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If you’ve been reading for awhile (thank you!) you know I put much more stock and focus on the importance of earning more income (and investing that income wisely) than I do on clipping coupons and “not spending” money.

Don’t get me wrong…both skills are vital to your financial future, but you will get a lot more bang for your buck (and for your time!) by growing your income than you will by sacrificing that latte you love next week.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks this way…both Mark Ford and Ramit Sethi agree with me (two great finance sites by the way!).

So this past Sunday, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and did something I absolutely dreaded and thought for sure would be a gigantic waste of time…yep, we had a Kung Fu Family Garage Sale.

Now before you click away and think, “that crazy Kung Fu Girl, I want her to teach me how to safely sell a put option, not lecture me about her garage sale! What about macroeconomics? What about Chavez winning reelection in Venezuela? What about the DOW plunging 100 points today? How do I earn some yield on my investments?”…first let me tell you how much money we made from this little garage sale:

$1,122.25!

Not too shabby for a day’s work! And definitely worth a post, particularly since like most things I do for the first time, I did this completely “wrong”.

(Oh to think of the money we could have made if I had done it properly!)

Why do I say I did this “wrong”?

Well, let me recount…

First off, both Kung Fu Guy and I are workaholics. He’s a technology executive at a Fortune 100 company and works typically from 6am – 8pm Monday-Friday (we’re adamant about our work-free weekends, however).

Little ol’ me is a business-builder and investor and works the same number of hours as Kung Fu Guy, albeit with a slightly different schedule.

Add to that our 6 ½ and 4 ½ year-old daughters, who require a lot of attention and love (which we do our best to give them), and I thought we simply “didn’t have time” to have a Garage Sale.

And we didn’t…to do it “right”.

But since we were literally drowning in stuff (which drives me crazy…I’m with Bruce Lee on this: “It’s not the daily increase but the daily decrease; hack away at the unessential”), and as the local charities don’t take kids toys (or bedding or car seats or…), and we didn’t have the heart to just take it to the dump when someone out there could use it…we decided on a Garage Sale.

But having neither the time nor the inclination to “go pro” with it (did you know there are entire websites devoted to “how to have the perfect garage sale” out there? Me neither…), we applied the 80/20 rule and gave it a shot.

And in all seriousness, I could have titled this article “How NOT to have a Garage Sale”.

Here’s why:

1. We put up one ad on craigslist the afternoon before, with no pictures, saying our Garage Sale went from 8am – 3pm (when in fact we didn’t start until 10:30am at the earliest so missed any serious shoppers who would have arrived on time)

2. We put up a few miniscule 8 x 10 printer-paper signs on major intersections nearby that said simply “Garage Sale: 9 – 3, Address: our address” (you couldn’t read the signs unless you were walking…no way a car whizzing by would ever decipher them—much too small)

3. We had no prices on anything (too lazy) and simply sorted things into rows (the “$1 row” “the $3 row” “the $5 row” “the make us an offer row”)

4. We had no tables and no way to properly “display” anything, so people were forced to root through white garbage bags full of our stuff to find their “treasures” (epic fail of Merchandising 101)

5. We live on a major thoroughfare with no street parking (I suppose this could have been good for visibility, if we had had signs or balloons or something, but this was terrible for people who actually wanted to PARK on our no-street-parking-allowed street and BUY something!).

…and on and on…I can think of a million more ways in which this garage sale should have been a complete, abysmal failure!

And yet, it obviously wasn’t.

So what was our secret?

Did we sell a Mercedes? (No…in fact, Kung Fu Guy drives an aquamarine 1995 2-door Saturn with broken A/C and broken side window-handles…and refuses to sell it…but that’s a story for another post, LOL!)

Did we strip naked to attract passers-by? (No…trust me, that would have been a major deterrent!)   🙂

Did we slip special sauce into the coffee and lemonade we generously provided our shoppers? (No, sadly, I thought about getting some coffee or having the Kung Fu Kids make lemonade, but of course, like everything else about this sale, I neglected to do that!)

So what was it? What was the secret to our success?

Well, I believe it all boils down to three little words:

Word of mouth.

Or more precisely:

We had something that people wanted and we sold it to them in an extremely positive way that made them feel happy and good and tell others about it.

It was astonishing how many people were browsing and then pulled out their phones (because everyone has a mobile phone today) and called their brother/sister/friend saying, “Belinda! You just HAVE to come over here! I’m at a Garage Sale of all places with the nicest family and they have two GIRLS, just like you! I only have boys, but they have some wonderful girl things you would just love. OK, great, see you in a few minutes!”

We had an endless stream of people sorting through all of our stuff (which we were too lazy to do ourselves in advance…) and happily scrounging up dollars and more from their cars (!) to buy things from us.

How did we achieve this word of mouth?

Well, it certainly wasn’t our stellar merchandising or advertising (cough, cough).

In fact, we did nary a single thing “right” about this garage sale.

Except for one important fact…we did our best to make it a very positive experience for people…and I believe that fact earned us that precious word of mouth.

One thing about us…we are positive people. Most people characterize me as having “good energy” “being positive” “gosh do you ALWAYS smile?” etc., and Kung Fu Guy is the same way—great with people. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t instantly like him. We’re good, honest peeps, and like to make other people happy and feel good (which apparently makes people happy shoppers…who knew?).   🙂

We’re certainly not “sales-y” in the slightest (it’s a garage sale for crying out loud—how excited can you get over a 5-year-old coffee maker WITH A MOLDY GROSS COFFEE PAPER FILTER STILL INSIDE? Yes, ewww, true story, AND THE MAN STILL BOUGHT IT! $10!).

About the only thing we had going for us other than our positive demeanor was the fact that we have two of the cutest little models on the planet helping us, the Kung Fu Kids (although of course I am biased).

Garage Sale

Our stellar merchandising, cute models, and random shoes...

And we decided to have fun with it, of course, being us—we hit up the Hawaiian playlist on our iTunes and drank mimosas and laughed and played with all of the people and kids who came by…it was a fun family day.

Apparently all of that positivity paid off, and the word of mouth simply grew and grew (thankfully!).

So what is the lesson here?

Well, aside from having fun with what you’re doing, which I always recommend whenever humanly possible, I hope you’ll take away the lesson that earning extra income does NOT have to be terribly hard or scary or dreadful in any way. (Believe me, I was dreading having this garage sale!)

It can be as simple as having a little garage sale, like we did, or as complex as starting a full-fledged side business or gathering up the courage to ask your manager for that well-deserved raise. But I guarantee you it will be worth it…there is nothing like having an extra $1000 to your name!

Speaking of which, so what are we going to do with our newfound $1100?

I’m sure you’ve guessed (I am certainly not going to buy more crap!).

Of course not…I’m going to invest it!

And I would like you to help me choose how in the comments!

Is there a particular area of investing you would like more honest information on? I’ve received several requests for reliable tax lien information lately (like with precious metals, there is a lot of dubious information out there…) and also for peer-to-peer lending information, though I’ve published a popular guest post article on that before.

Or does something else pique your fancy? I will be your boots-on-the-ground guinea pig…just let me know what you would like to learn more about in the comments!

And please let all of us know if you have any ideas for earning extra income—we can all benefit from your experience!

Thanks so much for being an awesome Kung Fu Finance subscriber…now get on out there and earn some extra moolah!

To your financial success,

— Kung Fu Girl