Garage Sale Shopping Strategies

by Kay Lynn

Garage Sale
Garage or yard sales can be a way to find  needed items both inexpensively and fun.  All the items in my grandma toy box were bought at garage sales or given to me. None cost more than a dollar and our grandson Alex loves them.

In the smaller city where my mom and sister live you can practically just drive around the neighborhood and find many good garage sales.  But it’s a little harder here in the BIG city.  Not only are there a lot more people but everything is spread out in the West.  To make it worthwhile I came up with the following strategies for successful garage sale shopping.


Friday evening I find garage sales listed on Craigslist and filter the list down to those in my neighborhood.  It’s important to read the listings and determine which ones have items of interest to you.  This won’t mean every one you hit will be a winner but at least you have a shot at finding a good buy.

Before leaving the website I copy the text from the posting of the selected sales into a word document.  Be sure to include the starting time, address and items of note and any other relevant information (such as multi-family or parking instructions).


Because my neighborhood is pretty big I try to save gas money by making a large circle.  Yard Sale Treasure Map helps me plan the route whcih interfaces with google maps.  Change the route as needed based on sale start times. 

The last step is printing the route in the final order and keeping it with the page of descriptions (to remind me what I want to focus on at each sale).


People have different strategies about garage sales.  Some thing it’s good to go at the beginning when the pickings are good.  Others think it’s good to go near the end when prices come down.  My preference is early for two main reasons.

It’ seems like the items I’m interested in (kids clothes, toys and books) get snapped up quickly.  I also have more energy to deal with the traffic, other shoppers and sellers early in the day before it gets too hot. 

Pick up items you are considering while continuing to browse.  If not, it may be bought by someone else in the meantime.  If you do find something you like but think is priced too high, make an offer.  You’ll be surprised how many people will negotiate.  Don’t be afraid to walk away. 

 Shopping garage sales is a way to meet new people, learn more about your neighborhood and find good deals.  Do you shop at garage sales?

photo credit: richpix ? 

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Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet June 14, 2010 at 6:17 am

I love yard sales, especially since my kids are so young and are at the age where they are hard on clothes. They also grow out of things so fast. I hit two great sales recently where the homeowners both had a daughters a year older than my oldest. I found shoes and clothes that were hardly worn. Bingo!

Bucksome June 14, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Kristia, sounds like you hit the motherlode. I went to a great sale a couple of weeks ago BUT all the clothes were for a baby girl and I have a baby boy grandchild. I was amazed at how many of her toys were pink or lavender!

Jersey Mom June 14, 2010 at 9:42 am

I have helped out at a garage sale before but have never been to one. First of all, I HATE shopping. I’ve never enjoyed it & it tires me out. I like to go shopping with a list & intention on buying a specific something. I’d probably spend too much buying stuff that I do not need at garage sales simply because it’s cheap…

Bucksome June 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

I hate shopping at retail stores but perversely enjoy seeing what people have to sell. It tells a lot about people.

One of the downsides is that you can end up buying unneeded “stuff”. I have to be discriminating and sometimes come back with nothing.

Squirrelers June 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm

I have bought a few things at garage sales, but have had better luck selling things via garage sales – though it was quite a few years ago for both.

Honestly, if I want something these days, I would go through craigslist. Bought some very good things for my newborn that way, in excellent condition and at a fraction of the value.

That said, while craigslist is more efficient, finding a treasure at a garage sale would be more fun:)

Bucksome June 14, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Craigslist is probably the best way if you’re looking for something specific. I don’t find it to be cheaper than garage sales but it saves time.

You’re right that finding unexpected treasures is fun!

Donna Freedman June 16, 2010 at 12:02 am

Not only do I shop at yard sales, I shop the “free” box at yard sales before I look at anything else. 🙂 There I’ve found things I needed, things to give to my great-nephews and a real treasure — my large cast-iron frying pan. All it needed was a little steel wool and re-seasoning. I don’t know how I ever cooked without it.
I don’t “need” anything as such, but I’m always on the lookout for canning-jar lids. Sometimes I even find them! At one yard sale I was buying several small things and the proprietor didn’t charge me for the box of 12 jar rings and centers that was marked $1. It would have been a steal at that price, even.
Ever stop at a yard sale only to find that it is lame in the extreme? And the owners come at you saying, “We’ve got some real nice old bathmats here” or “Is there anything special you’re looking for”? Here’s what I say: “I’m looking for copper wire, metal measuring spoons and old vegetable steamers.” Which, in fact, I *was* looking for at one point because a friend of mine made “garden animals” out of old fence boards and needed the above items for accents. She no longer makes these things but it’s a great way to get yourself out of a yard-sale jam.
And if by chance they have metal measuring spoons? Well, you may have to buy them. But if they have copper wire and aren’t asking too much, you can buy it and recycle it — copper’s worth a lot of money.
Note: I did, in fact, find copper wire at a yard sale some years ago — two large spools of it. My friend was thrilled.

Bucksome June 17, 2010 at 8:27 am

Donna, thanks for two great ideas. I don’t see free boxes here very often. However, Freecycle and Craigslist are two great sources for free items in my city.

I also appreciate the strategy for how to leave a less than desirable yard sale gracefully! I’ll have to remember copper wire.

James July 7, 2010 at 11:38 am

the thing i have found about yard sales is 3 fold, have a truck ready, get there super early and have cash in hand ready to negotiate.

with these 3 factors you are sure to succeed.

Bucksome July 8, 2010 at 7:12 am

We don’t have a truck, but definitely do the other two. Some have the strategy of going late for desperation buys but I find (at least in my neighborhood) the pickings are slim!

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