Nov 072010

On Saturday my boys and I had our first ever yard sale ever. I had no idea what I was doing, but thankfully some of my online friends, who had lots of experience with yard sales had given me lots of tips. I do not shop yard sales, because I think that while shopping at and of course having yard sales can be a big part of frugal living, I also think that it is too easy to buy stuff that you really have no need for.

Yard Sale Tips:

  • Use eye catching signs, and add balloons to make them more visible.
  • Price everything (The $1 yard sale price stickers from the Dollar Store were a great investment.
  • Expect hagglers.
  • Post at Craigslist and the afternoon before and the morning of the sale.
  • Treat your yard sale as a store, keep everything clean, organized and visible to customers.

When we moved to Florida almost four years ago, we moved from Europe with our sons with suitcases only, because it was too expensive with shipping. Through my husband’s work as an apartment manager, we started out with a lot of free furniture and more (some of it junk) from when people moved out, and free items from Freecycle. Now four years later I felt, as if we needed to declutter.

I had been preparing all week, sorting through clothes etc., and I posted free ads on craigslist and on Friday afternoon and early Saturday morning. At 7 a.m. I put out the signs, and I added a couple of balloons as well to make them more visible. This is one tip that I can definitely pass on, because it really worked as an eye catcher.

We live 1-2 streets from two high traffic roads, but I was hoping to be able to get some of the traffic in, and I did. I started setting up at 7:50 a.m., and I set it up like a boutique, divided the clothing into sizes, and made price signs for everything. I pulled out an old bookshelf to put the books on, and besides a small coffee table and a computer table I was trying to sell, I also used our coffee table to put items on, but I put a table cloth over it to prevent price questions.

It was chilly in South Florida, but my sons eventually came out to sell cookies. We were supposed to sell lemonade as well, but it was very windy, and there was so much traffic that I would not be able to help my sons out much with it. They boys loved selling the cookies that they had helped me bake though, and we found out that our four-year-old son is quite a salesman.

The baby sat in his high chair most of the time covered in clothes, and he was wrapped in a big blanket to keep him warm. He freaked out a few people, when he actually moved, because they had thought he was a baby doll. It was not until the end of the yard sale that I had to hold him, so he really helped me out a lot. My husband had to work, which meant that I had to keep track of three boys, money and the yard sale all at once.

I did have a bunch of people come in together and run off with some clothes and the change I had given them, because I had not gotten their money. It was a bad mistake on my part, and I certainly learned my lesson. They seriously ran to the car, and it was definitely intentionally, as the other people in the group did their best to distract me. My first priority was my kids though, whenever there were a lot of people, and most of the time I sent them indoors when there were a lot of customers. I just hope that the people really needed the clothes and money they took.

The worst part about it, was that they left me with a bad feeling whenever a bunch of people (especially from the same origin) drove up in the same manner. I try not to be prejudiced, but the yard sale left me with some very negative feelings about people from a specific origin, because of the way the people from this origin behaved at the yard sale. My husband’s best friend is from the same origin, and I have never had had this kind of negative feelings towards the people from his country before, so it really makes me a bit sad.

There were some rude people in between, but there were also nice, kind and polite people, and that made me feel a bit better about the rudeness and coldness that I felt came with many of the people. I had been warned that there would be a lot of haggling going on, especially since we live in Florida, so I had set my prices to offset that, but I had my mental minimum price for everything. Some people really did expect to buy things for 10 cents a piece.

One of my neighbors came over to join me at the yard sale, but she did not have much sale in her ceramics and more. My husband had left a lot of electronic junk: printer, tv, old telephones etc. that he had had in his storage room (because I saw no need for it at our house), and none of it sold.

The best sale in my opinion was the new (still in package) off-white rug, that my husband proudly had brought home about 2 years ago declaring he had gotten a great deal. He had paid $20 for it, but I knew I would never use it. We have three boys. Three boys! In my opinion and experience three boys and an off-white rug would never work, and I did not like the material either as it felt too rough. I hoped to get $15 for it; my minimum was $10, so I listed it at $25. When a lady asked, if I would take $15 for it, I immediately said DEAL!

I had saved almost all of the boys clothing, with only a little disappearing with each move from New Jersey to Europe and then from Europe to Florida. Most of the children’s clothes have been bought on clearance, and I dare to say that I have never paid more than $5 for any one item other than shoes and outerwear. At one time I lived near a fantastic thrift store, where I paid $20 for a huge black garbage bag filled with clothing for everyone in the family, quality name brand clothes, outerwear and shoes. I have also received (and given back) a lot of clothes through Freecycle during the four years that we have lived in Florida, and some clothes has gone to the church.

So yes, I had a lot clothes, and I sorted through everything. Everything that was not a favorite, were rarely, if ever, worn, looked a bit worn, washed out etc., and a lot of the boy specific baby clothes went. Three boys must be enough! A lot of the baby clothes have been through all three of my children, and a lot of the clothes that I initially had bought at the thrift store went as well. I did not have a lot of toys to sell, as we go through the toys once or twice a year and give what the boys don’t want (or need) through Freecycle. My boys do not have an overload of toys, but instead they have quality toys such as their Brio train track, Lego Duplo, small Legos etc.

I sold a bunch of kids clothes at 10 pieces for $5, and a lot of people came and wanted to pay $15 for everything….CRAZY! Anyway, at some point a nurse came and offered 40 for the leftover children’s clothes. I said $50, she said $40, and I said $45 take it or leave it. I really did not want to drag it in, because then I would have to pack it all up and drag it to the church. While we were negotiating another lady came and grabbed the box with leftover baby clothes, and I swear they were arguing about this box of baby clothes. They each had their grab on the box, and I told the nurse $45 that’s it! She took it, and the other woman sure got upset.

At this point there were a bunch of people there, so I told the lady that I would help her pack up as soon as they were gone. She was efficient though, she had brought her own bags and she definitely knew what she was doing. Once the negotiating part was over, she warmed up and it turned out that she was a nurse at a local hospital. She was out getting clothes for a charity that she worked for, which sent clothes to children all over the world. Knowing that the clothes (some with many memories connected) were going to someone, who really needed it made the day for me. It also washed away some of the irritation from the encounter with thieves earlier in the day.

So there it was, the baby/toddler shoes had been sold earlier, now the kids clothes were gone, and slowly there were less and less stuff left. The first thing to go had been some of the beauty stuff that I had gotten for free by using them as fillers when I shop with coupons. Some of it, I had even been paid overage to take…I priced it to sell, and sell it did – FAST!

I had put from 8 a.m.– 2 p.m on the signs, but at 12:30 p.m. things had slowed down a lot, and we were all cold, so at 1 p.m., I called it the day. I had a bunch of empty boxes…YEAH! Unfortunately I only sold about 40 books, so I had to drag a bunch of books back in again, and people were not too happy with my European brand women’s clothes, although they took the old pieces that I had gotten from freecycle and never knew what to do with. One lady who bought a bunch of my old clothes later told me that she was sending it off to relatives in Cuba.

I had hoped to gain $50, but we almost tripled that amount, so I really think it was a great day for us, especially considering that we really did not have any big items to sell. The money earned is going to be used toward a bunk bed for our oldest boys for Christmas, so I was thrilled. The best part is that we really did not lose a lot of money by selling our stuff, because most of it we had received for free through my husband’s job. The leftovers will be donated to the church or through freecycle. We had spent $3 on yard sale sign material and stickers at the dollar store, and the boys used two boxes of cookie mix (each $0.10) for the cookies.

Besides getting rid of the rug that had been in my way for almost two years, the best part was probably that I really got rid of the clutter. My boys learned a lot from the sale, and my neighbor reconnected with an old neighbor of hers, who came by the yard sale. I will definitely not be having another yard sale anytime soon, maybe in five years. Until then Freecycle, donation and perhaps Craigslist will be the way to go. I am happy to have added a yard sale to our frugal living lifestyle, but it is definitely not going to be a regular thing at my house.

When was the last time you had a yard sale, was it a positive or negative experience? 
Do you shop yard sales too, and if so what is the best things to find at yard sales?

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