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It’s Official: Yard Sale Season is Upon Us

yard sale sign
Ahoy, there be treasure hidden here.

In the Northeastern US, the yard sale season starts during Memorial Day Weekend and ends over Labor Day weekend. I love yard sales for many reasons:

  • find stuff you need for cheaper
  • keep stuff out of landfills a little longer
  • discover items from your childhood or things you’ve only heard about but never seen in person
  • interact with (mostly) nice folks

Some folks love yardsaling like I do, and others just hate it. And there are those who wonder what it’s all about. For those in the last group, I’ve listed some pointers and guidelines to maximize your yard sale experience.

Finding Yard Sales

I usually grab a copy of the local paper and look in the classifieds for upcoming yard sale listings. For those who live in a more populated area, I’ve heard that craigslist is a pretty good source too. IMO though, stick with the local paper; the local paper probably has a website that lists their classifieds too, and whatever route you create from the local listings will suffice, as you’ll most likely run across unlisted sales, neighbors taking advantage of the free advertising. With the local classifieds in hand, I mark the ones that sound promising (e.g., “electronics” or “old photography” ) and avoid others (e.g., “baby clothes”; baby clothes are everywhere ,  of course except when you actually need to find baby clothes). Then I enter the addresses into Google Map and see where the yard sales are relative to one another, plan a route, and print it out.

Around this time I also email friends if they’re interested in going. In addition to being a lot more fun than yardsaling solo, yardsaling with others also increases your chances of finding something you’re looking for as you have more pair of eyes scanning each sale, improves your negotiation (more on this later), and acts as a reality check (“are you really going to use that scythe to mow the lawn?” True story).

Day of the Sale

Early birds are annoying, but you do want to start your yard saling around the start time, which typically starts at either 8 or 9am. Here’s a list of stuff I recommend having on hand for a yard sale session:

  • small change. Easier to pay for stuff and doesn’t look as bad compared to getting change for a $20 for an item you haggled down to $2.
  • water bottle. Depending on the area you live in, you’ll get dehydrated quickly. Coffee is a common alternative.
  • list of things you would like to get. This helps keep your searches more focused and reduces the chances that you missed something at a yard sale.
  • hand sanitizer. You will be picking up and inspecting a lot of stuff of which you rarely know where it has been. Baby wipes are a good alternative too.

Depending on how big your list is, you’ll want to spend the first couple of minutes at a sale scanning the piles. If your initial impression is that it’s a bunch of crap, leave and get to the next sale. You can always come back if you regret it.

Haggling Guidelines

So you found an item or a couple of items that you’re interested in buying. Here are some guidelines:

  • think whether you will actually use the item. This is where having a list comes in handy because if it’s on the list, you’ve already thought about it.
  • think about what’s the most you would pay for it. Unless you ABSOLUTELY need that item, you should always be willing to walk away from the sale. You may have pangs of regret –I know I have on several occasions– but also know that you saved money and it’s one less item in your place. It also helps that you can usually find the same item at another sale.
  • in general, you can reasonably start at half of the asking price. Anything below that significantly decreases your odds of getting the item and may also insult the seller. Exceptions to this are items that are listed for $1 or less. There’s an alternative to getting a lower price:
  • see if there’s anything else at that particular yard sale that you’re interested in. Sometimes you can get a cheaper price per item if you offer to buy more items, as most sellers are most interested in getting rid of stuff rather than making a profit (more on this in another post on hosting a yard sale). This is where having friends along helps a lot, as you can pool the items that the group is interested in.
  • be nice. (Most) Sellers put a lot of effort into running a yard sale, so be respectful. Even if their stuff is crap and/or the sellers are douchebags, be courteous, at least until you get into the car and drive off.  An aside to this is if you offer a reasonable price (i.e., at least half of the asking price) and they get mad about it, just walk away. It’s not worth it and more power to the seller.

Release the Hounds…

There are many sites that focus on yard sales with a ton of tips and how-to’s, but if you follow the suggestions listed above, you and your friends will have a productive and hopefully enjoyable yard sale experience. And if you do go yardsaling enough, you’ll most likely need to have a yard sale yourself, which I’ll talk about in another post. Until then, happy yardsaling!