Yard Sale 101: Before heading out

23 March 2009

Yard Sale, Garage Sale. Potato, pot-ah-to It's all the same, right?

Where do I begin?
First of all, you have to go. I hear lots of, "I never find good things at yard sales." And I find myself just wanting to say, "because you never go, or when you do, it's on the way home from something at 2 p.m. when everything is gone!" It takes a little planning and effort.


*Look in your newspaper's classified section (many are available online to look at for free
*check on Craigslist in your area under garage sales
*look in the little free newspapers that come out during the week
to see what's going on for the weekend. I check on Thursdays and Fridays.
If it looks like a promising weekend, make plans to go!
Do you just start driving around, or do you map it out beforehand?

pic source
I would say map out your route~I get frustrated very easily if I get lost on the way to yard sales because I think of all those great finds that are being snatched up because I'm LOST! So, I use Google maps~you can add as many destinations as you want and they give you turn by turn instructions from each place. This is well worth your time. Be mindful of the start times when they begin when making your "plan" so you don't have one beginning at 9 a.m. as your first stop if you're heading out at 7.
How do I know where to go??

I would just start going to areas near you. It won't take you long to figure out where your favorite neighborhoods are. You may have to drive a little ways to get to them and you'll have to determine if that's worth it for you. In the summer, when gas prices were crazy high, it wasn't for me. My favorite neighborhoods always seem to be mature areas with big trees and a good mix of older and younger families. Once you find your favorite areas and neighborhoods, you'll always gravitate there first. Pretty soon, you'll even become familiar with the street names and when a sale comes up on say..." 320 Sycamore" your heart will skip a little beat because you know that's a "good" street. :)
Are neighborhood yard sales always the best?

Hmmmm. Not always. Neighborhoods tend to have a preview night where they shop each other's stuff, and it seems everyone goes there, so it is crowded and gets picked over quickly. It's nice because you can hit a lot in not very much time, but some of my best finds have been skipping the neighborhood ones and hitting some others that are going on that same day. If you go to the neighborhood ones, head to the back first and work your way up, since people tend to hit the first houses they come to, and bring a bike or a stroller to quickly navigate from house to house. I have a friend who goes with her husband on bikes~one takes one end and the other takes another and they use their cell phones to keep each other up to speed on what they're finding.

What time should I go?

I like to go early. As I'm making my little route, I look at what time the first one I want to go to begins. Then, I plan on being there 1/2 hour early. Most people plan on early birds, and a half hour seems to work out well for me. So, if it's 8:00, I try to arrive around 7:30 and they are usually hauling their stuff out and don't mind if you start looking. April and May seem to be huge yard sale months and lots of people start at 7 a.m., and I head out about 6:45 then.

Of course there are exceptions, but this has worked well for me. If they haven't started bringing things out yet and there are plenty of other sales going on that day, I don't waste my time waiting. I'll come back if I have time at the end. There are also advantages to going at the end of the day~most people just want to get rid of everything and will practically give you things, but I love the selection first thing in the morning.

Do I need to get cash?

I would definitely take cash. A lot of people won't accept checks. I usually get a five, 4 ones, and 4 quarters and see how far I can make $10 stretch. This makes me really think about what I buy. If there is something for more than that and I really want it, I see if they will take a local check or hold it for me for a half an hour while I run get more. If you're on the hunt for big ticket items like furniture, of course you want to bring more.

Do you go by yourself or with a friend?
Either. It can be a ton of fun going with other people, but if I'm on limited time I like going by myself because I know what I'm looking for and can move quickly from one to the next. That being said, some of my favorite yard sale memories have been with friends and family~being lost, trying to contain our excitement when we find a treasure, or wondering how we're going to fit that bookself in our little car, or where we're going to hide our stuff from our husbands. :) It's always nice to have a driver and a navigator as well.
How often do you go and for how long?
It all depends on what is going on in our family life. Saturday mornings are usually "mine" to head out and have time for myself, so if it's yard sale season that is what I tend to choose to do. But if we have activities planned or soccer games in the morning, I can head early for an hour (it's amazing how many you can hit in an hour if you have them mapped out and they're not far) so I can be back for whatever we have going on.
Do you ever just sleep in on Saturday mornings??
Yes, but not many during prime "season." The thrill I get in finding good deals is so worth sacrificing a few minutes of extra sleep. If you can't do Saturdays, Friday mornings can be your best friend. I like to head right after I drop the kids off at school and there are wayyyy less people on Fridays. If I have good luck, I don't have to worry about heading out on Saturday.

Oh, this has been so much fun writing~can you tell I love yard sales?? I would love to hear your tips for "before heading out" and I know many of you are experts. What would you add?
Next, will be "at the sale..." Stay tuned!!


  1. Melissa,
    I just wanted to let you know that you won my giveaway! E-mail me at cardswappinmom@yahoo.com with your address and I will get it in the mail. Congratulations!

  2. I MISS MY NAVIGATOR!! I must say it has NEVER been the same for me without you! I think I might try a little harder this season, because I miss it! Michael doesn't miss the "treasures" I bring home though.:( Congrats on the win you LUCKY girl! The force is always with you isn't it?!:) Love you!

  3. great tips, melissa!! i had posted a bunch on my blog too.:)

  4. I love yard sales too! And one economist of Fox news said the other night that more people will likely be having them this year trying to make extra money...so we should get our little taste of heaven huh?! :)

  5. great tips! thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your tips! I'm saving your post to share with my readers this weekend for my "Shout-Out" post.

  7. I am a yard sale junkie. These are some great tips! You are lucky to live in Texas. I always found the best stuff when I lived in Dallas.

    One thing I usually do is just research prices of things. When I browse the toy section of stores I usually make a mental note of prices.

    Last year I found a Leapster game system barely used for $15, a great price. They had a ton of games and after a lot of condieration passed on them. When I saw them at the store I was glad I did as the seller had only discounted them a few dollars from the store price.

    I was able to get the ones I really wanted for a few dollars more. I didn't end up with a bunch of games that I really would not have got a good deal on.

    Ever since then I look at the prices of everything in stores.

  8. LOVE this post! I too am a self proclaimed yard sale diva. There is nothing better than the thrill of the hunt. My neice and I went Sat and had a blast together. I think it's way more fun with a buddy! Thanks for the awesome tips. BTW, the little goodies in your last post were such great finds. I love to see what other people find in their little part of the world!


    p.s. We got quite a kick out of "those" sales this weekend that obviously think they're running a department store out of their front yard. I'm talking clothes (some with stains mind you) with $5, $7, and $10 price tags! What is up with that? YOU'RE.HAVING.A.YARD.SALE.PEOPLE.

  9. Thanks for the great tips! I am always wanting to go "yard-saling" and I've never buckled down and really gone. This has inspired me. Of course it's a blizzard outside right now...but next saturday, yard sales here I come!

    I really love your blog and I think I will follow so I can keep up with what you have going on!

  10. I'm a lurker... but wanted to say congrats on winning the giveaway @ Our Cozy Nest (another blog I lurk on lol)! :) Yay for you!

  11. you read my mind. i stink at garage sales... i feel lost and scared and alone and i was going to ask you how you do it... so, thanks for the post. i'm not sure that i'll be heading out this weekend cause I'm still scared of maps and directions... i mean, i know where tj max is, and the clearance section never moves, and i don't need to beg someone to sell me their treasure for a dollar... oh, i have a serious garage sale phobia... just laugh if you find me camped out on your lawn at 6:45 next Saturday. :)

  12. Love the post! I am a garage sale fanatic! It's where you find the best stuff at the lowest prices. It truly is a treasure hunt!! :)

    I recommend using a GPS is you don't know the area! It saves me tons of time!!


  13. Too fun - I am the midst of my yard sale post and almost every topic I have are the same as yours...love it!

  14. oops - it didn't come up as who I am....just wanted you to know Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. That's odd. :)

  15. I love yard sales too (tag sales around these here parts)! It does take a little effort to get the good stuff though!

  16. I love yard sales too!!! Sometimes I like to drive up to the richer areas and scope out what they have for yard sales.

  17. I have been DYING to get back out to yard sales. Great tips. I wrote a post about yard sales on my blog last summer...check it out!


  18. I'm afraid it will be awhile before garage sale season starts here, but I will be ready! In our area, Friday garage sales seem to be the best.

  19. I did not know that they had garage sales listed on Craig's list- thanks for that tip and the other handy tip about heading to the back of the neighborhood for neighborhood garage sales = why did I not think of this!

  20. Sometimes I have to have the kids with me when I yard sale. I pack juice boxes and snacks. I don't get the out as long the van is my line of sight. The kids read books to each other and I usually give them $1.00 to spend themselves. Nowadays they just save the dollar for a Sonic slush afterwards. We just moved to a new area and I'm kinda nervous about venturing out. Thanks for 'bucking me up'. :) Have a great day.

  21. Great yardsale advice, Melissa! I'm with you on the thrill of the hunt. I can hardly stand all the great deals that I find out there. Good for you!

  22. I too LOVE yard sales. I love the feeling of finding that perfect deal. Something worth mentioning is that yard sale prices are usually up for negotiation, especially the larger items. Also if a yard sale started on a Friday and I am going out on Saturday, I will skip it. The best stuff is most likely picked through. Go the day that the sale starts. I love going Fridays because there are less people and sometimes it is the starting day for so many yard sales.


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