Is It Worth Your Time To Sell Items At A Garage Sale?

it it worth your time to sell items at a garage saleGiven the choice, would you rather sell your old junk for money or give it away to an organization like Goodwill or the Humane Society?

Personally, I like money, so I’d probably want to sell my stuff.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the smartest decision.

While the idea of selling all of your stuff at a garage sale seems like a great idea, it may actually be a colossal waste of your time.

Here’s why.

Garage Sales Can Be Giant Time Wasters

I don’t know about you, but whenever I get ready for a garage sale it takes weeks. Over time, we slowly gather the junk we want to sell in one location and then research how we should price the more expensive items.

To have a successful sale, my wife and I have to advertise for the garage sale. We put up ads on craigslist and other free sites. We also prepare about a dozen signs that will bring cars down various roads to our home.

Next, we prepare for the sale itself. One of us will go to the bank to get change for the people who only bring $20s to buy items for a quarter.

I’ll normally go borrow some fold up tables from my parents. We’ll move everything to the garage and prepare to bring out the items for the morning of the sale.

The morning of the sale, we pull everything out into the driveway and sit there for about four or five hours as people pick through our stuff and haggle us down from the prices we set. At the end of the day, we end up with anywhere from $100-$300.

Is all of that effort really worth $100-$300? For some people the answer may be yes.

The more I think about it, I’m starting to think the money isn’t worth it.

You May Not Have Any Worthwhile Items To Sell

What happens when you gather all of your garage sale items and notice you don’t have any big items to sell? It makes driving traffic to your yard sale very difficult, that’s what.

Normally, you advertise all of the big items you are selling, but without those, you might not get as much traffic to your sale as you had hoped.

Even if traffic is high, you may not sell enough of your junk to make the garage sale worth while.

You Could Sell Your Big Items For More Money On Craigslist

If you want to make about the same amount of money with less hassle, consider selling the big garage sale items on craigslist.

Since the big items normally make up at least half of my proceeds from a garage sale, you’ll still likely make a decent amount of money and you won’t spend a bunch of time gathering and pricing the small stuff.

Instead, you’ll just make a quick listing for things like electronics and furniture. Then, allow serious buyers to contact you to make a purchase. If you want to save even more time, arrange a time and date when all purchasers can come pick up the items at the same time and you’ll be set!

Donate The Junk To Save Time

You could also try to sell the junk, anything that would sell for a couple bucks or less, on craigslist. However, it’d likely take hours and you probably wouldn’t make much money.

Instead, donate the items to a local charity you support whenever you come across them in your home. That way, you won’t clutter your house and you won’t spend time procrastinating on setting a date for your next yard sale.

Your Time Has Value

Your time has value. Instead of preparing for a yard sale or selling things on craigslist, you could be spending time with your family, growing your business or even making some extra cash.

If the amount of money you would get from the garage sale isn’t worth more than your time, don’t bother unless you are desperate for cash.

However, if you’re trying to pay off credit card debt or are living paycheck to paycheck, you might be best off taking the time to sell your junk.

What do you think? Is a garage sale a waste of time, or is it worth the typical amount of money you earn for your work? Do you donate items instead of hosting a garage sale? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments section below.

Photo by: daniel spils Text added by: Lance Cothern

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I feel like my wife and I have this conversation on an annual basis. She likes to have a yard sale and I don’t think it’s worth the time. Like you said, with all of the prep that goes into it, we usually get a pretty low return on time spent. I’d much rather sell the big items and donate the rest. The time saved could better be spent on a family adventure!

    • If she enjoys it, that is something else to take into consideration. However, if she loathes it as much as I do, skip selling the small stuff and take it straight to a donation place!

  2. I occasionally fall into my mother’s mindset and think someone could get some use out of something I have and don’t need, and think about a garage sale for about 30 seconds before I come to my senses and forget about it. I don’t have enough stuff to pull off a sale on my own and it just seems like way too much work to join up with one of those subdivision sales. So my junk -oops, fine things-either go to Goodwill or to the garbage man.

    • I’m glad I’m not alone Kathy. While people can use the things you get rid of, it probably isn’t worth your time to sell them. Let someone else do it, make money and provide jobs at the same time.

  3. I keep a bag in the back of my closet to put things in I no longer need/want. The diabetes society calls usually once every two months or so asking if we have anything. If I feel it is not worth their while to come, I say so, otherwise, they provide a date for pickup. They also provide a reminder call the night before. I just leave my stuff on the front porch and when I get home from work, the bag is gone. Easy, simple, someone may benefit from some of my cast offs, and my house doesn’t get cluttered (as much).

  4. I always want to have a garage sale but when I consider the time that it takes to clean up my junk and the time it takes to put on the event, I could’ve done something more productive. I find that if I think about having a garage sale I start to collect more junk. I might be better for me to junk donate. Some day I would like to park my car in the garage.

  5. My husband keeps saying we should have a garage sale. What that really translates to is “I” should have a garage sale. I agree with you. We don’t have that many things to sell; almost all of the items are small knick-knacks; have no idea what to price things. Plus our HOA stipulates when we can have it and it is always the weekend near my husband’s birthday. The last several years it has rained (I’m not exaggerating). In the past I’ve combined stuff with friends or family to hold a garage sale. Was lucky if I even made $100. Usually just ended up donating everything. I’ve tried Craigslist in the past with very limited success (no success lately). This year a friend invited me to join a couple of local Facebook garage sale pages. I am not too optimistic though.

    • Haha garage sales are awesome when your spouse does all of the work. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s very fair. If he wants to have a yard sale, let him do it this time to see how much work it is 🙂

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