Tuesday Tips: Cashing In on Yard Sales

We search, we hunt, we dig. One of our summertime rituals besides cookouts and serious sweating is yard sale shopping. You never what you'll find among the unwanteds from another person's life. And aside from being a haven for treasure hunters, yard sales serve as a way to declutter one's home. I talked to Chris Heiska, a Marylander who's known online as the Yard Sale Queen, to get some tips for having a cash-generating yard sale:

Tip #1: Preparation is key. Some of the things people forget about most often are making sure to have enough change to break big bills, having some plastic or paper bags handy for items that get sold and having some newspaper handy for wrapping breakables.

Tip #2: Use the Web and signs around the neighborhood to bring the crowds to your sale. Aside from advertising on Craig's List, I can't fail to mention washingtonpost.com's garage sale listings, which start at $9.99. Post signs in your neighborhood the day before and make the wording simple. Just make sure you know the rules of signage in your neighborhood, especially if you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association. Arrows pointing in the direction of your sale will make it even easier for drivers to quickly see where to go. Use your Web and newspaper ads to describe what you'll have at the sale but leave that kind of information off your street signs.

Tip #3: Any weekend is up for grabs for scheduling your yard sale. It used to be that you wouldn't dare have a yard sale during a holiday weekend but Heiska says that rule may be going out the window as gas prices rise and people stay local. Saturday mornings are the more typical days to hold yard sales in the Washington region. But different regions of the country have different traditions. Heiska says she's heard of some places where yard sales are held on Thursdays and Fridays.

Tip #4: The pricing of your items can make or break your yard sale. Pricing too high will send people away empty-handed. Visit local thrift stores and other yard sales prior to yours to see how similar things are priced. Also, "think about how bad do you want to get rid of it. And take into account what you paid for it new," says Heiska.

Tip #5: Don't try to sell valuables and big items like furniture at your yard sale, Heiska says. People want to get things for $1 and they don't want to worry about having to find a way to haul something away. "If you have stuff worth a lot of money, take it to a consignment store or put it on Craig's List," she says. People go to yard sales for household items like CDs, DVDs, toys and clothes, especially for kids.

Tip #6: If things aren't going well at the sale, like people are walking away without buying, start slashing prices. Or tell people you're willing to go lower on an item they pick up. "You might be able to talk them into buying it," Heiska says.

Tip #7: Consider selling your unwanteds at a flea market or neighborhood yard sale. You'll likely be charged a fee for the space but they'll handle all the advertising for the sale, bringing in a larger number of shoppers.

Have you ever had a yard sale? If so, what have you done to make it a success? What's the most amount of money you've ever made at a yard sale and what were you selling? Do you have any tips for how to shop yard sales? What's the coolest thing you've ever bought at a yard sale? Post a comment below.

Fiscal Fast: On another note... I'm looking for people to go on a fiscal fast with me. You may recall my recent blog post about frugal living and author Jeff Yeager's suggestion that people should go on fiscal fasts. I've decided to take the plunge and see if I can handle a week-long fiscal fast where I don't spend a single dime on anything. I'll start the fast midnight on July 7 ending at midnight on July 14. Care to join me and post a comment on July 17 when I write about my own experience? Target may go out of business while I do this.

By Tania Anderson |  July 1, 2008; 1:37 PM ET Tuesday Tips
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Your poll needed some sort of household goods/kitchen things. Thats mostly what I buy. Kitchen tools, brooms, planters, baking dishes, things like that.

Speaking of frugal living, I would love to see an article on Amy Dacyczyn and what has become of her after she retired the Tightwad Gazette. A couple of her kids are on facebook, but I, and everyone, is so curious if their tightwad ways kept up as the kids turned into teenagers. Does she still live in the farmhouse? Or did the money she made from her Tightwad Empire change them, and is that why she has refused interviews for the past 12 years?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 1, 2008 8:59 AM

Great idea! I'll see if I can find her. If anyone knows how to contact Amy please e-mail me at shoptoit@washingtonpost.com. Thanks.

Posted by: Tania Anderson | July 1, 2008 9:41 PM

I had a yard sale about 20 years ago and made $700.00. It was amazing what people bought...bookcases, houseplants, lots of pots and pans...

Posted by: chuck | July 1, 2008 11:39 PM

The Washington area used to be (and perhaps still is) a wonderful place to find exotic yard sale items, owing to the many well-traveled (diplomatic, foreign service). 4 ft tall carved Indian screen for $25, Thai rattan chaise with Thai silk covered cushion, $60, a German wooden armoire that comes apart and packs flat, $50. Once a not-so-exotic loveseat ($25), which wasn't even in the yard sale, but one of the neighbor ladies heard us asking and recalled that she had one in her basement wedged behind a pool table, and if we could get it out, we could have it.

Posted by: dcbyday | July 2, 2008 10:13 AM

I walked away from a yard sale empty-handed last Saturday, because I was so astounded that they wanted $1.00 for a flimsy children's book that would have been 25 cents (or 10!) at anyone else's sale.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 2, 2008 11:24 AM

Does anyone know of someone who comes to your home and does the whole yard sale for a commission?

Posted by: Martha | July 2, 2008 11:49 AM

Daughter in-law is a yard sale shopper . Most of their initial living room was found at yard sales and she bought the piano at an estate sale. I agree about the kitchen ware, and other household stuff. I have found good lamps in the past.

Posted by: Pat Wyneken | July 2, 2008 12:55 PM

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