8 killer tips for shopping yard sales!

Summer is officially here, and the weather is warming around much of the United States. You know what that means: Yard sale season is upon us! To some of you, the prospect of waking up at 5 or 6 am on a Saturday and digging through other people’s junk doesn’t exactly get your blood pumping, but to others, yard sale season is a treasure hunting adventure.

Garage sales can be a great way to get your shopping fix while staying in your budget and having fun as a couple or family. It can be daunting though, so here are a few tips that will make your bargain hunt more enjoyable.

Eat, drink and be empty

This is of critical importance because you don’t want to be crabby, cranky or even curmudgeonly while searching for your treasure. Have your tea and crumpets and visit the loo before you head out. Of course, remember to bring water, coffee, snacks or anything that might help you resist the urge for a budget breaking stop at the coffee shop or restaurant.

There’s an app for that

Like almost everything is life these days, there’s an app for garage salers. Actually, there are hundreds of them, but Garage Sale Tracker and iGarageSale are two of the biggest free ones and they’ll help you map out your route, sort sales by different criteria and even contact the seller. If you’re not big on apps, there are plenty of websites with yard sale listings: Gsalr, Yard Sale Search, Yard Sale Treasure Map, and, of course, craigslist.

Hit the “community” and “church” yard sales first

You’ll get 10-20 times more families hosting their own sales, and the best part is that they’re all in the SAME spot! One community sale can replace 20 others that you’d have picked off one by one and that’s crazy talk. And even if they’re not all great ones, it’s still the most efficient use of your time and money. Not to mention all the gas and anxiety you’d save from going from one sale to another. Often, these sales happen on the same weekends every year, so it’s easy to plan ahead.

Stay classy

The natural inclination when searching for a yard sale is to find the richest neighborhood. I mean, they’ve gotta have the best stuff right? While that may be true, you won’t always find the best deals as the McMansion dwellers often charge more and aren’t willing to negotiate (the psychology behind this is a subject for another post). Stick to middle and upper middle class neighborhoods unless you’re a seasoned pro.

Budget for it

Yes, having a life size replica of carbonite Han Solo in your living room does sound awesome, but don’t blow your budget on it. The idea is to get necessary or fun items for cheap, so it’s a good idea to only bring a set amount of cash with you – whatever fits in your budget reasonably. If you see something you absolutely have to have, you can always put it on hold and get your money, giving you a chance to think about whether that cat statue is worth $40.

Know your sale

Yard sales come in two distinct varieties; one is a money making venture, the other is a garage clearing bonanza. You’ll know which you’ve stumbled upon by the prices and the ratio of high ticket items vs. everyday stuff on display. Don’t waste time or effort at the ones trying to make money and don’t haggle prices with the ones who’ve already priced things to sell fast.

Bring your own bags

Yard sales often run out of bags quickly and it’s not much fun trying to balance six items in your arms while you’re still on the hunt for more. Bring a shopping bag or even a backback to put your treasures in while keeping your hands free for rummaging.

Be an early bird

This is an obvious one (that’s why it’s all the way at the bottom where most people have stopped reading). If you’re serious about getting the best deals out there – before anyone else even sees them – this is your best course of action. Start out at 6 or 7 am while all the slackers are still waking up, and then snag all the good stuff. Just be careful; it’s poor etiquette to show up early to a sale. If the sale starts at 8, get there at 8 and not before.

Do you plan to yard sale this summer? Any other tips from you veteran garage salers out there? Put them in the comments and we will add them to the blog. 

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2 thoughts on “8 killer tips for shopping yard sales!

  1. Great post! My husband and I go on weekend yard sale trips and it’s a major part of our money saving plan. We are expectant parents and we’ve saved a ton on clothes toys and a bunch of other random necessary stuff by doing this and it’s a great cheap thing to do as a couple. We divide and conquer – he goes to the lawn mowers/tools and I head straight for the knick knacks/plates/decorations/baby stuff. Ha!

  2. Andrea, I was going to say the same thing. ALL I find at yard sales are baby clothes. I guess because people’s kids grow out of them so fast. Our kids were practically raised in yard sale clothes, until we sold them to someone else in a yard sale 😉 (the clothes, not the kids).

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