With Memorial Day behind us it’s unofficially summer…otherwise known as yard sale season! Yard sales can be a great source of bargain treasures and a lot of fun for those who enjoy the thrill of the hunt. Check out these tips for making the most of those early mornings spent digging through other people cast-offs in search of that great find!
Tip #1 – Make a List
This might sound like a strange piece of advice when heading out to shop at yard sales where you have no idea what you’ll find. It’s not like you’re running to the grocery store where you have your pick of 80 different varieties of canned tomatoes. But making note of what you need and what you don’t can help you avoid spending money on (and lugging home) something you can’t use.
Take a quick look through the house and jot down any items you want to keep an eye out for. Maybe an end table for the living room or a lamp to bring some extra light to a guest room. Are you short on glassware, baking pans or some other kitchen essential? Add it to the list! Jot down your kids’ sizes or the sizes they will be in the upcoming season if they’re already outfitted for the current one. Have you picked a theme for an upcoming kid’s birthday party, wedding shower or fundraising event at school? Make a note in case you spot something that would fit into the decor.
If there is something you know you’ll have a hard time passing up but just do not need, write that down too. Hopefully you’ll remember to leave the adorable cake plate for someone else when you glance at your list and see “No more serving platters!” in large bold letters.
Tip #2 – Bring Cash in Small Denominations
Almost all yard sales are cash only. You may be able to get a friend or neighbor to take a check, but even they would probably prefer the cash. Have enough on hand in case you find that perfect larger item such as a piece of furniture or musical instrument, but not so much that you might spend more than you can afford.
Make sure you have small bills for two reasons. First, change is often depleted quickly. (Though yard sale hosts are advised to stock up on lots of change in this day and age of twenty-dispensing ATMs!) And second, yard sales are all about negotiating. It’s common to haggle over prices, particularly if you are buying more than one item. But it’s easier to strike a bargain and ask if the wine glasses you’re eyeing could go for five dollars if you’re holding a five dollar bill rather than if you’re holding a twenty.
Tip #3 – Get an Early Start
Experienced yard salers often arrive as much as an hour before the advertised start. While it might not be appealing to roll out of bed before sunrise on a precious weekend day, the early birds tend to snap up the best items. Grab a cup of coffee and a friend to make it more enjoyable.
Another option if you’re just NOT a morning person – make the rounds as the yard sales are winding down. You might not get the pick of the best merchandise, but you could very well score the best bargains as sellers are faced with packing up everything that remains and putting it back in storage or donating it for nothing more than the tax writeoff.
With a little preparation and a bit of practice, you’ll be a yard sale master in no time!
Anna Platz writes for the popular personal finance blog, Good Cents Savings, which focuses on helping you save money, stick to a budget, and live well on less. She is also the mother of a four year old daughter who is worth every penny!