SC Johnson Family Economics Blog
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tips for Successful Yard Sale Shopping | Family Economics

By Lynnae

I'm always happy to see the sun come out in the spring because it means yard sale season has arrived! I love a great bargain, and yard sales are a great place to find things at a fraction of their retail price.

Believe it or not, there is an art to successful yard sale shopping. Keep these tips in mind to make the best use of your time and money.

Make a list. I like to keep a running list of things my family needs. I take the list with me when I hit the yard sales, so if I see a bargain on something like girl's clothing, I don't have to guess what size my daughter wears. A list also keeps me from getting caught up in the moment. It's easy to overspend when I feel like I'm getting a great deal. A list helps me focus on purchasing only those things my family needs.

Bring lots of change. I once stopped at a yard sale on a lark. I wasn't planning on shopping, but I happened to see a sale. I found a book I'd been wanting to read, priced at 50 cents. Since I wasn't prepared, I only had a twenty dollar bill. The seller didn't have any change. Always carry lots of change, so this doesn't happen to you. The seller will appreciate not having to break a $20.

Consider the time of day. There are advantages to shopping early in the day and advantages to shopping late. I use different shopping strategies, depending on what time of day I go out. If I'm the first person to hit a sale, I know I'll get there before the good items are gone, but I'll likely have to pay the asking price for anything I buy. If I shop late in the afternoon, I have more bargaining power, but I won't have as much selection. In the late afternoon, the yard sales are winding down, and sellers just want to get rid of whatever is left. Sometimes sellers will even give away the things that remain. You should never be afraid to bargain at a yard sale, but you'll likely have more success later in the day.

Bring a bag or two. Every once in a while I hit a sale that has a lot of things I need at prices that seem almost too good to be true. At these times it's handy to have a bag on hand, so you can hold all the things you plan to purchase while you’re still shopping. Great sales like these attract lots of customers, so you want to make sure you hang on to anything you might like to buy. If you set it down, chances are good it will be gone before you can pick it up again. Having a shopping bag ensures you won't be limited by what your hands can hold. Keeping your purchases-to-be in a bag also frees you up to carry a tired child, if you need to.

Try before you buy. If you are interested in buying electronics, ask if you can plug in the item and try it before you decide to make a purchase. Carefully inspect clothing for holes and stains. Open boxes. Ask questions. While yard sales are a great place to find bargains, always keep in mind that all purchases are final. Make sure things are working before you spend your hard earned money.

Whatever your strategy for yard sale shopping, make sure you have fun!

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