So, if you have been around for even a minute – hopefully it has been longer than that 😉 you know that I’m a yard sale addict! I like nothing more than to get up on Saturday morning, eat a quick breakfast, throw on some comfy clothes, drink my coffee and head out the door to yard sale shop. To some people, I think they believe yard sale shopping is just a fun thing to do and occasionally you get lucky. But, for me, I really believe there is strategy behind it. So, that’s what this is all about….the strategy I use to have great yard sale shopping! And, I must preface this with, I work Monday – Friday, so I generally am shopping on Saturday morning. If you can get out to Friday yard sales, do it, you get first pick of what they are selling and I’m a bit jealous.
1 – Plan Your Route
Most of the time, I have pre-planned my route or at least have a roundabout idea of where I plan to go. To do my planning, I use many resources, such as Craigslist, the online classifieds, or even just the trusty neon signs that I may have seen in the previous few days. My favorites are the neighborhood yard sales, because I really enjoy parking my car and walking from house to house, so if I see those advertised they are usually my first stop. My reasoning is that I have the best chance to find something when there are many houses in a condensed area.
2 – Have a List
There are some things that I always search for, such as wreaths, cheap furniture, craft supplies, and seasonal décor. I don’t care if the wreaths are ugly, I just want them for the grapevine. I usually don’t pay more than $1, but my preference is 50 cents.
I found this green chair for just $1.
And, this Christmas tree is still a favorite buy, it was only $3.
I can’t remember how much these supplies were, but I’m guessing 50 cents. I used those silver beads to make cool Easter Eggs.
3 – Cash is Key
You must have cash for yard sale shopping. It is best to have small bills and even some change. Nothing is worse than wanting to buy a $1 item and all you have is a $20 bill. I’m famous for asking the bank teller for small bills, and also for using a $20 at a store just to get small bills to use for my weekend yard sale shopping. The variety of bills is important too.
4 – Pool Your Resources
If you know someone else who likes to yard sale shop, make sure you share you share your list with them. My sister and mom both know to keep an eye out for cheap furniture for me. And, I have my sister’s list in my phone so that if I see something she wants, I can snap a picture and send it to her for approval for purchase. I’ve also found many items that friends and co-workers have wanted. I get just as much thrill finding something they want as finding a good buy for myself. My Mom bought this little side table for me, for I think $2. It turned out beautifully after a little work.
4 – Know Your Budget
Just because you are yard sale shopping, doesn’t mean that you can take advantage of all the deals and finds you see. You still should know your budget and stick to it. You don’t want to go home with regret. I bought this vase for $5 and I knew it was a bit pricy, but I really liked it. Unfortunately, it didn’t actually work in our house. I ended up selling it and lucked out to break even.
5 – Recognize a Good Deal (and grab it right away)
When you are yard sale shopping, all the sellers don’t have the same strategy. Some just want to get rid of their stuff, and don’t really care what they make from it. Others are trying to earn a certain amount for one reason or another. Because of these differences, it means that all pricing is not similar at yard sales. So, when you spot a good deal, snatch it up! I’ve had a few regrets when I was debating an item and I walk away from it and someone else picked it up before I made up my mind and got back to it. It’s always a bummer when that happens.
Just this weekend, I was doing my normal yard sale shopping and came upon a yard sale with lots of nice stuff, including clothes. From an overall perspective, their clothing prices were a bit high ($2 – $5), but they were good brand names with very little wear. It was worth it! Because, there isn’t much you can buy at the store for $5, so a nice dress is worth that price for me. And, I was pretty sure I had bought from these people before even though it wasn’t at that location (I recognized the initials they labeled their stuff with since it was a multi-family sale). And, sure enough I asked when I was paying and I had shopped from them before at other locations and they told me where they would have it next year. Oh, and it never hurts to talk to the sellers, say hello, ask how its going. The personal connection can help if you try to negotiate. Plus, why not be nice?!
This is a dress I bought last year, for $1. It has become one of my favorites this summer.
6 – Negotiate
If you see something you like, but its not the right price for you (remember your budget?), try to negotiate. It never hurts to ask. But, there is also the opposite problem, don’t cave to someone’s high pricing. You will regret it later, believe me I’ve done it. This is also where having cash in varying amounts helps. If I want to negotiate, I always check to see what I have in my wallet. Its really strange to ask for a lower price and then whip out a $20 bill! I have a few negotiation tips, and it depends on the style of the sale.
If they have items priced and you don’t want to pay what they have listed for one item, just get out the amount of cash you want to pay and walk up to the person and ask if they will take $X for whatever the item is. Sometimes, they counter, sometimes they will accept, and occasionally they say no the price is firm.
If they have not priced anything, I take a different approach. I usually just ask how much for a particular item, and then based on their response I gauge how I want to proceed. If it was a fair price, and I see other things I like, I keep shopping. If it was unreasonable, I usually leave. When there are no prices and someone gives me a fair price on the first item, and I see lots of things I like, I ask if I can just make a pile and get a price for it all at once. I love this method!
A couple weeks ago, I stumbled into a sale that had some interesting stuff. My test item was a bag of silk flowers (that I use for wreaths), it was a huge bag and the lady’s reply was 50 cents…score! I think they actually offered to let me make a pile and give me a price for it all; great minds think alike. I ended up getting a matching pair of side tables, a beverage cart, the bag of flowers, a huge picnic basket, a tray, and several mason jars. When I asked how much for the pile, they said $15 and I said I was thinking $10 and they said ok! I was shocked. And, it was even funnier because the man replied to me and the other ladies lectured him that he was supposed to negotiate and say “how about $12” instead of just saying yes to $10. It was fun, and I was thrilled.
This side table was clearly marked $10, but that definitely doesn’t fit into my “cheap furniture” that is on my list. But, I negotiated and ended up paying $7, and I’ll admit this is a bit high for me, but since I could keep the wood top, I figured it was worth a little more than I usually pay.
7 – Keep an Open Mind
I know I said to have a list, but I also think it makes sense to be open minded (and it kind of goes along with recognizing a good deal). I had a few great finds last year, that were just items I knew we could possibly use but weren’t actually written down on my list.
We always had to borrow our neighbors big ladder, so when I saw this one, I texted Bob and asked what it was worth, and then I began the negotiation.
This battery-powered hedge trimmer has been a great help. It was only $5.
And, this cool little window frame was only 50 cents. I had no clue what I’d do with it, but I figured it had potential and was worth the risk.
8 – Carry a Tape Measurer
A tape measurer has saved me many times. This ties back to having a list too. My list is specific and includes dimensions. Its not worth wasting time if it won’t fit where you want it. I have a tiny tape measurer that fits in my little wallet and I always keep it with me. I measure furniture pieces before I even start negotiating, if the dimensions matter. And, if you are pooling your resources, know the dimensions for anyone else you are shopping for, and if they are shopping for something specific for you, make sure you have given them dimensions.
9 – Know What You Can Haul Home
I know what fits in my SUV and what doesn’t. If I need to buy something that won’t fit, I need to think ahead on how I’m going to get it home. And, if it is questionable if it will fit, this is where the tape measurer comes in handy again. There are days where I really wish I had a truck or trailer. But, I think I’d probably get myself in trouble! Bob just said to me the other weekend, that he knows it is not a good sign when I back into the driveway!! I had my whole SUV full, including the passenger seat. I thought it was a great day!!
Sometimes when you are buying, you can pay and come back and pick it up, but it is best to clear that with the sellers before you pay.
When I bought that huge ladder, the guy was nice enough to give me a few bungees to keep my back of the SUV down with the ladder sticking out. It is a good idea to keep some supplies in your car. I used my red blanket that day as a “flag” on the ladder hanging out the back. I’ve also used the blanket to protect items. Right now, I’m using moving boxes that were cut up to protect furniture, and newspaper and reusable bags are never a bad idea either.
10 – Have Fun
I know yard sale shopping is not for everyone, but if you give it a try, just have fun. If you don’t like it, that’s ok, find someone who does (like me) and give them your list. 🙂
So, do you yard sale shop? Do you have any tips to add to my list?