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Guide to Yard Sales

Updated on July 15, 2016
Me as a child, perusing a yard sale
Me as a child, perusing a yard sale

Ah, the thrill of a yard sale! The joy of finding a good bargain, the triumph of a successful barter, the strange smell of other people's belongings...these are but a few reasons I am a patron for life of these short-lived enterprises.

A seasoned yard saler, I have a few tricks to maximize my yard saling experience and to ensure my efficiency in hunting for used treasure.

Be Prepared!

The night before, check the papers to find intriguing sales. Plan your route. Go to bed early. You'll need a full night's rest to endure the rigors of walking up countless driveways and digging through boxes. Also, you'll need quick reflexes, both mentally and physically, to make lightning-fast decisions on one-of-a-kind buys, and, if need be, to snatch these goods away from the reaching hands of your competitors.

Early Birdies Get the Worms

That's right. If a yard sale has advertised something you want, get there early, or it may sell. Generally, the best deals sell fast and early. You have many competitors in the game of yard saling, never forget that.

Now, some yard sale proprietors do not look favorably upon customers who arrive too early. Take my mom's word for it. She once happened upon a yard sale, found some purchases, and went to pay the proprietor, who said, "That'll be two dollars WHEN WE OPEN IN TWENTY MINUTES!" Ouch! If you see that the yard sale proprietor is still setting up shop, be courteous and ask them if the sale is open.

The Value of a Dollar

The value of the dollar increases at yard sales. You might get 7 books, a picture frame, and an exercise bike all for 10 bucks at a yard sale, while $60 worth of purchases at Target won't even fill a plastic bag. Of course, there will always be those yard sales where everything is outrageously priced, but usually folks just want to get rid of their junk while making a modest profit, and so they price their items reasonably or downright cheap.

Be careful, because it's easy to become financially disoriented at yard sales and you may lose out on a good deal this way. Here's an example:

You may encounter an item you adore, say, a beautiful winter coat in excellent condition, just your size, with a price tag of $15.00. However, a $15.00 price tag can be jarring at a yard sale, where you expect everything to be priced under a dollar. It doesn't matter that this coat was in the stores just a few months ago for $100.00, or that it's priced fairly, according to its age and condition, because your mind is screaming, "Fifteen dollars? This is a yard sale, not Nordstroms!"

When in doubt over purchasing a pricey item at a yard sale, consider the following questions:

  1. Is the item priced fairly for its age and condition?
  2. If this item is available in the stores, how much would it cost you to buy it brand new?
  3. How much do you want the item?
  4. Are you willing to barter to get the price down?
  5. Will you obsess over it for months afterward if you don't buy it?

That last question is an important one, as it addresses:

The Purchase That Got Away

This is a sad, yet inevitable fact of yard saling. You will pass on a purchase and years later, you will still be regretting it. I just queried my husband on the #1 item he most regretted not buying at a yard sale, and his immediate response was, "that box of New Mutant comics. And that really comfortable black chair. Oh, and remember that huge aquarium? Why didn't we get that?"

These items will haunt you, they will dance around in your head and whisper, "why didn't you buy me?" Like every other yard saler, you'll have to live with this, but avoid future regret by trusting your scavenger instinct when you're at a sale. If you want it and you can afford it, buy it!

We can't always be winners in the game called Yard Sale, but as long as there are Saturdays, and as long as there are good people willing to drag their expendable items out onto their lawns or into their garages for us to peruse and buy, we can continue seeking out those great deals.


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    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great hub! Love "saling" and all the great things just waiting out there for new owners!!

    • funnebone profile image


      13 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      I just had a yard sale and i think most of the people read your hub...they were beating me down on everything...nice work!

    • SweetiePie profile image


      13 years ago from Southern California, USA

      There are some great tips for those who are going yard sale hunting. Wow, I am surprised that lady was so harsh when your mom asked about purchasing those items early because I had people do that to me and I just sold it too them. To me the customer is always right, but the tip you provide about waiting until the yard sales opens is the best policy to follow to be sure. Thanks for this informative and interesting hub.

    • Julie A. Johnson profile image

      Julie A. Johnson 

      13 years ago from Duluth, MN

      Entertaining and informative post.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Thank you for your feedback on my hub! You're article is very creative and interesting and I love your setup. Nice job!


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