Shopping Saturdays: Shopping Yard Sales


10 Tips For Successful Yard Sale ShoppingI love yard sales. Every year I bring home incredible deals for my family on clothing, books for homeschooling, items to use in renovations, and much much more. Over the years I have discovered a few tips to make each yard sale outing a success.

 Top Ten Tips For Shopping Yard Sales

1. Map out a route:

If you are going to a community or neighborhood sale (which I highly recommend you do), you don’t have to do this but if those are not available in your area, you can do what I use to do when I lived in the land of no neighborhood wide sales.

Each Saturday morning early, I would get up and grab a paper and turn to the listing of yard sales for my area (now a days you can usually find such listings on-line at your local papers website or try Craigslist for local sales).

I would then write down all the sales I wanted to hit, and used to help me map out the most logical route. This saved me time, and gas money.

2. Shop with a list:

 Yard sales can be dangerous money pits, instead of money stretchers if you come home with dozens of items you didn’t really need.

To avoid this pit fall, I go through my house a week or two before the first community yard sale in my area, and see what my family needs. I take note of clothing needs, book needs (for homeschooling), small appliance needs, small tool needs, storage container needs, curtains and home accessories and even small furniture needs.

Write these all down in a small spiral notebook that would easily fit in the purse you plan to use when yard sale shopping.

I also measure out all areas that I wish to find a small piece of furniture for and write that down as well,which brings me to my next point.

3. Bring a tape measure:

A small pocket one will do. Leave it in the side of your vehicles door so it is there weekend after weekend.

Mine has saved me money, and effort in stopping me from buying several items of furniture that looked like they would fit, but once I got my measurements out and my measuring tape out I realized they wouldn’t.

4. Bring along a small cooler packed with snacks and drinks.

A community yard sale around my parts usually takes me several hours or more to go through. Honestly I usually run out of money before I do sales. I have found it a money saver to pack along my own drinks and snacks to help sustain my energy, and keep me from forking out cash at the local convenience store when hunger gets the better of me.

Of course if you find cute kids selling reasonably priced cold cans of pop and homemade cookies feel free to help grow their entrepreneur spirit.

5. Don’t be afraid to haggle.

Most yard sellers mark their prices with haggling in mind (at least I know I do). So if you purchase something don’t be afraid to say “would you take…?” .

However don’t low ball people, and ask if they would take $1 for something they have $10 on that is just rude, even if the going value of the item is $1. Instead of risking insulting someone just walk away without even bargaining chances are you will find the item at a more reasonable price at another  home.

My favorite way to haggle, is when I am buying multiple items from one seller, make sure you total the value of your finds before you approach the seller and then say “These total $15 would you take $12?” I rarely get turned down.

6. Bring along a tracing of your child’s foot and and their current waist and leg length measurements.

This is another time when that measuring tape will come in handy. Sizes in clothes vary so much from brand to brand that I have ended up wasting money on clothes that don’t fit when I stray away from this tip.

When you are writing out your list as I suggested in tip 2, take a few moments to measure the waist of each child and write it down in your notebook. Another good idea is to trace each child’s foot onto a piece of paper and fold it up and place it in a ziploc bag along with your notebook to bring along.

This will help you avoid ill fitting clothing ,that just has to be resold after you bought it because it did not end up fitting like you thought it would.

7. Always have small bills.

Nothing makes haggling more awkward than when you ask for the $10 item to be marked down to $8 and then pull out a $20 to pay for it.

This tip puts an end to those awkward moments. It is also good yard sale shopping courtesy.

8. Consider, making a bit of your gas money back.

Right now gas in our area is around $4 a gallon. Although, you probably won’t use too much gas if you stick to community sales, it is still nice when you can make some money as well as save some money.

Take a few hours before yard sale season begins to cruise Craigslist and eBay to see what things are selling for on line.

As I stated in my post on selling on eBay if I think I can make a $20 profit off of an item or a group of items, that I see out yard saling I will pick it up.

Pickings in my area are slim, but I have seen other bloggers who average $400 or more per month with finds from yard sales.

Smart phone users here is one area that gives me smart phone envy,you can do this searching right in your car as you are in the driveway of the sale with the item you are wondering about.

Those of us with dumb phones, have to do our research before and often have to make an on the spot decision. I only make the on the spot choice if I know for sure I can at least sell it for more at my own yard sale later.

9. Go Early (but not too early)

If you want the best selection go to the sale just as it opens. However, again do not be one of those “knock at the door 2 hours before the sale starts and catch the seller in their bathrobe types .”

If the sale says it starts at 9 do not show up before . You are only going to put the seller in the bad mood which will only decrease your chances of getting any type of price reduction.

10. Go Late

This point totally contradicts point 9. I don’t do this all that often since gas went up in price, but if you happen to need to be out and about in the afternoon, it might be worth your while to take a moment to check and see if you are going to be passing buy a yard sale or two and allow time to stop.

I have never planned this but when it has happened that I have stopped at one on a way home from an errand at say 2 or 3 in the afternoon, I have been amazed at how willing the sellers are to get me to take something home.

I have gotten clothes that use to be marked several dollars an item for .25 cents each simply because the sellers don’t want to put them away.

How about you? Do you have any yard sale shopping tips to share?

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  1. Linking up after you at Living Well Wednesdays – looks like you have some great tips here for shopping yard sales! Looking forward to making my rounds this spring ad summer, finding some good buys.

    • Me too! I am thinking I will start making my needs list this weekend. I am really hoping to find a few more items for our pop up trailer.

  2. Great tips! I love yard sales but have not been having much luck with them the past few times I’ve gone… clothes have been hardest to find and I have three growing boys who need clothes! You have me ready to head out for some more great deals now. Found you via WLWW!

    • Victoria says:

      Boys clothes, once you go past the baby stage are the hardest to find at yard sales.However, they can be found. One tip I didn’t mention is carry along some extra paper and a pen, that way if you find a sale with the boys clothes you are looking for you can ask the seller, “do you have a sale every year?” “if so is it always the same time of year” and if they say yes write down the address and info. and hit them first next year. If it turns out you know them even just slightly “you can write down your name and number and ask them to contact you when they have more clothes available for sale”.

  3. These are helpful tips – especially having a tape measure and small bills. Great post!

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks! Now if I could remember to follow my own rules and carry my tape measure each and every yard sale season! My kids constantly drag it out of the car.

  4. Great tips! I love the idea of carrying a measuring tape. I try to keep an ongoing list of needs so that I make sure not to buy something we don’t really need and will simply clog up our small home.

    One more tip: shop with my mom. Haha! She’s a garage sale queen and I *love* getting to shop with her.

    Thanks so much for linking up at Thrifty Thursday!

  5. Beth Taylor says:

    Instead of offering a lower price ask how low would they go on something. They may just list a lower price than you would. That way you’re not insulting them and you may get a better bargain.


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