“How do I accept payment at my garage sale?” you might be asking. You have a well-organized sale, but the whole point to get paid. Are you ready? Here’s all you need to know on how to accept payment at your garage sale for a successful sale.
How Do I Accept Payment at My Garage Sale?
Like anywhere else, there are four ways to accept payment at your successful garage sale:
- Credit Card
- Digital Online (ie Venmo or Paypal)
Cash will always be primary payment at garage sales, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the other three payment forms. I will dive deep into each method so you can be fully prepared to make the most money and know how to accept payment at your garage sale.
My Garage Saling Background
I was raised shopping garage sales (aka tag sales, rummage sales, moving sale and yard sales) as a everyday way to purchase household items, clothing and, yes, even our family car. As an adult, I turned that knowledge into shopping for my own home. And then I turned garage sale shopping into a job of buying and reselling small items, big-ticket items, really just about any item.
On the flip side, I’ve also held my own yard sale annually at a friends house for well over a decade. We have fine tuned our sales so that they are well organized, run smoothly and typically make us over $3,000 each year (total is based on a multi-family garage sale).
Based on my experience of successfully accepting tens of thousands of garage sale dollars, I will detail all you need to know in how much change you should have, whether or not to accept checks and if you should offer credit card or digital payments (Venmo).
How to Accept Cash At Your Garage Sale?
Cash.Is.King. at a garage sale. Even though cash is rarely used elsewhere, cash is the best way to pay at garage sales for a lot of people. With cash, you need to be fully prepared with
- Plenty of change (I will give a breakdown below)
- Ability to spot counterfeit money
- Awareness to protect your cash box from thieves
How Much Change Do You Need at Your Garage Sale?
You don’t want to be in the middle of a transaction and then realize that you can’t make change for the $20 offered. For our highly successful multi-family sales, we start each day with the following amount of coins and bills:
- 5 – $10’s
- 10 – $5’s
- 20 – $1’s
- $5 worth of quarters
- Total = $125
How to Spot Counterfeit Bills at Your Garage Sale?
Yes, counterfeit bills at garage sales is a very real problem. Don’t be fearful; just be aware. I would not suggest overdoing your suspicion and checking small bills (though you certainly could). Just focus on large bills $20 and above.
To protect yourself from counterfeit bills, you can:
- Hold it up to the light and look for the watermark
- Make sure it feels right (counterfeit is often on thicker paper)
- Get a inexpensive bill marker that automatically shows a color stripe on counterfeit. This is extremely quick and a simple method.
How to Protect Your Cash Box at Your Garage Sale?
Everyone at a sale knows you have cash on hand; and that cash is usually located at an easily accessed table. Again, do not be fearful; but be aware!!! Thieves do come to sales. To protect yourself from having your garage sale cash stolen, make sure you following one or more of these practices:
- Have an extra person ALWAYS at the table with the box. (Here is my recommended cash box.)
- If both people need to leave the cash table, quickly put your cash box in a good place just inside the house (this is why having a cash table next to the garage/house door is a good idea)
- Wear your cash in a fanny pack or cross body purse (this is my favorite method when holding sales by myself since I can be up and around and take payment wherever I am). Use a cash organizer if keeping the money in a purse.
- Whatever you do, NEVER leave a cash box easily accessible and unattended
- Take out the previous day’s earnings and start with the same amount of change each morning (this way if the box is stolen, you won’t lose the whole weekend’s worth of cash)
How to Accept Checks at Your Garage Sale (and should you)?
Should I accept checks at a garage sale? You could just say “no checks.” But again, garage sale shoppers use checks more often than in normal life (especially if you don’t accept credit cards). So it might make potential buyers put high price items back if they don’t have a way to pay for it.
ALWAYS have the buyer write their phone number on the check.
What if the Check Bounces at the Bank?
Pro Tip: If you accept checks, take each check to the bank where it was issued from. This way, if it bounces, YOU WILL NOT BE CHARGED A POSSIBLE OVERDRAFT FEE. Yes, that means you’ll run around to multiple banks, but it beats missing out on your hard earned moolah.
My sister held a sale years ago and found out the hard way that if you take checks from multiple different banks to YOUR bank to cash, your BANK MIGHT CHARGE YOU THE OVERDRAFT FEE IF IT BOUNCES. Plus you don’t get the money the check was written for.
Don’t do this:
Cashing all the checks at your bank – For example, you have a check from Bank of A written for $25. You take it to your Bank of B to cash, but it bounces. Your Bank of B MIGHT charge you a $30 fee because someone else’s check bounced plus you don’t get the $25 the check was written for.
Cashing the checks at each of the originating bank – For example, you have a check from Bank of A written for $25. You take it to Bank of A to cash, but it bounces. Bank of A will NOT charge you the overdraft fee. You could still be out the money from the check, however. (Call your bank for their policy.)
Accepting Local Checks or Checks from Friends
This is not a sure fire way to avoid bounced checks, but it can limit the possibility. By only accepting local checks, you can quickly run around to all the banks where checks were written from. And accepting personal checks from friends or a family member would hopefully be a little more sure-thing that it won’t bounce. (But then again, I don’t know your friends or their financial savvy.)
How To Accept Electronic Payments through Venmo or Paypal at Your Garage Sale?
Fewer sales accept digital payment, but your sale will really stand out if you offer this as a seller. Many times have I had someone accumulate a pile of tag sale items they want, not have enough money, run home or to the bank to get the cash…and then never come back.
Things to Know Before Accepting Digital Payment at Your Garage Sale
- If the payer has linked their credit card as the form of payment on their Venmo or Paypal account they will be charged an extra 3% fee.
- No fee is charged to payer if using a linked debit card, bank account or existing balance in the account.
- Make sure the payment is NOT marked for “GOODS AND SERVICES.” This means you the recipient will be charged a 2 -3% fee, and it could possibly be reported to the IRS as income. Buyers must mark payment “TO A FRIEND.” This voids the purchase protection, but in my opinion, purchase protection is not necessary since the “goods” are being delivered instantaneously. If a buyer refuses to pay “to a friend,” you will pay a 2 – 3% fee.
- If transactions marked for “Goods and Services” total $600, it will be reported to IRS as income. To avoid this, have buyers mark all payments as “To a Friend.”
Steps to Accept Digital Payment at Your Garage Sale
- Set up your personal account on chosen platform. (Venmo seems to be the most popular/common of the mobile payment options currently.)
- Choose an easy user ID and upload a photo to the platform for people to be able to find your account quickly.
- Practice a transaction with a friend before sale day to get familiar with the process.
- Have a dedicated phone set up to receive payments.
- Have a second person helping with the garage sale who can take care of other customers when you’re dealing with payment (because it DOES take some extra time).
- Tell the buyer the total cost. DO NOT create an invoice on the platform as this means paying a fee. The buyer will initiate the transaction.
- Tell the buyer your Paypal or Venmo email or user name, so they can find your payment account easily (have it typed on your “We accept Paypal/Venmo” sign free printable).
- Notify the buyer they must NOT select payment as “goods and services.” Send it “to a friend” or deny “purchase protection” to avoid fees. (See photos below for an example.)
- Look at your account to SEE THE PAYMENT COME THROUGH before you send the buyer on their way.
- Post signs throughout your garage sale and at the payment table announcing this form of payment is accepted!
How to Accept Credit Card Payments at Your Garage Sale?
Accepting credit cards and debit cards at a garage sale is not very common at all. As a shopper, don’t expect you can make purchases without having cash. BUT, accepting credit cards as a seller is a great way to encourage people to buy a lot of items. I would only start with either credit cards OR online digital payment option as each method has a learning curve. With technology sometimes comes frustration, so here are some tips to keep the credit card transactions seamless.
Things to Know Before Accepting Credit Cards at Your Garage Sale
- You can accept credit cards through Square or Paypal Zettle. I will detail the process for Square below as it’s the cheapest method. For information on Paypal Zettle, you can go HERE.
- Order a Square card reader.
- You will pay 2.26% fee + $0.10 on each transaction
- If holding a multi-family sale, you need to keep track of sales that are made on the credit card so the fee can be evenly divided for the appropriate transactions.
- Remember the fee and take that into account when bartering. You might ask the buyer if they will be paying with card or cash before coming down from the full price to a lower price.
How Do I Accept Credit Cards at a Garage Sale?
- Set up a Square account
- Read everything you need to know about Square credit card reader HERE.
- Order a free Square magstripe reader (they have phone jack or regular charger plug in options for different phones)
- Download the Square Up app to your phone or tablet and walk through the set up
- Enter the total amount in the Square app
- Swipe the credit card
- Have the customer sign with their finger
- Confirm the payment went through
Post a free printable sign throughout the sale notifying shoppers that credit cards are accepted
Remember, at the end of the sale, making money is the reason for going to all this work work. It just takes a little preparation to make your point of sale a smooth transaction!
So whether you choose to just accept cash at your next yard sale or to accept all the payment methods, I trust these tips on how to accept payment at your garage sale has been most helpful!
Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure. – Confucious
Download FREE Garage Sale Payment “We Accept” Printables HERE
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