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Yard sales: 6 things to buy and how to get a better deal

Develop a plan before you start.

By Karen Datko Sep 29, 2009 5:45PM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


Let's face it: Most items at garage sales and yard sales are junk. It's stuff the family conducting the sale wants to get rid of, hoping to make $100 on a good weekend. 

With that in mind, I often visit yard sales to look for specific items. Here are six things I usually look for:

  • Old towels. Don’t think of them as towels; think of them as heavy-duty rags. I keep a tub of them in the basement, and, for a lot of things, they’re better if they’re well-worn. If I get them heavily stained with oil, so what? I get them as clean as possible with bleach and keep using them until they fall apart.

  • Junky T-shirts for the whole family. We keep T-shirts to wear while mowing or cleaning in a tub in the garage, and sometimes use them for rags as well.

  • Children’s books. I find piles of children’s books that look as though they were scarcely read, and I pick up a stack for a dollar or two. I look for books for all ages, storing the books that are too advanced for my children.

  • Collectibles I’m knowledgeable about. This includes baseball cards and vintage video games. I usually have a good idea what something is worth, and that has paid off for me many times.

  • Plastic food containers. I'm looking for Tupperware and the like. If the lid attaches tightly but easily, I’ll always take it, because I’m always looking for more storage containers for the pantry.

  • Children’s clothes. Many people who shop yard sales are looking for kids' clothes but surprisingly buy just one or two items. I tend to shop for them late in the day and offer a  lowball price for everything in specific sizes.

Having said that, here are the tactics I use to get even better deals:


Negotiate. Do that knowing that the sellers view the items as one step away from Goodwill or the Dumpster.


Buy large groupings of stuff. Make an offer for all the old video games or all the towels. I usually offer about 40% of the total asking price if it's early in the sale. 


Offer even less near the end of a sale. If you’re there late Sunday afternoon, make absurdly low offers. I have been known to make offers for bundles of stuff at 15% of what they're listed for.


Remember, you’re not going to yard sales to find items to display with pride. Look for big bargains on stuff with utility -- and don't buy things you’re not going to use or need.


Other articles of interest at The Simple Dollar:

Published Nov. 20, 2007
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