Tips from a Yard Sale Newbie

Last Saturday morning I found myself up and moving at 7:30 in the morning- making tea, grabbing some change, and moseying on over to a nearby community yard sale. I’ve been wanting to hit up some yard sales for a few weeks now as part of my summer ‘staycation.’ I had a few things I was hoping to find, but mostly just wanted to see what treasures unsuspecting townsfolk were seeking to lose to people like me. Little did I know, I was heading for the jackpot of yard sales… a subdivision-wide yard sale.

Holy. Moley.

It was huge. I mean, HUGE.

With street after street lined with home-owners selling their goods, it was hard to know where to start! This was really my first time exploring the world of a yard-sale hunter, so I thought I’d share some things that I learned.

1. If you’re going to be looking for something in particular, make a list before you start your search.

I had decided Friday that I’d be going yard-sale shopping the next day, so I made a short list of items to be on the lookout for while I was out. It was really nice to be able to look at my little post-it note between houses to make sure I was on the right track! There are a lot of items sitting out at these things – especially the multi-family sales – and you might lose focus. Lists are good.

2. Decide how much money you’re going to spend beforehand and only bring that much cash with you… and have it in small bills.

I had about $11 total when I left my house. That wasn’t by any design, I just only had that much cash remaining from my last paycheck. For what I was looking for, it was a good amount. I came home with 77 cents, and that’s after buying a lemonade from a girl in her driveway in addition to all my goodies! The good thing about yard sales is they’re cash-only… when you run out, you’re done. So think about what you’re looking for, bring enough money to cover those type of items, and refer to number one. Your money will stretch as you make offers on pieces, and you won’t have spent a fortune.

3. Think about the possibilities for the pieces you’re looking at, not what they’re like as-is.

In a world of Pinterest and DIY-fever, yard sales are a dream. Go into the sale with the mindset that paint works wonders. I bought a tea pot that I intend to paint a pretty color and use as a storage container and decorative piece on my desk. Right now it has fruit painted on it, and I don’t particularly like it. But I saw it, loved the size and shape, and bought it because I could see the potential for cuteness. Visualize, my friends. Dream a little. Make pieces work for your style and space.

1. Make them an offer they can’t probably won’t refuse.

I am not a haggler. I went to NYC my senior year of high school during spring break and remember being in Chinatown watching  in amazement as a girl in my group talked down the price of a handbag. She thought it was fun. I could only think about how I couldn’t do that. So walking into a community yard sale, knowing that people do tend to ask for prices to be lowered made me nervous. Most of the time I’d rather just look at the little colored circle, note the price and be on my way so as not to offend or stir up any drama with a yard-saling-mama.

My first purchase, I did just that. I found two spinning globe bookends. They were marked $2, so I grabbed them and told the kind lady I would take them. And I paid her $2. But then I found my next items… a dorm-room sized trash can with a little foot pedal that opens the lid and a little golden display stand. They wanted $2 for the trash can and $1 for the stand. I wanted them both, but I didn’t want to pay $1 for the stand, so I asked if I could have both items for $2. The nice lady said, “absolutely,” and I was on my way. My last item, a silver tea set, had an asking price of $5… I had $3.77 left and offered that to the man. He counter-offered for lower, and took $3 even. You see, they want that stuff gone. So don’t be afraid to ask them to let you have it for what you’re comfortable with spending. The worst they can do is say no… and even if they do, they will probably be nice about it.

By the end of my hunt, I had two items left that I wanted to buy- the tea set and the art piece/future tray. I had ~$5 left and the two sellers were asking $8 in total for the two items. I had to get my haggle on if I wanted to walk away with both. I confess, when I asked for the art piece and the woman agreed, I gave an enthusiastic “YES!!!” and explained that she was helping me get that one last item I really wanted. She was amused, and I was happy. Win-win. Then like I said, the tea set guy took less than I offered. “You’re the BEST,” I told him. And it felt really, really good to have my offers accepted. I was kind of on a haggle-high. So even if you’re like ‘I just want to pay for the item and leave,” try making an offer anyway. You may warm up to it. ;)

5. Be friendly. 

I exchanged pleasant good mornings to several people… some sellers, some fellow treasure-hunters. It made the day better. If someone has a cute dog in one hand and is perusing the items on a table with the other, tell them their dog’s adorable.  (Yes, I did that. *grin*) Pet owners love to hear that; you’ll probably make their day. The lady who has been sitting in her driveway since 7am unpacking and setting up her family’s stuff and then sitting, waiting for people to buy it? Smile and say hello. Ask her how she’s doing. Wave farewell on your way to the next house. Make sure you’re not just looking at the stuff around you… take a look at the people, too. Have a little conversation. Kindness goes a long way. :)

So that’s my advice for you fellow newbie weekend warriors. Get out there and hunt that treasure. And when you find it? Treat yo’ self. ;)