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Garage sale tips for saving money & time

Garage sale tips.

Garage Sale Tips

I have been an avid garage sale shopper for over ten years. My husband still marvels that I have trouble waking up every morning except Saturdays during garage sale season. What can I say? I love a great deal!

Now that the warm weather is here, I am counting the days until my first-yard sale of the year. Here are a few tips I have learned to make the most of this unique shopping season.

In Advance

Make a needs list and a wish list

Make a list (as a family) of items that are necessities (you need to buy them within the next year) and items that would be treated. Get the kids involved in this process.

We just compiled our list and it includes hockey skates, baseball gloves, clothes for boy #1 to grow into, athletic pants for boy #2, shorts for boy #3, and a life jacket for the baby. Our household list includes a bookshelf and a lamp table.

Ask around

If you have babies or toddlers, ask other parents what items they recommend for the next stage in your child’s life. Even though your 18 months old might chew on puzzles now, they will be able to do simple puzzles within a year. Better to buy them reduced, than to pay full price when it’s not garage sale season.

Remember, kids, reach so many milestones within the first few years, and their interests are often changing frequently.

The night before

Plan your route

Friday nights are planning time for me. Check out Kijiji, Craigslist, and local online sites for yard sales. I plan my route around street sales, complex and multi-family sales to maximize my time. You will get to know communities that have annual sales and can watch diligently for those ones.

Yard Sale Route

Usually, people who take the time to post about their garage sales will have larger quantities to sell.

Get the car ready

I keep a few shopping baskets and bags in the trunk so I can easily transport my treasures at the end of the day. Don’t forget to go to the gas station if necessary. You don’t want to worry about having to stop for gas in the middle of yard sale shopping!

Pack a snack & drinks

Time is precious if you are trying to get to a lot of yard sales. Not having to stop for snacks and drinks saves you both time and money.

The day of

What to wear:

  • A hat. How many times have I burnt my scalp when shopping outside for hours? Too many.
  • A fanny pouch for your lists and loose change – no large bills. It’s hard to offer someone a lower price of $1 and then pull out a $20 bill.

What to bring:

  • Tape measure (to measure furniture)
  • Duffel bag for smaller purchases
  • Batteries to test items

Keep referring back to your list. Buy only what you know you will use, or you will be offsetting your savings. If you are pondering an item, carry it around with you so no one else scoops it up while you think.

Use garage sales as a teaching tool

When my boys were little, they received coins for doing extra jobs. We stored their money in magnetic tins on the fridge. Each tin was labeled with their names and they toted them proudly to yard sales.

Yard Sale with Kids

For efficiency, I do love to shop alone. But – many times I bring my boys so they can spend their coins and learning lasting lessons through this experience, such as:

  • When your money is gone, it’s gone. You then have to window shop for the rest of the day.
  • Paying full retail prices is not wise.
  • Negotiating can be fun (and effective when you are 3).
  • Toys you feel desperate to get today, you will outgrow or tire of sooner than you think.

Making memories with my kids in this way, and helping them learn life lessons, reminds me that it is worth slowing my pace to let them come along.

What are your best garage sale deals?


  1. Ana

    Hi Karen,

    I love your posts- do you have your own blog / website I could follow?

  2. Karen

    I don’t have kids, but I loved those life lessons!

  3. Catherine

    Awh yeah who could say no to a little child?

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