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

garage sale sign tacked to tree

Photo from Canva

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Yard, garage, tag, and PCS sales—whatever it’s called, most families have probably held one or two during their years spent moving from duty station to duty station. If not, then they’ve probably shopped one! 

The military community is a master accumulator of stuff, but they can also be very savvy at reducing clutter when a PCS move date approaches. For those facing a pending move, maybe a yard sale is in order. This information will help plan and execute a fun and profitable sale day.

1) Collect Information and Sale Items

What’s the “sale attitude"? Some people just want all the stuff gone when it comes to a selling philosophy—quick, no leftovers! Others want cash and try to sell their items for what they think they are worth. Unfortunately, this philosophy doesn’t usually connect with savvy shoppers, and those items move across the country with them repeatedly.

Gather your sale items ASAP. 

Once there’s solid evidence a PCS is on the horizon, start collecting items. Stash plastic bins and boxes in the basement and pile in the unused and no longer loved things found throughout the house. 

Keep a marker and stickers handy, and price along the way. An item with a clear, easily visible price sells quickly and reduces the number of times shoppers ask, "How much?"

Double-check items for personal information.

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.

Note any local laws for hosting garage sales.

Research when, where, and how often yard sales are allowed, as the area might require a permit. The same logic applies to yard sale signage. Base housing often has 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 hosts could sell out of items in just an hour or two.

The best part is that, sometimes, Goodwill positions a truck nearby, waiting for sellers’ donations when they’re finished. These types of community sales work well when the 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!

2) Advertise: On and Offline

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

Start with what's known.

Post in Facebook groups, OfferUp, and Craigslist. Buyers might even contact early if sellers 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 there’s plenty of time to purge, join the local Buy Nothing Project. Sellers won’t see a profit, but it’s thrilling how quickly items leave the house! The group is hyper-local, and the premise is to list items to “gift.” List an item, wait for neighbors to show interest, and then coordinate a porch pick-up time.

Advertise your sale. 

Noticeable, attractive, and, most importantly, readable signs are crucial for driving traffic to the house. Visit the nearest dollar store and shop for items. Premade signs, poster boards, markers, pricing stickers, balloons, and many more advertising materials are available for about a buck. And, of course, make sure the arrows point in the correct direction to avoid confusion.

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

people smiling and looking at items in garage sale

Photo from Edwards

3) Display and Decorate

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

Section the 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 selling as a tablecloth. 

If there’s not 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 few 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 like 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, enticing customers to come in further and see what else is for sale. Everyone likes free!

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 large sums of cash in the house while a spouse or friend runs the sale.
  • Print out the Venmo QR code to expedite electronic payments. 
  • Expect hagglers, and be prepared to lower prices or simply tell them 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

Find more tips for your PCS move with our free guides below: 




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