Welcome to Southern Savers, where finding deals and steals is simple and rewarding!

See I told you, this would help!

Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

Going Nuts? I can help you understand coupon terms and abbreviations

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expert yard sale tips

Do you love shopping for furniture, clothes, and little things for your house? Do you like to buy adorable name brand clothes, unique toys, and useful gear for your kiddos? Are you in need of some kitchen appliances, plates and silverware, or a nice serving dish? Do you also hate the ridiculous price tags attached to these items? Then it looks like you need to learn how to shop at yard sales! If you feel a little overwhelmed about starting a yard sale treasure hunt, here are some tips for a more successful “shopping” trip.

Planning is Key

  • Plan what you want to buy – Have an idea of the items that you want or need so that you don’t wander around aimlessly. Sarah at Clover Lane talks about how she keeps an index card in her purse with the items and specific measurements for which she is looking. By doing so, she was able to furnish her whole house for a great price. When buying clothes for children, it might be a good idea to bring the child or one of his outfits along with you to make sure they will fit. Second, know a few name brands before you go. For example, I’m not going to buy second hand Walmart (Faded Glory) clothes even for 50 cents, but I would buy an Ann Taylor sweater for $2. Last, remember that some items should NEVER be purchased second hand, such as breast pumps and car seats. Yard Sale Queen has a great list of items not to buy. Remember that safety regulations are always changing and that many companies recall toys, appliances, etc. that have been proven to be unsafe. Be sure to check the safety and quality of each item before you purchase it.
  • Plan what you want to spend – A good budget is important to saving money. You may have only spent $20 on a car load of stuff from yard sales, but if that means you can’t buy groceries later that week, then you did yourself and your family a disservice. If you are searching yard sales for a couch, make sure you have decided beforehand what you are willing/able to pay for one, but try to be fair. It is unlikely that you are going to find a seller willing to let a couch in good condition go for only $10. Make sure that you have enough cash on hand to pay for the item, as most sellers are not willing to accept any other form of payment. Be sure to give yourself a little wiggle room in case you find a deal that can’t be passed up, even if it isn’t on your list.
  • Plan when/where are you going to look for it – First, check local papers and the online resources listed below for advertisements. Most sellers will give a quick description of their items in their ad, giving you an idea of which sales you want to be sure to visit. In most cases, neighborhood or church sales are a better option than individual sales. They provide many items in one location, giving you a better selection and saving you time and gas money. Also look for sellers who really want to get rid of stuff, for example moving and estate sales. In planning your arrival time, keep in mind that the best items are available early in the day. Some sellers will even allow buyers to purchase items before they have officially opened for business. However, the best deals are often available later in the day, as the seller is more interested in moving the merchandise. Last, remember that the more you shop the more you will find. Maybe you will make yard sale shopping part of your weekly errand run (during the yard sale season) or maybe you will keep track of your favorite annual sales on your calendar and plan to make a yearly visit. But, even the one stop you make a summer could result in some serious savings. Just go as often as your schedule allows.

But Flexibility Doesn’t Hurt

(The advice here may seem to be the exact opposite of my first point, but every frugal shopper knows that deal seeking requires a delicate balance.)

  • Flex on purchases – Just because something is on your list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. You may not be looking for a new tablecloth, but if you find one that you love and it is $1, go for it! Or maybe you stumbled upon a tea cup that will make the perfect gift for a friend, or your next crafting project. Yard sales and their wares are unique, so don’t pass up an opportunity to buy something at an amazing price just because it isn’t on your list. This is similar to the overall principle of Southern Savers. You stock up when the prices hit rock bottom, even if you don’t need the item at the moment. A few words of caution: 1) stay in your overall cash budget, and 2) don’t buy something you will never use just because it is an incredible price. Remember, a clutter free home is priceless! Use your best common sense when making purchases at yard sales.
  • Flex on prices – You may have planned to spend $20 on a bookshelf, but find one that is absolutely amazing for $30. Your first option is to barter with the seller. They might meet you in the middle, or they might take your offer. Haggling is acceptable at a yard sale, but remember that you are far more likely to get a good deal if you are cheerful and polite. If the seller will not lower the price, your second option is to try to come back later in the day. You risk someone else buying it, but then again you might find a better one at the next sale. If you seem to hit it off with the seller and feel comfortable leaving your number, you could ask them to call at the end of the day if the item has not sold.
  • A word about haggling – It really only applies to higher priced items. It is not considered in good taste to offer a quarter for something that is already marked at 50 cents. (C’mon folks, where else can you take a dollar and actually not spend it all in one place?) However, to work a deal with smaller items, buy several of them. For example, I once went to a yard sale where they had a big bin of matchbox cars for a quarter each. I offered the seller a couple dollars for the whole bin, and she took the offer (it was later in the day), so I got them for my nephew. Another example is lamps. If a seller has two or three identical lamps for $4 each, ask if they will take $10 for all three.

Have Some Fun

Be a serious deal hunter, but don’t make shopping a drag. Just as well planned grocery trip is much smoother than a quick run close to meal time, there are a few things you can do to make treasure hunting more enjoyable. Don’t go when you’re hungry, tired, the weather is bad, or you’re in a rush. Bring some snacks and a water bottle. Leave the kids at home if at all possible. Bring a friend or family member who loves to bargain hunt as much as you do. Do what ever you can to make yourself comfortable and calm so that you can lengthen and enjoy the experience.

Last, as you peruse items spread out over lawns, garages, and church parking lots remember to look past the current state of an object and see its potential. Sometimes an item can be re-purposed for another function, fixed if it is broken, or beautified if it is ugly. A coat of paint can revamp a piece of furniture. A scrap of ribbon or lace can change a boring lampshade into a unique piece. An old galvanized wash tub can become a tub for serving drinks at a cookout (this is an actual deal that I got for $1). There are an infinite number of things that can be turned into unique storage containers. Keep an open mind and be creative!

This is a new series starting every Monday on Southern Savers. Tune in next week for Yard Sale tips for Sellers and then every Monday for new posts about frugal living.

    • mariek

      The Semi Annual Lake Carolina Yard sale is this weekend in Columbia SC. It's huge and I always find tons of great bargins. You can go from 7am-Noon and still not be half way through it. ; )

    • darkenmind1326

      This is an awesome article & i look forward to reading more:)!

    • Barb

      Very useful article. LOL at the bargaining advice. I actually did have someone offer me .10 for something marked .25. Well, that happened more than once, to be honest.

      I stopped having yard sales after that.

    • Elizabeth

      One of my BFF's in-laws love to haggle over items marked $.25. It's so embarassing that I've stopped going with them to yard/garage sales, which is a shame because I like them and they know some really good places to go. Oh well.

    • mary

      can't wait for more of these great articles!

    • Katherine

      Craigslist can be another good place to get larger item purchases for a cheap price!

    • I can't wait to read about Yard Sales. I love them. I went to a consignment sale just a few weeks ago and 6 dresses for my 6-year-old for $1.00 each. They had been worn once. Amazing.

    • Karen

      I love garage sales. During the summer I go every sat. morning before my 0900 water aerobics class. Soon other memebers of the class started going and then when we met at class we would all discuss what big deals and finds we got. It was fun. Like a big treasure hunt! Also Stratford High School Marching Band is having a garage sale this Sat. 4/17 at the high school goose creek, SC.

    • Amanda

      I don't agree with “It is not considered in good taste to offer a quarter for something that is already marked at 50 cents.” This is subjective. There are many people who ask way too much for items at yard sales. I feel like reminding them that they are probably going to donate the leftovers anyway! And if a half burned out candle is marked .50, I AM going to offer .25 if I need it. Or if a tablecloth is marked $1 and it has a tear, I AM going to offer .50 to use for an outdoor table for my future yard sale.

      I just think that you can't blanketly say “don't offer less on cheap items.” Value is determined by the buyer. That is capitalism. If the seller thinks they can get more, they do not have to accept the offer and the buyer has the opportunity to purchase that original price! (if they can afford to). That's the other thing. What is “cheap” for one person may not be “cheap” for another. If it takes me twice as long as you to earn .50, I might be more inclined to not get off it so easy. Besides, that's why I am probably shopping at yard sales anyway.

      • Barb

        I suppose it just rests on perspective. If I see a half-burned candle for .50 I just won't buy it.

        And, how do you know they will be donating the leftovers? That is an assumption based on your feelings that you need the money worse than the person running the sale.

        Market value is determined by supply and demand, not a particular buyer's whim. THAT is economics. If a tablecloth (even with a tear) is a hot second-hand item, the seller may know there are 10 people other than you willing to pay 1.00 and gleefully turn down your offer. If the market is flush with used tablecloths, then the seller may not be able to give it away (even at .50) because the demand is very low.

        People hold and shop at yard sales for many different reasons. Our family is on the very low end of middle-class, but I just do not have the patience to bargain on items clearly marked with low prices. I would rather spend my Sat working in the yard and just throw away the stuff.

    • claire

      Breast pumps are actually fine to buy second hand – you just want to get new bottles and shields, in other words, the parts that your milk actually touches. These can be ordered from the manufacturer, or purchased at a store. No sense in paying $300 for a new pump when you can get a used one for as little as $50.

      • Tana

        I don't mean to criticize, but breast pumps are definitely NOT fine to buy second hand.

        This is directly from the FDA website:
        “You should never buy a used breast pump or share a breast pump.
        Only FDA cleared, hospital-grade pumps should be used by more than one person. With the exception of hospital-grade pumps, the FDA considers breast pumps single-use devices. That means that a breast pump should only be used by one woman because there is no way to guarantee the pump can be cleaned and disinfected between uses by different women.
        The money you may save by buying a used pump is not worth the health risks to you or your baby. Breast pumps that are reused by different mothers can carry infectious diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis.”

        Just buying new bottles, etc is not enough because the milk particles can travel into the actual pump motor itself. This is why only hospital grade pumps can be shared, because no part of the tubing comes in contact with the motor.

    • what is this thing you call a “cash budget”????? Never heard of it!

      Thanks for recommending my website yardsalequeen.com


      • Most experts suggest that those seeking to stay on a budget only use cash for items like groceries, gas, or fun money. This way when it is gone it is gone. You aren't tempted to keep spending on the debit or credit card because you know there is money there.

        Also, you almost always have to buy with cash at a yard sale!

    • carolyn090

      garage sale advice and coupons, my two favorite things in one place ! i was able to learn from my mother how to use coupons and buy second hand items early on.i earned an allowance it was never just given . about age 8 or so i started to save my own money untill i could go to thrift stores or garage sales. it didnt take me long to figure out my money really went a long way there .

    • Sheba18

      Jenny, I'm having a garage sale this weekend, could you e-mail me your draft for next week?

    • Most experts suggest that those seeking to stay on a budget only use cash for items like groceries, gas, or fun money. This way when it is gone it is gone. You aren't tempted to keep spending on the debit or credit card because you know there is money there.

      Also, you almost always have to buy with cash at a yard sale!