Yard Sale 101

22 April 2010

this is 3 posts from last year combined into one. Yard sale season is in full swing and I thought it would be a perfect time to re-post. Plus…I’m having company this weekend. :) Be prepared for the longest post in blog history..
Yard Sale 101: Before the Sale
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.
Next, will be "at the sale..." Stay tuned!!
Yard Sale 101: At the Sale
The hardest part is getting there, so here are a few tips for at the sale:
* pick it up *
* if you see something that you like, or even think you like, pick it up. You can always think about it and set it down later. You'll be kicking yourself if you don't and see someone else pick it up and then it will make you like it even more. :) If it's a big item, start asking questions about it and then if you want it, tell them you'll take it and it's yours! (yes, you still have to pay) If you want to discuss it with your husband first, let them know you think you want it, you just have to make a phone call first.
* piles *
pic source
*If your arms are getting full, ask the people running the sale if you can make a pile by them. That way, they know it's yours and by the yard sale "rules", no one can take stuff from your pile. I hate it when I see something I love and pick it up and someone says, "oh, that's my pile." But, you have to be nice and play by the yard sale rules. Piles are sacred.
* it never hurts to ask... *
If they're asking $10, ask if they'll take $7.
If it's $1, ask if they'll take .50
If it's $5, ask if they'll take $3.
What's the worst they can say?

Then you decide if you want it at that price or not. If you have more than a couple of items, add it all up in your head and then take off what you think sounds fair and then ask. Don't low-ball though. You don't ask for a pile of amazing stuff that adds up to $10 for one dollar. That's bad yard sale etiquette.
Sometimes, people just have great prices and you don't feel like you need to ask for less.
pic source
Another trick for this one: I've found it helps if I have the cash in hand when I ask. So, if it's $10, I'll pull out a five and two ones and say, will you take $7 for it? For some reason, when the money is right there, they seem much more willing to take it.
A funny story with this one: when I was with my sister-in-law Kristine we were at the end of our yard sale trail and out of money. There was something she really wanted though, so we went and searched through the car for some loose change, and we came up with .42 or something. She went up like a little kid and showed him all the loose change and said, will you take .42 for it? He just took pity on her and just gave it to her. Oh, the good yard sale memories.
* what's up with the department store prices? *
You'll come across sales that are just so high priced it's crazy. You can feel them out to see if they're willing to come down, but most of the time, I just move on to the next one and don't waste my time.
*price points*
speaking of prices, I have "price points" set in my head of what I want to spend for certain items. For example, I try not to spend more than 50 cents a piece for kids clothes, unless they are coats, dresses, nice shoes, or very nice name brand items. The more you go, the more you'll have little price points in your head for what you're willing to pay for items.
*exchange phone numbers*
if there is something that's priced too high and they won't come down, or an item I need to go home and measure to see if it will work, I ask for their phone number and then I can call them back and say, "I want it~can you hold it for 10 minutes until I get there?" Or, you can call in the afternoon to see if they still have it. Most people are much more willing to go down in price if it's the end of the day and it's still there.
*drive bys and not buying anything are ok*
Sometimes you can tell it's just not your kind of sale when you drive by and you just move on to the next one. If you do walk up and nothing catches your eye, just say, "thanks" or "have a good day" and be on your way.
*if you're looking for a specific item, ask.*
many times, people will ask if you're looking for anything in particular. If you are, tell them. This last fall when I was on the hunt for maternity clothes, I asked and a lady brought out 2 whole boxes she forgot.
Oh, and one more little thing:
*always ask the husband what the price is...*
A lot of times, they have no idea what their wives paid for it and they just want it out of there. They usually give you the best deals. ;)
 Yard Sale 101: After the Sale
* if you buy new things, you have to get rid of some of the old * Unless you have a bare house and are starting from scratch. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that most of you {like me} have too much stuff already. If you start bringing home a bunch of treasures and add to your home without replacing items, pretty soon your house is going to look like an indoor yard sale. Get rid of things you may not love and replace them with things you do.
Remember these quotes from this post? Use them as a guideline in this area:
"Remove the clutter and then honor and respect those things that make your heart sing"
-Peter Walsh
"When we talk about saving money, the best way to save it is not to waste it. And it doesn't matter how much time or energy or money you put into a room, if you haven't edited and organized and decluttered and gotten it into a beautiful, functional state first, you've wasted the money." ~Candice Olsen
Awesome advice.
* ground yourself once in awhile *
If you get too many treasures that need makeovers, or things are piling up and you haven't gotten around to the "getting rid of" part, you need to put yourself in a yard sale/thrift store/flea market time out. I'm doing it to myself this weekend. No more treasures for this girl until her bathroom is finished.
And some random things I thought of...
* bringing kids along *

I actually think it's a great idea to bring your kids to yard sales once or twice a year to show what bang you can get for your buck and to help teach the value of a dollar. My mom and grandma loved to go and that's where my love started, because I could see what great things you could get for so much less. The kids will be in heaven, but the problem with this is what we talked about above. All the treasures they find will start accumulating in their rooms. If you do have to take kids, you can make it work, it just takes a little more planning, creativity, and lots of snacks.
* feeder sales *
this is what I call the sales that don't advertise, but "feed" off the people who did advertise whose sales you're on the way to.
Always stop at them. There can't be earlybirds, because no one knows about them. They're not trying to make up the money they spent in advertising in the paper, so they may be priced better. They don't know if they'll have much traffic because they didn't advertise, so they often just want it gone. I have had some awesome finds from sales I just happen upon.
*a few things you may want to keep in your car that will help you out*
*measurements if you're looking for a specific big item
* a tape measure to use at the sale see if it will fit in the space and in your vehicle
* a list of the sizes and items you are looking for for upcoming seasons for your kids
*a city map in case you get lost
*blankets to protect furniture when you haul it off.
*snacks and drinks for you! I love me a Snickers Almond.
That wraps it up for this week!
Thanks for reading~I’d love to hear any tips you’d like to add. Have a great weekend!


  1. Best post EVER. I agree with all of it. I grew up yard saling, and my mother taught me all the "rules" very early on. It is soo funny because we still go together and always fight about who is the "driver" and who is the "navigator" exact words! =) Early birds catch the worms. My mom always taught me... if you see something you MIGHT like, GRAB IT! You can always decide later, before anyone else grabs it first. =) Thanks for posting my favorite blog post ever!!!!

  2. You are so exactly dead on. We used to get up on Saturday morning and get in the pick up pile all the kids in the back (ok thats when you could do that). We would stop at Smiths buy doughnuts, chocolate milk and head out. The kids loved being out, searching for what their allowance and Mom's guilt might get them. Those were amazing hours I miss that time. Now DH and I go out, we are looking for different things. Mostly things that we want. Now that Grandkids are coming we are able to find things for them. We found an entire bedroom set out of Little Tyke furniture for $10! It was like brand new. And then we found the sail boat/sand box from Little Tykes for $4. Our last DGD was born on 3-31 (our 21st anniversary) and we had her totally decked out between yard sales and Craig's List. The only new thing we got was her crib, and the outfit she came home in. So long story short you should come here to Denver and we could go out together.

    Vicki R

  3. LOVE your blog. You are such an inspiration! No joke! My sister and I are DETERMINED to find some amazing treasure of a furniture piece, and re-do it to be something even more amazing! Thanks for the tips! We'll definitely use them!

    Also- I wanted to share a tip for people who are DOING the yard sale. A friend of mine has twin girls with LOTS of clothes from grandma! She never buys the same outfits- just coordinating- (which sells better of course.) She goes through before hand and puts each outfit, or item in a zip-lock baggie, and marks with a sharpie the price- which is always low. She NEVER EVER has any clothing left over. I think it's much more appealing to find a complete outfit, or pair of shoes, or whatever, in baggies- clean, together, and priced... More work for you I guess, but MUCH better appeal than having people sort through boxes of random things.

  4. Wow, that post sucked me right in and I couldn't stop reading! Thanks for posting that. There were tons of great tips there!

  5. great ideas!!!! i love garage sales!

  6. Great post, very informative! You got me ready to run out the door to the nearest garage sale! It's 4 in the morning and a Friday morning so I won't find much out there! Ha!

  7. Great ideas...I am having a yard sale tomorrow with friends, but now I wanna go shop instead of sell!

  8. Love this post! I went out yesterday for the first time this season and I was going to post a similar post to yours today. Well, kind of more like a "garage sale etiquette" post. People aren't the smartest! haha

  9. Love this post! We don't have yard sales here in the UK..I SO WISH WE DID!! I think it's a great way to spend saturday morning..: )

    Love all the tips!

    Gemma X

  10. What great advice and perfect timing for all the sales tomorrow (Saturday)!

    My favorites are: Exchange phone numbers and ask the husband - true you'll get a better deal.

    Some people are afraid to go to yard sales and don't even think you can haggle with teh price. Of course you can, this is what you do!

  11. Thank you so much! I'm a pretty newbie yard sale-er so I'm always looking for tips. These are amazing tips I will definitely use! Thanks so much!

  12. Great Post!!! My husband and I love to have a yard sale and we love to go to them. You never know what you might find. Last year I found a coffee table I really wanted, but it was being sold with an end table I didn't want. $40 for the set my husband said to just get both and we could always sell the end table. I wanted to paint the coffee table and was taking the handles off the drawer and noticed it had Eddy West labels attached inside. I never heard of them but decided before I painted it to contact them. After a few emails and pictures sent back and forth they let me know I got a great deal. They retail the coffee table at $1507.00 and the end table at $1227.00 We were shocked at our find that we only paid $40 for and we kept both pieces and decided not to paint them.

  13. Thanks for the tips. I've still pretty new to the yard sale scene but I'm an addict now. Especially as a young mom who is married to a student. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Asking the husband for the price - great idea! In our own garage sale my husband sold a box of books to a well known local book seller for pennies... I was so mad! :) She turned them around for a pretty profit I"m sure - haha

  15. Thank you so much!!! Brilliant post...I'm hoping to squeeze in a little garage saling soon!
    Happy Weekend!

  16. Perfection. I have to take my girls with me b/c my husband usually works on Saturdays. That can get interesting. But I have been known to get a better price b/c my kids are cute and especially if they are behaving. Sometimes, the homeowner will give them a little toy, which makes their morning.

    I promise each girl a donut hole from Dunkin Donuts if they are good. I get a mocha. :)

  17. Love your tips! I tend to buy things I don't need and won't use so I have to take my daughter along to reason with me.

  18. Hello sweet Melissa - best post on garage sales! So many great tips. Some I hadn't even thought of before. In the past I've been kind of willy nilly about my sales, but now I'm loaded with ideas to be successful. I love to go to garage sales to find that diamond in the rough!


  19. Okay, you crazy funny girl, this WAS the longest blog post in history:)

    Good advice. Don't you just love Peter Walsh?

  20. Melissa, thank you for sharing your great ideas. I'm so intimidated by the whole yard sale/garage sale process! I can't negotiate! Love your ideas, and will have to put them to good use.

  21. Great post and your tips are right on! Do you ever host a yard sale? There are some great tips for that too...all about staging items for better sales, including manuals & paperwork for electronics, etc. Looking forward to the G-Sale season! Thanks for sharing.

  22. Id like to add that many people DO NOT LIKE early birds. They are busy setting up and frankly I find that people who do that are rude. Its really not fair to others who wait till the proper time to go. I saw it happen here around my own area and folks where getting mad. You post a time because thats the time you will be ready to handle people. I wish more folks did that.

  23. Wow such great tips....I've recently discovered a love of thrift stores and yard sales. I actually can not wait for the yard sales to start around here (there haven't been any yet, but I'm looking for them). I'm going to have to remember these tips when I go. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  24. Love "respect the piles"

    Attended a crazy garage sale yesterday (elderly so forgivable) but they had nothing unpacked! Just cardboard boxes full of wrapped items setting all over the garage and salers had to simply unpack their boxes for them - often unwrapping the items. This led to chaos and in one of the boxes/baskets I found the cutest little wooden bird.

    Until a fellow saler said (nicely) "that's my bird - it was in my basket/pile"

    By the rules of yard sale ethos I had to hand it over but I still miss that bird ;)

    Of course getting the bed of my dreams (featherbed,down comforter, kind sized shams, gorgeous cocoa sheet set - for under $20 TOTAL took the sting out ;)

  25. sometimes -- okay, almost always(!) -- when I brought the toddler along people gave her free toys!  She'd be playing with something and I'd tell her, sorry not today and they'd throw it in for free.  She has WAY too much already (partly because of this)!!

    LOVE this post!    .. the part about sneaking it in/hiding it from the hubby!  I seriously LOL'd!    :D

  26. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 5:42 PM

    Too 'pensive...LOVE it! You have brought her up right! :)

  27. Great post! I and a friend of mine just had a yardsale ourselves--it was one you probably should have come to! (We're in the Richmond/Colonial Heights/Petersburg area of VA) We worked hard, but had a blast and sold a ton of stuff! We had it Friday and Saturday of Easter Weekend, took a week off, restocked items, and ran it Friday and Saturday of Mothers' Day week-end! We made around $4,000.00 (yes, four thousand dollars) between the two of us over the two sales! We plan to have another before summer is over!
    ~Mikey @ Shabby French Cottage

  28. Valerie Cudnik1/8/14, 6:13 PM

    Great yard sale tips. I wish I'd had this guide when I started several years ago. Now that I'm a veteran garage saler (both as a shopper and seller) I decided to create a site that MAPS garage sales. Just type in your zip code the the site will show you a map of your area with all the garage sales marked (it even designates by color whether they are single, multi-family, neighborhood-wide, estate sales or group events). We've got an iApp coming out next month with an android version soon to follow. Check it out at http://garagesalefinder.com

  29. Myrallautner1/16/14, 8:22 PM

    I grew up going to garage sales and brought my daughter up going to garage sales.  When she was around 4 years old we were at a garage sale and she was looking at the books and toys, I watched her picked up a couple of items, turn them over saw the price and put them back down.  I didn't find anything I wanted (I thought they were way overpriced) asked her if she was ready to leave.  She said yes and we walked towards the car. I told her I saw her looking at a couple of things and  wondered why she didn't buy them (she had her own money from her allowance).  She said, matter of factly, "Oh mom, they were just too 'pensive."  It warmed my heart.  She is 27 today and shops at Goodwill, garage sales and thrift stores.  We both love the recycle life!


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