8 Tips for Successful Garage Sale Shopping

In many parts of the country the weather is getting warmer, and garage sales are starting to pop up throughout the neighborhood. Most of the time when I shop at garage sales, I take a leisurely stroll, looking for nothing in particular.

Sometimes, however, I’m in need of something specific, and I need a plan to make the most of my garage sale shopping day. That’s when it’s time to do some garage sale power shopping.

Here are a few tips to make your garage sale power shopping trip a success.

  • Make a list. Yes, that’s right. A list will keep you focused on what you’re looking for, whether it’s furniture or books.
  • Map out a route. The night before you head out, take a look at the local newspaper. Find one or two garage sales that you feel you want to hit first, because the ad says they’re offering what you’re looking for. From there, map out a route, taking into account the garage sale start times. You’ll save time and gas if you know where you’re going next.
  • Carry lots of change. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes the people throwing the garage sale won’t have the foresight to make sure they have enough change. It’s great if you have exact change. It prevents those “what do we do now?” moments that can slow you down.
  • Use a fanny-pack. If you’re a real garage sale power shopper, leave the purse at home. By using a fanny pack, you can park the car, jump out, shop, and leave your hands free for inspecting and carrying your merchandise.
  • Pack snacks and water. You don’t want to be sidelined by hunger or thirst.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle. Some people might get offended, but you have nothing to lose by asking, “Will you be willing to take $x.xx for this?” Worst case scenario, they say no. Best case scenario, you get your price.
  • Make notes of garage sales that are overpriced, but have great stuff. If you come back late in the day, they might be willing to come down in price.
  • Enjoy yourself! There’s nothing like the high of a good bargain hunt!

Do you have any tips for successful garage sale shopping? Please share!

Photo by giuliana_miranda.


By , on Apr 28, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Lara One:

    When we have garage sales, I love it when people haggle. Especially when my kids are running it. It gives them experience.

    I just wish people would remember that having a garage sale is more about getting rid of stuff than it is about profit. Let’s be real, you are selling your junk that you don’t want or need anymore. Not exactly lucrative. Now people are coming to your house and paying you in order to haul off your junk for you. I’m happy to give garage sale shoppers that come to my place a good deal.

  2. Lynnae,
    I am with you on all of it, except the fanny pack! ;) While it may be more practical, I think it should be illegal for someone to wear something like that!

  3. I live in Southern California (garage sale heaven!) so I live for yard sales. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Marci:

    This is MY kind of shopping! Most of my house is furnished and remodeled from garage sales – and most of my gift giving orginates from garage sales! :) Ah the bargains to be found!

    I have my list – and a list other friends/family are looking for. And they all have my list… so if any of us finds what the others are looking for we can buy it on the spot, or make a quick phone call to confirm the purchase, or to have them drive over to see it.

    It helps to have others looking for your stuff also!

  5. Donna:

    If you’re trying to be frugal yard sales are a must. You can find just about anything at a yard sale and if you have a list and don’t see something just ask. Sometimes they have it in their garage or house and forgot about putting it out.

    Having lots of change makes it easier to offer them say $5 for everything. If you have a $20 and offer $5 it can get a little awkward. Plus I take a pocket full of quarters and if all I find is a 25¢ or 50¢ item then I can quickly pay and go without waiting for them to find change.

    Yard saling is like treasure hunting, you never know what you’re going to find. Sometimes you come up empty handed but other times you really make out. My best deal lately was 2 sets of unopened mini blinds $2/ea that fit the front windows in our house perfectly. They would have easily cost us $25/each if we had bought them at Home Depot. You just never know what you’ll find. I’m still using a hair dryer I bought 15 years ago for $1 at a yard sale. I’m trying to see how long I can use it without having to use my backup hair dryer (75¢ at a yard sale a couple of years ago!).

    Yard sales are the ultimate way to recycle. Plus if you decide you can’t use it when you get home. Just throw it in your next yard sale!

  6. Angelsong:

    excellent post once again. I’ve found many a treasure at garage sales. Last year, we found a bathroom shelving unit for over a toilet for five dollars!

  7. I found this great mash-up website recently. It combines google-maps with your local craigslist yard sale posts!


    It’s not perfect, but it’s a great place to start if you are new to your area.

  8. Thanks for the great tips! I really need them because I’ve only been to only a few garage sales ever. I’ve been thinking about trying them out some more.

  9. I love garage sale season and look forward to it every year. I’m currently running a series on my blog about holding your own garage sale – feel free to <check it out

  10. Great tips! There are definitely some excellent deals to be found at garage sales, especially on things for little kids! We’ve found many extra items to keep at grandparents houses (high chair, car seat, riding toys).

  11. Angie:

    Good tips. I also brush up on my spanish because I always seeem to have spanish speaking buyers. I also have a favorite pair of bluejean overalls with deep pockets which help with stashing money in until I can get it to a safe place.

  12. Solid strategy!

    I don’t focus on exact change. I just make sure I have a stack of dollar bills so I can make nice round offers . . .

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