshoes that cost you $150. As I said, infuriating.

Savvy Shopper or Nut Job?

A want to take some time to critique the average garage sale scavenger. This is almost a profession for some people. They show up two hours before the posted time of the sale and sit in their car, often idling the engine. Or they’ll be standing in your driveway staring at you while you set up. I’ve heard stories from other garage sales of people actually shoplifting, switching tags, or even bringing things back for a refund after they’ve used it. My favorite might be the story of a homeowner that came around the side of the house to check for customers coming down the driveway. Just then she saw a male customer relieving himself on the side of her house.

Adding it All Up

So, now you’ve got your tables up, your stuff out, your stickers on, your “Garage Sale” signs on every corner from here to Timbuktu, and you’re sitting in your lawn chair at 9:00 am Friday morning. And you sit and sit and sit. Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon. Mercifully, the sun sets and the garage door finally closes. You grab your cash box to count up all the loot you’ve made for your troubles. And it amounts to $100. After doing some quick calculations, you discover that you’ve made the equivalent of $4/hour. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the costs for the signs and the extra time placing your ad on Craigslist and Facebook.

mother holding baby with sign saying baby not for saleYou Have Options

The next time you ponder having a garage sale, I would encourage you to consider other options. The first would be to think about renting a storage unit instead of getting rid of all the stuff. Invariably, when we’ve had a garage sale and sold something, months later one of the kids will go looking for that item. This way, their heart won’t be broken.

Another option is to donate those items. You’ll be able to deduct the value of these items on your taxes, which is way more than you would get if sold them to Mr. Jones from down the street.

Lastly, you could wait until your friend has a garage sale and bring your stuff over there. You’ll get the money from the sale of these things, without all the hassle of having to waste an entire weekend giving an answer to that first question. “No, I won’t take 50 cents. It’s a firm 75 cents.”

BTW, if you’d like to learn the all the lingo that goes with a garage sale, visit this site:


About the Author: Derek Hines

About the Author: Derek Hines

Digital Marketing Specialist

Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Digital Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.