This is Why a Garage Sale Probably Isn’t Worth It — and What to Do Instead
As the end of summer looms and you start thinking about making room in your home for winter clothes, school projects and holiday-gift hiding places, a lot of people are plotting garage sales to clear the clutter and make extra money.
The prospect is tempting. But is a garage sale worth your time?
How Much Can You Make From a Garage Sale?
What I know of garage sales — albeit second-hand and anecdotal — looks something like this: Spend weeks digging junk out of your house, borrow tables and hangers from friends and family, give up your weekend to haggle with strangers…
…and earn about $300.
It doesn’t sound fun — or worth it.
Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom says she made $1,000 during a two-and-a-half-day yard saling, which sounds great. Until you realize her family split the haul with her siblings (she doesn’t specify how many) and her parents.
And she recommends preparing at least three to four weeks in advance, then setting aside several hours a day in the days before the sale to price items, organize everything and set up.
Then you play retail clerk for the weekend — say, if you’re savvy, five hours a day for three days.
That’s at least 25 hours of work for $40 an hour — split among three or more households. Subtract possible advertising costs and taxes, which we know you’re scrupulous enough to pay each quarter.
So… you do the work of basically running a business for less than $13 an hour.
Oh, and did you ask for time off work to make time for this? With lost wages, you might not even break even.
Garage Sale Tips: Don’t Have One!
Here are a bunch of places you could use to sell your stuff with less effort and for more money than a garage sale.
1. Sell CDs, DVDs, Video Games and More on Decluttr
Your impeccably-alphabetized CD tower might not be a hit in your dusty garage, but you could cash in selling them through this app.
Decluttr will buy your old CDs, video games, DVDs and Blu-rays. You scan the barcode with the app on your phone, and Decluttr makes an offer.
Prices vary — usually about 50 cents to $3 per item — and you can unload your media in bulk to make an extra $50 to $100 this week. And never have to look at them again.
With Decluttr, you can sell stuff online without having to deal with individual listings and buyers.
And shipping is free. The company emails you a shipping label to cover the cost. Just print, pack your items in any box and ship it.
2. Find the Best Place to Sell Textbooks With Bookscouter
Hoarding old college textbooks? I get it. I was sure I’d crack my Sociology 101 text to answer important questions in the future. Alas…
To get them off your hands, use Bookscouter.
Search the book’s ISBN, and the site will connect you with more than 25 of the best-paying and most reputable buyback companies online, so you can find the best price.
3. Sell Almost Anything on letgo
You can sell virtually anything on Letgo.
This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. It’s free to use, and a simple way to connect with people who want your old stuff — without inviting them into your yard.
4. Find a Local Gold Buyer for Old Jewelry
You probably know you can sell gold and silver for cash; those TV commercials won’t let you forget.
But don’t be tempted by those companies.
Sell your precious metals locally for a better deal and faster payment. If you have bullion bars lying around, great.
If you’re like most of us and do not stock gold bars, try selling these items:
- old jewelry
- real silverware
- serving dishes
- tooth fillings (if they’ve fallen out and you’ve held onto them for some reason…weirdo)
- quarters and dimes minted before 1965
- wedding and engagement rings (sorry)
5. List Vintage Jewelry Through Etsy
Don’t be that person trying to sell valuable jewelry at a garage sale.
Yes, it’s probably worth what you’re asking — but not to a garage-sale shopper. They’re looking for cheap. To get a decent price for classic pieces, get them in front of shoppers willing to pay a premium for vintage.
Etsy is known as the marketplace for crafts and handmade goods. But you can earn money on the site without making anything. Your vintage goods may take longer to sell online than in your garage — but you’ll probably nab a much better price for a lot less effort.
6. Sell Your Used Clothes Online
Forget about tagging, folding, hanging and displaying all your clothes for sale. Just snap a photo of a willing friend in the garb, and list it through an online consignment store or peer-to-peer app.
Poshmark lets you create a profile and acquire followers — like social media, if your social circle was always at the mall. We talked to an expert to get tips for making the most of your listings on the app.
Online consignment works similar to its brick-and-mortar cousin. You’ll send in your items, and the site will sell them for you. Some make you an offer and pay upfront, but most make you wait for payment until an item sells.
You can even sell your wedding dress on consignment — and make another frugal bride very happy!
7. List Your Wares on Ebay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace
To sell your items locally without commandeering the garage for a weekend, turn to these online staples.
If you have rare or antique items you think could go for big bucks, list them on Ebay to connect with collectors and other bigger-ticket buyers.
If you’re headed out of town and just want to get rid of stuff as fast as possible, you can list it as a freebie on Craiglist or in a local buy, sell and trade Facebook group.
8. Sell Unique Items Through Online Flea Markets
If you want to think beyond the most saturated markets, look for online flea markets.
These catch-all marketplaces are as quirky and wonderful as their in-person counterparts — minus the dirt and fleas. Their smaller audience could yield better relationships and help you connect with niche buyers for your more unusual pieces.
9. Trade or Sell Exercise Equipment at 2nd Wind
No one wants to impulse buy your unused treadmill at a yard sale.
If you live near a 2nd Wind exercise equipment store, sell it there for a better price — or trade it in for an upgrade.
10. Upcycle Your Furniture and Sell It for More
If you’ve been thrifty about furniture purchases in the past, you could turn a profit by reselling in the right place.
For quality furniture you’ve treated well, try selling to consignment stores.
If you bought cheaper items that were a bit worse for the wear, try sprucing them up with a coat of paint, stain or new hardware. Some buyers will pay a premium for shabby chic — as long as you put a little more emphasis on the “chic.”
11. Donate Everything for a Tax Deduction
Think you can sell your stuff for, say, $700 at a garage sale? You might do better by donating it.
Instead of spending days — or weeks — to earn that $700, spend an hour emptying your closets, storage rooms and garage, and take your unused stuff to a thrift store. Just make sure you leave with a receipt.
Next April, you can claim the fair market value of all that stuff as a tax deduction (if you itemize deductions).
It’s tough to calculate the value of that tax deduction precisely, but let’s try a scenario.
Say you sold a bunch of clothes, baby toys and accessories for less than $1 apiece. That’s well below “fair market value” — no way is the IRS calling a rummage sale a “fair market.” In good used condition, maybe that stuff is worth at least $5 apiece.
For reference, here’s Goodwill’s “Donation Value Guide.”
Donating those items means you could claim a tax deduction of around $3,500 (five times the rummage sale value).
At a 15% tax rate, that deduction would save you $525 in taxes for the year.
With your time gathering stuff to donate and itemizing your tax deductions, you’ll invest maybe two hours into that $525? That’s $262.50 an hour.
You could spend up to 12 hours packing for the thrift store and doing taxes, and you’d still earn more for your time than hosting a rummage sale.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).