7 Garage Sale Tips to Help Find the Best Bargains

Spring is the time of garage sales! I always enjoy the treasure hunt of garage sales to see what bargains I can find. In fact, my friend Andrea and I are so excited about garage sales this year, we’re going to see how many we can make it to together! As frugal moms with 5 little ones between us, we need to stretch our pennies. We actually went to a church rummage sale on Friday where you could fill a paper grocery sack for only $2! I got a dozen items of clothes for Nathan and a dozen children’s books for only $2. It was a great way to start the garage sale season.

Do you like shopping garage sales for bargains? If so, here are some garage sale tips of things do before you start shopping to maximize time – and savings.

1. Make a wish list before you shop.

I start my list months ahead of time. Think about what items you would like to find as well as your target price. If you’re looking for clothes, what sizes? Are there certain brands or products you’d like to find? Be specific and keep updating your listing.

My garage sale list currently includes Little People (with a $0.25 each target price), books (always on my list – especially hardcover quality children’s literature), glass serving dishes, wire baskets, Melissa and Doug toys, puzzles, educational manipulatives, and children’s clothes. I’m also watching for surprise finds like low-priced Legos or Duplos, or other nice name brand toys. I’m always looking because I bought an entire paper sized box full of Legos for only $5 once. Amazing find!

2. Watch for neighborhood sales.

This makes good sense. Garage sales are fun but if you can shop at several that are close together, you will maximize your garage sale shopping time while also saving on gas. It’s not always possible but do watch for neighborhood sales. You’ll soon learn which are the best neighborhoods for yard sales, too. The beginning of May is a great time to watch for neighborhood sales. Also, watch for church rummage sales that offer a large selection in one place.

3. Plan out your route the night before.

If you are serious about a productive garage sale morning, make your plan the night before. I now use Craigslist as a main source for finding new garage sales. Once you have your list, highlight the ones that sound interesting, make a logical driving plan and print out any necessary driving directions. That, or have a list of addresses that you can key into your phone for directions, in the order you plan to shop. It’s much better to take a couple minutes and plan ahead so you can be ready to go first thing in the morning and can make the most of your time.

4. Arrive near the beginning of the sale, if at all possible.

There are two sides of the coin when it comes to sales. Some people love to show up right away for the best deals while others prefer to wait until the end of the sale for extra bargaining power. I’ll be honest that I arrive in the morning but not usually first thing. With two little ones at home, it just doesn’t happen right now. Whatever you do, please remember to be polite and don’t arrive until the sale is advertised to start!

5. Watch for name brand, quality items at garage sales. 

The beauty of garage sales is that name brand products are sold for a fraction of the cost. If you know what brands you like (in clothes) or what brands are reliable (in appliances), you will be able to find some great garage sale bargains. A quick search of a garage sale generally reveals a lot. If you have little children, garage sales are a great way to find clothes for even cheaper than your local thrift store!

6. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

This is still the hardest one for me because I want to be polite. Still, I do like a good bargain. At a recent garage sale, I found 3 books that were marked at $0.50. I asked the owner if he would take $1 for all 3 and he easily agreed. When negotiating, do make reasonable requests. If it is the first 15 minutes of the sale, the owner is probably not going to sell a $25 piece of furniture for only $5. With negotiating, I never cut the price more than in half. I also remind myself to ask because the worst thing that can happen is that my counter offer is denied and I pay sticker price.

7. Be patient and appreciate the unexpected bargains!

Garage sales really are a treasure hunt. You never know what you are going to find! Be willing to look but be willing to walk away. When you drive up to a garage sale, you will never know what bargains you might (or might not) find. The only way you can find a good garage sale deal is to patiently shop the garage sales. Have fun while you do!

Do you have any garage sale tips you would add to this list? What’s the best bargain you’ve (so far) found at a garage sale?

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