Friday, July 27, 2012

365 Ways to Save - July

Being thrifty is more than just doing without, it is making the most of what you have. So if you have a significant collection of items that you no longer use -- books you'll never read again, toys and clothes your children have outgrown, household items that are just creating clutter, and well intentioned gifts that just weren't right for you -- it is time to hold a yard sale. And since summer is the prime yard sale season, here are some tips to make sure that yours is a great success and earns you cash for the things you really want:

160. Be strategic in planning your sale: if your community has a "homecoming weekend" or similar event that draws people from nearby towns, that is a good time to hold your sale.  Similarly, find out if your neighbors or friends are interested in joining you in your sale -- a larger sale attracts more business.  And if you live in an isolated area, see if you can hold your sale at a friend's place that attracts more traffic.
161. Make sure you place an ad in the classified section your local paper and on Craigslist and other sites like,, -- you want to attract buyers far beyond the number of people who are casually passing by. Be sure to include the date and hours of the sale, your address (and directions if you are not on a main street), and a brief description of the kind of goods you will be selling. You also might want to list big ticket items separate from your "yard sale" ad to draw people who are looking to buy these specific items. 
162. Create one-page flyers with the same info as your online ads to post at your supermarket, your local coffee shop, and anywhere else in your community where there are bulletin boards for sharing this type of information,
163. Create good signage throughout your neighborhood (as with your other advertisements, your signs should include the date and hours of your sale, as well as the address, and the words "Yard Sale" in big, bold letters). We like to use cardboard or poster board in bright colors with black lettering to attract the most attention. If you are especially creative, you can create "Burma shave" type ads for the streets leading up to yours. Or if there is lots of foot traffic, create footprints on the sidewalk using chalk or water-based tempura that lead to your driveway. We also recommend a bouquet of balloons attached to the sign you place out in front of your sale – they will help grab people's attention. Remember to take down your signs after the sale.
164. Promote your yard sale to your local network via your personal blog, Facebook or Twitter account.
165.  To make sure you price your items appropriately (low enough so they will sell; high enough that you'll make some money), go to and type in the name of the item you want to sell to get an idea what it is worth.
166. Write your prices on painters' tape. It is an easy and inexpensive way to price items and it won't leave any marks.
167. Alternatively, you can use brightly colored dot stickers that are color-coded to match the price (all blue stickers are $1, all green are $2 etc.). Make sure you have signs explaining your pricing throughout the display.
168. Before the sale, go to the bank and get plenty of change ($1, $5, $10, $20 plus some quarters) - you don't want to lose a sale because you can't change a $20 bill. We have found that at least at the beginning of the same, it is easiest to keep prices rounded to a dollar - anything less than that can be grouped with similar items and sold as a set.
169. Guard your money-box at all times.
170. Lock all the doors to your house (and be firm about not allowing anyone in -- even if they beg to use the bathroom or get a drink of water).
171. Decide on an “early bird” policy prior to the sale. On the one hand, antique dealers and others who show up before the official opening of your sale are likely to be buyers, not lookers. On the other hand, it can be hard to finish setting up your sale if you have to content with sales at the same time. And shoppers who wait until the official start may be annoyed if everything is already picked over.
172. Be careful about selling recalled items - there are consumer product laws that prevent you from doing so. Wonder if that old crib has been recalled? Just to be sure, check
173. Make sure all of your items are clean and displayed attractively - a jumble of dusty old stuff is enticing to almost no one. Put like items together (e.g. all the children's toys in one place, all housewares in another). Arrange taller items behind shorter items. Hang clothing on hangers on a rack, or if that isn't possible, on a rope hung from two trees. Put big ticket items like furniture closer to the street to attract passersby. Think like a department store and put all "manly items" -- like grills, golf clubs and power tools -- towards the front of your sale. And don't underestimate the effect that making the extra effort -- like putting a tablecloth on the table with dishes and filling a pretty vase with fresh flowers -- will have on your sales.
174. If something is cracked or broken, note the damage on the price tag, clearly indicating that you are selling it "as is."
175. Create an ambiance that will encourage shoppers to linger with music, free ice water on a hot day (we've been to sales with kids selling lemonade and baked goods, which helped bring in shoppers), and plenty of room between tables for browsing.
176. Two to three hours into the sale, begin to mark down your prices and be more open to haggling: perhaps you've overestimated the value of some of your items.
177. If your objective is to get rid of all your stuff, develop a “buck a bag” policy towards the end of the sale.
178. Have stuff you really want to get rid of?  Have a box or table of freebies and encourage all of your customers to go through it and take what they want.  Keep these items toward the front of the sale -- and make sure they are well-marked as free -- to draw in curious passersby.
179. Give everyone working at the yard sale a specific job. Examples: cashier, negotiator (it's often good to have one person in charge of the haggling), worker to help to load stuff into cars, plus someone to answer questions, reload tables and box items that have been purchased.
180. Hold firm to the policy of cash only - even if you know the buyer won't bounce a check, cash makes the sale process easier.
181. Have plenty of boxes, bags and newspapers for packing purchased items.
182. Block off your driveway - better to have customers park on the street than all over your lawn. Plus this will assure space for the vehicles of buyers who have purchased a big item that can't be carried far.
183. Consolidate the items on your tables as the sale goes on, keeping all displays tidy and attractive….if it looks like your sale has not been picked over, people are more likely to stop and shop.
184. Toward the end of sale group small ticket items together. (i.e. everything on this table for $2)
185. Have a plan for the items that don't sell -- for example, choose a charity and arrange to have them pick everything up the day after the sale. Click here for a useful list of charities that take furniture, clothes and more.
186. When negotiating, try to throw in extra items instead of reducing price. For example, instead of reducing the price of the couch, let them have a free coffee table - that way you get rid of two items and the customer gets a deal.
187. Have plenty of extension cords, power strips, and batteries on hand to show that things work; plus you'll need sharpies, tape, sign making material, labels and tags on hand.

Of course yard sales aren't for everyone, so here are some other ways to sell stuff:

188. Trade your laptops, cell phones, cameras, MP3 players, Blu-Ray discs, games, and more for a Costco Cash Card: Costco's Trade-In Program will pay you for recycling these items.
189. and YouRenew will also pay you for your old cell phone.
190.  You can even make money when you recycle ink and toner cartridges: the Staples Rewards program will give you a $2 Staples certificate for each one you take to a Staples store.
191. Send your old books, electronics, dvds and video games to Amazon: just sign in to their trade-in section and indicate the ones you no longer want, they'll send you a postage-paid envelope, and once they receive the goods, you'll get an Amazon credit you can use to shop online. Amazon allows you directly sell books and dvds you no longer want, and although selling through their site is sometimes more lucrative, you must wait for a buyer and pay for shipping and a commission to Amazon out of the proceeds.
192. Receive a Best Buy gift card when you trade in old video games, musical instruments, select electronics, and CDs and movies. You can ship items to a trade-in center (print out a prepaid shipping label at or bring them to your local store.
193. GameStop is another good place to trade in used video games. You'll receive a Gamestop gift card good for purchasing anything at their stores or website.
194. Trade in used sports equipment at PlayItAgainSports and receive cash or new sports equipment from the store.
195. (an company) offers an "instant sale" option for books, music and movies, that allows you to list your old goods via ISBN or UPC, sell them without the lengthy auction process, ship for free, and then get paid via paypal or coupons.
196. RadioShack is another retailer with a useful program for trading-in old electronics. The service is available in their stores and online. As with many other programs, you'll receive a Radio Shack gift card.
197. MyBoneyard is a website devoted to recycling used electronics. You can estimate the value of your items online, and then choose to receive a prepaid shipping label for mailing items in. Assuming your items have a cash value, you can elect to receive the money yourself or donate it to charity.
198. Raiding your jewelry box for single earrings, old brooches, and broken chain necklaces and sell them for the value of the gold. The Wall Street Journal had an article about how selling gold jewelry has become extraordinarily popular in these times of high gold prices and eroding incomes. If you're interested, check out these companies, all of which were mentioned in the WSJ article:
a. Gold Mine Party LLC
b. Party of Gold
c. My Gold Party
d. Cash4Gold

199. In addition to selling physical items that you already own, you might consider easy ways that you can generate cash from hobbies or interests in your spare time.  This isn't a second job by any means, but just a quick way to monetize things that you might find interesting or enjoyable.  See the post on Pin Money for a list of ideas.

Sometimes the easiest way to get some extra income is to find some money you didn't even know you had.

200. It is worth checking every year to see if you are owed any of the $32.8 billion in unclaimed funds being held by state governments. You might be owed money from a forgotten checking account or a mislaid security deposit. Go to (for tax refunds) and to and (for everything else), and type in your name and all the states where you have lived or worked. For best results, just type in your last name to see what variations come up -- I discovered funds listed in both my mother- and father-in-law's names - both of whom are long deceased.

Want to see more of our 365 ways to save? Check out the list of tightwad tips from January, February, March, AprilMay and June.