Tales of a Broke Twenty-Something Year Old: Yard Sale Edition

5 Jun

I’m sure I’m singing the tune of many when I say I’m under-employed and not doin’ so hot in the green-bags department. I’m also sure I’m not the only person who’s lost sleep over money issues, and mine probably are far less serious than some; but when I woke up from what little sleep I did have after a dream about soliciting myself outside a local Dunkin’ Donuts, I decided I needed to get a bit proactive.

Over the past week I’ve made several moves to get myself some extra cash and over the past year or so have made slight alterations to my lifestyle and the products I do (or don’t) buy, which not only saves money, but is good for a whole bunch of other reasons too. Giving private art lessons, finding natural and cheap ways to make my own hygienic products (smell ya later, shampoo), embracing the wonders of eBay, investing in a CSA, the list goes on.  And I’ll probably write about adventures in those things later on at some point. Today, however, we’re focusing on perhaps the easiest and fastest ways to bring home the proverbial bacon: the yard sale.

The short of it: gather your shit, put it on your lawn, sit and wait for people to come and buy it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years through selling my artwork is that people will buy ANYTHING, and what better way to make money than to cash in on the American mentality that material possessions equal happiness?! Not to mention it helps you de-clutter.

So, last weekend my friend Geena and I hosted one outside my house, and are having another one this coming weekend. Here are a few tips we stumbled upon.

Don’t confuse your patrons.

Geena made this sign, then I decided people needed to know which direction to go, I failed.

People won’t come if they don’t know about it, simple.

Know your demographic.
And put it on your flyers! New Paltz has a pretty good mix of people, but Geena and I were mostly selling women’s clothes and jewelry, along with my art and other random objects. After living here for five years I could pretty accurately gauge the visitors we’d get. College girls looking for hip, cheap clothes and vinyl. Some adults who would like some cheap artwork in their house. Older folks who like coffee table books, and just-married couples looking to expand their DVD collections. We got ‘em all, and then some. Knowing who’s around and what they’ll buy will certainly help you make more money. Also, people apparently HATE the movie Shop Girl, so just give it away so you don’t have to hear about it from every single person that walks up.

Be judgmental.
If you see someone pull up with a car full of crap, you can infer that they like to have shit, and lots of it. Use that to your advantage! I listened to a woman with a station wagon jam-packed with stuff rant to me for 10 minutes about how loved the hat she bought would be now that it was in her hands. Ten. Minutes.
If you see someone instantly pick up an item and hold onto it, they may be willing to pay an extra dollar for it. If you see someone being indecisive, be ready to negotiate. Which brings us to the next topic…

Master the art of negotiation.
I am terrible at this. I’m constantly convinced that I’m over-charging people for things, especially my artwork. When someone asks me the price of something I usually say, “7 dollars, or 5, it doesn’t matter.” DUH. Give ‘em  your price and if they’re not willing to pay it THEN drop it down. Group rates are also a big hit. Three necklaces for four dollars instead of 2 dollars each, etc.

Loot your relatives.
Most people are waiting to have old stuff taken off their hands, and they don’t want to do the work to get rid of it, especially if they’re not hard up for money. I decided this week it was worth the trip home for me to gather more items to sell, and now I have an entire car-full of clothes and miscellaneous things to put out.  The best part then is that you’re getting stuff for free and you’re making a profit off of it. No matter what you can’t lose!

People like stuff more than they like clothes.
Don’t get me wrong, we sold a lot of clothes. But the main reason I sold more than Geena did was because I had a ton of jewelry, DVDs, records, and accessories out. People also seem to really dig shoes. You also broaden your customer base if you’re selling miscellaneous things as opposed to clothing because you don’t have sizing limitations (There are other rad ways to make lots of money off clothing in good condition, eBay has been serving me well).

Be prepared to be offended.
Let’s be honest, people suck. For whatever reason yard sales have a tendency to bring out the super sucky ones, and they’ll make it abundantly clear why they suck. Just be prepared to hear offensive things all day long, or at the very least be willing to hear about super-personal things. For example, someone’s gastric bypass surgery. This actually happened.

Have something to sit on.
We dropped the ball on this one, especially considering that it was a rainy morning and the ground was soaked. Luckily, Geena had some friends nearby that loaned us some camping chairs.

Having tables is beneficial.
We also dropped the ball on this one. Putting stuff on blankets worked, but it also made hunting for things a little difficult because you had to bend over and crawl around all over the place not only buy, but to also set up. And bending over and crawling around is something I’m generally unwilling to do. Needless to say, Geena did a lot of the clothing arrangements.

Have company.
The best part of a yard sale is that you get to sit outside and make money doing nothing. Doing this alone, however, is not very fun. Have a good pal or family member around to keep you entertained, otherwise, especially if business is slow, you’re going to be very, very bored. It’s also good to have a friend because chances are you’re going to get a weirdo or two (remember the hat lady?), you’re gonna want someone to laugh/commiserate with once said weirdo has left the premises.

Don’t leave your laptop or purse anywhere near the sale site.
On several occasions, I was asked how much I was selling them for.

At the end of the day, I managed to make just over sixty bucks in four hours, worked on my tan a little, got rid of a bunch of unneeded crap, and hung out with my friend for the day.

Do I need to say it again? Yard. Sales. Rule.

One Response to “Tales of a Broke Twenty-Something Year Old: Yard Sale Edition”

  1. Geena June 5, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    **important detail about hat lady- it was a raccoon hat that she was buying specifically to wear to sleep. and yes, yard sales rule!

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