Frugal Family: Yard Sale Season is Here!

A how-to guide on approaching yard sales and getting the most bang for your buck.

How I just LOVE the rush of finding a bargain!  So, I am thrilled that hunting season has begun…bargain-hunting season, that is.  Though, I in no way will claim to be a pro, I have developed some effective techniques over the years.  Since there are so many other Frugal Mamas out there, I wanted to share both my best practices and some additional tips I found online.  Hopefully, they will prove helpful during this fun time of year! 

Keep an eye out

  • Cut ads from the pennysaver or newspaper that seem worthwhile.
  • Don’t forget to check and Craiglist for yard sale postings
  • Then of course, look out for signs.  (My 6 year-old is great at this.  She is famous for initiating many “yard sale hunts”.  It is actually quite fun following the clues, a.k.a. neon signs!
  • I recently read that, sign-only, yard sales may have a better selection than the more formally advertised ones, simply based on foot traffic.

Stay organized

  • Tape the ads to an 8x11 sheet piece of paper. 
  • If only one or two are worthwhile, paperclip them to your planner instead. 
  • Smart phone users-simply input the pertinent details (address, hours, etc) into its calendar.

Have a plan of attack

  • My house is full of clutter and I think my husband would disown me if I brought in anymore!  Therefore this is an area of importance for me.
  • Know what you NEED (or where it will go)- If you don’t know, then don’t even think about reaching for your wallet. 
  • Kid Size Attack-Beingfrugal.com advices, “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.”
  • Make a list-For example, I know that I am looking for ceramic crocks/jugs, wooden retro toys, metal tins as art supply storage, and summer clothes for both myself and my daughter.
  • Impulse Shopping-Admittedly, my biggest downfalls is impulse buying!  In response, I have developed a new mantra, “Just because it is a bargain, does not mean I need it”.  All you other impulse bargain shoppers-say it with me…“just because it is a bargain does not mean I need it”

Things to Bring

  • The right purse…when I am planning on yard-saling, I use a mailbag style purse.  It eliminates the worry of losing it as well as freeing up both hands to make shopping less cumbersome.
  • Hand Sanitizer…I keep some in the car year round, but we always use a squirt as we depart a sale.
  • Batteries…I have never brought them but after reading beingfrugal.com it makes sense.  The site says, “If you carry your own batteries, you’ll never have to wonder if something works. You can test it yourself.”
  • Reusable Shopping Bags…last weekend’s yard-sales taught me to bring a reusable shopping bag with me.  There were so many great finds that my hands were overflowing.  The irony is that I keep them in my trunk, but I am famous for forgetting to bring them in the stores with me. So here’s hoping that I will actually remember to do so at each yard sale.

Money Matters

  • Dollars and Cents…After hosting my own yard sales, I realize the importance of coins and singles.  If the seller is unable to make change for a $20, then you lose out on the item completely. 
  • Bonus of singles…When you have just a couple of dollars in view, the seller will, usually, sell it to you for the amount he sees.
  • Teachable Moment… Like I said before, my 6-year-old daughter loves to go to yard sales and part of the kindergarten curriculum is identifying and quantifying money.  I have always given her an allotment of money to spend (typically $5).  The difference is that now she is responsible for the transaction.  It is adorable to watch her ask the price, ponder its worth, verify that she can afford it and then ultimately count out the correct amount.

Rules I live by

  • Put on your “yard sale” glasses…Look thoroughly at your perspective purchase and don’t be embarrassed to confirm it works. 
  • Open the Box…Check for game pieces; count the puzzle pieces and be sure to verify that what’s in the box is what’s on the box before purchasing.

Things I never buy

  • Stuffed animals (no matter how much my kids may beg), bedding, pillows, etc.
  • Unwrapped CD, DVDs or video games, I am afraid that I won’t notice a scratch or something that will cause it to not function properly.

Regardless of how hard-core you are about yard-saling, beingfrugal.com reminds us…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.”

Additional Yard Sale Resources:




Resources for hosting your own yard sale:



Christine says...



The (Saturday, May 21, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.)

This always offers great deals and steals!  Because it is a fundraiser, you not only get to experience the rush of the bargain, you leave feeling great for doing your part to help out a vital town organization.

Dwight Mac Kerron May 22, 2011 at 12:48 PM
We had a great Yard Sale, but the Stoughton Historical Society still has hundreds of great books we did not sell. We will be sorting them on Tuesday, 10-3, before we put them away for the next sale, and recycle some of them. You can stop by on Tuesday at 6 Park St. for one last look at them and a few other items. Dwight Mac Kerron


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