Should you hold a garage sale or not?

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garage sale title

I will never hold another garage sale!

How can a self-proclaimed cheapskate who hates to throw any money away so definitively state that?

Because I have looked at the return on investment (ROI) very carefully and come to the conclusion that garage sales are not a good ROI for us.

The three factors that you need to in determining ROI are time, money and mental health.


watch with time

Having a garage sale takes a lot of time if you want to do it well. And if you are going to have one, you need to do it well so you can increase your profits. It will take time to do all of the following:

Decide when to have the garage sale

Buy signs, make signs, put up signs, take down signs

Organize other neighbors or family to do a neighborhood-wide sale or joint sale

Go to the bank to get appropriate bills and change for the cashbox

Write up an ad and submit to newspapers, Facebook, online communities

Price items

Setup items (ahead of time and the morning of the sale)

The actual time to be at the garage sale while it’s open

Clean up after the sale

Take items to be donated or to the curb after the sale

We have done several garage sales during our married life and the majority of our time on a garage sale was spent during the preparation to price and set up the sale. Granted, I spend more time than the average person organizing for garage sales, but I know that the more organized your sale is the more profits you get.

We always put like items together and purposely put certain items nearest the street to draw people in. Be sure to check out “10 tips for a money-making garage sale” to learn more about that.

We spent hours and hours preparing for the sale, not to mention the days off of work we took on the day of the sale.


dollar bills

A garage sale is all about making money, right?!

Yes and no.

The ultimate goal is to make money, but have you ever thought about the amount of money a garage sale costs you directly and indirectly? You may be spending more money having a garage sale than you are making.

Direct costs:

Buying signs to put up around the neighborhood

Ad space in local newspaper

Materials – price stickers, baggies to put jewelry in for easier sales, poster board for signs around the garage sale

Indirect costs:

Food – People tend to eat out more on the actual day of the garage sale and in the days leading up to the sale as they organize and price items.

Daycare- Are you paying someone to watch your children while you have a garage sale? If this is a cost you wouldn’t usually incur, then it needs to be considered when exploring ROI.

Day off of work – taking time off work costs you money if you are an hourly employee or vacation time if you are a salaried employee.


mental health scrabble pieces

Some people love to hold garage sales. It’s a great opportunity to soak up some sun (if you luck out in the weather department), chat with neighbors and strangers, and make some money while relaxing.

However, there are others of us who find garage sales both physically and mentally draining.

I happen to fall into the latter category. Being an introvert, I find talking to people I don’t know more draining than energizing. At garage sales, I feel like conversations are mostly awkward, especially as you try to sound welcoming despite knowing these people are judging you by your stuff (or is that only me that feels that way). I’m the person who feels guilty going up to a garage sale and leaving without buying something, so no big shocker that it’s weird for me being on the other side as well. I would much rather set up the sale, organize it and then let someone else be the “face” of the event and chit chat with people.

By the end of a garage sale day, I am wiped out mentally. Having to talk to strangers, start up random conversations, and make deals all day long is a lot for me. If it happens to be a nice warm, sunny day, add in complete physical exhaustion by the end of the day.

The stress I put on myself in the days leading up to the garage sale to make it nice, organized and as stress-free is laughable. Inevitably in the days leading up to a sale, I spend countless hours preparing, don’t log enough sleep, don’t work out and make poor food choices. Put that all together, and I’m usually quite a ball of stress. Brian has more than once asked me over the years if a garage sale is worth it.

Finally, after our neighborhood wide garage sale last year, I was able to sit back and look at the big picture. I calculated what we made and what the costs were and the math just didn’t add up. It is not a good ROI for us to continue in the garage sale business. However, utilizing the same criteria to determine ROI we have found that online sales sites such as Craigslist and Varage Sale are beneficial for us.

If you keep good records of your garage sale profits, a simple formula can help you determine if it’s worthwhile to do again.

Garage Sale profit minus Garage sale costs (indirect and direct) divided by Hours (estimate) spent preparing and holding the garage sale

An example:

Let’s say you spent 25 hours preparing and holding your garage sale that made $500 in sales. You spent $50 on signs, stickers and an advertisement. You spent $50 on food from eating out that you wouldn’t have otherwise. In this scenario, no one had to take time off of work.

$500-$100= $400 You then divide $400 by 25 hours and get $16/ hour

You have to decide if getting paid $16/hour is worth it. It might be and that’s fine. Be sure you consider the ROI before you schedule your next garage sale.


Garage sales can be a great way to make some extra money and get rid of things from your home. A win-win in my book. However, holding a garage sale is not always a good ROI for every family. Be sure to consider the investment of your time, money and mental health when determining if you should start planning a garage sale. Every time you have a garage sale be willing to look at the big picture and decide if the garage sale was a good ROI before you commit to another one.


Still not sure if having a garage sale is right for you….be sure to subscribe to Minutes with Meg to get the free quiz to find out if a garage sale is a good ROI for you.


If you choose to hold a garage sale, because they are right for some families, be sure to check out other related posts to help you make the most of your garage sale.

Organizing a neighborhood garage sale Part I

Organizing a neighborhood garage sale Part II

14 steps to organizing a garage sale

10 tips for a money making garage sale




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