Do's and Don'ts of Planning a Yard Sale

Yard Sale Planning and Preparation Tips

Woman at flea market

 Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty

Yard sales can be a great way to declutter while also bringing in a bit of extra money, but a poorly planned sale can be much more work than it's worth. Organizing a yard sale starts with planning and preparation to ensure a smooth and profitable sale.

What to Do to Ensure a Great Yard Sale

Before you get started, take a look at these "do's." They'll help you think through the process and avoid costly mistakes.

  1. Allow yourself triple the time (double at the very minimum) you think it's going to take to get your yard sale ready, including pricing, advertising, and setting up the merchandise. Something always comes up, and it always takes longer than you anticipate.
  2. Use a yard sale checklist as you get ready for your sale. Refer to it frequently to keep yourself on track.
  3. Check to see if your city or county requires yard sale permits. If you live in an HOA, make sure you're allowed to have a yard sale. Some HOAs won't let you.
  4. Do schedule your yard sale for the first weekend of the month if you live in a small town where the shopper pool is limited. People who get paid once a month frequently receive their checks the first week of the month—and people have more expendable cash right after payday.
  5. Check your city's yard sale listings in the weeks before your sale. Look in the local newspaper and on Craigslist. Get familiar with the usual starting times in the area, and then schedule yours at the earliest of those times. Even better, schedule your sale to start 15 minutes earlier. Serious yard sale shoppers plan their routes in advance, and they aim to be the first shopper at every sale. If your yard sale starts a little earlier than the rest, you'll be the first stop on their routes.
  1. Check with friends, family members, and neighbors to see if they'd like to make it a group sale. You'll have more workers during the event, and more merchandise to advertise. Savvy yard sale shoppers prioritize those listed as multi-family, block, or neighborhood sales—especially the latter. Who knows, you might even start a new neighborhood tradition.
  2. Consider keeping a potential sale item if you start having sentimental pangs. You can always sell the piece at another sale later, but you won't be able to get it back.
  3. Go to some yard sales in the weeks leading up to your sale, especially if you don't usually attend. You'll learn the local yard sale norms, and you'll get ideas on display and pricing—and you'll learn what to avoid.

Avoid These Pitfalls That Can Cost Time and Money

It's easy to avoid some common mistakes that can get in the way of a successful sale. Just schedule your event for the right time and day.

  1. Don't schedule a yard sale for an "off" day. Friday and Saturday are traditional yard sale days. In some towns, it's becoming more common to start on Thursday, but only when the sale runs on Friday and/or Saturday too. Sundays are fine for the second day of a Saturday sale but don't make it the primary day unless it's customary in your area.
  2. Don't schedule your yard sale on Labor or Memorial Day weekends. If the Fourth of July falls on Friday through Monday, avoid having your sale on that weekend as well. Though you'll still have some shoppers, many folks schedule trips or family events on holiday weekends. On the other hand, if you live in a vacation-friendly location you might want to schedule your event for just those holidays, as vacationers love to shop.
  3. Don't set a starting time that's later than other yard sales in the area. By the time your sale starts, your potential customers may be out of both steam and cash.
  4. Don't wait until the last minute to start to get your yard sale ready, and definitely don't put it off until the night before. It's no fun staying up all night before a 7:00 a.m. sale. If you don't end up canceling, you'll swear you'll never hold another sale.