Friday, March 12, 2010

Yard Sale Savvy

Okay, so judging by the title alone, can you guess what I'm doing tomorrow? Yup, it's true, I love a good bargain. I'm heading to Orlando's biggest yard sale tomorrow which happens just twice a year.

I've got all of my small bills stacked up, some reusable cloth bags in my trunk and my game face ready. I'm really hoping to hit the jackpot tomorrow so I'll be heading out bright and early. Hopefully I'll have some great goodies to blog about and share with you all on Monday.

For those of you who love great finds at rock bottom prices, yard sales are where it's at. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your yard sale experience.


1. Make a List-As you would plan out a a grocery shopping list, think about what you really need and hope to find-is it decor accessories, furniture, clothing, kitchenware? With anything in life, a list is a good guide to get you to focus on what you really need so you can use your time and money most effectively.

2. Set a Budget-Whether you're ordering online or heading to a garage sale, it's important to have a budget. I like budgets because they challenge me to better negotiate deals and determine what I can afford to leave behind. Classy women set budgets, stick within them no matter what the item in question is. My last trip to this very sale was so successful and I went armed with just $37 dollars (what was in my wallet), I spent $29 and had $8 left for lunch afterwards. I came home with so many great, needed items.

3. Gather Small Bills and Change-Be sure to have a lot of smaller currency on hand. Sometimes sellers don't stock up the adequate amount of small change or bills, especially if you're an early morning shopper and they begin with 20's. It makes your overall negotitating and purchasing much smoother.

4. Plan Your Route- If you are planning to head to multiple sales, it's best to use mapquest (which has a tool for multiple destinations) along with your GPS (if you have one) to plot out your route. There is no sense in wasting gas by back tracking all over town. Start in one area and plot out the order in which you plan to arrive at each. Part of planning your destinations involves looking at posted ads in the newspaper, on craigslist, etc., to determine which sellers have items you need.

5. Bring Reusable Bags-If you like to buy a lot of smaller items as opposed to furniture like me, you'll want to bring some cloth reusable bags or at the very least some plastic bags. They are great for loading up on decor accessories, clothing, kitchenware to take back to the car. Some sellers may have plastic bags but don't go expecting that. It's much easier to carry a bag vs. overloading your arms with merchandise.

6. Arrive Early-My mom used to use this saying, "The early bird gets the worm" and in the case of yard sales, that is certainly the case. The earlier you can get out there, the better your chances are of finding exactly what you are looking for. Sellers typically operate their sales' from 8am-noon or 1pm. If you show up at noon you probably won't have a whole lot of selection. One big no-no it to show up before the sale while people are setting up, this is quite annoying for sellers so try to avoid being too eager.

7. Curb Your Enthusiasm-Don't act over anxious or excited about an item until you've sealed the deal. If the seller sees that you are in love with that vintage dresser they know they can get more for it. It's better to ask questions but act indifferent until it's yours.

8. Never Offer Full Price-Most sellers mark all if not most of their items, or will have a sign listing smaller items like books. They already know they aren't going to get full price for all of their items. If you see a great set of kitchen pots for $50, offer $35 and see where it goes from there. They might look at you like you're crazy but you won't know if you don't ask. You can always move up from there. If you start too high you won't be able to back down. My favorite question is, "Would you be willing to take 'X' dollars for it?" and it works nearly every time.

9. ALWAYS Negotiate-With yard sales, negotiating is part of the process and it's expected but do be respectful and reasonable. If a mint condition dining set is priced at $750 and you offer $50, you will not only wind up without the set but could possibly offend or irritate the seller. As with all items for sale, be reasonable not ridiculous. Instead, you might want to offer $500 and read the sellers expression. If they come back with the same amount they are pretty firm on that price. If they say, $700 you know it will go somewhere, in which case you can counter with $600. When all else fails, ask them if they would be willing to meet in the middle, here that number would be $650, and just like that you saved $100!

10. Join Forces- Shop with a friend, if they find something from the same seller you can add multiple items together and reduce the OVERALL price so that both of you get a cheaper deal. Simply present it as a package deal and ask if they would be willing to take ' $X' for the 5 items or whatever you have. It's incentive for the seller since the whole goal is to move more stuff. Be sure to discuss the details with your friend alone before approaching the seller, so you're on the same page.

11. Be Willing to Walk Away-Sometimes you something that is so great but the seller just won't budge at all or won't come down to your asking price. At this point you should be willing to walk away, especially if it doesn't fit into your budget. In such instances the seller might feel prompted to throw a lower number at you. If they don't you can get on with your shopping and come back to this sale later or ask for their telephone number and if you change your mind and (it's still available of course) you could claim it.

12. Bring Your Camera-Sometimes you might be inspired by an item but may not have the cash to pay for it, so why not snap a photo and put it into your inspiration files for a later date (if it's something you could reasonably find again). Other times you may be debating on an item and need to think it through, especially if it's a larger purchase. You can snap a photo and walk away from the sale. This will allow you to take some time to make your decision without the pressure of being on the seller's premises.

13. Use Good Judgement-If you are not 100% sure if an item will work for you or your home but you love it, make sure it's a good deal and make certain that you can either sell it on craigslist, ebay or in your own yard sale for a profit if you need to later. I never purchase items that I cannot get a return on later (if they don't work out) because that would be more of a liability. Don't misunderstand me, not all finds are based on dollars and cents, they are emotional too, just don't let your emotions completely rule the decision making process.

14. The Eleventh Hour-Often times sellers will be very willing to just get rid of items in the last hour or two of a yard sale. If you second guessed an item, you can always swing by the home later in the day. I have even received a few free items this way too. For many it means more to get rid of an item (especially if the pieces are large) than to fuss with moving and re-storing it in their home or garage again.

15. Rent a Truck-If you don't own a truck, SUV or large vehicle and don't know anyone with one, picking up large furniture pieces can be tricky. Rental vehicles are fairly reasonable and if it means getting a dresser worth $800 for a stellar price of $80, paying $30-$40 for a rental vehicle is a drop in the bucket. It's also a great way to transport your new finds without destroying the interior (or exterior) of your car.
Are there any yard sales in your future? What is the best treasure you've every purchased from one?

Have a Blessed Weekend!


  1. Thanks Karla for your lovely comments. I know what you mean about losing sunglasses..I lost a pair of Chanel's once while in vacation, and I was so upset! Please do let me know about your book when it is finished! I must pick up a copy for myself, and then do a post on it on my blog. What a great Mother's Day gift it would be, to the most classy lady I know (my mom) I am sure it will turn out wonderful! Best of luck with the editing!

  2. Great tips. I am a huge lover of yard sales and am thrilled that the season has begun. Agree with all of your advice. It was a good refresher course to prep me for the season. =) Good luck on your hunt this weekend.

  3. Karla,

    I couldn't help it, I had to include this post in my Weekly Cups of Tea that appears on my blog every Sunday. Your blog and this post will be mentioned March 14th. Come on over and have a look. Thanks again for some great ideas. I can't wait to go garage sale hunting. =)


Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)


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