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Category: Earning & Managing Money

Tips for having a successful garage sale

A few of you asked wrote and asked for tips on having a successful garage sale since I mentioned our crazily-busy sale day yesterday. While I don't consider myself the "Garage Sale Queen" by any means, here are a few of my recommendations for holding a successful garage sale:

1. Collect stuff. Now I know this is a no-brainer, but a successful garage sale often begins months in advance by saving stuff to sell. Before you think I'm advocating the pack-rat mentality, let me tell you what I do: I keep a box in the garage or in an out-of-the-way place to toss things into as I come across them in the months leading up to a garage sale. As one box fills, I seal it, and start another.

I've been amazed at how much stuff I can collect by doing this! In addition, it gives me a set place to put said "junk" instead of having to walk by it repeatedly for months thinking "I'll sell that in our next garage sale." It also gives me an incentive to constantly be on the lookout for items which we are no longer using or loving and to free myself from this clutter.

2. Plan ahead. I know this should also be a given, but I learned the hard way with a garage sale I did a year ago that you can never plan ahead too much. At the last minute, I had so many loose ends left to tie up and ended up overdoing it as a result. So, at least a few weeks before you have your sale, start pulling things out of boxes and organizing them, start pricing things, and start thinking about how you will set everything up.

This is especially good to do if you are in a new location or have never done a garage sale by yourself before. A few days before the sale, make sure you have everything priced and organized in tubs and bins and boxes. The day before the sale, set up as much stuff in your garage as you can. Figure out what you will be using for signs, where you will put them, make sure you have plenty of cash on hand, and so on.

The more organized you are, the easier it will be when you actually have your sale, and it will mean that you are not scrambling around on morning of your garage sale. Plus, it will make it easier for your customers to buy things if you are organized and ready to go when you open your sale.

3. Price things to sell. When I go to a garage sale, I expect to pay garage sale prices. I always try to price things at what I feel would be a good bargain if I were buying the item at someone else's garage sale. I'd rather that someone pay me and actually buy my item, then 25 people pick up the item and put it back down because it is too expensive.

Also, be sure to price everything. Not only will those coming to your sale appreciate it, it will keep things more simple for you. As an added bonus, it will increase sales because people will know how much (or little) something costs! I try to have variety in pricing with plenty of $0.25 or less items.

4. Pick a good location. Make sure that wherever you hold your sale has a sizeable amount of traffic throughout the day. If it doesn't, consider holding your sale at a friend or relative's home. There's no point in having everything organized and lots of great stuff to sell if you don't have any traffic!

5. Pair up with a friend. This is one of the best ways to have a successful garage sale–join ranks with a friend or two! Not only will you have more stuff and more variety, but you'll also have lots of fun and fellowship in the process. Plus, you'll have more help in pulling it off.

6. Advertise well. Make sure you put up plenty of nice signs in conspicuous places which easily lead to your home. Also, consider advertising in your paper or a free local newspaper. In different areas, advertising in the paper is very helpful. Other times, it is not necessary if you have good traffic and good signage. Experiment and see what works best. Above all, have very presentable and attractive signs–a sloppily-thrown together sign is not very inviting!

7. Don't forget the cookies and lemonade! What better way to teach your children entrepreneurial skills and let them earn a little money in the process than to have them set up their own little cookie and lemonade stands at the sale? Or, if it's cold outside, try selling hot chocolate, coffee, and fresh cinnamon rolls. One garage sale, we even set up a pancake griddle and sold pancakes hot off the griddle on Saturday morning.

There are a few of my tips for having a successful garage sale; I'd love to hear from you all if you have any great ideas or thoughts to add.

Guest Post: My Journey to Cloth Diapers


Guest Post by Andrea from

Cloth diapers? Get real. Next you’ll
be telling me to install a butter churn in my kitchen. I hear you. But
you wouldn’t be on this website if you didn’t have a little voice
in your head that urges you to at least look into any viable money-saving
possibility there is.

While I can’t speak for butter churns, I can
tell you my diaper story. I made the switch to cloth, and it has been
surprisingly painless.

First off, as money-conscious, optimistic
expectant parents, my husband and I decided we’d do it. Seeing the
cost of a large pack of diapers at Sam’s Club made us start calculating
the tremendous output we were facing. I mean, we were already tearing
paper towels in half and reusing plastic baggies; cloth diapers just
made sense.

I was thrilled to hear about the “Cloth
Diaper Seminar” offered at my local Babies “R” Us, complete with
free food. So I went and sat in the glider rocker section with about
fifteen other women who were also great with child.

The woman conducting
the seminar began her speech by admitting to the room that she had no
clue how to pin a diaper. In fact, she had called her friend earlier
to get the scoop on pinning. This was disconcerting. To me, pinning
was the hard part. If she couldn’t explain that, what good was she?

She proceeded with her sketchy explanation of traditional, pre-fold
diapers—the one’s I thought of when I thought of cloth diapers at
all. It was glaringly obvious that she had no experience whatsoever
in this arena. On top of that, Babies “R” Us sold nothing to accommodate
those opting for this method—except the pins. Pre-fold diapers, apparently,
have become burp rags. I didn’t know that. And diapers snap, not pin,
these days

But then the keynote diaper seminar
speaker really got going as she moved into territory that was
her forte. Ladies, cloth is cool. I mean, your kid can wear diapers
that look more like sweaters than anything else, you can get diapers
with dinosaurs on them, you can get diapers with flushable liners, the
possibilities go on and on.

So, I was intrigued. But the price
of getting started was prohibitive in my mind. The sweater variety,
she told us, would set you back about $80–for one diaper! Okay,
I realize you can eat up $80 in a hurry on disposables, but let’s
just face it, one diaper is not going to cut it. We’re talking at
least two. And that’s if you want to wash it three times a day. Which
you can’t because the sweater kind takes three days to dry.

As the time got closer, I started really meditating on everything that
was about to change. I meekly asked my husband if we could use the disposables
from the baby shower exclusively until I got used to the whole baby
idea. Then we could think about cloth. He was, as always, very understanding.

Besides, I was working. I worked part
time until Paul was 4 months old. He was in a great day care on the
campus of the university I worked for in a building next door to mine,
but cloth diapers were not welcome. No surprising!

So, four months passed, during
which time we used up all the diapers from the baby shower (and from
the grandmothers) and had to put up our own funds for, I think, something
like three packs of diapers. We weren’t really seeing the budget crunch
yet, but we knew it was coming.

Then I went to Ashlyn’s house for
someone else’s shower. See, Ashlyn uses cloth. That’s what did me
in. I decided I could do it when I saw a real person’s diapers and
talked with her about how she cleans them and where she buys them. That’s
why I’m writing this. Perhaps knowing a real story will encourage
you to take the plunge yourself. Thanks, Ashlyn.

Here’s what I found out from Ashlyn
along with some of what I’ve learned in the last ten or so months:

Where do you get them? . I haven’t looked at every single site
out there, but of the ones I’ve perused, her prices are the best.

What did you buy?
I started with 12 terrycloth diapers, 6 covers, 2 all-in-one diapers,
and a few doublers. She threw in some wipes with that order.

when the baby outgrew the covers, I ordered 8 more larger all-in-ones
because I realized that (with Bella Bottoms anyway) an all-in-one is
a cover with a pouch. So I use the all-in-ones without the inserts as
covers and with the inserts as diapers. The terrycloth diapers are one-size,
so he’ll wear those until he’s trained. 12 is all I need (since
I’ve got the all-in-one option to fall back on) because, regardless
of how many you’ve got, 2 or 3 days between washes is their limit.

What do they cost? It was about
a $200 initial investment for us. The next order (of all-in-ones) was
more like $90.

How do you store them until washing?
Ashlyn puts them straight into her washer filled with water (after emptying
them). When she gets enough for a load, she’ll start it. I use a trash
can with a springy pop-up lid (again, after emptying them). No water
in the trash can. Just wet and dirty diapers.


Washing Tools

How do you wash them? Lots of water. That’s a drawback, but I’ve got to do it this way
to keep them smelling fresh. I do a hot wash/cold rinse with nothing
else. Then a hot wash/cold rinse with a tiny bit (2 tablespoons?) of
detergent and ¼ cup of baking soda. Then a hot wash/cold rinse with
½ cup of vinegar. I dry them all on low heat, remove the vinyl covers
from the dryer, and finish drying the diapers on high heat. No fabric
softener, of course.

Do they work? Yes. Even at
night (with a doubler) once Paul stopped nursing in the middle of the

Are they gross? Well, yes.

Do they stink up your house?
No. Not even the room with the pail.

What about wipes?
You know how baby washcloths wear out really fast? I cut old ones in
half (so as to distinguish them from the non-wipe washcloths mostly)
and stack a bunch next to the diaper station. I’ve got a squirt-top
bottle (a spray bottle works too) filled with water and a smidge of
baby shampoo/soap. I wet them down on the spot and wipe. Think about
it. Where would you put a disposable wipe if you’re using a cloth
diaper? I actually prefer the cloth wipes straight up over disposables.

Can your kid wear them out in public?
Yes. Just pack a grocery bag in your diaper bag. Hand sanitizer is nice
too. (To date, I’ve never changed a dirty cloth diaper away from my
house. Odds are, it’s coming though.)

But I have so much fun getting
free diapers at CVS!
Never fear. You’ll still need diapers. I
buy about one pack a month. I think the church nursery workers appreciate
my not springing cloth on them.

Will they really save me money?
Depends on how many of your diapers are free, I guess. Besides the cost
of the diapers, you do need to consider the water output. I wash about
2½ times a week. Here’s how we look at it. I think we will
come out ahead on Paul. However, chances are, Paul’s not the youngest,
and the cloth diapers are still going strong.

There you have it. If you know anything
about butter churns, I’d love you hear your story.

Andrea desires to bring honor to her Savior as a wife to her wonderful
husband Jon and mother to their 14-month-old son, Paul. She am thankful to
be able to stay at home full-time. She and her family live in South Carolina and minister their local church while seeking God’s direction concerning missionary
service in Latin America. She blogs at

From Crystal: If you would like to learn more about cloth diapering, Tammy has written extensively on her blog about how she does it. Check out her posts , , and . Also, I found to be extremely helpful and informative.

I used almost exclusively with my first child and loved those, though I know everyone has their own preferences. My advice, if you’re new to the idea of cloth diapering, is that you do lots of research. Ask around and see if any of your friends use cloth diapers and get their take on what works for them. Secondly, give yourself a few months to adjust to being a mommy of a newborn before attempting cloth diapering–especially if you are a first-time mommy. Lastly, don’t invest hundreds of dollars without first trying cloth diapers out on a small scale and determining what works for you.

I’d love to hear from other moms out there who have cloth diapered. What are your favorite brands of cloth diapers? What advice would you have for someone who is considering switching to cloth? Also, if you’ve blogged on the subject of cloth diapering, please do leave the link to your post in the comments section. I know many moms would appreciate that!

Guest Post: Tips for Saving Money on Organic Food


Guest Post by Patricia Wooster at

I think most of us find the idea of purchasing chemical-free food for
our family appealing. However, few of us can afford to pay $2 for
an apple, or $3.99 for a half gallon of organic milk. Organic food is
expensive, and many of the products taste different than their
non-organic counterparts.

When I started to experience some health
issues it was recommended that I "clean" up my diet. The first
few grocery bills were terrifying, but I’ve picked up some tips and
tricks to make buying organic food affordable. It takes a little work,
but the savings make it worth it.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

::Take advantage of Buy 1, Get 1 Free deals.
Most stores allow you to use 2 coupons in conjunction with a B1G1 deal and this often enables you to get the item for pennies. For example,
Publix recently had Newmann’s Own Pasta Sauce as a B1G1 deal, along with
Mueller’s Pasta. The pasta sauce is $2.69 and the pasta is $1.17. I
had a $1/1 coupon for the sauce, and 2 $0.50/1 coupons for the
pasta. For $1.86 I got 2 jars of pasta sauce, and 2 boxes of pasta.

::Clip every coupon you can find for oganic food. The best coupons can be found on the manufacturers
website. I’ve compiled a pretty comprehensive list . I’ve signed up for their newsletters, and have received free cookbooks, samples, and substantial savings coupons.

  • ::Get a CVS ExtraCare Rewards Card and take advantage of the weekly and monthly free-after-ECB deals. By saving money on
    your drugstore and cleaning items you free up money to spend on organic
  • ::Buy locally. Check for a listing of markets in your area.
  • ::Sign up for the , , and
    They email me a lot of great coupons and recipes. Mambo
    Sprouts is affiliated with Whole Foods, and they do a great job of
    providing recipes that use their sale items.
  • ::Compare prices. About 6
    months ago I went to the grocery store and wrote down the organic and
    non-organic prices of about 20 different fruits and vegetables. I was
    amazed to find the prices weren’t much different. I did this three
    weeks in a row to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t. Typically, a
    couple of organic items will be priced much higher than the
    non-organic, but the majority are within a quarter. I plan my menu
    around what’s in season, so the items I need are always cheaper.
    Patricia is a mother of 2 young boys. She blogs at , where she shares money saving tips, freebies, and kid’s health information.

    Guest Post: Decorating on a Dime

    Guest Post by Nichole from

    We each want to have a lovely and inviting home. However,
    decorating our homes can be very expensive. Here are
    some of the tips and tricks that I have used to decorate my home on a

    1. Paint. I love
    painted walls, and nothing spruces up your house more for less money
    than paint. You can even get reject gallons of paint from your local
    Home Depot or Lowe’s really inexpensively. We did this with our master
    bedroom. We took a couple of reject colors and mixed them together and
    we got a very lovely shade of taupe.

    2. Make your own toss pillows. Toss pillows are a great way to add a little flair to your
    room. I am not much of a seamstress, but pillows are something that I
    can definitely make myself. You can see my tutorial on making toss pillows .
    Even if your only experience with sewing is the sewing class you took
    in 8th grade, you can make a simple toss pillow for very little money.

    I made the striped pillows above from a shower curtain I didn’t need anymore.

    This pillow is made from some old sheets.

    3. Shop the clearance racks and stores like Ross and TJ Maxx.
    Or even better, shop the clearance rack at TJ Maxx. This is my
    fruit bowl that I love, love, love. I paid $5.98, on clearance, for it
    at TJ Maxx. With clearances, and discount stores, you must be patient and flexible.
    I watch for things to go on clearance, and I may miss them before they
    get down to my price range. But if you are patient, something else will
    come your way.

    4. Think outside the box for wall decor. I can’t take credit for this idea. I found this fabulous wall hanging idea on the fabulous blog

    Remember that shower curtain that I made the toss pillows out of? I also used the rest of it to make this wall hanging.

    4. Refresh old furniture with a coat of spray paint. We
    do not have a matching bedroom set. What we have are: some old end
    tables that were given to us that we use as night stands; an old head
    board that was also given to us; and a mirror that was given to us.
    Each of these pieces were free and each were different styles, colors
    and types of wood. With a little sanding and $12 worth of black
    spray paint, they now all coordinate.

    5. Live with less.
    My home decor style is very minimalist. Maybe it is my cheapness, or
    maybe it is the fact that I grew up in a home with wallpaper on every
    wall (no offense mom and dad, it was the era!), but I don’t like to
    have a lot of stuff. If you walk into my home, you are not going to
    think that you just walked into the home of an interior designer, but
    you will think that you are walking into a nice, inviting, family home. To me that is what is most important.

    Nicole is a wife and a mother to four children ages seven and under. She enjoys reading, cooking, and being a savvy shopper. She blogs at .

    Guest Post: Making Your Own Household Cleaners


    Guest Post by Michelle from

    When I first started making my own household cleaners, I was
    looking to save money. And did I! Making your own cleaners does involve a
    small upfront investment for ingredients and containers, but over time, you
    will enjoy a tremendous savings over continuing to purchase commercial cleaners.

    In addition to saving money, I have discovered that there
    are other benefits to making my own cleaners:

    ::My kids can help me clean and I don’t have to
    worry about them being around toxic chemicals.

    ::Our house is free of chemical cleaners; my allergies
    have improved greatly since I cut own commercial cleaners.

    ::Making my own cleaners simplifies my life. I don’t
    need to put the cleaner on a list, get to the store, bag it, unpack it and so
    on. I just take out a few simple ingredients and make it myself when it is
    convenient for me.

    ::Making cleaners is much better for the environment. No
    more chemicals going into the water supply, no more empty containers being


    The basic ingredients for making your own cleansers are
    baking soda and white vinegar. Both can be purchased in bulk at discount
    stores like Target and Wal-Mart, as well as wholesale clubs such as Costco and
    Sam’s Club. If you just want to give a cleaner recipe a try, odds are
    pretty good that you have enough on hand to make one or two cleaners.

    key ingredients will be soap (either dish soap or liquid castile soap–found in
    health food stores), olive oil, club soda, glycerin (look in pharmacies or
    health food stores for vegetable glycerin), and sometimes borax (a powder
    laundry aid found in the laundry aisle of your local store).

    I prefer cleaner recipes that use essential oils. Tea tree
    oil has antiseptic properties, scents like lemon, eucalyptus and lavender add a
    lovely, clean scent and disguise the smell of the vinegar. You can add oils to
    any cleaner recipe; the general rule is about 10 drops for a 16 ounce bottle,
    but feel free to experiment. You can even mix scents. 

    Purchasing essential oils will be the
    bulk of your initial investment. These are available at health food stores and
    some natural/health sections of large grocery stores for about $5 a bottle. The bottles are small, but you use only a few drops per recipe, so a little
    goes a very long way, I promise! I have been making my own cleaners since 2000
    and have only replaced three bottles of essential oils.

    The book that I turn to again and again for cleaner recipes
    is by Karen Logan. Check your library or for this book. It has over 100 recipes for just about any
    cleaner you could need, including pest control. You can also find a lot of
    recipes online by searching for  ‘homemade cleaners’ or ‘nontoxic
    cleaner recipes’ on your favorite search engine. also has come great cleaner recipes
    and cleaning tips.

    Once you have the basic ingredients, it is time to find
    containers to store your cleaning supplies. I used basic Spray Co bottles
    found in the gardening section of Wal-Mart. I have also heard that stores such
    as Fleet Farm or Home Depot have spray bottles as well.

    I like the 16-ounce
    bottles, as these are the most comfortable size for me to use and my kids can
    use these as well. I mix my recipes right in the containers. No mess, no
    fuss! For the first few years I just tried to get the ingredients into the bottle
    from the measuring instruments, but I have found that using a funnel is easier.

    Here are three of my favorite cleaner recipes, all are from the
    book Clean House, Clean Planet

    Club Clean Glass Cleaner–This is one of the easiest recipes around! To make glass cleaner, simply pour club soda into a spray bottle and put the
    lid back on. Yes, it is that easy! I use this cleaner on windows, TVs,
    computers, the washer and dryer tops, etc. You can wipe it off with a paper
    towel or a microfiber cloth. 

    Go Spot Go! Laundry Stain Remover–This cleaner smells so good! To
    make it, simply put ¼ cup liquid dish detergent into a spray bottle. Add in ¼ cup vegetable glycerin and 1½ cups water and shake well before each

    Diaper Pail Deodorizer–Just put some baking soda into a container, add about 3
    drops of an essential oil, and stir with a fork or shake. Sprinkle this into
    the diaper pail when you change the baby (especially after a really messy
    diaper) to keep the smell from taking over.

    To find more cleaner recipes and more cleaning tips, you can check out these other posts on my blog on , , and .

    Once you start making your own cleaners, you will realize
    how useful the main ingredients to these cleaners really are and how much you
    can use them to make a lot of household and personal hygiene solutions for
    yourself. I hope that you will give making your own cleaners a try soon!

    Michelle is a CPA turned stay-at-home mom to four. She challenges the excesses that society tells us
    we need and experiments with living a simple, uncluttered life on her daily blog,