In the past month, I’ve decided to begin selling off the “junk” in our house on Craigslist, and in just a few weeks, we netted nearly $1000 from just a few items. However, that total also includes a good chunk of money we made from multi-family yard sale held last week.
First, let’s talk about the yard sale.
Is it worth the time to hold a yard sale?
We had 4 houses on our street participate in this yard sale, and we were all pretty gung-ho about it. We spent months talking about it, then weeks actually planning it. We paid $50 for an ad in the local paper, posted a few times on Craigslist for free, then in the final week, we planned the signs (all of which I hung/hanged..whatever, about 2 days in advance).
Then it came time for yard sale day. We had a pretty diverse group of neighbors. One is a single woman that doesn’t have much clutter, so she had her friend bring stuff over too. Another is a younger, newly married couple, although they seem to have much more stuff than we do somehow (more room to store it). The third house is a married couple with 2 young kids, and we thought they would bank the most money on sale day. And then there’s us, married almost 8 years with random assortments of stuff.
One thing we did differently than everyone else…we didn’t price a single thing.
The yard sale started at 8am, and I screwed up my alarm so I didn’t get up till 7:15. Luckily it rained overnight and stayed dry the rest of the day, so I just had to set up some sawhorses and folding tables and carry all our crap out to the driveway. We had unopened small appliances and other items from our wedding (2 toasters and a toaster oven), a box of mugs, a Garmin GPS I got free from Freecycle, and about 500 other random things, especially old clothes and books. I don’t have a clue what the total amount we paid for all our stuff was because a bunch was gifts or free, while the rest was bought so long ago it didn’t matter to us anymore.
I WANTED THE JUNK GONE!!!
At the end of the day (2pm), we had sold well over half our stuff for a nice profit of about $240. However, take from that $5 I spent on a blender from our neighbor (it even has a smoothie-making cup!), and about $10 we spent at the parent house on kid stuff. And then knock off the cost of the newspaper ad, lunch (which I don’t really count) and a folding table we bought for this ($40, but we will reuse it many times) and we’re looking at a tiny profit for so many hours of prep and work!
However, we had fun. We got to know neighbors on our street and in our community more, we got rid of a bunch of useless crap and gained needed space in our home.
Surprising things we found from the yard sale
First, what didn’t surprise me was that even though every sign said 8am-2pm, and my Craigslist ad said NO EARLIER THAN 8AM, we had a lot of people coming by as we were setting up. We knew this would happen, but it ticked me off because one of us always had to be outside to keep an eye on things rather than both bringing out the goods.
The first things to go tended to be kitchen items (the toasters, an entire knife set) and surprisingly the box of mismatched ceramic mugs. Because we didn’t price anything, it was all up to the moment and haggling. We settled on prices for certain things as people asked about them, and sold things in bundles. Oh you want these 5 random items? Sure, we’ll give you a discount price for taking them all.
To us, it was about decluttering, not making money. And we succeeded for the most part.
But sadly, books didn’t really sell, and that was an entire table. Instead, at the end of the day, I posted them on Craigslist as “bundles” depending on their genre (health, spiritual, sci-fi, etc.). It worked before very well, as long as you’re not mentally attached to the original price you paid for the item.
Another surprise was that by the end of the day, we made the most money (not counting expenses), even more than the couple with kids. However, once word spread that they had stuff for sale, over the past 2 weeks they’ve tallied a nice amount from other neighbors stopping by and buying things like strollers, etc.
The last surprise was how many Latina women came by and bought bunches of clothes (we sold things for $1-2 per item) to send back to their home country.
I’ll repeat that if you’re looking to make money, a yard sale just doesn’t do it. Buyers are out for BIG bargains. Also, don’t spend too much time on it. We did our sale day on a Sunday (we weren’t all available for Saturday), and I can’t imagine having sat out for 2 days, 5 hours each hawking our crap. All the “good stuff” was gone in the first hour anyway. In the end, we donated the remaining clothes to Goodwill and other charities, and are all doing our best to sell the rest via Craigslist or word of mouth.
So, Onto Craigslist!
The yard sale was the push I needed to start going through our stuff to see what we could sell. I decided that things above a certain price point were better to be sold on Craigslist than at the yard sale, due to the bargain hunters. I posted and sold the following:
- My two “free” Sony Vaio laptops for $150 total
- Two old pool pumps (both have the motor bearings going bad) for $100 total. Some guy wants to get into doing his own pool work and bought them for some project he’s trying. The pool store didn’t think I could sell them at all, but I proved them wrong! Actually, I was just promoting the motors for someone’s “mad scientist”-type project, but along came a guy with a pool who actually wanted them.
- An old 35mm slide scanner, bought for about $200 in 2005 or so PLUS another scanner I got for free (much more recently) for $175 total.
- Two window air conditioners (one was a 14000 BTU, 110v unit while the other an 18000 BTU 230v unit). Those were “hot” items with a lot of inquiries, but in the end, I sold the 14000 unit for $100, but was worried no one would buy the bigger unit because it required a different outlet. Sure enough, though, a guy about 50 miles away wanted one for his shop and I sold it for $125.
Next, I’m still trying to sell the books (I got more to post), my acoustic/electric guitar (remember my musical instrument phase?), and 2 desks, which would REALLY free up a ton of space to make a proper guest room. I found I no longer need a full-time desk as I’ve been working off a laptop wherever it’s convenient for years now. I did buy a 22″ monitor this year to have 2 screens, but we can always set that up as a small TV or I could get a very small, high corner desk if I really wanted.
I’ve found that Craigslist does incite many inquiries, but few real buyers. I would get an email from someone, reply with “yes, it’s still available”, and then they have to ask me what I was responding about because they’re just doing a carpet bomb of posting inquiries. You also have to price just right to leave room for haggling, but know your bottom line.
For example, I’m selling a piece of furniture for $125, and I offered delivery for a negotiable price, depending on their distance from me. Some guy came with his wife to check it out, said his wife wanted it in black (not my problem), so they would “compromise” at $80, or $90 with delivery. I said absolutely not, and said my bottom line was $125 with curb-side delivery. I’ve been watching Pawn Stars on the History Channel enough to know the game, and I’m not in a rush to sell for so cheap AND have to deliver it!
And as a last note, yes, I’m aware of the tax implications of making money from yard sales, etc., so Uncle Sam needs his cut at the end of the year. A little more of my heart just broke.
How about you? What are your yard sale or craigslist stories, good and bad, both as a buyer and seller?
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