8 Best Yard Sale Shopping Tips

It’s that time of year again for folks to start having yard sales – woohoo!  Yard Sale season is my FAVORITE time of year for bargain hunting – here are 8 Yard Sale Tips to help you make the most of it!

I consider myself a “Yard Sale Expert” – yard sales are a fantastic way to buy clothes and household items on the cheap, plus you can re-use and recycle perfectly good items.

I also like the treasure-hunt feeling of yard sale shopping – who KNOWS what could be out there waiting for you! :)  Sometimes you’ll come home empty-handed – but your inner optimist will pull you out of bed time and time again for another coffee-fueled expedition. :)

I started yard-saling on my own when I was 11, heading out on my bike out early Saturday mornings with my backpack and $2 weekly allowance.  I was forced to stretch that $2 to the max –but I still managed to drag home vintage clothes & jewelry (I have a vintage problem…) and Barbies galore.

In my adult life, I’ve picked up clothing for my family, home furnishings, and even Gift-Closet goodies.  If you’re a little green to yard-sailing, or maybe just rusty, here are some yard sale tips I’ve learned to help you make the most of a Saturday morning!

Before You Begin….

With the rise in gas prices, yard-sailing has become a more expensive pastime than in years gone by.  The only way to navigate through the subdivisions without spending a fortune is to map out your route ahead of time.  If you’re serious about getting the best stuff for the least money – you know that a good plan can make ALL the difference.  Everyone has their own method, but here’s how I find the sales and form a plan before I go:
  1. Buy a paper as you head out OR check the local newspaper online *My favorite option
  2. Print out the list of nearby sales and mark the ones you REALLY want to hit
  3. Group together sales that are near each other, so you can see what area of town has the most bang for your gas buck
  4. Finally, chart an efficient path to hit the sales you most want to visit.

Once you have a game plan, it’s time to get down to business.  Here are several tips and tricks I’ve learned to get what you want and pay what you want for it



  1.  If at all possible, go the first day of the sale.  That’s when most of the treasures will disappear quickly.  I mean REALLY quickly.  Like 6 am.

  2. If you can’t make it early, get there late.  On the last day of a sale, when the homeowners have been sitting in the sun haggling over prices for too many hours, they’ll likely take whatever you’re willing to offer to avoid hauling everything back inside.  I’ve gotten many things totally free by showing up around noon.

  3. Be Friendly!  On your way up the drive, wave and smile!    Chat about the weather. Ask if they’ve done well so far. Sellers are MUCH more willing to cut a deal when you’ve been friendly.

  4. Narrow Down Your Options:  When you’re strapped for time/gas money – search for these: Neighborhood/Subdivision Yard Sales, Church Rummage Sales, or School Sales.  These will yield the biggest selection of stuff, with the least amount of driving around.  Plus, church yard sales are VERY CHEAP!!!

  5. Carry small bills and change:  Although it’s no crime to talk someone down from $5 to $2 for a cute set of dishes, it will hurt their feelings when you pull out a crisp $20 bill to pay for it.

  6. Buy in Bulk: When you’ve picked out an armful of items you can often get the seller to give you a multi-item discount.  If you’ve got $10 worth of t-shirts in your arms, you should definitely ask “Will you take $7 for all these?”  You’d be surprised at how many times the answer is “Sure!”

  7. Big-Ticket-Item Strategy:  I have a possibly silly strategy for talking down big-ticket items.  However, I will say that it got me a FREE living room set when we first moved to town as well as many other sweet deals over the years!  See the following protocol for “Big Ticket” haggling….

Big Ticket Haggling


Using the following scenario as an example – check out a few ways to haggle for items that are priced higher than you want.  Don’t be afraid to haggle – it’s a very acceptable part of the yard sale experience!

Mrs. Smith was very attached to her old couch.  She needs to sell it, but she’s asking $200 – GAH!!  You really, really NEED a couch, but what can you do?

  • ”The Haggle”
      Ask if she would take $100 for the couch.  Notice aloud that there are a few stains and a rip on the side, even murmur a “Hmmm, I don’t know…” or two while circling the couch.  She still won’t budge on the price?  Well, either try to meet her halfway (between your offer and her price) or it’s time to stage…..
  • ”The Walkaway”
     In order to be a savvy shopper, you have to be willing to walk away. I suggest walking slowly, with wistful backwards glances thrown in.  ;)  In my experience, this will normally yield a “shout-out”.  For instance they might say, “You know, if you really want that I’ll take $$!!”  or “Tell you what, give me $$$ and it’s yours!”  Of course, if they don’t call out, and you’re not ready to give up hope – just pretend you were walking to your car for pen and paper so that you could do this….
  • The “Here’s My Number”
    If a yard sale is still in progress, and Mrs. Smith is still holding out hope to sell her beloved couch for $200, she’s not likely to go down on the price.  However, there is one more chance to get what you want.  Give her your phone number and tell her why you need the item.  I know, this sounds corny, but it works.  For instance: “Listen, I really love this couch, but I honestly can’t afford what you’re asking.  If you don’t end up selling it, I can offer you $50.  I know that’s not what you’re hoping for, but we really need a new couch and I love it so much I couldn’t leave without trying!”  We got our whole living room set totally free that way.

NOTE: I’m not suggesting in the least that you lie to get something you want – when I got the couches for free, I really could only offer the seller $50 for them!

I hope some of these tips might prove helpful as Yard-Sale season sets in.  Most importantly, you should enjoy the adventure – and if you’re trying to save money, avoid buying “Stuff” just because it’s cheap.   It’s not a bargain if you never use it, it doesn’t fit, and you end up giving it to Goodwill a month down the road.

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