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The science of turning unwanted items into cash

By: Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

With the arrival of warm weather comes the great American tradition of “Yard Sale Season”.  While other countries may have select days dedicated to the selling or discarding of unwanted or used items, none have embraced the idea quite as lovingly as Americans.
Spring-cleaning leaves many people with unwanted items and nowhere to store them.  However, there is always room for extra income in everyone’s budget.  With a little initiative, planning, and patience, you can turn your extra clutter into cold, hard cash.
The first things needed for a yard sale are items to sell.  Anything you own but no longer have use for has the potential to bring in an extra buck or two.  You of course don’t want to try and sell broken or overly soiled items but things you find silly or obsolete may be just the thing someone else is looking for.

Location, location, location.  When planning your sale, you want to be sure that you have a place that people can park and shop safely.  Your neighbors may not appreciate cars in their yard so try and provide ample room for cars to park and maneuver. If space is limited, you may want to have someone help vehicles exit.  You may also consider keeping pets inside or in their kennel during your sale.
A location that provides shelter from the intense summer sun and torrential downpours is ideal.  The convenience of not having to run and carry boxes upon boxes or trying to find enough tarps to cover everything when those summer “frog-stranglers” pass through is definitely appreciated by sellers and buyers alike.  Shelter from rain also means that no matter the weather, your sale can go on as planned without the hassle of scheduling rain dates.  This is especially helpful if your schedule is complicated with weekend work hours. If you do not have a shelter, you can still have an enjoyable, profitable sale.  As long as you have a way to display your items, whether it be on tables or spread out on blankets on the lawn, the main objective is to get your stuff seen.
The timing of your sale may dictate how successful the sale is.  Most sales take place on Fridays and Saturdays, beginning in the mornings around 8 am.  If you notice that most sales in your area start at a certain time, you may consider opening earlier to entice the early risers to begin their day at your sale.  Also, many sellers are catering to the people that work morning shifts by offering a Thursday afternoon start time.  Whatever time you begin, be sure to specify “no early birds” in your ad if you do not want people coming 30 minutes to an hour early to your sale.  The early birds can be your best customers but if you like to have everything set up before anyone arrives, it is best to state so.
Consider organizing a neighborhood yard sale.  This is when multiple houses along the same street or in the same neighborhood coordinate their sales on the same day.  The promise of multiple sales can really make turnout numbers soar with tons of eager shoppers.  Neighborhood sales also appeal to customers due to the fact that they save gas by only having to travel to one location.  These sales can also save you money by splitting the cost of advertising with other participants.
Advertising is essential for an especially successful sale.  If people are unaware you are having a sale, how will they know to come by?  The local newspaper is the first place potential customers turn to when looking for yard sales.  Many buyers plan their morning routes based on the sales listed in the classified section for that day.  Local radio swap shop programs, community bulletin boards, as well as craigslist.org can also provide extra exposure for your sale.
There is no such thing as too many signs when it comes to yard sales.  This goes back to the fact that if people do not know you are having a sale, they cannot come spend their money.  The bigger and brighter you can make your sign, the better.  You do not want to clutter up your sign with excessive information.  Basically, all you need is to state that there is a sale and which direction cars should turn to get there.  Be sure to remove any signs you use for your sale when it is over.

Pricing items makes things more pleasant for you as a seller and for your buyers.  You do not want to have to repeat yourself throughout the day or try to remember the prices you quoted when it comes time to checkout your customers.  Some people are too shy to ask a stranger how much they would like for an item and will walk away when they would have gladly paid your asking price.
When pricing, remember that the goal is to not have to carry things back into your home.  People shopping at yard sales are hoping to find affordable goods to take back to their house.  If you have an item that you know to be exceptionally collectible, you may want to try selling in on an online auction site rather than at your yard sale.  Also, be prepared to entertain offers on your items.  Many bargain hunters love to negotiate.  Don’t be offended when someone offers less than you are asking. Remain pleasant and if you are willing to lower your price do so but if you would rather not, just thank them for their offer.  You may wish to take their name and number in case the item does not sell and you would be willing to lower the price after the sale ends.
Making boxed lots is a great way to move a lot of items at one time.  If you have a box full of odds and ends leftover from a remodeling project or a box full of craft supplies, you may consider selling them together for one price.  This method can be very effective and time saving when you do not want to price a large number of small, individual items.

Be sure to have change ready.  By making sure you have the ability to make change when someone wants to buy your items, you can confidently complete any transaction.  Your busiest time may be when you first open and you want to be prepared.  Just be sure to never leave your money out on a table when you walk away to help your customers.  It is best to wear a pack or bag of some sort on your person to keep your money contained.

Most importantly, have fun.  Yard sales can be a wonderful social event.   Yard sale shoppers can be some of the most talkative and entertaining folks you could ever hope to meet.  Get your items ready, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the day while people come to turn your unwanted items into extra cash for you.