20 Secrets to Saving at Yard Sales + 4 Things Not to Do
It’s Springtime and that only means one thing Mama (besides allergies):
IT’S YARD SALE SEASON!
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The Best Tips for Saving Money at Yard Sales From a Veteran Yard-Saler
I am a hard core yard-saler. Some of my earliest Yard Sale memories are some of my most precious memories.
That may sound strange, but when I was little, I would go to yard sales with my mom and grandmother, who have both passed away now. We would always start our day very early, get breakfast, and then hit the sales. Every time I go to a yard sale, I think about them 🙂
I LOVE going and looking at what other people are wanting to get rid of. Because I’ve been doing this for so long, I have some great tips on how to get the best prices on your next yard sale adventure.
I’ve also got a handy dandy checklist and planner to help you get ready for your day!
#1: Be Friendly and Get Personal
Greet the sellers when you first walk up. Say things like:
How’s it going? or Having any luck today?
Be personable. Make comments about the items that you might have a connection with.
For example, you see a familiar dish and you say “Aw, my mom used to have one of these.” But don’t lie.
Get them talking about their lives and be genuinely interested. I won’t force a converstion but if I feel like they are open to talking, I’ll strike one up.
I’ve met so many people that I have connections to in some form or fashion.
Look for items to give you clues about their lives:
- Are there clothes with a high school name on them?
- Are there items that give you clues about their profession like scrubs, teacher items, computer books, Hug A Nurse t-shirts?
- Do they have kid items? Boy or girl clothes/sizes/toys?
Ask them about these items.
I feel like they are more likely to give you better prices if you show interest in their personal lives and have a way to connect with them.
Don’t be nosey or pushy, but let the conversation flow naturally.
Case in Point
I went to one yard sale in my neighborhood. I happen to know that this house was the house of the grandparents of a child my daughter went to school with years ago. I stopped because I saw toys. When I got there, the lady having the sale was actually the mom of the kid. She was just having the sale at her parents’ house. Aha! So, I started a conversation after looking around for a little bit. Here is my side of the conversation:
Aren’t you so-and-so’s mom? My daughter was in his Kindergarten class. I know it has been a long time! Are you getting rid of some of his old toys? They grow up so fast! I have a son now, he’s 5. (Keep looking around). How much are these toys? $20? For the whole box? (trying to hide my excitement) Ok, do you mind if I send a picture to my husband? Thanks! (Send pic to hubs)
So, here’s what was in the box: At least 10 Nerf Blasters…Do you know how much these things are full price? Usually between $20 and $50! GET THEM!
Conversation continues: I’m going to get these, but I’m going to keep looking. [I find a large bag of plastic army men and a Mario Bros. t-shirt. Add them to the box. I find some crafting supplies for me, including two brand new Cricut cutting mats. Add them to the box. Make small talk in between. Time to go.]
Now, how much do I owe you? I added this, this, and this. Still $20 for the box? Oh my goodness, thank you so much!
Haul box to trunk. Say final goodbyes. Feel accomplished!
That was my budget for the day, but oh my goodness, what a great deal!!!
#2: Take a Cute Kid with You
I’m not even kidding. My son LOVES yard sales. He used to call them Lard Sales when he was younger. EVERY Saturday we would leave everyone else in the bed and go to Lard Sales.
I’ve tried to instill some independence into my kids when it comes to making purchases. So, I always make him ask the owner about the item and the price. SOOOOO many times, the owner has just given him the toy or whatever it is. If not for free, then they usually give an extremely low price.
It helps to give him a limit too. So when he is asking about it and the owner says a price, I’ll say things like “Are you sure that’s what you want to spend your $1 on?” Or, “are you sure that’s your ONE thing you want to buy?” Most owners will have a little compasion for a child and help them make the decision a little easier by coming down on the price.
But don’t let your kid run around and touch everything! If the owners get annoyed, they probably won’t be as accommodating.
Case in Point
At one yard sale, just around the corner from our house, the owner was selling a lot of toys. I let my Bud pick out some things and then go ask the owner how much the things cost.
For him, she charged $1 per item: an entire set of Disney Cars cars (that came in a carrying case not shown in the picture) and two Hot Wheels sets still in their boxes!
Bud got all of that for $3!!!
I’m not saying I wouldn’t have gotten a good price on the same items, but I know I’m not cute enough to pull off $1 a piece!
#3: Give Yourself a Limit–Time or Money
I usually give myself a budget. Most of the time I allow myself $20 per Saturday. When my money is gone, I go home.
I have made exceptions before, of course. Like the time I got a nice Rocking Chair for our front porch for $20. This is when I have to call my husband for assistance. He loves me and understands me so much that he is willing to be on call for transportation for larger items or to give opinions when I send him pictures.
I have also limited myself on time. I may only have 1 hour to spare. My time limit is also based on how impatient my Bud gets. And because I have an illness that limits my exertion sometimes, I have to know when to call it quits.
#4: Use Small Bills and Change to Pay
Most people having a yard sale will get plenty of change before the big day. However, it is good to still be able to pay exact amounts with smaller bills whenever possible. I like to have a dedicated money bag just for yard sales. I use this one from FREETOO found on Amazon. It is a fanny pack, but not your typical 1980’s style 🙂 It is awesome for hands free shopping, when you are usually carrying armfuls of random items. Also, it’s a good place to keep tissues and hand sanitizer (and maybe a small snack!).
#5: Ask to Take Pictures
I like to ask if it is ok for me to take a picture to send to my husband. I have never been turned down for this. They then know you are serious and will a lot of times come down on the price significantly.
Case in Point
Sometimes you need another opinion or you need to ask someone a questions. I found these two Kavu purses and wanted to get one for my Goose. So I asked if I could take a picture. I texted it to my daughter so she could tell me which color she wanted. I ended up buying the green one 🙂
#6: Know Your Neighborhoods
Don’t judge a neighborhood by it’s entrance sign.
Sometimes the “fancier” neighborhoods will have awesome brand name items with bargain prices.
Sometimes the “average” neighborhoods will have ok items with way above average prices.
Watch for Neighborhood Yard Sale days! Usually, neighborhoods will advertise when they are having their neighborhood yard sale. I LOVE these! Here are a few tips for whole neighborhood sales:
- Park and walk.
- Take a wagon.
- Plan for a bigger budget.
- Take your yard sale bag with you (see #4)
Keep a notebook and write down important information or make notes in your phone. Even if you don’t write exact addresses, you can do a general location description and make some notes….maybe they had little boy clothes you were looking for, maybe they were more than willing to make a deal, maybe their prices were high and they weren’t very friendly.
All of these things will help you decide whether it is worth stopping the next time they have a sale.
My Yard Sale Checklist and Planner is perfect for keeping up with this info!
#7: Wear Comfy Clothes and Layers
Since yard sale season starts in the spring, it is usually colder in the mornings. The earlier you start, the colder it will be. It is helpful to have a jacket on hand that you can take off when it begins to warm up.
Make sure you have pockets to keep your phone and cash. Or get a fanny pack like mine (see #4)!
Wear comfy, closed-toe shoes…I know this is weird and not one that I always follow, but you never know what you may have to walk through….things like wet grass can make for a miserable time with wet sandals and toes.
#8: Keep Snacks and Water in Your Car
This one is seft explanatory. Don’t start a day of yard-saling without having a snack and water in your car. Keep a small snack pack bag that you can quickly grab on the way out the door.
#9: Make Sure It Works
Electronics are tricky items. You hope that sellers won’t try to cheat you by selling you something that doesn’t work. Sometimes they may really not know if an item works or not.
It isn’t rude to ask the owner to plug in or to put batteries in an item.
If you can’t check it out, then don’t be upset if it doesn’t work when you get it home. You just have to take your chances with these items. I usually avoid them.
#10: Keep a Tote/Box in Your Car
I have a big plastic tub to throw everything in in my trunk to keep any small items from rolling all over the place.
It also helps when unloading your car when you get home.
#11: Keep Hand Sanitizer and Baby Wipes in Your Car
Sanitize or wipe your hands after handling items or money.
You never know how many people have touched an item before you pick it up. You also don’t know where the items were stored before.
I am a bit of a germaphobe, so this is a priority for me.
#12: Make Sure There is Gas in Your Car
If you’ve ever watched American Pickers, you will know that they love a good bundle.
Bundling at a yard sale helps the owner to get rid of more items and they may give you a considerable discount for taking more off their hands.
Keep a running tally in your head of the prices of the items. When it is time to check out, ask the owner if they’ll take less since you are buying more.
You find a huge pile of shirts that are $1 a piece. You grab 6 shirts. Ask the owner if they’ll take $5 for the pile.
Many times the owner will take less to make the price an even amount. This helps with making change and taking payment.
Just don’t try to rip anybody off. I usually just round down a little.
Case in Point
This is an example of a bundle of boys shirts from one yard sale. There are 13 shirts. If they are $1 a piece, then asking the owner to take $10 for the bundle is a reasonable offer. And a great deal!
#14: Watch the Weather
As I’m writing this on a Saturday morning, I had great intentions of hitting a few sales today. But unfortunately, it is raining. So, I’ll have to wait a whole other week and hope that the weather will be better next Saturday!
But don’t let a little rain ruin your whole day. Passing showers aren’t always enough to keep people from continuing a sale that they’ve been planning for. Some people plan and prep for weeks before a sale. These people won’t let the weather stop their sale if possible.
#15: Know Your Route
If you want to get really into Yard-Saling, you will plan ahead and determine your route before you hit the road.
I have a few loops, as I like to call them. If I don’t have much time, I do my neighborhood loop. I go down particular streets that typically have yard sale signs at the end of them to see if there are any sales that day.
I have my big loop for Saturdays when I have more time and energy. This loop takes me past several large neighborhoods. I check the entrances to the neighborhoods for yard sale signs before I bother driving down any of the streets.
Then I have my exceptions. If for some reason I find myself in a different part of town, I’ll keep an eye out for signs on the main highways. Also, if I see a sign traveling on Fridays, I may go back to that one on Saturday.
Sometimes I will hear about sales through friends, and then I may check them out if I have time.
If you know your route before you leave your house, you will feel more prepared and you’ll be able to hit more sales. Don’t waste time driving around aimlessly.
#16: Know Things to Avoid
I’ve learned not to buy things that I intend on “cleaning up” or “fixing up” later. It never happens.
Don’t waste your money on items that you don’t just HAVE to have.
Here are my top 5 things to avoid buying:
- Stuffed Animals: These are dust collectors filled with the germs of the previous owner. (Remember I said I’m a germaphobe) They can’t be easily cleaned or sanitized. I won’t even take these items for free.
- Electronics: Usually people are selling outdated items for a reason…they’re not any good any more.
- Pillows: See Stuffed Animals above
- Anything with major flaws
- Anything I can’t test to see if it works (see #9)
It NEVER happens?
Did I say I NEVER fix up things I buy with good intentions? Here is one example where I did actually follow through with a plan to “fix” something up. I paid $5 for this small file cabinet and $3 for a can of spray paint. Now this cute cabinet is being used in my classroom 🙂
#17: Learn Common Prices on Common Items
My favorite things to buy at yard sales are clothes and books. Here are the prices I will usually pay for some common items:
- T-Shirts: $0.25-$1 depending on condition/subject matter
- Jeans: $1-$5 depending on brand
- Tops: $1-$3
- Books: $0.25-$1
- DVDs: $1
- Board Games and puzzles: $1–Check for missing pieces if possible!
You should expect prices to be roughly 90% less than the retail price of the item. This will vary greatly of course, but it’s a good price to start with.
#18: Share Your Yard Sale Budgeting Story
If you only have so much money left to spend, and you find something you really want, tell the owners your story, especially if the price is close.
For example, if I find an item that is $10 but I only have $7 left in my budget, I’ll tell the owner: “I only allow myself $20 to spend and I only have $7 left. Is there any way you would take $7?”
You’d be surprised at how many people will come off the price just to get rid of something.
But don’t lie or try to rip anybody off.
#19: Clean Everything Thoroughly
Have I mentioned that I’m a germaphobe?
This is a rule we follow for pretty much everything. Our rule is that it stays in the garage until it can be washed/cleaned and then it can be used.
#20: Stay Safe and Have Fun
Use your best judgement.
If there is a neighborhood you don’t feel comfortable going to, don’t go.
If you follow a dirt road and it’s been two miles and you haven’t seen a house, turn around.
If the driveway or place to park is unsafe, don’t stop.
Be Safe and be smart.
Be honest and friendly.
Most of all: Have Fun!
BONUS TIPS: 4 Things NOT to Do!
#1: Don’t Buy What You Can’t Use or Don’t Need
I have a hard time following this rule…I’m a sucker for a good deal, regardless of what it is.
I have bought a lot of items that I thought I knew what I would do with it, and then it just sits there….eventually I will find some way to use it or else I will get rid of it.
Case in Point
As tempting as it can be sometimes, you definitely don’t need to buy or even take free things that you don’t need or can’t use!
#2: Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle
Most owners will expect to make deals and change prices. There are very few things that I will just pay the price without asking for a deal of some sort.
But don’t be upset if they don’t want to make a deal. Either pay the asking price or say “thank you” and put the itmes back where you found them.
#3: Don’t Dress Up
Don’t dress in your best outfits.
My yard sale attire is usually sweat pants or jogging shorts and a t-shirt. No makeup, no jewelry, no fancy clothes.
Think about it: If I show up to your yard sale all dressed up and ask you to go less on a price, you will probably think, “she doesn’t need a discount…she can afford to pay full price.”
#4: Don’t Be Rude
This is just common courtesy. Don’t talk bad about their items or their neighborhood or their prices.
If you don’t like something, it’s best just to keep it to yourself.
It’s ok to point out flaws when asking about prices, but do so respectfully.
How Do You Find Yard Sales Near You?
My method of finding yard sales is pretty simple…I drive around my loops looking for signs. Sometimes I will see a sign the day before a yard sale and make plans to go the next day.
Very rarely do I search for yard sales online. However, there are several apps that you can use to search your area for yard sales. The problem with this is, people have to actually list their yard sale for you to find it.
I’d love hear your tips for saving at yard sales! Leave me a comment below and tell me your yard sale stories!
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Hi! I'm Misty, the imperfect Mama behind Life Between the Dishes. My goal is for you to find tools, tips, and resources here to help you maintain sanity through daily mom life!
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