Yard Sale Buying Tips
My Great Buys at the Yard Sales
I love a community yard sale. With almost 100 sellers gathered in a parking lot, there's sure to be some great buys.
Follow along with me for a morning of yard sales and I'll share my tips for finding bargains and unique buys.
For fifteen years, I regularly attended yard sales and flea markets in Maryland and Pennsylvania. We spent most weekends hunting for bargains and collectibles.
You can furnish a whole house with yard sale discoveries. I did. You also find unique gifts for family and friends and just have a fun day out.
Photo of my yard sale discoveries from yesterday - by Virginia Allain
#1 Yard Sale Tip
Get there early! Don't wander over in mid-day and expect to find the best stuff. The real bargains will already be sold.
I Found a Game (Reminiscing)
The seller said the game was lots of fun. I didn't ask why she was selling it then. For $2, I'll keep it on hand in case we ever want to have a game night with the neighbors or with house guests.
TIP: For games, check for a list of parts (on the box or in the instructions). Sometimes you can order replacement parts, but it is easier if you make sure the game is complete when you buy it.
The game has questions about nostalgia topics to get the participants telling stories. Sounds like fun to me.
My family always like telling old stories and this just provides a framework for that.
I'm showing you examples of what I found so you can compare the price on Amazon with my wonderful bargains.
I Love Finding Bargains at Yard Sales
My husband always says, "why are you going to the yard sale, we don't need anything." Although he thinks we don't need anything, I'm always on the look out for little accessories to enhance our home. It might be a set of napkin rings or a Christmas ornament.
Often what I find at a yard sale is unique, no longer available in a regular store or a vintage or hand-crafted item. These can be the perfect gift for a friend or a treat for yourself.
I Found Goodies for My Kitchen - Bargains on Pot Holders, a Tray, Napkin Rings and a Tablecloth
I can always use a few more pot holders. They get grungy quickly and I really should toss those old ones that don't clean up when they go though the laundry.
TIP: Look for items in their original box or with the store tag still on it. The person bought it and never used it for some reason.
Sometimes an item was a gift that didn't suit the recipient.
I found 2 pot holders with a chili pepper design (similar to these) at the yard sale. My bargain potholders were $1. The full price on these is $6. What a savings.
At another booth, I discovered some wine themed pot holders sort of like these. Three for $1.50, a good buy. On Amazon, a single potholder was $7, so I saved almost $20 plus no postage costs.
Do You Find New Things at Garage Sales?
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Bargain Tablecloth Like This Found at a Garage Sale
The tablecloth I found at the yard sale was still in it's original packaging and priced at $2.
TIP: Keep your measurements for tables, family clothing sizes, etc. on an app like Evernote on your phone. Then when you find something like this, you'll know if it will fit your table or not. Carry a small measuring tape with you.
I don't have nearly this much fun shopping in stores or from a catalog.
Look for Supplies for Craft Projects
I found a wooden tray with a laminate base for $2 at the yard sale. This could be a craft project or I can use it just as it is.
It could be stained or waxed, you could put a cork liner in it or a piece of glass cut-to-fit. Get creative and paint it in stripes or glue a map to the bottom and cover it with a water-resistant finish.
Make an Offer
Don't worry that the seller will be insulted. They pretty well expect to discount their prices. It will annoy them if you offer $2 for a $20 chair. They might consider $15, but not $2.
Ask "can you knock a little off this price?" or "I'm interested in this but it's more than I planned to spend."
If they give you a discount, don't pull out a $100 bill to pay for a $20 item. Be sure to have money in small denominations.
I Found a Hand Crafted Birchbark Canoe - that will look great in my New Hampshire cottage
Sure I could have found something like this in a gift shop in New England, but it would have cost a lot more.I paid $2 for it.
Such model canoes show up on eBay too and with luck, I might have found one for $2 but I would have had to pay postage too.
TIP: Look for hand crafted items for truly unique buys. Check it over to be sure there isn't some damage or defect.
Doesn't the Birchbark Canoe Look Great in My Cabin!
Tips for Finding Great Buys at Yard Sales
- Get there early.
- Have plenty of small bills and change, then you can bargain. Don't ask someone to cut the price from $1 to 50 cents and then hand them a twenty dollar bill.
- Look in boxes under the table. Others may not bother, so a good buy may be waiting for you to discover it.
- At a community yard sale or a flea market, keep moving and scanning the merchandise set out for sale. If you see something you like, don't hesitate. If you return later, it is likely to be gone.
- Ask nicely for price reductions. Don't bad-mouth their merchandise and don't get angry if they aren't willing to deal. Late in the day, the seller is often more willing to reduce the price. If you are buying more than one thing, they are often more willing to accept a lower price.
Say "Would you take X dollars for this?" or "Can you give me a break on this price?"
I Found a Special Book - The Illustrated A Fortunate Life by A.B Facey
It's about Australia, a memoir and is a beautifully illustrated edition of this classic. I wanted it to read since we had lived in Australia for awhile.
It was 50 cents.
TIP: Amazon is a good place to check value on books.
When I looked it up on Amazon, there are used copies for sale for $23 and new ones for $145. Maybe I'll resell it after I read it.
TIP: Look for things that have resale value. You get the use of it and can then get your money back reselling it. Sometimes you get a lot more when you sell it, if the original seller had no idea of its true value.
Finding DVDs at Yard Sales
I found at the yard sale several DVDs for $1 each. You can find oldies, but goodies that aren't in the stores any longer.
TIP: Open the case when you buy DVDs or CDs. Make sure the item inside matches the cover. Look for obvious damage like a big scratch. I only get these if they are really cheap, as they may have a defect when you play it.
This is a classic film that I look forward to viewing.
Do You Go to Yard Sales and Flea Markets?
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I watched this one years ago and found it hysterical. Funny movies are the only kind that I really like to watch over-and-over.
They've made a new version of this, but I didn't go see it. How can they beat the original?
The book is one I've been meaning to get and I already have the first one by this author. I'm looking forward to reading it and then passing it along to my sister.
Keep in mind that the things you bring home, don't have to add to your too-much-stuff syndrome. This could be resold after I use it or give to the public library.
Do I Have It Or Not?
The wine aerator was 50 cents and I wasn't sure if we had one already or not. For that price, why not get it.
If you pass something up that's a bargain, you'll be angry when you get home and find that you needed it after all.
An Aerator for Our Wine
Think of Multiple Ways to Use Something Before You Buy
The purple ribbon was 50 cents and I'll use it for wrapping gifts or for crafts. Someone else might get it to decorate their Christmas tree Victorian style or to sew onto a child's dress or to tie a bow on a teddy bear.
You could even cut this ribbon into lengths for book marks.
I'm a fan of rolls of ribbon. Any color, any width. Usually they are a great buy at a yard sale at 25 or 50 cents compared to higher prices in stores.
I Found Stampin Up Stamps - and bought a package of 8 for $5
You can find a wide selection of these on eBay, but they show up at yard sales fairly regularly. I'm looking forward to making some handmade greeting cards with these. My sister used to be a Stampin Up dealer, so I have a fair idea of how expensive these can be.
TIP: Sometimes craft supplies get thrown into a box with other small odds and ends. It's worthwhile to rummage around in boxes of loose things. You can get a good price if you make an offer on the whole box. If you only want one of the things, offer a quarter for the single item.
Another Productive Day of Yard Sales - Look What I Found This Time (photos by Virginia Allain)
What Did You Think of My Yard Sale Finds?
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How Much Can You Save?
My Most Recent Yard Sale Finds
WhooHoo, I found some great stuff on this outing.
- A St. Patrick's Day decorative sign for my upcoming party $5
- 5 book (2 memoirs to read, 2 RV guides for our camping excursions, and a book written by a friend of mine) $10
- A photo storage box still in the original plastic $1
- A baggie of vintage doll socks $1 (a few might fit my Toni doll, the rest can be sold or given away)
- 3 wire hanging racks to organize my pantry better $5
- An electric wine opener (like I've been pricing on Amazon, but haven't ordered yet) $5
- 2 tops to wear $6
- 2 metal fairy gates for my fairy garden $2
- 4 Thirsty Stone drink coasters $1
- A ball cap with "Golf Florida" on it $1.50
- A Santa door hanging 50 cents, a wicker sleigh 25 cents, and 2 long burgundy cords with big tassels to wrap around my Christmas tree $1
Swing by the best sale at the end of the day. Sometimes they are practically giving the things away at that point to save themselves the trouble of dragging the stuff back into the house.
Check Local Thrift Shops a Few Days after the Sale
Maria M. of Illinois gave me this tip: "If you go to a garage sale and see something you like but the seller seems to think they are Macy's with prices that are super high, don't even bother to negotiate. Just find out where the nearest thrift store is because you know that's where their unsold items will be going. Case in point- I saw a used Pendleton jacket at a garage sale for $75. I knew I wasn't going to get the seller down to what I was willing to pay which was $10-$15. I didn't even bother trying to talk her down. Sure enough, I found the very same jacket at the local thrift store three days later for $5! Most people dump their unsold items Sunday or Monday morning and the stores need a day or two to process."
© 2013 Virginia Allain