5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales

5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales by She Holds Dearly

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Are you a fan of shopping yard sales? I can’t wait to let you in on my 5 favorite secrets.

I am the driver who slams on her brakes and gives everyone in the car whiplash because I caught sight of a garage sale sign out of the corner of my eye. Yeah, sorry about that. There are so many things to love about yard saling: being outdoors, the thrill of the hunt, meeting new people and best of all the prices! But, getting the good prices isn’t always so easy, there are some things to know. I have discovered 5 secrets to shopping yard sales over the years that I hope will be helpful to you.

I have friends that hate garage saling, they never find anything good, they say.

Well, this post is for you, honey!

Here are my 5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales

Note- I use the terms “garage sale” and “yard sale” interchangeably in this post.

5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales by She Holds Dearly

1. Timing 

I have tried every method out there and I really think there are two good times to be out. In my part of the country people don’t really get started on their yard sales until 9am. I have found that shopping from 9- Noon on Fridays and Saturdays are the best. It is likely that you will fill your whole car with good things within this time frame, after noon it is really hit and miss, so I don’t waste my time. Figure out when the sales start in your neighborhood. Plan to be there when they open and work your way through the sales for about three hours.

5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales by She Holds Dearly

2. Appearance

 Ok, now I don’t want you to be manipulative or anything. But, I do want to say that now would be a good time to not worry if your car or your hair needs to be washed.  Just get out of bed, pull on some comfy clothes, skip the make up and pull your hair back in a pony tail. You are probably going to get really dirty while you are out and, unfortunately, if you look like a million bucks, people will charge you accordingly.

One time, I was all decked out and stopped at a garage sale. Our family was in dire straights financially at the time and I could only shop yard sales. I asked what the price of a shirt was. The lady took one look at me and said, “Well, since you clearly shop at Nordstrom, these will be $10 each.”  What she didn’t know was that my entire outfit from head to toe cost me a total of five dollars. I learned that day that appearances really do matter when thrifting.

5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales by She Holds Dearly

3. Location 

I have tried repeatedly to study Craigslist the night before and map out my route for the next day. The truth is, even with a good ad, the sales are hit and miss and I spend so much time driving that I miss really good sales along the way.

The best method for me has been to make a big loop around my area, maybe a 3 mile radius and just check for signs on street corners. Be careful, because some people leave their old signs up and waste your time leading you to sales that were over three weeks ago.

Nicer neighborhoods are generally better and have a naturally higher turnover rate on their possessions.

Steer clear of rural areas. Sorry, folks, the country has other redeeming qualities, but long drives and worn out items aren’t what we are going for when garage saling.

If you find a good community sale, ask them if they do this annually and then mark your calendar! I have about five that I go to every year and they are amazing.

5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales by She Holds Dearly

4. List

I keep a list in my wallet of the things I am looking for and add to it all year long. Every morning, while I am preparing to head out yard saling, I take a few minutes to review my list.

Yes, there is room for some impulsive buying out there, absolutely, but this is a race, my friend. Time is of the essence and knowing what you need is going to help you keep moving onto the next sale. You have three hours and a lot of other smarty pants shoppers are out there shopping as fast as they can, too.

5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales by She Holds Dearly

5. Friends 

I am big fan of networking when it comes to yard saling. There are about five of us girls in my circle of friends that are die hards out there.

We send each other our lists some time in June and keep our eyes open while we are out shopping. We buy lots of things for each other, too, after we have verified a picture of the item.

 The only time I leave my regular neighborhood loop is when I get a text from one of my other garage sale friends with a picture, an address and a “GET OVER HERE NOW!!!!” message.

5 Secrets to Shopping Yard Sales by She Holds Dearly

Over the next few weeks I will be covering what to pack when yard saling, including what is on my shopping list and how to shop with small children.

Then, finally, I will cover how to know what a good price is and how to barter effectively.

Happy Hunting!

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  1. May 15, 2016 / 12:34 AM

    These are all really great secrets Sarah. I hosted a garage sale a few years ago and I remember how there was a barrage of people before 8 am coming to get the best things. So yes you are absolutely right about getting there as early as possible. And I also map out my route to maximize my time. The interesting secret that you pointed out was that appearances do matter. I had never considered that one before and it is something to keep in mind. Thank you for all these great tips. I am hosting a new link party, Sweet Inspiration and would be happy if you joined us. It runs Friday till Tuesday.

    • May 17, 2016 / 9:13 PM

      Thank you, Mary, I so happy to help and I will be sure to check out your blog, as well!

  2. Cassandra E
    May 15, 2016 / 7:45 AM

    Happy to find your blog! I just have to say I’d want to buy everything in the photos! If I stumbled on that, instead of the cardboard boxes of broken baby toys, clothes and Corning ware here in California, I’d be one happy camper. Looking forward to your list. I also keep a list in my wallet for both needs and wants.

  3. Tanya Hulbert
    May 15, 2016 / 12:11 PM

    I will never forget our fun time garage saling together. We will have to plan more for the future. These are great points to keep in mind, especially when you look like you can afford what they’re asking, when in actuality, the entire outfit was thrifted! I’ve thought about that! So when I’m out garage saling next time, I’ll be sure to not use my Frye purse. 🙂

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 18, 2016 / 9:17 PM

      That’s right, girl, go shop after a workout! (wink) Looking forward to more shopping trips with you, my friend!

  4. pamela
    May 15, 2016 / 1:17 PM

    These are great tips, thanks

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 18, 2016 / 9:19 PM

      Thanks, sweet Pamela, I always appreciate you stopping by!

  5. Rose
    May 15, 2016 / 5:31 PM

    OK, I live in a small town area. I google the addresses to see what kind of house and where it is. If it seems like an older person is having the sale and downsizing, I do white pages to see the age of the individual living there. Probably will be older things and that what I am always looking for. I rarely go to sales stating they have a lot of children’s clothes. I also access newspapers from around me to see if they are having good sales to see if it would be worth the drive. I do go to a lot of trouble but have pretty good luck and I always go about 15 minutes early. Don’t want to make them mad by going an hour early although I do know some people who will bang on a door at 6:00 am. Shame on them. I do love garage and yard sales!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 18, 2016 / 9:20 PM

      Wow, you are totally advanced, checking to see what kind of house the sellers have! I am so impressed. I bet you do very well out there.

  6. May 16, 2016 / 8:34 AM

    love your tips and try to hit them up early too have found their nothing left. But if you hit them up late their ready to just give it away. I will hit up estate sales and buy the really nice stuff on the first day. Then I go back on the last day near the end because sometimes their just giving it away. thanks for the tips especially about dressing down did not know that weird.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 18, 2016 / 9:20 PM

      Yes, that is a great tip, sometimes on the last day I have found great deals, too!

  7. May 16, 2016 / 2:38 PM

    You have shared some great advice on yard saling. I miss living in a large city…my small town doesn’t have much in the way of yard sales and estate sales are almost non-existent.
    Have a great week.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 18, 2016 / 9:21 PM

      Aww, I’m sorry, maybe Ebay and Etsy are better options for you.

  8. May 21, 2016 / 7:51 AM

    What great information you have shared! Over the years, especially when my children were small, I hit many great sales. Since I am apparently older now, I don’t really do this but my daughters & grandchildren love too! I will share your post with them.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 31, 2016 / 10:11 AM

      Oh, wow, I would love to hear your advice, too! Thank you for sharing this post with your family.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 29, 2016 / 8:44 PM

      Thank you, Ashleigh! I hope you find some great finds!!

  9. May 29, 2016 / 6:45 PM

    These tips are so helpful! I’ve always been timid about the face to face of it all. Craigslist makes me anxious enough as it is! But I do really want to start exploring this realm of thrifting so I’m saving your tips ot get started. Thanks for sharing at The Creative Circle!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 29, 2016 / 8:53 PM

      I know what you mean, it does take a little practice to get comfortable with the bartering and face to face interaction. Hopefully, these posts will encourage you! xoxo

  10. May 29, 2016 / 9:40 PM

    I agree about the timing, Sarah – most of the good stuff goes in the mornings. I also use the ‘scan test’ (in the few seconds while my passengers are recovering from whiplash 🙂 ) – if it looks like junk it probably is junk, so I drive on without wasting any more time. Happy hunting!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 30, 2016 / 7:23 AM

      Clare, I love your comment about the scan test! Yes, that is a really good idea, scan from the road and if you stop, scan as you walk in. Thanks for taking the time to visit!

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