Get the Most Bang for Your Buck Out of Your Pre-PCS Garage Sale

garage sale sign tacked to tree

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Yard sales, garage sales, tag sales, and yes…even PCS sales—whatever you call it, you’ve probably held one or two during your military years. If not, you’ve probably shopped one! Military families are excellent accumulators of stuff, but we can also be very savvy at reducing our clutter when a PCS move date approaches. If you’re facing a pending military move, maybe a yard sale is in order. This information will help you plan and execute a fun and profitable sale day.


1) Collect Information and Sale Items


What "sale attitude" do you have? We are a house divided when it comes to a selling philosophy. I want all the stuff gone. Quick. No leftovers! My spouse wants cash and tries to sell his items for what he thinks they are worth. Unfortunately, this philosophy doesn’t usually connect with savvy shoppers, and we move those items across the country again and again. 

Gather your sale items ASAP. 

Once you get solid evidence a PCS is on the horizon, start collecting items. Stash plastic bins and boxes in your basement and pile in the unused and no longer loved things you find throughout the house. Keep a marker and stickers in there, and price as you go along. An item with a clear, easily visible price sells quickly and reduces the number of times you hear, "How much?"

Double-check items for personal information.

You should open books, check for address stamps, search purses for uncashed checks, and empty pockets stuffed with cash. Also, don’t forget to look through kids’ toys and furniture —kids like to store valuable items like their first soccer medal or allowance in hidden compartments.

Generally, there are local laws for hosting sales.

Research when, where, and how often you can hold a yard sale—a permit might be required. The same logic applies to yard sale signage. Base housing will have different rules compared to private neighborhoods. 

A bonus for community on-base sales: There is typically a yearly or even quarterly sale at a communal area on an installation. Often, big crowds of off-base neighbors pay admission to shop as an early bird, and you could sell out of items in just an hour or two.  


The best part is that, sometimes, the Goodwill Truck is stationed and waiting for sellers’ donations when they’re finished. These types of community sales work well when your street cannot handle the extra traffic or inadequate parking. But, be warned, collective sales mean more tempting options to buy someone else’s junk. Don’t squander profits! 


After you empty your home of clutter, you’ll need to tackle a move-out cleaning. Read  Make Pre-PCS Cleaning a Breeze with this Checklist to help you get started. 

2) Advertise: On and Offline

The internet has made yard selling and advertising so much easier and more efficient. Now, there are endless ways to get the word out about your date and time, so the need for print advertising is dwindling. 

Start with what you know.

Post in Facebook groups and Craigslist, of course. Instagram is an easy place to showcase the good stuff up front for top dollar. Buyers might even contact you early if you offer an in-person or virtual pre-sale a day or two in advance. These sites and others like Yard Sale Search and BooKoo easily list the who, what, when, and where for free. They can be very specific to neighborhoods or base locations.

If you have a few months to purge, you could join your local Buy Nothing Project. You won’t earn money for your excess, but you’ll be thrilled with how quickly your items leave your house! The group is hyper-local, and the premise is to list items to “gift.” It's easy—list an item, wait for neighbors to show interest, then coordinate a porch pick-up time.

Advertise your sale. 

Noticeable, attractive, and most importantly, readable signs are crucial for driving traffic to your house. Take a trip to your nearest dollar store and shop for items. Premade signs, poster board, markers, pricing stickers, balloons, and many more advertising materials are available for about a buck. If you use arrows, point them in the correct direction to avoid confusion.

Plan for a couple of hours to create these masterpieces. It takes longer than you think to make them worthwhile and functional (and maybe reusable). Also, remember, whatever goes up must come down, especially in neighborhoods where illegal signage is patrolled. 

What if after your yard sale, you still have too much stuff? What Military Families Need to Know About Long-Term Storage will help you sort your options. 

3) Display and Decorate

Start with a clean yard, preferably with recently cut grass. Put away any items not for sale and restrict areas you do not want customers to shop. Next, round up tables, racks, shelving, and even cardboard boxes to organize and display items. Finally, drag out your coat rack to hang purses, hats, scarves, and jewelry. Many MWRs will rent folding tables for a low price.

Section your space into categories such as Home, Outside, or Children’s Items. Then, within those categories, arrange similar items. For example, place kitchen utensils in a vase or pitcher on top of a table with scrap fabric you’re trying to sell as a tablecloth. 

If you have a lot of clothing, find a good way to hang the items. Garages are suited for stringing a laundry line of hangers or even clothespins. Clothing is difficult to sell because it’s hard for the buyer to imagine if it will fit or look good when they get home. Most people won’t spend more than a couple of dollars on used clothes. Try bundling baby and kid clothing or offer a deal that says "Fill a Bag for Two Bucks."

Pull oversized items such as furniture, golf equipment, or children’s bikes nearest the road to attract buyers. Take advantage of the recent trend to box items and mark them "FREE." Load it with tempting items that aren’t worth much, which will entice customers to come in further and see what else is for sale. Everyone likes free!

Your yard sale could help pay for unexpected costs. Don't Forget These 5 Expenses in Your PCS Budget.

4) Miscellaneous Tips

An excellent yard sale has many people browsing. Attract crowds with a party atmosphere!

  • Play fun music and offer free water or lemonade. 
  • Entertain the kids, so mom and dad can take their time shopping
  • Offer a game of cornhole or bottles of bubbles in the yard.
  • Have plenty of change on hand. ATMs usually only dispense twenty-dollar bills. 
  • Keep money and a calculator tucked away in a wristlet or waist pouch.
  • Deposit larger sums of cash in the house while your spouse or friend runs the sale.
  • Expect hagglers, and be prepared to come down on prices or simply tell them you think the current price is fair.

Keep a positive attitude and treat this as a social event! It’s a natural way to say goodbye to neighbors before the moving trucks arrive.  

By Dawn M. Smith





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