Anna’s Budget Tips-Yard Sales and You

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!

yard sale graphic

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!

13 thoughts on “Anna’s Budget Tips-Yard Sales and You”

    1. Oh goodness me, no kidding! I also find lots of time if we have bigger bills, we end up buying more than we would have just because we feel silly paying for a two dollar item with a twenty!

    1. Oh I would WAY rather attend than hold one of my own! I had no idea how much work they were until my Mom and I had one a few years ago. It was absolutely, totally exhausting! Sadly, I think we’re in need of another one…I’m putting it off as long as possible!

    1. Tee hee! My hubby is awesome at this. He goes out for one little thing right as a sale is closing and then comes back with a carload of freebies. lol

  1. Insane Mamacita

    Great tips! I am not a big yard saler myself though. The early mornings and sifting through stuff is not my thing. But I like to hold my own every few years to clean out our house (much to DH’s dismay).

    1. And that’s another great money tip; make some extra spending money by having your own! :) We have one every few years too but my word, are they ever a lot of work! I do love seeing all the clutter leaving the house though!

  2. The early start is what always gets me. Saturday mornings I like to sleep in, but I love yard sales. It’s a tough call some days.

    1. Oh my gosh, I would choose sleeping in over yard sales any day but my boys make sure I don’t have the choice! LOL Lots of times we score great deals by going right at the end too though; sometimes even free stuff depending on the sale! :)

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