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Welcome to the Frugal Column, where I aim to inspire you to live your best life without breaking the bank. My name is Jane Berry, I am the author of Extreme Frugality: Save Money Like Your Grandma. You can also follow my award-winning blog Shoestring Cottage and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Boot sale season is in full swing, offering opportunities to sell your old stuff and make money. If you are new to the concept, here is our guide to help you make the most of the boot sale season this summer.
Here are some lessons I have learned about how to sell your old stuff and make money at a car boot sale.
The key to making money at a boot sale is to be prepared and plan ahead. Find out where the busiest boot sales are and keep an eye on the weather forecast. A sunny day will bring out the hoards. Bank holidays are usually particularly busy.
Go with a family member or friend. This will enable you to use the loo without leaving your stall unattended, and perhaps have a look around yourself. It makes setting up easier too, as you tend to have dealers descend on you as you are trying to unpack. Some people will take advantage and steal from you if you don’t have enough eyes on them, unfortunately.
Arrive as early as you can, so that you can get organised before the crowds arrive, and secure a good spot. I am always amazed at the number of people who turn up to sell hours later than many of their potential customers, some of whom may be on their way home already! If possible, pack your vehicle the night before for a quick departure.
A folding trestle table or two will be essential to display your wares, as well as a couple of deckchairs to sit on. It can be a long morning and you will be grateful for somewhere to rest your legs. If you have clothing to sell, a sturdy clothes rail is also a good idea. People are much more likely to buy items that are displayed properly, rather than screwed up on the floor. They are likely to pay more for them too.
A tarpaulin can be useful for laying out larger items or footwear.
If you don’t own any of these, someone you know will have them so beg or borrow.
A float is a must, so start collecting coins in advance. You will find that people turn up with twenty-pound notes right at the beginning of the sale. This is irritating, but you don’t want to turn customers away because you are unable to offer them change.
Don’t forget to have separate cash for your stall fee as well, so that you don’t have to pay from your float.
Once you start raking in some profits, a money belt is the safest way to keep them safe.
Take a good supply of food and drink, like a flask, sandwiches, chocolate and water. You can purchase things like cups of tea and burgers on-site, but there are often queues at the refreshment vans.
It can be chilly early in the mornings, even in summer, so dress for a cold start. However, wear layers and take a sunhat and sunscreen so you don’t burn when the sun arrives.
People expect to find bargains at car boot sales, so don’t price unreasonably high to begin with. For example, you should charge somewhat less than a charity shop or eBay.
I often hear sellers say things like “These are selling for £xx on eBay” to justify a too-high price. The answer to that is that they should get them on eBay then, with all the fees and work involved in listing, photographing and packaging! If you have more valuable things to sell, then a car boot sale may not be the place to get the best price.
However, don’t undercharge either; you want your efforts to be profitable. I usually aim reasonably high at the beginning of a sale, but drop prices if things don’t shift fairly quickly. It is also worth negotiating with the hagglers or offering a bulk price – £2 each or £5 for three on clothing, for example.
I occasionally find that labelling more expensive items is helpful, but putting prices on everything is time-consuming and not that useful. People will happily ask for a price and this allows you to get a feel for what they are willing to pay and be flexible on the day.
Take a supply of bin bags to clear up your unsold stuff at the end. You may want to deliver it straight to a charity bin. You are obliged to clear up your rubbish too.
Occasionally, charities come around to collect up any unsold wares, so it is worth asking the organisers if this is an option.
If you have some spare carrier bags, they can be useful to take. If customers can carry more they may well buy extra!
Once you have these basics in place you can sell your old stuff and maximise your profits. After that, just enjoy the process. It’s fun chatting to customers and to the neighbouring stallholders, so you can have a bit of entertainment whilst making some extra cash.