Shopping at yard sales is a great way to find clothes, toys, housewares and many other items at a fraction of the retail price. But if you aren’t prepared, then you can spend hours driving around and come home empty handed. Or worse, come home with items that you don’t need or spent too much on. With a little bit of planning and strategy, you can find some new treasures and get some great deals.
Have a Plan
Think about what items that you need or want. Are you in the market for a new dining room table or do your children need some winter clothes? While you should always be open to impulse purchases that are an amazing deal, you also want to balance so you don’t buy a carload of items that you have no room in your house for.
Check your local newspaper and Craigslist to find yard sales for the upcoming weekend and pay special attention to sales advertising the items you are looking for. Look for neighborhood yard sales since that means a large number of sales in a small area. Also, pay attention to the location of the sales since more expensive neighborhoods typically have higher quality items.
Make a list of the sales you would like to visit and come up with a route for your yard sale trip. Try to visit the neighborhood sales or the sales with specific items you are looking for first. But don’t become so married to your plan that you don’t follow the follow the streets signs for yard sales you see on on Saturday morning.
Research Specific Items
Think about what items you are looking for and do some research on prices for the item both used and new. “If you are looking for particular items at yard sales – say a vintage typewriter – it’s worth checking eBay before heading out,” said Jeanine M. Boiko, frequent yard saler and blogger on Okio B Designs. “If you see they are going for $10 on eBay, it’s probably wise to not go above $10. A little research never hurts.”
For items that can be bought new, check Amazon or other retailers to determine a base price. By knowing how much something costs from other sources, you will know what is a good deal and when to walk away.
Most yard sales will not accept checks so be prepared with plenty of cash. If possible, have small bills, especially one dollar bills and even coins. It is a bit awkward to negotiate a better price and then need change for a larger bill. You also may want to locate an ATM near the sales you will be visiting in case you need to get more cash so you won’t lose valuable early morning time finding an ATM.
Go Early For the Best Stuff
One of the most important tips for finding the best stuff at yard sales is to head out early, such as 6:30 or 7 a.m. Find out what time the yard sales you are targeting open and respect any “No Early Bird” requests. “Go early in the morning for the best selection. You will have the best luck finding rare finds early and the good stuff sells fast,” said Rob Sieban, CEO of Mile High Flea Market in Denver.
Go Late for the Best Prices
While the items that are high quality and low priced are typically bought in the early morning, many times items that are overpriced remain at the sale as it gets closer to lunchtime. Take another drive through the yard sales later in the morning and make offers on any items that you liked, but were priced too high. “Go late for the best value. Most vendors don’t want to haul their stuff back into their homes, so they are willing to sell for less the last two hours of the day,” said Sieban.