Ten Garage Sale Shortcuts

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  1. There are two kinds of garage sales – the ones where people want to make money and the ones where people want to get rid of stuff. The object is to find the ones where people want to get rid of stuff.
  2. Get a map and newspaper and map out your route. Photocopying a map from a phone book or printing one from the web works great. Using this method, you can easily visit 25 sales an hour. If you’re a beginner you might hit neighborhoods you are familiar with first.
  3. Yard Sales are great places to find great buys at cheap prices.

  4. If at all possible leave the kids at home. If you must take them use a baby backpack or an umbrella stroller to make it easier. Give older children 25 or 50 cents and let them see what good deals they can get. Kids love picking out gifts for grandparents, siblings, parents and other family and bargain hunting helps them learn about money. Bring snacks (animal crackers, cereals, crackers in plastic bag works well) and cold water for everyone and plan ahead for potty breaks. If you have children with you, it’s best only to plan on hitting about five sales until you see how they do.
  5. Wear cool, comfortable clothes. Bring lots of change and one dollar bills. Put your money in your pockets so you don’t have to worry about carrying your purse. Also bring a tote bag in which to carry your finds as you walk.
  6. When you find something you’re not sure you want, pick it up and carry it around while you continue looking. Otherwise someone else may take it while you’re trying to decide.
  7. Always ask politely if they will come down on the price. Most of the time they will. Every once in a while some things are so reasonable that I do not feel right asking for less. Finding women’s sweater’s at $1.00 each isn’t bad, but I still ask if they will take 50 or 75 cents. If I find a name brand sweater in perfect shape for 25 cents, I don’t ask for less.
  8. If there is something you really want, but the seller is asking more than you want to pay, offer them a lower price. If they say no, leave your name and number and ask them to consider selling it to you at your price if they still have it at the end of the day.
  9. Always check items well for hard to see tears, stains, or breakage. Remember it is a garage sale so everything won’t be perfect.
  10. Get good deals on antiques at garage sales.

  11. It is best to go early, but don’t panic if you can’t. Sometimes you get the best buys after lunch when sellers are tired and don’t want to have to drag everything back into the house. It’s great to go on the last day of a sale because most sellers will almost pay you to take things so they don’t have to keep them.
  12. If you don’t have success in one part of town, try somewhere else the next time. Sometimes the best garage sale neighborhoods are the ones you don’t expect.

Don’t be embarrassed about buying at garage sales. Some of the wealthiest women in the world love garage sales – Martha Stewart and Oprah are among them! When you’re done, go home, put up your feet and have a nice glass of ice cold lemonade. Grab the phone and call someone who will share the excitement and appreciate your good buys. Garage sales are like old fishing stories. Die-hards always brag about the one that got away!


Additional Hints From a Reader:

Thanks for the article, Tawra and Jill.

I wanted to share with you that it also pays to carry along a box (or boxes) with paper for wrapping if you like to buy glassware or delicate items.

We did estate sale purchasing (and some garage sale shopping) for vintage items for our country store. Taking the time to wrap the delicate items and put them into boxes, well paid for the time (as we quickly learned when some things didn’t make it home unbroken!).

By going shopping together one could drive on to the next sale while the other wrapped those special items!  It was great team work.

And speaking of children going, our oldest daughter does Ebay selling and all of the 6 children are trained into what to look for for value and they each scout out possibilities in different areas while Mom looks also!  The children also take some of their finds and have made very good money selling them on Ebay–sometimes $50-$100 profit!

The grandkids run from 4 to 16.  The 4 year old is pretty much an expert into Pooh and Bob the Builder though! If the sale has any of those products, he isn’t much help with the other items!   :-)   The family of 8 is able to stay completely wardrobed from garage sales (and a few thrift stores) solely–from church clothes to farm clothes!

Thanks for the articles you both write.



Great Garage Sale Tip!

Lisa in TN sent this and I thought it was a wonderful idea! I am going to use it this summer with the my kids. TJ


We go to garage sales regularly and the kids almost always go with us. They’re actually an asset because people who are trying to get rid of things will usually just give each child something. In fact, I have to limit the amount of things they get for free or we’d come home with all kinds of trash.

Here is a suggestion I have for taking kids along (I had to learn the hard way): I have taught mine that sometimes people’s prices are too high and you can tell right off the bat if they’re willing to come down. If one of them asks me if they can purchase an item and I don’t agree with the price, I have a key phrase that I tell them. It’s something like, "I don’t think we need to get that today." Then they know NOT to ask and beg over and over. They just put the item back and we go on to the next place. Every time this has happened they always have found a better and cheaper item at another sale.

Yard-saleing (as we call it) is a form of entertainment for us. We always pack snacks and water (as you suggested), the kids have their own money, and we drive around for a few hours and see what we can find. People give away the most amazing things. We spend much less than our peers and we have all the modern necessities!

Also, thanks for what you said in the other article about pricing your items low enough when having your own sale. I have been to some places that try to get way too much out of their things! It’s quite irksome. Also, some of the best finds for us have been at the yucky looking places that look like they just have a bunch of old junk. Often we find a buried treasure at these places!

Keep up the good work, Lisa in TN


If you want to learn how to have a garage sale, read "How to Have A Garage Sale."



  1. Jeanne T. says

    My habit has been for several years now to just give away clothes, household items, etc., to local charity or those I know who need them. I don’t usually have enough things at any one time to have a yard sale, and cleaning out the excess just feels good!

    However, I would like advice on how to sell items that are obviously not things one would just give away. For example, I have several valuable Pakistani rugs that I bought overseas many years ago. My taste has changed, and they simply don’t go with my furnishings. Also, they are expensive to clean and repair. I do live in an area (D.C.) where the average income is very high, so I don’t think I would have a problem selling them; I can’t remember what I paid for them, but I didn’t pay what they are worth now, I am certain. I bought them as a diplomat, so I was exempt from the taxes of the country and we were given good discounts as well.

    So, what’s the best way to sell things like this? An ad in the newspapers (ads cost money). Craigslist doesn’t appeal to me and I have tried it and never get a response.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

    • says

      It is funny you should mention this Jeanne. I have two large rugs that I have been trying to figure out how to sell myself. What I am going to do may not work for your area at all or for your situation. I live on a very busy corner that gets a lot of traffic during the week especially on Fri. so I am thinking about putting it outside with a sale sign. I will probably sit with it and do some paper work or read for awhile. I have done something like this in the past with other things and have been very surprised at how fast they have sold – usually within a couple of hours.
      It wasn’t like a garage sale where I had a bunch of things I had to price and set out or tables to put up and things like that. It was one item and I got to enjoy a couple of hours outside on a beautiful day reading, sewing, relaxing etc.

      I have done this with things that are not a super great value and just put them out with a sale sign and price and not sat out with them. Everyone has always knocked on my door and paid me before they took it. Of course I do live in Kansas and that may be completely different from DC. We have crime but not near as bad as some other areas of the country.

  2. Veronica says

    One extra thing to add usually pertains to ruammage sales rather than garage sale. i take in a large sturdy shopping bag. I just throw things in without examining them because I usually know what I am looking for so when i have finished my first round I find a quiet corner and unpack my bag,look everything over and try on if possible. I then return the rejected items and continue my search at a slower pace.
    if I see someone holding something and looking unsure I begin looking at something fairly close so I can swoop the minute she walks away. Often people will say in the check out line that she was going to buy that but when she went back it has gone.

  3. CJ says

    About buying clothing – it helps if you find a household that has kids a few years older than yours that routinely has yard sales. I have houses in our neighbourhood that I ALWAYS go to when they have a yard sale because their kids are a size or two ahead of my older girls, and I can almost always score a wardrobe from them. This past summer, I bought 3 grocery bags of summer clothes including a Sunday church dress for daughter #2 and a snowsuit for $15! At our hold house, I even approached a neighbour and asked them to just call me next time, and I would buy the lots off them instead of them having the hassle of a sale!

  4. says

    A tip i would give is to if possible go to church sales. At the end of the day the ofen say a dollar per bag. Im a diyer if you will have it. I often do crafts, but some of the crafting items are unreasonably priced. I once got several fabrics trim stuffing and thread for a dollar. All we did was ask and the man said a dollar. My tip to you is to ask if they will have a sale later. It is a lot of work to return all of the donations to the donators. Most of the people just want to get rid of it all. I have even seen stuff go for a quarter a grocery bag. Lets just say my mom had a blast shoving clothes into the bags. So always ask if the prices will be changed later.


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