My Money Story: The Yard (Garage) Sale

My Money Story: The Yard (Garage) Sale

I’m 34 years old, graduated with honors from one of the top-15 universities in the world, have a “real job”, and I’m broke. This is the story of how I did everything I thought I was “supposed” to do and still found myself 100K in debt and moving back home (to my aunt & uncle’s). Want to start from the beginning? Go to My Money Story: Can I Have A Do-Over?

Saturday, July 14th – The Night Before

It’s 9 pm the night before the yard sale and there are plenty of things I should be doing (cleaning my closet, organizing and/or pricing things, making signs). Instead, I’m watching a Mamma Mia! Sing-Along (yes, this exists and it’s wonderful), drinking a two-week-old bottle of cabernet (as in, I opened it two weeks ago and it sat recorked on the counter since then — super classy), and eating Halo Top non-dairy ice cream (the peanut butter cup flavor for those interested — so good).

Despite my current lack of productivity, the day was productive overall. I can’t take all the credit for it though — my friend was a humongous help. Exactly a week before her wedding — between a dance lesson with her fiancé and a charity event — she drove over to my house to help me load both of our cars to bring stuff to her house for the yard sale tomorrow. Which means something that would have taken me 3-4 hours and two car trips only took an hour and a half. So grateful.

On the sales front, someone who contacted me at the beginning of the week about my bedside table actually came through today and bought it. YAY!

Pottery Barn Sumatra Bedside Table

List price: $20
Sold price: $20

I also have some promising leads on the outdoor storage unit and some used CA real estate exam books. Both interested parties are supposed to come to the yard sale tomorrow to buy them.

Used CA Real Estate Exam Books

Donated to me to sell from my very generous neighbor.

However, the part of the day I’m most impressed with myself about is my trip to Target.

Why’s that, you ask?

Because I’m a creative genius.

Instead of buying plain old white poster board to make yard sale signs  — which everyone uses  — I chose…

wait for it…


Bright blue will definitely stand out and get more attention — more attention means I will get more yard sale traffic, sell all my items, and make so much money that I don’t have to move.

Or, you know, something along those lines.

Sunday, July 15, 2018 – The Day Of

Bad news — as it turns out, I’m NOT the creative genius I thought I was.

PRO TIP: if you want anyone to be able to read your signs, DON’T use bright blue poster board.

I would have known this ahead of time if I’d started making the signs last night instead of singing along to Mamma Mia

Unfortunately, that’s not how my night went. As a result, my morning was much more hectic than I’d planned.

It went something like this:

Even though the yard sale wasn’t supposed to begin until 10 am (per my Craigslist ad), my day started at 5:30 am. I needed to make two trips to my friend’s house before it began. Plus, I wanted to hang signs on the first trip without having PJ (my dog) in the car, so I needed an early start.

I packed the outdoor storage unit in my Mini Cooper (hoping the person showed up to buy it so I don’t have to pack it in again at the end of the day) and left my house at 7 am.

I hung my first bright blue sign — while patting myself on the back for my genius — only to discover (and, seriously, I should’ve already known) that it’s really difficult to read black writing on a bright blue sign. Like, completely illegible.

The dream of selling all my stuff and making enough money for rent was quickly fleeting. So, I scrapped the bright blue poster board, dropped the outdoor storage unit at my friend’s house, and made a detour to Walgreens to buy white poster board.

Yes, plain old white — it turns out there’s a very good reason everyone uses white and it’s not because they’re lacking creativity.

After using the hood of my car as a table to write new signs, I retraced my original sign-hanging route to put up legible signs and went home to pick up PJ and the rest of my stuff.

I had every intention of getting back to my friend’s house by 9 am to start setting up, but there was an accident on the freeway (why are there so many people on the road at 9 am on Sunday???) so I didn’t get there until 9:30 am.

No biggie, right? I mean, I still had a half hour to do everything…


Apparently, there’s an underground yard sale community (I use the word “community” loosely — they act more like enemies) that shows up at yard sales before they begin to pick off the good stuff.

Seriously — they’re not playing around.

So, despite my Craigslist ad clearly stating NO EARLY BIRDS, by the time I arrived someone had already knocked on my friend’s door (she lives on the second floor of a duplex) asking if she had any electronics to sell.

She didn’t.

More early birds arrived at the same time I did and I enlisted my friend to come downstairs for reinforcement. We asked them to give us 10 minutes to set everything up.

Of course, they said.

Mind you, this is still 30 minutes before the posted start time.

Regardless, they were liars. Despite agreeing to wait, they literally pounced the second we put a box down. Seriously, they were grabbing boxes out of our hands and rummaging through them. It reminded me of a Black Friday horror story.

As if that weren’t strange enough, a man and woman were fighting over boxes like toddlers fight over toys. I got the feeling that they’d gone toe to toe at yard sales in the past.

However, after the first rush, it died down completely. I had a few more people over the last three hours, but nothing significant.

All in all, I made about $100, not counting the real estate books or the outdoor storage unit that I had sort of pre-sold and people came to pick up.

Everything that didn’t sell went to Goodwill (aside from a few items I thought I could sell another way).

I got home around 6 pm and had to empty my (somehow completely full) car and nurse the significant sunburn I got from being in direct sunlight all day despite wearing sunscreen.

So, what’s the moral to this story?

Besides illustrating the very strange day I had, I wanted to give you a few tips so that your yard/garage sale goes much more smoothly than mine.

Garage Sale/Yard Sale Tips:

  • Make sure to get change from the bank before the garage sale. I got $60 in 5s, $30 in 1s, and $10 in quarters. I didn’t need nearly that much, but it’s better to be prepared and you can always turn it back into larger bills later.
  • Price everything — whether with stickers or signs (i.e. everything on this table is $1). People will still haggle you down, but if there isn’t a price on it they may just walk away instead of asking how much it costs.
  • If you don’t have tables, turn over empty boxes to display things on. I can’t take credit for this one — this was all my friend.
  • Whatever you list as the start time, plan for people to show up at least 30 minutes early, whether you’re ready for them or not.
  • Don’t try to be a creative genius and use bright blue poster board (or any other color) for your signs — everyone uses white for a reason.
  • If a Mamma Mia! Sing-Along comes on the night before your yard sale and you haven’t done the things listed above, set your DVR and watch it later.

Here’s an update of what I sold this week:

Adding this to everything I’ve sold thus far (+ $100 from the yard sale), here’s where I’m at:

Total revenue: $1065.51
– total costs: $33.99
= net “income”: $1031.52

Want to know how this whole thing started?

Go to My Money Story: Can I Have a Do-Over to start from the beginning.

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