How Spring Cleaning Earned Us $432

Intro: Dan is an accountant in his late 20s who lives in Calgary. He has never had any consumer debt, has a professional accounting designation and rarely pays full price for anything. He is happily married with one spoiled dog. He writes at his site called Our Big Fat Wallet.

With the weather finally warming up and the sun starting to shine, it’s time for our annual spring cleaning purge.

My wife and I recently bought a house, and although we have only lived in it for less than two years we’ve found it very easy to accumulate ‘stuff’ – old DVDs we hardly ever watch, magazines we have already read and plastic containers that have slowly piled up over time.


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Last spring we decided to ‘purge’ our house of the items we no longer used – and there were lots of them.

One weekend we decided to hold a garage sale and the turnout was a huge success – a few hours of organizing, sorting and cleaning earned us $432.

What Sold – and What Didn’t

It was our first garage sale ever, and we learnt quite a bit on what was popular (and what wasn’t).

The biggest surprise came when we sold an old antique clock which we had no use for and didn’t ‘fit’ with the rest of the décor in our home. We bought it about 3 years ago for $40 and sold it for $80.

Other items that sold almost immediately were children’s toys, children’s clothing, household tools, small kitchen appliances and vintage movie posters. The children’s items were a hot seller for moms looking for a bargain.

Items that weren’t so popular? DVDs, scrapbooking supplies, an outdated PVR and old camera equipment. We found people we no longer interested in outdated technology – even at cheap prices.

Pricing Strategies that Worked

We knew we wouldn’t get top dollar for our items and we were completely ok with that, since many of the items we no longer used.

We priced our items similar to a discount retailer – items we knew would be a tough sell were in the ‘discount bin’ – where prices were significantly lower than normal (even for a garage sale).

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We also placed similar items together and offered a discount based on quantity. For example, we asked $10 for one pair of shoes but put all pairs together and marked them as ‘$15 for 2’ or ‘$25 for 3’. This way people saw the value in buying more – they paid a lower price (per item) and we increased our sales.

We hardly ever got the full asking price for the items we sold – but all prices were reasonable to begin with, so people felt more comfortable making an offer.

Haggling Strategies

We found that most (if not all) people offered a price that was lower than what we were asking.

We would sometimes offer the buyer to ‘meet in the middle’ of the asking price and the offer. This usually worked well since it showed we were willing to settle on a fair price for both.

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On other occasions we would combine all items a seller was interested in and agree on a price for everything.

Helping the Environment

By selling our ‘stuff’ we no longer used, we were able to make some extra spending money and help the environment at the same time.

The items we would have thrown away (and wasted) would get some extra use by others and they would be reused rather than replaced by new ones.

We also donated everything that didn’t sell to a local thrift store, which meant virtually everything we would have thrown out would get some extra use by others.

Have you ever held a garage sale? If so, what worked & didn’t work?


8 thoughts on “How Spring Cleaning Earned Us $432

  1. I’ve done a couple garage sales over the years, mostly when I was growing up. My toys always sold as well as some household items that were in good condition. Like in your experience, movies and outdated technology was a tough sell and often we had to list it in the classifieds to get a buyer. I’m burned out on garage sales myself and now just sell online. More success, less work and less stress.

    • @Rebecca I can definitely see your point. We decided to have a garage sale because most of the items were lower priced and it would have taken forever to list them individually online. Anything higher than $30 would probably be listed online instead

  2. We just held a garage sale last week-end (actually, I did – my husband thought it wouldn’t be worth it), and came away with $300. Unlike you, I was surprised at the rapid sale of DVDs and even some VHS tapes. Record albums were a huge hit. I found it took a lot more than “a few hours of organizing, sorting, and cleaning” – but it was worth it!

  3. We haven’t, but we have so much stuff after this round of spring cleaning it might be too much for craigslist. Those DVDs more might do well at a place that sells used…around here we have the record exchange and they sell DVDs games and comic booky figures. They buy them too.

  4. Isn’t nice just to get rid of stuff? I’m not a big fan of hosting garage sales because it seems like a lot of work but for 400 smacks, you did well! Just curious, your bio doesn’t mention children but yet you had kids clothes and toys in your sale? :pondering:

  5. We’ve done a few garage sales over the years. Most of the stuff right now that’s in our house/garage that we no longer want will probably go quicker if we put it on craigslist or freecycle. It is stuff like a hampster habitat, a nice aquarium with accessories, and some power tools, like a wood router with router table, and a large shop vacuum. Not typical things that go at a garage sale.

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