I remember when I was younger, my mom would wake me up early on Saturday mornings and drag me to Garage Sales. I would sit in the backseat cowering down in embarrassment hoping no one I knew would see me. After I had my first son, I realized how expensive baby items were and how quickly babies grew out of things.

I don’t remember when it finally hit me, but one day I went to a garage sale. I was driving down the road and turned the corner. It was like I could hear angels singing! There were tables beyond tables filled with clothes, toys, strollers, car seats — all just waiting to be bought! I pulled over and walked up. That day was a big day for me. I realized that I could spend a fraction of the price, still find high quality items, and keep my son’s clothing bins stocked for the next season. As I walked to the car that day with bags of “new” clothes and toys in hand, I couldn’t help but feel accomplished.

Today garage sale-ing is a priority for me. With the season at an end I have everything that I need to get me through to the next yard sale season (typically April-Sept). I admit that I think I might like garage sales more than couponing! I will share a few tips to help you get the most for your money.

Map out a plan. At the beginning of the season I make a list of everything that I am going to be looking for. As I find the items, I cross them off the list. I also keep a calendar so I can keep track of when the town-wide sales or neighborhood sales are. I plan around these days and sometimes even book a babysitter so I can shop without distraction!

Don’t be afraid to ask for a better price. In most situations the sellers are just wanting to get rid of things. It is rare that you find someone having a garage sale to make money. I always ask for a better price, especially on the bigger items. Some people don’t even mark prices on their items; they just want people to make an offer. This used to intimidate me, but after a few tries I figured out that I can usually get the item for what I want to pay for it. The best example I have for this was when I was shopping for a double jogging stroller this past summer. The stroller wasn’t priced, so I asked her. I assumed it wouldn’t be in my price range, but she said, “Well, I was going to charge $5 for it, but since the strap is broken I will only charge $3.” I about jumped up and down with excitement and, of course, paid for it right away. When I came home and googled the stroller, I found out it was worth about $250! What a deal!

Buy ahead. I keep bins marked by size and seasons in the boys’ closet. I have bins in every size up to about 2 years out. When I find something I like at a good price, I will buy it, wash it, and immediately put it in the corresponding bin. Then when the seasons change, I don’t have to go out and pay full price on clothing. I just pull out the bin and, voila! New clothes!

Toys Toys Toys! One of my favorite things to buy at garage sales is toys. I keep bins in the attic and rotate them out periodically so that the kids feel like they are getting new toys. It keeps them excited, and they play more in their rooms which gives me more time to get chores done around the house. I love buying toys because they are so cheap at yard sales! I never pay much more than a quarter or 50 cents for toys that would retail for much more! I even buy toys to keep back for Christmas. The kids don’t know the difference, and it saves us a ton of money! You can even find new toys still in the packaging which make for great gifts!

Walk away! When I walk up to a sale, the first thing I do is check the prices of a few things. If I feel that the prices are too high, I move on to the next sale. I know that I can always find the item that I am looking for at a better price. Sometimes, though, more than one family is having a sale together, and the prices can be totally different from one item to the next. I was at one sale where children’s jeans were $5! I was about to walk away, but then I saw some bins on the floor with a sign that said $.25 per item. I looked through them ecstatic to find Gymboree clothes in the right sizes for my boys! At 25 cents I cleaned them out and walked away with bags of awesome clothes for only a few dollars! I couldn’t have been happier with my finds.

Resell=Recycle. When you buy at yard sales instead of buying new, you are keeping those items out of the landfills. When my boys outgrow the clothes or grow tired of the toys, I resell them at a local consignment sale that comes to town twice a year. I am making room to buy more, which always makes me happy, but I am also making money at the same time! I usually buy the items for less than a dollar and can resell them for triple the amount that I paid. I am always happy when that check rolls in!

These days garage sales are not the typical “old people’s garage sales” that I remember from my childhood. There are great deals to be had. I urge everyone to shop till you drop at your next local sale!

This has been a guest post by Cathy from Sidney, IL
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

Leave a Reply

46 thoughts on “Six Tips for Saving Money at Garage Sales”

  1. Another tip: If you take your kids, set up a few rules about what will NOT be coming home. For example I say absolutely NO computer games, even educational ones. And no puppies or kittens. (yes this has come up more than once – if you need to give away a litter of cute little mutts, have a garage sale)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have a friend that has a second hand store, she lives couple hours from where I live, but she comes to my town to buy things to sell. She recently got pregnant and its hard for her to come every week. Since then she told me to buy things for her and she would pay me three times what I pay for it.  Its been really good for me because every time she comes I make around $100 or more a week. Not only I buy things but I also ask my family member to give the things they don’t need (I have 7 siblings). Now since I go to yard sales every week I had found really good deals for my self. My daughter is growing and she needed it jeans (skinny jeans). I found them for .50 cents a piece.  I also found a Baby Phat jeans for my self .50 cents. You’ll be surprise on things you can find on yard sales. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    WE love to go to garage sales near closing time.  They are ready to bargain big or give-it-away!!! 
    Our Garage sale is this Saturday, from 6:30-11pm come check us out, lot of good clothing: Ladies size 8-10 md ,mens and teen girls and boys!  Nice cleans stuffed animals, snowman collection, household items, Christmas and Easter finds!  Located in Chandler: 
    1235 W. Remington Dr.  Hope to see you ! :)

  4. Anonymous says:

    We are having a garage sale this Saturday, wih lots of ladies, men’s and young boys clothes!  Christmas items, very clean like-new stuffed animals and snowmen colleciton, household items, coffee and muffins :) Hope to see you early 6:30-11am Chandler, AZ
    1235 W. Remington Dr :)

  5. Anonymous says:

    I would not buy your jeans for $5 because I can find them new on Clearance at the store!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Great things have already been mentioned…also look out for old gold jewelry. I bought a whole jewelry box of old tangled necklaces and rings for $3 and took it to a we-buy-gold shop and made back $235. It more than funded my whole year’s worth of garage saling.

  7. Anonymous says:

    2 things to add:
    Be prepared: water bottle, packed lunch, small bills/coins, comfy shoes and clothes in layers, sunblock, backpack/cart for neighborhood sales where you are walking from one to another

    When bringing the Littles: make sure they are fed, rested, snacked, and have some money of their own to spend.  When my Littles turned 3, I started giving them $1 in coins.  They would ask, “May I have this (item) for this (coin)?”  They were hardly ever denied, even if it was a penny.  It taught them how to talk respectfully to adults, accept a “no”, rejoice in a “yes”, and budget their coins throughout the morning.

    Thanks KCL – enjoyed this article.

    • Anonymous says:

       I used to bring my daughter all the time too when she was little. When she was 3 or 4 I would give her $2 to spend and told her when it was gone that’s it. She learned quickly about what items she really wanted and also learned to barter! This taught her the value of a dollar at an early age. It was exciting for her when she took home her “prizes” She was polite too! Mama didn’t stand for rudeness in children.

      I used to and still do tell people my home is decorated in “Early Garage Sale”

      Thanks Rollerderbymama and KCL Excellent tips

  8. Edie Webster says:

    Then don’t have or go to garage sales? I just don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to pay $0.25 for something useful when given the legal opportunity.

  9. Jen Trimble says:

    i don’t know what i would do without yard sales!! and guess what?! i found a man who loves it just as much as me! i think even more…i have to tell him no! sometimes and always have to remind him we have no more room, stop bringing home free stuff!! lol. i’ve found ridiculous deals at yard sales and KCL…the best tip you gave, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO BARTER!!!! the last yard sale i stopped at sat i bought 3 boxes worth of stuff, brand new dishes for christmas presents, a fog machine for a teen bday gift, some nice kitchen storage containers, large mixing bowls and a few other things. my total would have been over $20.00 I had a $10 bill and 2 $1 bills in my wallet and a $50. since i figured the guy wouldn’t have the change, i asked if he would take $12.50 for everything or i could go get change. his response….sure, enjoy! there were NIP over/mic/dishwasher safe serving dishes with the cutest snowmen and cardinals on, which had 2 large baking dishes, a 9×11 and a smaller, there was a divided serving tray, 2 nested bowls, 2 serving/mixing bowls and a crock.i would think even at a dollar general you would pay at the min of $60 for the sets. then to top it off i found several clothing items for my godkids that were as good as brand new, name brand and not more then 50 cents a piece!  oh and one more tip, be sure to ask around at yard sales that you stop at, if they know of any other sales close by. 9 times out of 10 people do not advertise in the paper around here, theyll put crappy signs up…the flow of people and chit chat….word gets around :)

  10. Michele Baird says:

    I often find things brand new that I can donate to charity as well at garage sales.  Last summer I found an entire box of gloves & scarves with tags.  When I told them it was for charity they sold it to me for $2.  I used them for sub for santa’s & gave the rest to a local Christmas charity.  I’ve often picked up something brand new at a garage sale that ended up being on the wish list of our sub for santa.  
    Another cheap way to get clothes is to host a clothing exchange.  Do it with your church, school groups, whatever (we do it with our homeschool group).  Everyone brings everything they want to get rid of & take whatever they want.  Everyone leaves with tons of great stuff, I usually cloth my son for the year, & we have tons leftover to donate to charity.  
    I also buy ahead as suggested here, especially on things like coats & shoes!

  11. I really enjoyed this article.  I too, went to garage sales as a kid with my mom but once I hit my teens I stopped going.  Once I had a child of my own 17 years ago, though, I began going to garage sales to buy clothes for her.  If you’re lucky enough to live in an area like I do that has subdivision-wide garage sales from April through June, you can sure save a bundle.  I not only bought clothes and shoes for my daughter but I also got items for my house (ranging from wreaths to Christmas ornaments to paper towel holders to silver-plated flatware).  I find most garage sales to be much cheaper than shopping at second-hand stores and they are more fun too.  I love the element of surprise that garage sales provide.  You just never know when you’re going to find a “gold mine” of a garage sale!

  12. I don’t in any way want to put a damper on garage sales here.. I love them! But I recently read a few articles about the dangers of second hand clothes/ furniture. Among them the biggest concern was the resurgence of bed bugs. No bargain no matter how good is worth that. In most cases putting clothes in a bag and running them through a very hot cycle in your drier will kill anything on there. I’m not really sure what the treatment for furniture is. My brother had an apartment complex full of these things and it was a 6 month nightmare that no one should have to go through. With that in mind here’s to another season of bargain hunting!

  13. Along with getting great buys for my kids, home and office, I’ve also found some awesome items to buy dirt cheap and have resold on Ebay.  One, was a book used by psychologists that I bought for .25 and resold for $45 and another was a vaporizer like I used to use as a kid that I bought for $1 and sold for $77.  

  14. I go garage saleing every weekend.  It’s my day out.  My kids and my house are furnished with garage sale buys.

  15. Elisabeth Walsh says:

    Great article! 

  16. Kelli C. says:

    Found my brand new in the box Uggs at a yard sale for $10. Talk about a major score! 

  17. Kay Archer says:

    There is a garage sale app as well if you have an android.  It grabs info from local sources and can organize your route for you…

  18. How do u find yard sales?

    • Anonymous says:

      our local newspaper prints out ads placed on the wenesday before the weekend listed, local “thrify nickel” or american classifieds ads, online at craigslist under garage sales, so many ways……..

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oohhh How I couldn’t agree more with you on how the feeling of garage saling is more enjoyable than couponing (DON’T get me wrong- nothing beats a freebie!). Walking back to your car after purchasing tons of items under $5 makes me want to click my heels.

    ANOTHER TIP: As mentioned above, anytime you go to sales, look out for things for Christmas [or birthdays] for your kids/friends/family/etc. A lot of the time, you can find new items in boxes for just pennies!! Heck, before my son was born, we were behind on bills and trying to survive the economy, and didn’t have much to spend on items. SO I winded up garage saling and bought a Boppy, Bumbo chair, brand new in the bag Martex crib set, stroller, car seat, AND clothes and odds and ends for only $20!!

    ALSO- I found my son’s convertible-crib on craigslist in the freebie section. All it needed was screws (the owner’s had lost them moving) and voila!! Instant gratification! :)

    GREAT POST btw!!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Oohhh How I couldn’t agree more with you on how the feeling of garage saling is more enjoyable than couponing (DON’T get me wrong- nothing beats a freebie!). Walking back to your car after purchasing tons of items under $5 makes me want to click my heels.

    ANOTHER TIP: As mentioned above, anytime you go to sales, look out for things for Christmas [or birthdays] for your kids/friends/family/etc. A lot of the time, you can find new items in boxes for just pennies!! Heck, before my son was born, we were behind on bills and trying to survive the economy, and didn’t have much to spend on items. SO I winded up garage saling and bought a Boppy, Bumbo chair, brand new in the bag Martex crib set, stroller, car seat, AND clothes and odds and ends for only $20!!

    ALSO- I found my son’s convertible-crib on craigslist in the freebie section. All it needed was screws (the owner’s had lost them moving) and voila!! Instant gratification! :)

    GREAT POST btw!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    This is perfect timing…I have plans to go to a community yard sale this Saturday so I really appreciate the tips.  Any advice for the “best” items to get at garage sales?  Last year we found our dining table and china hutch to complete the furniture in our home, so now I”m just looking for good deals on things that I wouldn’t be able to get better deals elsewhere.

  22. Garage sales are the only things that keep my son clothed! Yes, I save money from couponing, but cheap clothes are hard to find. I am in no way above garage sales!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Great tips!  I have a couple more.  1.  Get up early.  The best stuff gets snatched up quickly.  You want to be there when the garage sale starts (but not before, because that’s annoying!).  2.  Personally I bypass organization-wide yardsales, like the ones at churches, boosters clubs, schools, etc.  When people donate stuff to a charitable garage sale, they don’t give up their best items-it’s usually stuff they should just throw away.  I find that it’s a bunch of ancient electronics and worn out clothes.  Neighborhood-wide garage sales are usually pretty awesome, though.

    We had a baby last year and got a ton of brand-new stuff for her at yard sales last summer-clothes for 25 cents to $2 max, most of which still had tags on them, a $5 baby carrier, new burp cloths and blankets, you name it.  

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree about the organized donation sales being mostly junk, but one time I stopped at one of our bigger churches which is kind of out of the way and it was almost noon, I was sure they would have nothing left but I just wanted to go in. The good thing was they were taking 50% off everything that was left and they had so many nice toys I couldn’t believe it. I loaded up my trunk for just a few dollars with name brand toys. Sometimes they would rather mark it way down at the last minute instead of donating, but I know it doesn’t happen very often to get that lucky!!

    • Cece Kitson says:

       wow, im surprised you say that. I usually find great deals at church sales in my town. Maybe its just my area. I just love it when garage sale season starts!!

    • There is some truth to getting there early but on the other hand, when you go late, there is some good stuff still left and most times, they pretty much give it away….sometimes they do.

      • Anonymous says:

        Its true, when you go late
        sometimes they”ll  take any offer. I had found really good items when I go around noon.

  24. Danielle Babin says:

    I especially love garage sales for the nice pieces of furniture i can find, I like to refinish stuff to either keep for myself or sell to people that want them, it gives me some extra money to coupon with and gives me something to do in the winter time, I store them in my basement till wintertime and when i have time or im bored i go downstairs and sand, and varnish and fix up the peices to fund my couponing!!! its a great way to keep the husband busy too!!

    • Mary Inman says:

      I am in the process of sanding a kitchen table and 2 chairs. I picked up some varnish today and yesterday found just the amout of cloth i need for the two chair cushions ($1.20). I did it once before with a kids desk i found at a thrift store real cheap. Its fun and can make a few bucks too!

    • If you have to “fund your couponing,” I think you’re doing something wrong lol.

  25. Anonymous says:

    How do you know if something is a good price at a yard sale ?

    • Kathryn Webb says:

      Depends on what you’re willing to pay.  If you’re saving anything off regular retail price and it’s still in brand new condition, that’s great!  I like to spend $1 or less for clothes I wasn’t really shopping for (semi-used jeans, tops that might go with that skirt back at home in the closet, etc) or 50cents or less for gently used kids’ clothes, but it probably varies from person-to-person or region to region.
      Totally got a headboard for our full size bed for only $8.  All it needed was a good dusting.  And most of my favorite jeans have been free (at college we had a free shelf) or garage sale or hand-me-downs!

    • I don’t usually pay more than .50 for clothes.  I read an article about garage saleing once and it said the about 80% off retail is what you can expect to pay, so an item for $100, ask $20.  Anything above that savings is icing on the cake.  Of course, there are some items that even at 80% off, it’s still too much.  

  26. Love the idea of different bins for sizes, I only do it according to season, so I have to do a lot of sorting, I will get 2 extra bins and save myself a lot of time! Thanks! :)

  27. Jadda says:

    I love “garage saling” too!! It’s easy to get discouraged just stopping at one here and there and not coming accross any worth while finds, but in the few I went to last summer I was able to find a few good toys at unbeatable prices that are now some of my daughter’s favorites!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for those tips, I just love garage sales, every thing you mentioned is so true.

  29. Anonymous says:

    True Story-

    After a man bought a new refrigerator for his house from a garage sale, he needed to get rid of his old one, so he put it in his front yard with a sign on it that read, “Free to good home. If you want it, take it.” For three days it sat there without even one person looking at it. He decided that people didn’t trust any deal that looks too good to be true, so he put up a new sign that read, “For sale, $100.” The next morning, it was gone!