Garage Sale Lessons

Ever had a basement (or attic or spare room) full of stuff? Stuff that just sits there, collecting dust, taking up room? Yep, I’ve totally been there. After my father-in-law passed away, our basement became like a storage unit for a lot of his earthly possessions. Last summer, my husband’s family decided to go through the items, keeping things they wanted and readying the rest for a massive garage sale.

What a lot of work! If you’ve ever had a garage sale, you know what I mean. Pricing. Tables. Trying to find spots for all the stuff. Dealing with those people who come before 8 when you’re blearily trying to put things out (and your add specifically stated 9 a.m. and no early birds!).

It was the first garage sale I’d participated in since I was around 10, and it was a learning experience. Below are two valuable lessons I learned during the multi-weekend odyssesy that was our garage sale.

Be Mindful of Change

There was one uncomfortable, bleak spot which stands out in my mind. A lady bought about two dollars’ worth of items and handed me a five dollar bill; when I gave her the three dollars in change she was owed, she insisted up and down she paid me with a twenty. I held my ground (and had the five dollar bill she’d paid with right there), and she finally grabbed her items and walked off, grumbling. Now, maybe she really was convinced she’d paid with a larger bill (she even made a show of going through her purse, insisting she’d had a twenty in there earlier which wasn’t there anymore) and maybe it was all a confused misunderstanding. But I share the experience to say this: be extra vigilant when handling money and giving back change when you hold your garage sale. If you’re by yourself (as I was), keep whatever money is handed to you in plain sight until the transaction is complete. If you’re sharing money-handling duties with someone else, make sure you each follow the same practice of accepting payment and doling out change.

Stick To Your Guns

Somehow my father-in-law had amassed enough miscellaneous utensils of all function, shapes and sizes to outfit at least four kitchens. We threw all of it into three boxes and marked it twenty-five cents each or five for a dollar. They were, without a doubt, the best selling items at the sale; by the end, we had only a few things left out of three full boxes. With that being said, early on the first day of the sale, there was a girl shopping with her mom to outfit her first apartment. The mom grabbed all of the boxes and offered us three dollars for the whole lot. The hubby and I said for ten, she could have it. She scoffed, saying we’d never make that much and left. Long story short, we easily made that and more on the boxes. If you feel an item is really worth what you wrote on there, don’t be afraid to stand your ground. Of course, garage sales are about bartering, but you don’t have to give stuff away for free when you know it will make money.

What about you, MomVesting readers? Have a funny, shady or crazy garage sale story? Tell us below!

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Anonymous's picture

femmefrugality wrote:

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 18:10 Comment #: 1

Good tip about keeping the bills in plain site until the transaction's over! That woman probably really thought she handed you a twenty, but some people will try to scam you.

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