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Yard Sale Tips: The Final Tactic to Purge Your Crap

in Sell Your 'Stuff', Videos

Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

In the world of selling, Yard and Garage Sales get a bad rap. People assume that they are a waste of time to host and that you can only find useless junk at them.

That’s just not true!

Sure, there *is* some useless junk in most of them, but you can find everyday useful appliances, furniture, tools, clothing, and even automobiles at a fraction of the price it would cost to buy these new.

However, I don’t mind being honest on this one… I can’t stand yard sales. I don’t like hosting them or going to buy from them. They get under my skin…  they give me goosebumps!  I find myself wanting to take a large trash bag and scrape almost everything I see into it.

At the same time, I know that would be stupid…

It’s stupid because there are plenty of people who would pay for many of those items. It’s stupid because there are hundreds of needy people who could use those items when donated.  And it’s stupid, because many of those items can be recycled or re-purposed elsewhere.

Luckily, though, Courtney loves hosting Yard and Garage Sales!  Whoo-hoo for me!

In fact, just a couple days ago (over the weekend), we pitched a chunk of our stuff into a multi-family yard sale hosted by one of our family members.  Courtney helped set up and run the sale, which ended up netting us $133 dollars on a couple handfuls of our crap that we had accumulated!

Hey… $133 for crap we didn’t need and couldn’t sell elsewhere… not bad!

I say couldn’t sell elsewhere because we tend to use yard sales as what I call “catch alls” or “last ditch effort” sales.  I talk about this in much more detail in Sell Your Crap, but the simple version is this:

  1. We decide an item no longer brings joy, value, or purpose into our lives.
  2. We prefer to sell it on eBay if it has a market and meets our threshold (worth our time to list it).
  3. If it’s not worth it or can’t be sold on eBay, we prefer craigslist.
  4. Media items above $5 (our threshold for listing) go on Amazon.com.
  5. If it doesn’t sell (or isn’t worth it to sell) on these platforms, it goes in a big SELL PILE.
  6. We pull out everything in the SELL PILE to sell in a Yard Sale.
  7. Whatever is left after the yard sale, we donate, recycle, or trash.

As you can see, we don’t usually default to yard sales on most items.  Simply, it isn’t the best way to maximize your money. However, yard sales are awesome for one thing…  you can sell almost anything.

It does very little harm to throw an extra item into a sale.  In fact, you want more items and more variety in the sale… this will help draw people in and keep them around and interested.

As you might have guessed, this past weekend I did very little to help. Nothing actually. But I did find time to grab a camera and head over to the yard sale.  I got there late (shocker) and there were plenty of “big ticket items” that had already been sold and hauled off!

Luckily I did get there in time to swindle Courtney into jumping in front of the camera (despite only an hour or two of sleep) to recap some of her secret ninja tips for hosting a yard sale.  Here’s the video for those interested:

Below I’ve listed some tips and tricks I’ve gathered from Courtney, Sell Your Crap, and other great resources around the web.  Some of them are touched on in the video above!

Step #1:  Part ways with your crap…

In the video above, when I asked Courtney about her “yard sale secrets” she didn’t start rattling off a list of tips or tactics.  In fact, the very first thing she mentioned was parting ways with your stuff… getting comfortable with the fact that your somebody is going to come along, buy your thing, and leave with it.  Often in yard sales, this happens at a deep discount!

After she said that, I realized that this *was* the most important tip of all.  I spent 20,000 words recently talking about this concept, but I was going to leave it out here!  Doh!  So before you get started planning, advertising, or hosting a yard sale… start with realizing your items for what they  really are.  They are crap.  You will sell them.  You will get cash.  It’ll all be good.  :-)

Don’t be afraid to sell anything…

O.k., almost anything.  Don’t sell anything illegal or that would deeply offend anyone.  Use common freakin’ sense.  However, don’t be afraid to throw an everyday item in because you think it is too cheap or too expensive.

In the yard sale this weekend, we put our car in it!  Yep… it didn’t sell, but we did have several people ask questions about it.  In addition, Courtney actually put food into the sale.  Crap that was in our pantry that we were never going to use…  an unopened jar of olives, packages of spices, and a can of unopened Folgers (I’m much too sophisticated for Folgers… psh).  I made fun of her several times for taking the 60 second to pull that stuff out…  but it sold.  Quickly actually.  All of it, by the end.

Bundle cheap crap…

For cheaper items, bundle them together with other like items.  Rather than try to sell old VHS tapes individually, you can bundle them by genre and sell lots for $5.  This can be done with most smaller or cheaper items and will drastically improve the chance that they sell.

Advertise.  Yes, for real, like in newspapers…

The more foot traffic you get to your sale, the more successful you’ll be.  It’s that simple!  I’m not a huge fan of traditional print advertising, but yard and garage sales are one area where it is still ultra-effective.

Our particular sale took place in a medium-sized local community, where most of the residents still read the paper and look for garage sale notices on Friday and Saturday leading up to the weekend.  Many local publications offer discounts and have regular sections where they feature these sales.  In addition, be sure to use any popular community/church bulletin boards that are available for these events.

Be sure to include start time, end time, exact location, and any big ticket items that may attract shoppers in your advertisements.

Use more signs than you think…

Several years ago when I was running a property management and real estate company, I couldn’t believe how effective basic signs were.  Even with the amazing amount of technology and databases these days, the FAR majority of leads and sales came off people driving by and seeing the signs (or seeing the signs and telling their friends/family).

Yard sale gurus all say the same thing. Signs! Signs! Signs!  As many as you reasonably can.  I show our example in the video above.  The house that was hosting the yard sale was on a fairly busy side street in our local hometown.  A couple hundred feet down the road was a major state road.  Courtney put signs up for both directions of the state road and covering the cross street at the other end of the block, as well.  She also put a large sign in the back of a pick-up truck parked directly across the street from the sale!

Unite forces with other families and community organizations…

You don’t have to host a sale on your own (and fill it with all you own stuff).  Sometimes you may only have a dozen (or a couple dozen) items you would like to purge.  It’s tough to run a yard sale with only this amount of items.  Instead, join forces with other families or community organizations in your area that are hosting sales.

There were 5 different people that had items in our sale.  Each person marked their item with their initials and it’s price.  When people paid, whoever took the money simply jotted down whose items it was and a total price sold.  It’s a simple and effective way to get more people in on your sales (or to join another sale thats happening).

The more stuff (aka crap) that is for sale, the more potential buyers will be attracted to stop by.  This means more money at the end of the day for everyone involved in the selling. Many times neighborhoods will pick one weekend over the summer and hold a huge neighborhood wide sales.  There will be dozens of people hosting individual sales in the same area, but the “event” will help bring lots of people that’ll drop in on everyone’s sale!

Highlight “Big Ticket” Items…

If you are selling expensive or popular items be sure to highlight them in any ads or bulletins you employ before hand.  In our sale this included several book cases, a desk, a lawnmower, a couple power tools, and some decent camping equipment.

On the day of sale, place these “big ticket” items in an extremely visible area so that people driving by can see them.  In our situation, our yard ran along side the house, but next to an alley.  It was especially important to display these items so they could be seen from the main road.  This encouraged people to park, stop in, or pull down the alley for a closer look.

An extra tip in this area is to put out a little something for everyone.  Place out some furniture, along side some tools or golf clubs (for the guys), next to a big flashy yard toy (to get the kids excited).  :-)

Start early…

In the yard/garage sale world they have a term for people who go out super early… “Early Birds”.  I didn’t make this up.  These people go out almost every Saturday at the crack of dawn.  Stopping by your sale as early as 6 a.m. at times!

Courtney and her mom are ultra-hardcore.  They have even been know to stay up all night putting together the yard sales they host and getting ready for the Early Birds.  It’s true that a lot of the big tickets items can go early.  I shot the video above around noon and most of the biggest items were already sold and taken away!  Yikes.

Have plenty of change…

You are going to need change… lots of it!  Look, I know this seems kind of obvious, but it’s one of those things that if I was left in charge… would have a good chance of being left to the last minute!  Get several rolls of quarters and a bunch of 5′s and 1′s ready to go. And don’t price anything in smaller quantities than $0.25.  When possible sell cheap items in lots for higher amounts!

Electrify your sales…

Literally.  Roll out an extension cord to help power any electronics, tools, or gadgets that people may be interested in.  In our sale, we plugged in an outdoor “zen” fountain we had, so that it would be running when people stopped by (it’s much more sexy that way). I also saw dozens of people testing electronics and/or firing up tools to see if they worked before buying them.  It’s quick, easy, and will help put people’s nerves to rest.

Have plastic bags…

Another great idea that I wouldn’t have thought of!  Courtney keeps a pile of used plastic bags to re-purpose and help people carry the items they buy.  It’s a great way to keep the basgs out of the trash and people seem to really appreciate it.  Also, I saw a couple people carry around their bags and head back for more… something they may not have done without it being so convenient.

Be friendly…  Chat it up…

When people arrive, great them warmly.  Most of the people that came through our sale loved to chat!  It helps pass the time and makes the potential buyer more comfortable.  It also makes the negotiating process less awkward and many people may have legitimate questions about an item.

Obviously, don’t take it too far!  A few people said hi and then wanted to just browse on their own.  You can pick them out from a mile away.  Give a quick wave and let them stalk your items on their own agenda.

It was good while it lasted…

Set an end time for your sale.  We ended this one around 3 p.m.  It’s easy to let things keep going, especially if you have one or two stragglers that keep slowly creeping by.  As time goes on and traffic dies down, it won’t be worth your time to continue to camp out for just a few extra sales.  You’ve likely been at it all day anyway!  Scheduling an end time will also let buyers know that if they are going to get anything… they better hurry up!

Adapt as the day winds down…

As the day continues along, you’ll need to adapt as items get sold.  Spread out any remaining items so that it doesn’t look as if the best items have already been picked through.  Also, be willing to bargain a bit more as the auction gets closer to ending.  Remember, if you are using a yard or garage sale as a “catch all” option, your entire goal should be to get things sold, even if they go very cheaply.

Donate everything that’s left…

If you are using a similar system to ours, this was likely the last shot for most of your items to sell.  We have a rule that we do are darndest to stick to:

If it survives the Yard Sale… it gets donated.  Period.

Obviously, this isn’t going to be the case for our car (which we threw a sign on during the yard sale), but for 95% of the items we make it the rule of thumb.  We’ve already tried eBay and craigslist and, in reality, most of these items now have very little chance of ever being sold.  It’s easy to go into justification mode and save everything that’s left… but resist.  Resist, if you can!

A great tip to help with this is to schedule a pick-up from a charity an hour after your sale is scheduled to end.  Many local and national non-profits and donation centers will schedule pickups.  Box up and package whatever is left and help them load it into the truck!  Say goodbye to your crap knowing that it’ll help go to someone who can put it to good use.  :-)

Final Thoughts:  Is it worth it?…

That’s always the first question with Yard and Garage Sales.  Is it worth the time to sell off your items at a discount?

At the end of the day, I think it is.  I’m glad I don’t have to do it, but I’m super glad my wife is willing to step up to the plate.

Courtney spent a large chunk of her Saturday putting together and hosting the yard sale over the weekend.  But she got to have some fun, spend time with her family, and we made $133 bucks as we purged some of our items that were no longer useful.

Look, I’d much rather sell items on eBay, craigslist, or Amazon.  That’s the first part of the master process we use and I outline in Sell Your Crap. But not everything sells well (or sells at all) through those mediums.  For the crap that doesn’t, its worth it for us to throw it in a yard or garage sale and get as much as we can for it!

More Yard and Garage Sale resources from my friends and allies:

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam Martin September 27, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Great advice as always. Thanks for sharing.

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Baker September 27, 2010 at 4:43 PM

No problem, Adam! ;-)

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Brad September 27, 2010 at 3:12 PM

Another – tip – if everything is going to be trashed, recycled or donated – not only set a time to end your sale, but also have a set time where everything becomes really cheap. The last two hours of ours everything is a quarter. It is better that someone else has to take it to trash it, recycle it or donate it than me. Be gone crap – be gone. Don’t be afraid to advertise your quarter sale. The good stuff will be sold anyway in the first few hours of your sale.

Price things to sell. $30 for a dresser is better than having to haul it to goodwill and getting nothing for it. The goal is to get rid of your crap and make as much as possible. The former is more important than the latter.

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Baker September 27, 2010 at 4:44 PM

Nice idea, Brad. I love this, in combination with scheduling a donation center to pick-up whatever is left at the end. Great 1-2 punch to get rid of it all!

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Matt Cheney September 29, 2010 at 8:42 PM

Brad, I had the same idea when we did a garage sale a few months back. Except I took the even lazier approach.

Around 11AM I changed all of the signs pointing to our garage sale to say EVERYTHING IS FREE!

Worked like a charm, and I saved my self a couple trips to Good Will.

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Baker October 3, 2010 at 1:51 PM

Love it! Whether you schedule a pick-up, drop it off yourself, or just give everything left away, it’s important just to get it GONE. :-)

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@PamelaMKramer - A Renaissance Woman September 27, 2010 at 3:14 PM

I’m with you! I can’t stand to do this but I will do it if the opportunity arises. I hate to haggle and it’s a lot of work to gather, set it up and run it. Then you have to take it all down and donate the rest. Then again, it’s more money than you had before. lol

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Baker September 27, 2010 at 4:46 PM

Yeah, I’ve found that if you are doing a really big purge… and really do reserve it for a one-of “catch all” type sale… you can build the energy and momentum to get it done! :-)

Or you can just marry someone who doesn’t mind hosting them! That works too!

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Sarah E. Welch September 27, 2010 at 3:36 PM

I used to feel the same way about yard sales, but over the last two years, we made over $3,000 in yard sales–two we hosted & one that we put in some things at a friend’s sale. We didn’t really have that many big ticket items. We just did serious purging! I can’t imagine how much we might have made if we had started earlier–several carloads went to the Goodwill before we decided to go the yard sale route. I’m a convert!

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Baker September 27, 2010 at 4:47 PM

Yeah, me too. We made the majority of our money on craigslist and eBay, but even back when we did our biggest purges we made several HUNDRED dollars every time we had a sale.

Every time we thought we didn’t have that much in it… and every time we sold more than we thought we would! :-)

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Kevin M September 27, 2010 at 4:29 PM

Baker, I found myself nodding along with the sign tip. It reminded me of last summer when we sold our house by owner. We put it on Craigslist and Zillow, but the guy that ended up buying it happened to see the sign when he drove by. I’d say 80% or more of the showings we had were people driving by. We put our main sign in the front yard obviously, but also put signs on a nearby corner of a busy street with arrows pointing/guiding people where to go.

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Baker September 27, 2010 at 4:47 PM

Yeah, no joke. I heard people quote statistics about signage, but never believed them. Thought they were “old school” right up until I started seeing the results for myself!

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KarenJ September 27, 2010 at 6:00 PM

The first summer after my divorce, I made enough at a yard sale to send both my kids to summer camp (a necessary expense since I was working). I wanted to also mention that if you live in an area that’s not conducive to yard sales (I live in a townhome community where they are not allowed), you can pay $10 for a table at a community flea market. These are usually heavily advertised and you get great foot traffic, especially on a nice day. Last year, I parted with the last of my “stuff” and made $150 at one of these flea markets. The money went toward our vacation.

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Baker October 3, 2010 at 1:53 PM

Woah, yeah $10 is very cheap. A lot of times flea markets can be even more to get a spot or table depending on size!

I also like how you put a purpose to the sale (the summer camps), this can help with motivation and help overcome some of the objections with the items involved. Nice one!

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Eric | Eden Journal September 28, 2010 at 7:08 AM

I’m with you Baker, I hate yard sales. My wife hates them too, so after ebaying and craigslisting, we typically donate what’s left and take the tax write off. Heck, most of the time we come out better than many of our neighbors doing yards sales by going the donation and tax write off route instead, plus we get the added benefit of not having to “work” at the yard sale all day. It’s not immediate cold hard cash, but it’s good in the long run. I usually figure if I can’t get about a third of the retail value, it’s a better to donate it.

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Noah Fleming September 28, 2010 at 7:50 PM

I also hate yard sales. My wife and I decided to unload a pile of stuff by simply taking it to the salvation army shop. Lot’s of it was good high quality stuff, but we were too busy at the moment to do the yard sale thing.

That being said, there’s huge benefit in selling stuff on Kijiji, Craigslist & eBay. Many of us have loads of stuff in the basement that can easily turned into cold hard cash.

More cash = less debt… hopefully :-)

Good stuff.

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Gary September 29, 2010 at 12:39 AM

Yep, garage sales are hard work. Donating is usually better if you just want to get rid of your stuff. It’s easy to decide – just estimate how much you would get as a deduction and compare that to how much you might get if you sold say 2/3′s of your stuff at your bottom prices. If you decide it’s worth having a garage sale and to make as much money as you can then you need to commit early (at least 4 weeks) and put in the effort. The best way to make the whole process tolerable is never do it on your own. Always get friends, neighbors and/or relatives involved (and a glass of red or two).

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Kristen Sloan September 29, 2010 at 2:35 PM

Yard sales are great to get rid of stuff quickly and make some cash in the process. My old neighborhood had semi-annual neighborhood garage sales. It was a great deal because we just signed up and someone took care of all the publicity. Plus, my roommates and I had a blast during the sales getting rid of random and not so random stuff and making some extra money. We always ended up selling more than we expected to and the people are the best part. There are always funny people wandering around at garage sales with fun stories to tell!

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The Digerati Life September 29, 2010 at 9:00 PM

While I do yard sales on occasion, I now also like to use Craigslist to get rid of (sell) individual pieces over time. I’ve made good money this way and it’s a pretty easy way to unload your stuff.

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e-Fables September 30, 2010 at 2:48 PM

In our neighborhood, there are several garage sales a week during a summer. I did stop by a few of them but did not stay long because the price they gave are unreasonable high. I could have bought new item with that kind of price. Nonetheless, I’m not against garage sale, it’s a great way to make use of stuffs you no longer need and also to recoup part (a very small) part of whatever money you paid for them. Personally, I never host a yard sale because we have difficulty agreeing upon stuffs to put in the sale. Things I want get rid of, others want to treasure them. It’s a bit funny that you use the word “crap” often in this article because these items may be crap to you but treasure to others. 133$ for a day is quite an amount for selling junks.

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KarenJ October 1, 2010 at 7:09 AM

I forgot to mention in my previous post that there’s an organization called http://www.freecycle.org. You can join a local chapter and post your stuff to give away. They have rules and regs you have to follow but it’s a great way to get rid of things you no longer need and help out someone in your community who may have a need.

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Robert October 1, 2010 at 12:21 PM

I love the “bundle your cheap crap” idea. It’s hard to sell small, cheap items individually, but bundle them and someone will come along and scoop them up. Probably won’t earn you much money, but you’re getting paid to get rid of it, and that’s always a good thing.

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Gal @Equally Happy October 1, 2010 at 1:25 PM

I’m with Gary on this one. If I’m concerned about my finances, donating the items usually makes more sense. The tax deduction will add up to more than I can get in cash for the item, especially when I consider the effort put in to sell it.

Anything I can’t easily donate, I’ll Freecycle.

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Financial Samurai October 1, 2010 at 10:41 PM

That’s a nice bike man! You selling the rumble machine too???

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MCO October 3, 2010 at 11:13 AM

$133 is a very small amount of money for so many hours of work (sorting, pricing, advertizing, selling, cleaning up, etc.), your wife is a real treasure, but she could have spent her time more usefully by volunteering it somewhere or even taking the day off for some fun after calling a charity to pick up all your crap and taken a tax deduction… I agree with selling on e-Bay, CL, etc. for items over a certain amount (say, $30), but anything else is just a pain–life’s too short, give your stuff away, and more importantly, stop buying so much of it!

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Baker October 3, 2010 at 1:58 PM

I talk about this a lot when I refer to the term “threshold” in various spots. Each person and each situation will have different thresholds for what is “worth it” or not.

We try not to view our life in terms of whats the most “useful” or “optimized” way to spend time. Courtney has a lot of fun doing this and gets to spend time with her family. Sure, she wouldn’t want to do it EVERY day, but once every month or two is actually fun for her.

Even if she spent 10 hours “working”, that’s $13 an hour after-tax money. So let’s say a $15/hour job? Millions would be just fine with that. We don’t own a home, so we rarely itemize deductions (they aren’t worth more than the standard to us without a mortgage).

So, yep. I totally agree with your point (especially about buying less and setting thresholds), however I wouldn’t assume that “volunteering” would be a more “useful” use of time once every two months on a Saturday morning. There are a lot of factors! :-)

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Nancy L. October 3, 2010 at 11:43 AM

Our neighborhood just isn’t conducive to yard sales (or “Tag Sales” as they get called around here). There have been group sales that were advertised in the local paper, individual sales where people have put up a ton of signs, and sales where people just put stuff out bc it was a nice day. The results for all three approaches were essentially equal–people were lucky to sell even $40 worth of stuff. Because of that, if something is at a level where a tag sale is probably the only way to sell it (rather than Ebay or Craigslist), we’re better off just donating it to charity and taking the deduction.

Our town, however, runs a yearly tag sale where you can rent space. I’ve often wondered what results we’d get there, but I’m nervous to spend $50 to rent a table, and then still only sell $40 by the end of the day.

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Baker October 3, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Yeah, that’s a tough one. You may need to consider the other options if a sale isn’t a realistic opportunity given your neighborhood. Luckily, where we currently call home, these are really easy and popular.

It all depends what your situation is!

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Adam October 3, 2010 at 8:40 PM

As someone just starting out (well…3 years post college) I don’t have a lot of stuff so I found this video really interesting even though its not particularly relevant to me right now.

I loved how everything had its place and you’d made your yard-sale really ‘consumer-friendly’ -the music playing near the paying table was inspired (I wouldn’t have thought of that).

Good luck in your war on stuff :)

Adam

PS -I love how natural you guys are on camera -from someone who’s started video blogging also, I know that it’s a lot harder than it looks.

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Emily Youngs October 6, 2010 at 11:10 AM

So glad I caught this!! We are hosting a garage/moving sale this coming Saturday…. *groan* I’m not a huge fan of this and have never done one on my own before. This was a real help!! Thank you :)

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DEb October 17, 2010 at 1:00 PM

I would like some tips for selling on ebay, I have never done it out of being scared to spend more money then I would be making (fees/postage/etc.).
Could you make some suggestions that would help w/ this…

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Ken K November 14, 2010 at 10:55 PM

Great article as usual Baker! Yes, I recently sold some big ticket items on Ebay including a pinball machine, coke machine and a table top arcade machine. I realized through your site and others that I have too much crap and im quickly learning to reduce the amount of stuff I have and pocket the $$$.

I also wanted to say that your site was such an inspiration for me that I ended up creating my own site called the ForexLifeStyleGuide.com

While it is a bit different then your site, there are some cool similarities. The ForexLifeStyleGuide.com is about saving money, reducing debt, and selling stuff you don’t need in order to fund your Forex account to aide in the process of becoming a full time Forex trader, never working again, and travelling the world.

All the best!

Ken K

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SB(One Cent At A Time) June 15, 2011 at 8:08 PM

I recently posted on my blog, how you can make use of garage sale to impart valuable lessons on your kids. A garage sale offer so much to them in terms of teachings about money matters. If interested do read my post here

http://onecentatatime.com/let-children-learn-money-from-garage-sale/

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