Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Tao of Garage Sales

Or, I-'m-So-Cheap Part Two

Every year I spend my spring weekends picking through a pile of garden gnomes and Hollie Hobbitt bath towels on someone's front lawn looking for that elusive item that I truly need. One year it was a microwave; last year it was baby gear; I'm always looking for snow stuff and sports equipment. Given my love of garage sale-ing--I would probably do it as a hobby even if there were no financial benefit--it's surprising that I've never had my own garage sale.

That is about to change.

I went through my boys' bedroom yesterday and pulled out three Target bags of garbage, four bags of perfectly good toys that are needed by no one in our home, and about three-hundred outgrown books. I personally prefer libraries over buying books, but my 12yo son spends most of his allowance and holiday gift money at Borders. He didn't want to give them away, and selling them via Craiglist or Ebay would be a pain in the @ss. Why not have a garage sale? I asked him. His eyes lit up.

It just so happens that we have a considerable collection of miscellaneous stuff that we like too much to give away but not enough to actually use--just enough to fill a suburban driveway, in fact. So a garage sale it is! The kids plan to spend their portion of the proceeds on more of those wooden planks they are into. These little planks are so expensive we have only a 200 piece set that I found on clearance, creating ample opportunity for practicing the skills of negotiating and outright stealing. Divided three ways, there's never enough to make a complete structure. I was thinking we should put it toward a big wooden swing set/fort type deal when we buy a house, but this will leave more money for the grown-ups. And we *are* the ones who have to expend most of the effort.

Here's the plan:

One month before: amass merchandise in one place, finalize date, begin collecting bags
Two weeks before: put ads in paper, make signs
One week before: buy price tags, borrow tables, get change.
Two days before: tag items, politely(?) ask neighbor if they can keep their @^%&ing yapping, snapping poodles away from my property for one flipping day
Day before: hang signs, allow friends and homeschoolers to "pre-sale" while I set up
Day of: Keep kids in basement play room watching whatever pay-per-view cartoon they have been coveting while husband, stepson, and I man the sale. Yikes, I'm really nervous about having people milling around while my kids are downstairs. Now I'm re-thinking this.

We could make some serious money here! Which brings me to the issue of pricing... What are fair garage sale prices? I was just talking to a real estate appraiser who was commenting on people's tendency to over-value their stuff. He's in the business of disappointing people, he says, because his appraisals always come in at 20% or more less than home owners expect. I've seen this same phenomena at garage sales... I paid forty bucks for these jeans brand new, so thirty is a fair price. Except that the jeans are now faded and two years old and this is a GARAGE SALE, HELLO?

I'm thinking:
books 50 cents each or $5 for a large paper sack
older children's clothing, same
movies, CDs, and dvds $2
Adult clothing in good condition--10% of new price
baby gear 20% of new price
Toys-$1 each for average run of the mill toy, $3-5 for nicer newer one or a complete set
miscellaneous stuff, under a dollar or $5 a sack

At these prices we would make at least a hundred dollars, which isn't that much when I add up my effort and time. Maybe we'll sell cookies and treats as well. What would be a fair price for my super-yummy organic oatmeal/peanut butter cookies?


Anonymous said...

Your prices sound great! I think you could charge between $.50 & $1 for the cookies, depending on the size.

Hope it goes well!