Tips for a
Successful Day of Yard Sale Shopping
By Nancy Twigg
Yard sale season is now in full swing. For those
of you who truly want to save money on your family’s expenses, yard sale
shopping is a great way to find gently-used clothes, toys and household
items for pennies on the dollar. Here are some tips for making your yard
sale shopping trip as fun and profitable as possible.
- If you don’t subscribe to the newspaper, buy or borrow one the day
before your shopping trip. Or, if your local newspaper lists all garage
sale ads online, save yourself a little money and get the yard sale
listings there. Just make sure that the paper’s online listing is
complete. Some newspapers charge advertisers extra to have their ads
posted online. A quick call to the newspaper’s advertising department
can confirm if the newspaper’s website contains all the yard sale ads or
- On the day of your shopping trip, you want to spend the majority of
your time actually finding bargains, not driving all over town. Before
you leave home, use the classified ads and a map to locate areas that
have the most sales. To save time and gas, concentrate on hitting all
the sales in those areas.
- Once you know the general area to which you are headed, take some
time to map out your exact route. A map-making computer program such as
Rand McNally’s StreetFinder comes in very handy for this. Or simply use
a city map or Yahoo Maps online at
http://www.maps.yahoo.com to locate sales and get directions.
- Your yard sale shopping experience will be more pleasant if you—and
any family members who go with you—are comfortable. Make sure everyone
wears weather-appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes. Sunscreen and
hats are also helpful if your crew will be out in the sun for long
periods. Don’t forget to make sure everyone hits the bathroom before you
leave the house!
- To keep you and your young yard sale shoppers’ hunger and thirst at
bay, take along a small cooler with easy-to-handle snacks and drinks. Of
course you could stop for fast-food when stomachs start to growl, but
doing so would take time away from bargain-hunting.
- Rather than carrying your purse, you may want to carry your money
and any essentials in a fannypack or small change purse you can put in
your pocket. This leaves your hands free to inspect the merchandise and
also frees you from worrying that your purse being stolen.
- You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you can’t judge a yard sale
by your first impressions, either. You never know what kinds of bargains
lurk in the seller’s garage. Sometimes you find the best deals at the
sales that are least organized because the sellers just want to get rid
of their stuff.
- If your kids shop with you, save yourself a lot of hassles by making
sure they each have their own money to spend. Give them a pre-determined
amount to spend before you leave the house, or have them bring their
allowance money. This saves you from being the bad guy when the kids ask
for things you don’t want to buy. Many times they decide they don’t want
the items bad enough to spend their own money.
- Negotiating is the name of the game. Most sellers are willing to
deal as long as you are fair with them. Asking the seller to take $2 for
an item marked $20 is pushing your luck. The seller may be more than
willing to sell the item for $15 or even $10, depending how late in the
day it is. Remember too that yard sales provide an excellent opportunity
to teach children about negotiating. For the young or shy shopper, you
may have to help out a bit by saying something like, "My son wondered if
you’d take $1.00 for this game." Eventually your child will learn to
make these requests on his own.
- Going to yard sales early in the day (as soon as the sales open) has
the advantage of getting the best selection. If you are looking for a
big-ticket item such as furniture or electronics, you’ll probably have
to go early. Going later in the day has its advantages, too. Sometimes
sellers are willing to practically give their stuff away rather than
have to pack it up and carry it back in their homes.
- Be sure to carry lots of change and small bills. Of course it is the
seller’s responsibility to have change, but wiping out the seller’s
entire change supply with a $20 for a $1 sale is inconsiderate. Save
your change throughout the week to use for your Saturday yard sale trip.
- If your time for shopping is short, you may want to concentrate only
on one-day sales. If a sale runs on both Friday and Saturday, there is
usually little left by the time Saturday rolls around. To get the
biggest return on your time investment, visit the one-day sales first;
then if you have extra time, you can stop by any sales that have been
running for two days.
- If you try to negotiate with the seller on a large item but the
seller won’t budge, leave your name and phone number along with the
price you are willing to pay. Tell the proprietor to give you a call if
the item doesn’t sell and she decides she accept your offer.
Nancy Twigg is the editor of
Counting the Cost,
free email newsletter about simple and frugal living. Visit Nancy online at
www.countingthecost.com or at
her newest site,