6 Tips for Yard Sale Shopping
It's that time of year again -- Yard Sale Season!
I'm an admitted yard sale junkie. I remember the first yard sale I ever went to: I was about 8 years old, and I was absolutely astounded by the fact that I could walk out my front door, step into my next door neighbor's garage, and buy a Coca-Cola glass for $.25. Looking back, I think I got swindled out of my allowance on that deal.
Since then, I have gone to a LOT of yard sales, and have developed several strategies for getting the best stuff at the best price.
1. Know your target price.
This will vary based on your circumstances, how much you need an item, and what geographical location you live in. My target price for children's clothing items is $1. However, DON'T BUY SOMETHING JUST BECAUSE IT'S CHEAP! The target price is for quality items that I know will last for multiple children or multiple seasons.
2. Know WHY you are shopping yard sales.
This seems obvious, but if you can answer this question it will help narrow down which sales you will go to, saving you time as well as money. The number one reason I shop at yard sales is so I can find good quality, name brand items for lower than consignment store prices. In addition to being somewhat of a label junkie, I've found that certain more expensive brands really last longer and wear better than many of the discount store brands. Of course, you can get cute kids' clothes at Target or Walmart for $1-$3 per item. I like going to yard sales, so I don't mind the extra time it takes to find more durable clothes or good deals. In addition, consider that buying used is the same thing as recycling; less goods need to be produced, packaged, and distributed.
3. Don't stop at every yard sale you drive past.
If you've spent any time at yard sales, you know what a bad sale looks like. Haphazard or non-existent signage, items strewn all over, and un-priced items. You can spot them from the street, so don't even get out of the car. I almost never stop at unadvertised sales. 9 times out of 10, it's a complete waste of time.
4. Know where to find the good sales
The two primary places to research garage sales are Craigslist and your local newspaper. Starting around Wednesday or Thursday, I'll get on Craigslist and search both "Garage Sales" or "Baby & Kids," since I'm usually looking mostly for kids' stuff. It will make your life easier if you sort the results by town; I have had the best luck at expensive suburban neighborhoods because that's where the higher quality goods tend to be.
5. Plan your strategy in advance
Another advantage of focusing on one town or neighborhood is that if you focus on sales within a 5-mile radius, you are making better use of your time and gas money.
Once you know what sales look good, it's time to plan your route. I go to GoogleMaps and type in every address I'd like to get to, with the farthest away first, and the closest last. That way I will know how to get to each sale from the previous sale I've been to. I'll then print out the map and directions with some notes on what to expect at each sale; that way if something comes up and I am pressed for time, I can better judge which ones to skip.
You could also program the addresses into your GPS; yard sale-ing is the one situation where I would really love to have a GPS in my car. There is even an app called Garage Sale Rover that saves your favorite sales from Craigslist, optimizes your route, and gives you turn-by-turn GPS navigation. Now THAT is the way to shop!
6. Know what to bring
- Cash is a given here, and try to have exact change. Quarters, ones, and fives are a safe bet, and never bring more cash than you want to spend!
- Reusable Bags -- bringing your own bag ensures you don't have a 8-year old plastic Walmart bag flapping around the back of your car for the next 3 months.
- Reusable Water Bottle & Snacks -- I can't go anywhere without food & water, and it's not just for the kids. You don't want to have to pull into McDonald's because you're about to pass out from hunger. I usually bring a Kashi granola bar or a banana.
- Speaking of kids -- for optimal results, bring as few kids as possible. I know this isn't always feasible, but you'll get to more sales, make better time, and find better deals if you don't have to worry about your toddler crashing a plastic Thomas the Train into a streetlight (thus ensuring your purchase of said Thomas).