How We Earned So Much Money At Our Barn Sale


Recently, we had a huge barn/yard/tool sale.  We made a lot of money.  I wrote about all of the things we were able to buy with the money, and what a blessing it was to us here.

A reader asked me if I would write up some tips that helped us do so well.  So, I picked Rob’s brain, since he is actually the one who knows all of the tricks and tips for a successful sale and did most of the work for this, and most, sales we have.

  1.  Gather your items:  The more stuff you have, the more money you will make.  This seems obvious, but it’s common sense.  So, gather items from anyone–friends, family, from the side of the road–anywhere you can to get a good amount.  We have found that people often don’t want to have a yard sale of their own, but are very gracious to donate to ours, especially when it’s a sale to benefit 4H or another organization.  Sometimes they just want it out of their house and are glad to donate it for any reason, just to make it go away.  Clean out your cupboards, drawers, and outbuildings.   Rob and I spent a great deal of time doing this for the past several months, but most of what we sold this time came from outbuildings and his shop.  We had everything from the ends of rolls of wire, to fence posts, to chicken fencing for a pasture, to rabbit cages, to chicken waterers, a few large tools like a table saw, and many assorted nuts, bolts, screws, and other such things found in barns and shops.  Although those items were the main items, I did not hesitate to put out several boxes of household items I had weeded out, plus several boxes of homeschool books I no longer needed.IMG_2453
  2. Location:  Rob chose to have this sale at our house, in his shop.  There were too many things to move to another place, and people will drive a ways to a barn/shop sale because they want the useful items associated with that.  When we have had sales with mostly household items, we have usually taken it into town and held the sale at his mom’s house or a friend’s house so we can get more traffic.
  3. Timing:  We chose payday weekend, mid-month.  People have more money to spend at the beginning of the month, and mid-month then at the end of the month. We chose spring because we are moving soon, but that is a good time for a sale because it is not too hot, as long as it is not super cold or rainy.  It is also good because people are starting to get outside and do their farm work and may need supplies for new baby chickens, etc.  We had gorgeous, sunny days both Friday and Saturday.  That was a blessing from God- we could not control that, obviously:)  We have had sales in the past for ourselves and to benefit 4H where we did not do well because it was too cold or rainy, or too hot.
  4. Pricing:  We price everything.  People need a starting point.  Then, we bargain.  Rob’s advice is to ask yourself if you really want to get rid of the item.  If you don’t, take it back into the house.  If you do, price to sell.  It’s not worth as much as you think it is, with the exception of items that have great value for some reason.  Those might best be sold individually on Craig’s List, or E-bay.  Rob had a few things he put out that had prices he would not go below, but most of it he wanted gone, and he priced it accordingly.
  5. Cash box:   Of course, have plenty of change on hand.  People give you $100 bills and you need to be able to break them.  Take extra money into the house and put it away when your cash box gets loaded.  A cardboard box works fine, as long as you have a way to find your change.  Decide ahead of time if you are going to take checks or not.  If you do, cash them as soon as possible.  Have an adult man the cash register, not a child.  It’s too easy for them to get confused under pressure.  When you are very busy, people don’t want to wait for a child to have a money -counting lesson, as us homeschoolers are apt to give at times like this.
  6. Presentation:  The items should be laid out in a manner that the people can get a good look at them.  The floor should be swept and clutter free, as much as possible.  Things under the tables should not be sticking out because people might trip on them.  Rob put up lots of tables and we arranged things on the tops and underneath.  He had his men friends and our nephew help him bring things up from the barn to the shop and a lot of things were arranged outside the shop so they were very visible right away. Piles of fence posts were stacked where they could be easily loaded onto trailers.   People expect barn items to be somewhat dirty, but household items should be as clean as possible.  I washed a lot of dirt off of a lid of a container full of Duplo blocks, and we figure that act earned us $5-$10, since we sold the container full for $25.  If it had stayed dirty, people would have either walked away, or offered us much less.  During the sale, as places on the tables got emptied, one of us would re-arrange things so the gaps were filled in.  On Friday, we sold double what we sold on Saturday.  So, there were huge gaps to fill as time went on.  Rob and Steven (nephew) even went down to the barn and cleaned some more very early Saturday morning and found quite a few more items that could be sold.  That helped fill in the spaces nicely and gained us more money, and now we have less stuff left over to deal with.IMG_2449
  7. Be flexible:  One man came in and asked if the cupboard on the wall was for sale.  Rob said it could be.  The man offered $100 and Rob said for my nephew to get the screw gun and they emptied the cupboard and took it down.  If we were not moving, we would have kept the cupboard, but the point is to think outside the box as to what could be sold.  He sold piles of old wood that he had sitting around.  He sold tubs and waterers that were quite used, but still useful.  For the entire 2 days, he only got to sit down for a few minutes at a time, he was so busy wheeling and dealing with the hoard of people that came to the sale.  We are still selling things to people who decided to come back and see if “it” was still available.  We’ve earned another $20-30 at least, so far, plus an additional $350 for items that were pre-sold and just now delivered and paid for.
  8. Advertisement:  Rob made wonderful signs, which I wrote on.  He went out early the morning of the sale and put them around in strategic locations where people would be led to our sale.  He build sandwich boards to set up at intersections.  He advertised on Craig’s List both mornings.  He put it on his Facebook.  He took detailed pictures of the items for sale, and listed them out on his Craig’s List ads.  People did take notice and came for those items specifically.  He also listed contact information and people called or texted for more info, when they desired it.
  9. Adequate help:  We had lots of help lined up, both before the sale for set-up, and during the sale.  One day, my aunt ran the “cash register” for the morning, and a friend did it the other morning. After they went home, we took turns.  It was quieter in the afternoons.  My nephew helped load boxes, ladders, posts, wood, tools, and other items into people’s vehicles both days.  Rob’s mom and Lovana helped serve them lunch the day I was gone, and I did it the other day. I helped him price items for a couple of days ahead, and he worked on it for hours for several days.  Without all of this help, he never would have been able to set out as much stuff, and he IMG_2454needed the help with the amount of people that came.  As it was, he hardly got a bathroom break or lunch, both days.
  10. Clean up:  I will bundle the rest of the books into boxes and take them to a used homeschool bookstore to see what I can get for them.  The rest I will donate.  We are under a time crunch because we are moving.There is a horse rescue organization that is coming for the rest of the items so they can sell them for their fund raiser.  Rob had thought about taking the remaining shop items to an auction, but has decided to donate it all to the horse rescue place.  There are one or two things that he will try to sell on E-bay or Craig’s List, as they are collectible or valuable in some way.  He just thought he’d try to sell them here first, as it is easier than listing and shipping something.  Consider having another sale.  Last time we had a sale, we did it in town at Rob’s mom’s house.  We sold a few hundred dollars worth (you earn much less for household items than shop/barn items) but had some leftover.  I decided to put on a very short (1 Saturday morning only) yard sale at our house with the leftovers.  I actually earned around $70 just for that morning’s time.  Everything was already priced, the cash box was loaded, etc.  My oldest daughter came out, and we visited while we sold things.  Then I donated the rest.
  11. This sale was more lucrative than most, mainly because we had so much stuff to get rid of since we are downsizing so drastically. We have had good sales before, though.  We have also had disappointing, discouraging sales.   Some things you can’t control, such as the weather or amount of people that show up.  But, a lot of things are in your control.  Hopefully, these tips will get you on track for a productive sale soon.  We know we are thrilled with the results of ours.

6 thoughts on “How We Earned So Much Money At Our Barn Sale”

  1. Good tips Becky! You’re so right about pricing everything. I go to quite a few garage sales in the summer and if things aren’t priced, I won’t even bother to shop. And it’s good to have everything clean too, just as you said. Nothing worse then greasy grimy items. I have a garage sale every year as we are still downsizing and they are always successful, selling out by early noon. My only other tip would be to display the big impressive items where people driving by can see them from the road. I know if I see tables of plastic cups and baby toys, I won’t waste my time and I’m sure many others feel the same way.

    1. That is so true! When we do a sale in town, we make sure some “good stuff” is by the road. Here, people had to drive in the second driveway to even see what we had at all, so we put a bunch of the big items outside the shop so they could be seen when they first drove in. We also had great success with putting detailed pictures on Craig’s List so people could see things that way as well.

      If you sell out by noon, you must have the whole pricing things down! Rob says there are 2 kinds of yard sale buyers–the kind who want to pay the price written, and the kind who want to bargain. I, also, am the kind who wants it written down, or I won’t shop either.

  2. Good advice. Garage sales can be really hard on a person so if you are going to do it, do it right. This is a good list of suggestions.

  3. Amazing! Well done. Some great tips here as well.
    It is always frustrating when I check out items at a garage sale and there is no pricing on them (or anything even suggesting how much they are – no price range at all). Plus noone to ask as whoever is managing is speaking with other potential buyers. I don’t even bother and just walk away. Making it clear how much each item is really helps to it.

    1. I agree. I always want to know the prices at sales so I can decide if it’s remotely worth what they are asking. We had lots of people bargaining, but many didn’t, they just paid what was written on the items. As it was, Rob was running around like a chicken answering questions, and bargaining with people! We had someone each morning who came with the express purpose of collecting money, so he didn’t have to do that, too. We also had my nephew to help them carry larger items to their cars/trucks/trailers. It all helped get the job done and people weren’t frustrated, so they bought more.

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