I asked my mother-in-law to contribute a post about tips for shopping yard sales. She is a veteran yard sale shopper who has been scouring neighborhoods for the past, well, I might get in trouble if I tell you that 😉
Yard sales are a great way to find household treasures, tools, sports equipment, baby furniture, toys and clothing at a bargain price. Follow these tips to help maximize your time and savings:
Know your area: Location is important! A neighborhood with young families equals infant, toddler or children’s clothing and toys. Children’s clothing and toys resale easy and are usually in excellent condition. An older, established neighborhood could be good for antiques.
Map your area: Mark the newspaper advertisements with your yard sale choices or use an app to help plan your route. Next, check the map for directions or enter the addresses in your GPS/phone, and number each yard sale in the order you will visit. It is usually best to start closest to your home, traveling out to the furthest yard sale of the day. However, if there is a large neighborhood sale in one of my preferred areas, I will usually venture there first.
A few places to find yard sales:
- Craigslist – Search for your city on the website. Look for “Garage Sale” beneath the header “For Sale” then scroll down to view sales in your area.
- Garage Sales Tracker – Search sales in your local area by zipcode online or through their app. A lot of the listings include photos and lists the items being sold.
- Yard Sale Search helps you find sales in your area by entering your zip code. You can print a map with locations of the sales. Again, a lot of the listings include photos and lists the items being sold.
- Yard Sale Treasure Map – Search the android or iPhone app for yard sales in your area. It allows you to access craigslist on mobile devices and plan your route.
- Newspaper – The newspaper is the tried and true method for finding yard sales. Look in the Friday paper to plan your route.
Shop early: Start your yard sale shopping early in the morning. Know the times each sale begins and plan to arrive by 8 – 9am. Big ticket items such as TV’s & game systems will go within the first couple hours. Keep in mind that most sellers do not want you to knock on their doors before the sale starts or “help” them take boxes out of the garage. Serious shoppers beat the crowds and find the best deals without invading the sellers home.
However, if you’re not looking for anything in particular, you can usually get the best discounts on smaller items such as clothes, collectables and books after lunch. Most sellers will usually let items go for less at the end of the day just to get rid of them. No one wants to pack all that stuff back up again! You might notice 50% off sales or $1 for a bag full of clothes.
Let’s make a deal: Most yard sale families are eager to move their items. Offer less than they are asking, but remember to be reasonable. If you want an item priced at $50 and you offer $10, you will probably hear a “no” and will turn the seller off to further negotiations.
- Know the maximum price you are willing to pay and be willing to put the item down if it’s out of your budget. Sometimes, being willing to say “no” will motivate the seller to come off their price.
- Remember it’s likely the seller will offer a counter offer. If the item is priced at $2 and you offer $1, they may meet you in the middle at $1.50. Going a bit under your goal price (within reason) can equal a win for both buyer and seller.
- Purchase multiple items to get a better deal. You are far more likely to get a better discount if you are purchasing 5 items instead of just 1. Sellers want to get rid of their stuff. Buying in bulk could motivate the seller to further reduce prices. This is particularly true of clothing.
- Don’t show up in your best clothes and all your fancy jewelry. It is harder to negotiate with someone that looks like they can afford to spend more. Dress casual and comfortable.
- You are more likely to get a good price if you form a relationship with the seller. Strike up a conversation about those cute Cherished Teddy’s. Talk about how much you like the classic car parked in the drive away. If you can find common ground, you might get a better price.
Take measurements with you: Know how much space you have if you are looking for furniture. Know the size of the frame, mirror, or clothing you are looking for. Knowing sizes and measurements saves guessing and potentially purchasing an item you can’t use.
Keep a piece of paper with you or make a note in your phone, so you always have the information available. It’s also wise to keep a running list of items you are searching for. This will make shopping more efficient and enable you to avoid impulse buys. Don’t buy what you don’t really need!
Pack snacks & water: Keep a stash of snacks such a granola bars or almonds in your vehicle. A bottle of water (or 2) is also important. Especially on a hot summer day!
Take small bills: Having plenty of ones, fives and tens makes it easier for you to bargain. Most families do not accept checks, so cash is a must.
Inspect items: ALWAYS inspect items before purchasing. Look for stains or tears on clothes. Ensure all necessary parts are included in games. Look for marks or chips on plates or collectables. If purchasing an electronic, ask if they have an extension cord to make sure the item works. Do NOT enter someones home to try out a product!
Get a receipt: If you are returning later for an item such as a large piece of furniture, always get a signed receipt from the seller with the item and amount you paid. It is also advisable to write down their address and phone number. If you shopped at multiple sales, you may forget which home you made the purchase. Take it a step further and leave your phone number with the seller in case they need to contact you.
Know your prices: Don’t pay retail or just under for items. If you can purchase the same item brand new on sale for the same price, why are you buying from a yard sale? As with everything, don’t just assume it’s a great deal just because it’s from a yard sale. When I shop yard sales I want a steal, which to me, is the whole point.
A recent purchase of a new Gymboree jean skirt for LuLu was $0.25! I’ve seen some Gymboree dresses items selling for $10 at yard sales. Yes. They are expensive if purchased at full price, but I can pay $10 on clearance with a coupon at the store. I’m not going to pay the same price for used.
Bring a friend: Shopping is always more fun with a buddy.
Clean or wash all purchases: Maybe I’m a germaphobe, but all items should be cleaned or washed once you return home – even if they look clean. A simple bleach and water solution is perfect for plastic toys.
Now you’re ready to get out and find those bargains. Enjoy the hunt for that treasure!
What are your tips for shopping at yard sales?