Get the Most Bang for Your Buck Out of Your Pre-PCS Garage Sale!
by Dawn Smith
Yard sales, garage sales, tag sales, and yes…even PCS sales--whatever you call it, you’ve probably held one during your military years. If not, I am sure you’ve attended 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. With warm air and the pending transition season upon us, maybe a yard sale is in order. This helpful information will help plan and execute a fun and profitable sale day.
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 husband wants to make the cash and sell his items at what he thinks they are worth. This doesn’t usually connect with shoppers and we move those items across the country again and again. Determine your reasons for the sale and price accordingly.
Start collecting items now. Stash a plastic bin in your basement and put items in as you find them 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 much more quickly and reduces the number of times you hear, "How much?"
Double check items for personal information. Open books for address stamps, purses with old checks or jeans stuffed with cash. Children’s items have small drawers or pockets where kids like to store valuable items like their first soccer medal or allowance.
Generally, there are local laws for hosting sales. Research when, where, and how often you can hold a yard sale in your location. A permit might be required. The same logic applies to signage. Be aware of how advertising can be implemented. 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. We have participated in these and they have been well worth the effort. Plenty of the public paid admission to shop as an early bird and we were out of items in less than two hours. The best part was the Goodwill Truck stationed and waiting for sellers’ donations when they were finished.
These types of community sales work well when your street cannot handle the extra traffic or inadequate parking. Be warned, collective sales mean more tempting options to buy someone else’s junk. Don’t squander profits!
Advertise: On and Offline
The internet has made yard selling and advertising so much easier and efficient. 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: Facebook groups and Craigslist, of course.
The era of Instagram is here, and it’s an easy place to showcase the good stuff up front for top dollar. Buyers might even contact you early if you offer a presale a day or two in advance. These sites and others like Yard Sale Search
easily list the who, what, when, and where for free. They can be very specific to neighborhoods or base locations.
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 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.
Display and Decorate
My previous work experience in visual display always seeps into my yard sales and it really makes a difference. I’ve had repeat customers tell me they looked forward to my sales each year because they were easy and fun to shop.
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. Round up tables, racks, shelving, and even cardboard boxes to organize and display items. I drag out my coat rack to hang pursues, hats, scarves, and jewelry. Many MWRs will rent folding tables for a cheap price.
Section your space into categories such as Home, Outside, or Children’s Items. Within those categories, arrange items that are similar. For example, place kitchen utensils in a vase or pitcher on top of a table with a piece of scrap fabric you are 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 clothes pins. Clothing is difficult to sell because it is 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. Bundle baby and kid clothing or offer a deal that says "Fill a Bag for Two Bucks."
Pull larger items such as furniture, golf equipment, or children’s bikes nearest the road to attract buyers. I’ve noticed a trend in recent years to pile or box items marked "FREE." Load it with tantalizing items that aren’t worth much, but will entice customers to come in further and see what else is for sale. Everyone likes free!
- 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 by putting a game of cornhole or cheap bottles of bubbles in the yard.
- Have plenty of change on hand. ATMs only deposit 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.