A couple of weeks ago I gave you 10 Tips for a Wildly Successful Garage Sale in preparation for my own yard sale. Unfortunately I didn’t take my own advice and only netted about $100, but I got rid of all the big stuff I wanted out of my house. I’m happy with my new, decluttered home, so I have no complaints. The very next day I went shopping at the neighborhood yard sales and got a dresser for my son’s room, 30 cloth napkins (because I’m trying to give up paper products), and a ton of clothes for my daughter for under $55 total!

I thought I’d pass on my yard sale shopping tips to help you get the best possible bargains.

1. Preparation is Key

In order to have the most success shopping at yard sales, you have to have a plan. In the week leading up to shopping day, check your newspaper and Craigslist for yard sale ads. It’s helpful to have a community map on hand, if you don’t know your neighborhood well. The area where I live is pretty small, so I do without the map. I once read of a person who laminated a map and marked the yard sale addresses with a dry erase marker every week.

Once you know where the yard sales are, map out a route, so you don’t waste time or gas money. I like to travel in a circle around my city, starting in the area with the most sales. I also take advantage of sales that aren’t advertised in the paper. You’re bound to come across signs to sales that aren’t listed in the paper. Take a detour and stop. These sales might not see the traffic of the advertised sales, so you might have a better selection of items to buy.

2. Make a List

Yes, just like grocery shopping, I like to have a list for yard sale shopping. I love a good bargain, and in the heat of the shopping moment, I often find myself buying stuff I don’t need, because it’s such a great deal. A list will prevent that from happening.

This summer my lists includes a dresser (which I found), cloth napkins (also found), clothes for my daughter (found those, too), clothes for me, possibly a desk, a recliner, a magazine rack, a grain mill (this might be wishful thinking), canning supplies, and possibly a food dehydrator. If it’s not on the list, I think long and hard before I buy.

3. Pack Coffee and Snacks

If you’re going to be shopping for a while, make sure you pack food and something to drink. You’ll get hungry and thirsty. And on cool mornings you might get cold, so I like to take some coffee along, too. If you have your kids with you, snacks are an absolute must. There’s nothing like hungry kids to ruin the perfect yard sale shopping spree.

4. Shop Without the Kids if at All Possible

Most kids hate shopping. I know my kids do. When I go yard sale shopping I never take the kids. If your kids are still in carseats, it’s just cumbersome. Even if they’re not, they’ll probably get bored.

If you have to take the kids, give them a little money to spend. Teach them about finding great bargains. Have them make a list of things they’d like, and challenge them to see if they can find the items on their list. Have them help find the items on your list, too.

5. Check Boxes

Sometime while garage sale shopping, you’ll come across an item in a box. Once I made the mistake of assuming a can opener in a box was the same one that was featured on the box. I bought the can opener, and when I got home, I was disappointed that it wasn’t as great a can opener as I thought I was getting. If something is in a box, make sure you take it out and inspect it.

6. Carry Change and Batteries With You

I like to carry lots of ones and quarters with me when I go garage sale shopping. As someone holding a sale, it’s annoying when a shopper gives you a $20 bill for a $1.50 item. If you’re a shopper and the person holding the yard sale is unprepared to break your $20, you might have to pass up a bargain.

I also like to carry a variety of batteries with me. When buying electronic equipment, it’s important to make sure it works. Usually the person holding the sale will have an outlet available to test electric items, but sometimes they won’t have batteries for battery operated items. If you carry your own batteries, you’ll never have to wonder if something works. You can test it yourself.

I like to carry my money and batteries in a belt pack, so I don’t have to worry about keeping track of my purse. I like to have both hands free to inspect and carry items. I also like to be able to jump in and out of my car quickly.

7. Church Rummage Sales Rock

I love church rummage sales, because a lot of families usually donate items to be sold. It’s like going to a huge multi-family yard sale. There’s lots of selection, and the prices are usually great!

8. City-Wide Sales Are the Best

I also love citywide sales. Our citywide sale was last weekend, and our town was hopping with sales and shoppers. The yard sale bug is contagious, and people keep putting more and more stuff in their yards to sell! And if you live in a small town like I do, you don’t waste a lot of gas driving to different sales. A lot of times I just parked on a street and walked up and down the streets in the neighborhood, browsing the sales.

It also helps to talk to shoppers and people holding yard sales when a lot of sales take place in the same neighborhood. I kept asking people if they had seen any dressers, and I got a lot of tips for places to look.

9. The Early Bird Gets the Worm

If you’re looking for a specific item, especially if that item seems to be in high demand, it’s best to shop early. The best items tend to disappear quickly. I like to single out the two or three most promising sales in the paper, and try to be at one of them as soon as it opens. That’s the best way to find what you’re looking for.

10. The Late Shopper Gets the Better Bargain

The late shopper may not have the best selection in yard sale items, but the late shopper will often get the better bargain. People holding yard sales are often unwilling to budge on their prices early in the day. As the day goes on, however, sellers are often ready to cut some good deals.

Don’t be afraid to bargain. That’s half the fun. If you make an offer, the worst that can happen is the seller says no. If they say yes, you get a great deal. If they say no, you can either pay the asking price, or you can walk away. You’re never out of options.

If you have a truck and you’re not afraid of some work, you might even get some free items. I’ve never tried this, because I don’t have a truck, but I’ve heard of people offering to take yard sale leftovers off the sellers hands. The upside is you might get some good stuff for nothing. The downside is, you need to figure out how to dispose of the junk.

Whether you’re a serious yard sale shopper or just someone who likes to browse every once in a while, standard shopping strategies apply. Know what you need, know what it’s worth, and don’t get caught up in the moment.

Do you shop at yard sales? Are you a serious shopper, or do you dabble? Have you come across any great finds this year? Do you have any tips that I missed?