Tips for Successful Yard Sale Shopping

by Miranda Marquit · 7 comments

Summer is yard sale season. The weather is nice, and many people celebrate by cleaning out the clutter and offering it for sale. The great thing about yard sales is that you can usually find items that are in reasonably good shape for very low prices — no coupons needed!

Yard sale shopping is one of the essential tenets of a frugal lifestyle. But if you are a novice, it can be a daunting task to head out to yard sales. Here are some tips that can help you increase your chances of a successful yard sale shopping trip.

Preparing for Your Yard Sale Shopping Trip

The first thing you need to do is plan your route. You will need to be out early for the pick of the deals, and knowing where you want to go is important. Look in your local newspaper (most have a yard sale section), the local thrift publication, and on bulletin boards. Note the addresses of the yard sales, and what items are featured at each.

Once you know where the yard sales are, and have a general idea of what they offer, you can put together a route. Try to visit yard sales that are close together, with special emphasis on sales that have items you are particularly interested in. You can use a street map of your town, or an online map application like Google Maps or Mapquest to plot your course.

Once you know your route, prepare to bring home your bargains. Clean out your car so that you have room for your new purchases, and consider bringing boxes and bags to keep things organized. Most yard sales only accept cash, so make sure you have plenty of it. If you plan to buy small items, have a quantity of smaller bills and coins as well. If you want to limit your spending, be prepared with a list, and stick to it. You can visit the thrift store later for items that you couldn’t find at the yard sale.

Haggling for Better Bargains

In most places, haggling is part of the yard sale experience. You can get an even better deal if you offer a lower prices. However, before you begin haggling, it is important to understand some basic yard sale etiquette. This includes not referring to anything at the yard sale as “junk”, as well as being respectful of the posted start time, and being polite, rather than overbearing.

Here are some strategies that might help you as you haggle for better bargains at a yard sale:

  1. Make it clear you are deliberating: Ostentatiously examine an item. Pick it up and look it over. Put it back and look at a few other things for a few minutes. Then come back and look at the item. In some cases, you might be offered a lower price. This is especially true if no one else has shown much interest in the item.
  2. Make an offer: If you think a price is too high, you can always politely make another offer. Don’t be too ridiculous about it, though. If it’s a small item, you will have to ask for a smaller discount. Larger items can come with larger discounts, but you don’t want to undervalue the item.
  3. Ask for a lower price: Instead of making an offer, you can ask for a lower price. Simply say, “Is there any way for you to go lower on this?”
  4. Request a “throw in”: If you are buying a few items, you can request that a smaller, lower priced item be “thrown in” for free, or for a lower price. A variation of this is asking for a deal on two or more items. If you have four items that amount to $27, you can offer a $20 bill and see if the yard sale host is willing to deal.

If you see something you like, but the host isn’t willing to lower the price just yet, you can leave a card with your name and phone number, the item you are interested in, and the price you are willing to pay. Tell the yard sale host to give you a call the next day if the item hasn’t sold.

What are your favorite yard sale shopping tips?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly Mac April 5, 2011 at 12:23 pm

You forgot the most important tip.
If you don’t know what it is, you don’t need it!

Amylee August 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I just bought 2 tops & scarf at a yard sale. Saw a great mint-colored bag for a good price, walked away because I did not feel I ‘needed’ another bag & asked if I could try a blouse on in the house. When I came back out, the bag had been bought.

You also left off the most important tip. If you see something you like a lot, grab it politely and purchase it before someone else does! It is probably 1/3 or less the price in the stores. Even if you don’t really need it right now, you will some day.

Nick August 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm

It isn’t a bad thing to make friends, and if the weather turns bad, help them pack up. I received a wonderful antique meat grinder (for myself), and a professional stylists’ wig head (for my fiance) for my troubles. the meat grinder still works beautifully, by the way.

Darrell December 12, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I agree with Amylee – and disagree with tip #1 “Put it back and look at a few other things for a few minutes.” I was at a sale once and was looking at a bicycle. It was cheap ($5 I think) but it had a flat tire and I was going to leave it momentarily and ask the seller about the tire, but as I started to do that, I noticed two people (who were watching out of the “corner of the eye”) begin to move in my direction. I returned my hand to the handlebar and rolled the bike to the seller. And bought it. My advice/moral – don’t let go unless you’re sure you don’t want it…

Doug February 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Re Tip #3 “Ask for a lower price” — BE POLITE about it! Your suggested phrasing “Is there any way for you to go lower on this?” is perfect. But it’s terribly rude to say “Just tell me how low you’ll go!!” And if the seller suggests you make an offer — make an offer! Don’t repeat “How low will you go??” ten times.

Dano March 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I’m a seller and a buyer and here are some tips. 1. Sellers make your display neat. 2. Sellers put one thing that is real nice even something you don’t really want to sell and give it a high price and this will bait cars to stop and check your garage sale out. 3. One person should be in charge of pricing high price stuff. If you don’t know your stuff ask the family member that does. 4. Buyers should try to ask a gender opposite for a deal whatever you are buying. Example: baseball mitt – ask mom, hammer – ask mom. painting – ask dad, clothing – ask dad etc. 5. Buyers and sellers should talk and joke, say every vacuum sold gets a free toy. And have a good time with it.

Maso June 13, 2013 at 5:51 am

If you’re looking for something in particular, it’s not a bad idea to find the “Yard Sales” catagory in the newspaper classified ads and call several…

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