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Yard Sale Buying Tips

Updated on June 11, 2017
Virginia Allain profile image

Minimalism is catching on, and I'm excited about streamlining. I'm sharing what I've learned about decluttering and simplifying our lives.

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.

Reminiscing Game
Reminiscing Game
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.

Kaydee Designs Chili Ristra Pot Holder
Kaydee Designs Chili Ristra Pot Holder
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.
Kay Dee Designs Potholder, Cotton, 7-Inch by 9-Inch, Classico Reserva
Kay Dee Designs Potholder, Cotton, 7-Inch by 9-Inch, Classico Reserva
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

Newbridge Everyday Fruits Flannel Back Vinyl Tablecloth, 52" x 70" Oblong (Rectangle)
Newbridge Everyday Fruits Flannel Back Vinyl Tablecloth, 52" x 70" Oblong (Rectangle)
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

Walnut Hollow Unfinished Wood Serving Tray for Weddings, Home Decor and Craft Projects, 11 x 15
Walnut Hollow Unfinished Wood Serving Tray for Weddings, Home Decor and Craft Projects, 11 x 15
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

  1. Get there early.
  2. 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.
  3. Look in boxes under the table. Others may not bother, so a good buy may be waiting for you to discover it.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

D.W. Griffith Presents Abraham Lincoln
D.W. Griffith Presents Abraham Lincoln
This is a classic film that I look forward to viewing.

Do You Go to Yard Sales and Flea Markets?

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Fun with Dick & Jane
Fun with Dick & Jane
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?

More Bargains

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

Don't ask me why wine needs an aerator. My husband is the wine specialist at our house. I just enjoy it, but don't know all the details.
Don't ask me why wine needs an aerator. My husband is the wine specialist at our house. I just enjoy it, but don't know all the details. | Source

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.

May Arts 1-1/2-Inch Wide Ribbon, Purple and Lavender Satin
May Arts 1-1/2-Inch Wide Ribbon, Purple and Lavender Satin
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?

Here's my mom who loved going to yard sales. Wouldn't you love to save a bundle of cash like this? You can save 50% to 90% off store prices.
Here's my mom who loved going to yard sales. Wouldn't you love to save a bundle of cash like this? You can save 50% to 90% off store prices. | Source

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

Final Tip

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

Tell Me about Your Best Finds at Yard Sales

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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      I really enjoy going bargain hunting too. Garage sales and thrift stores are so exciting to rummage through for rare finds.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I really like garage sales for putting together sets of things. Often, people who have missing parts of sets are willing to give the pieces for much less; but after several yard sales, you can get the whole set! Thanks for this lens! You make me happy!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      @grannyann lm: I'm glad you want to link this to your page. Many thanks!

    • grannyann lm profile image

      Ann Scaling Tucker 

      6 years ago from Enid, OK

      Years ago an antique drafting table for my son, an artist, who still uses it. Got it for $40, couldn't touch it today for less than several hundred. Tons of things for my home, probably too much!! I want to let you know I want to use this lens as one of my featured lenses on my lens Hope you don't mind. Have a great yard sale summer.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      There aren't so many around where I live - unfortunately

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @gradientcat: Since kids outgrow things so quickly, often you can find very good childrens' clothing and toys at yard sales.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Yard sales are fun. I like finding stuff for the kids.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      7 years ago from Royalton

      It is so much fun to go to yard sales. When we moved back to the states from Costa Rica we furnished our whole house with yard sale finds. Having lived in several states, however, I have found that the Boston area is my favorite for yard sales. Sometimes you even find antiques at very reasonable prices. The only thing better than shopping at yard sales would be Church Rummage Sales.

      Squid Angel Blessed!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love yard sales and thrift shops too. I've found a lot of good stuff.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I used to go to yard sales much more, but I've quit collecting so much. I have found good pieces of McCoy Pottery at yard sales, good books I wanted to read and nice drinking glasses among other things.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I'm a yard sale pro though I don't go to as many as I did years ago. I love a good flea market, but these days, I really love thrift stores. You're right about being able to find hard-to-find items. And I really hate the mall!


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