‘Tis the Season

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But Garage Sale Season may be my favorite.   It starts as soon as the sun is out consistently and ends around Labor Day.

People are getting rid of unneeded items at incredible prices.  Right now, we’re in a recession,  so people may be getting rid of even more to generate a little extra cash for their families.  People are moving (and, unfortunately, some are getting foreclosed on) so they need to downsize.  You will be glad if you take the time and find these sales. 

Just last week I found a Sit N Stand LX stroller for $35.  New, those puppies are around $135.  And because I have it, I can hit even more garage sales with my 3 small children.

I do understand the frustration: used junk and smelly shoes.  Here are a few ideas to help you along the way.  Think of garage sale shopping as treasure hunting!

Make a List:  Make a list of items you are likely to find used.  My list right now has patio furniture, sandbox, and leaf rake.  That way you look for those items first and with any leftover cash, you can buy the fun stuff.

The Good Stuff:  Chances are, the nicer neighborhoods will have nicer items.  Get to know your area.  The neighborhood filled with beat up cars circa 1984 may not have the quality items that the neighborhood filled with new BMWs. 

Power Shopping:  One garage sale 10 miles from your home may not be worth the drive.   However, that development in the next town that is hosting a “community garage sale” is well worth your time.  On a really nice day, park and walk.  Dress comfortably and in season and take lots of snacks for your little co-shoppers.  The community garage sales are usually advertised on the community’s website or in their newsletter.   Ask around, your friends may know.

Demographics:  You’re not likely to find toys or stylish clothes in a retirement community (though I have – grandparents clearing out very gently used toys).  But that same retirement community may have a ton of old records, neat furniture, and canning supplies.  A “younger” neighborhood is where you’ll score bags of $0.25 clothing for your kids.

Where to find:  This is where you can eliminate a lot of frustration.  Look before you buy.  Your local paper and online classifieds (like craigslist) will have that weekend’s garage sales listed out.  Many people will tell you they’re selling plus size clothing or a crib.   Make a list of these addresses and what you’re looking for there.  That way, you can just pull up and roll down the window and ask “do you still have the sand table”?  If not and you don’t see the type of items you want, keep going.

Include Him:  Add the stops with tools.  Your husband will go too and then you can jump in and out of the car faster.  And, he won’t balk when you come home with the wrong brand of cordless drill (mine is a snob about these things). 

Night before: Use Google Maps and add as many destinations as you can find.  Rearrange the destinations into a circle leaving your house and returning to your house.  Include any other errand stops you may have so you’re not wasting time or gas.

Cash:  Carry the amount of cash you’ll need for the items you are looking for.  Carry small bills and coins.  I love my $0.10 mini muffin tin!  When your money is gone, go home.  Trust me.  You will regret knowing you could’ve gotten $3 Southern Living pieces if you had more money.  Stay within your budget.

The Worm:  The old adage is true.  The early bird scores some cool stuff at garage sales!  There are garage sale gurus (and I’m not one of them).  They are the ones who show up an hour before it starts and buy up all of the antiques and then resell them at a sweet profit.  There are also moms who are desperate for inexpensive baby bedding and clothes and they arrive early too.  But if you get there first, it’s yours.

Pricing:  Know what things are worth.  Big brands are worth more.  Garage sale prices should be 25% – 30% of their new price or much much less.  That doesn’t mean that you got robbed when you paid 50% of the new price for an item you really wanted.  If you liked it, then you’re glad you have it for less than you would’ve paid at the store.

Bartering:  People will probably take your reasonable offer.  And it’s fun!  Don’t offer someone $5 for their working lawn mower.  But don’t be surprised when you offer 25% less of a marked price and they take it.   On a $40 item, I asked,  “Will you take $30?”  She said, “I’ll take $35”.  “Done.”  And it was a win win for both parties (and how I got my Sit N Stand LX). 

Estate Sales:  Let me tell you, if you’ve never been to one of these, you’re in for a treat.  You can find unopened cleaning supplies for $0.25 or nice pots and pans for $1 or garden tools for $2.  The artwork and furniture is sometimes really nice too.  They are cleaning out an entire house and you could fill yours if you want to.

No Snobbery Allowed:  If the outdoor sandbox is faded, keep in mind it will fade at your house too.  Save the $20!  If the suit is in good shape, but it’s wrinkled.  Have it dry cleaned and save $200 for goodness sake!

SCORE!!!  Look for unopened or new items that you can give away later.  Baby clothes for a future baby shower.  Bath fizzes for a birthday gift.  Make sure the packaging still looks nice and be proud when you give your friend a $30 hostess gift that you only paid $3 for.  Tell her if you want or keep it as your dirty little secret.  With that $27 you saved, take someone out for a lunch or save it for a new pair of shoes.


Disclaimer –  Garage sale shopping can be addictive.  If you get the hang of it this season, you will be a giddy child next April … like me.

Update – My dear friend Madeleine just introduced me to the best thing since sliced bread… http://www.yardsaletreasuremap.com/  It works anywhere people use craigslist!   *happy dance*



  1. Kim said,

    April 24, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Wow, I wish you were closer. We could be saleing buddies. I’ve found it’s really helpful to make a list for each kid of what they need for each season and what I’ve already got stashed. Learned this one the hard way when I ended up with 4 pairs of shoes and too many pants to fit in the drawer for one size and 6 months later the poor kid had nothing. Oops! I’m planning to keep the inventory in the glove box so I’ve got it with me when we’re out.

  2. Rebekah said,

    April 27, 2009 at 8:22 am

    I started my garage sale list last winter. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a garage sale list website friends could utilize? If I knew you were looking for a sand box and found one, I could call you up, give you the price, and buy it for you. You could do the same for me! Ahhh…wouldn’t that be delightful? Anyway, thanks for the tips. I absolutely LOVE this blog. Looking forward to more posts. The first two have already been helpful.

    • Coralie said,

      April 30, 2009 at 9:42 pm

      I have totally done that. The Etters found us a $10 bike for Syl and the Hares made a 2 for deal on our bike trailers. It works especially well for the big things that are hard to come by.

  3. Rebekah said,

    April 27, 2009 at 8:46 am

    I have a question for you: How patient are you? For example, I’m having a tough time coming up with healthy, quick recipes for my family. Not even that… It seems every week, I go to make my menu and plan the meals and snacks, and I hit a wall. I’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to get a blender so I can blend up fruits and veggies for Jude. Do I wait to find one at a garage sale? That could take a while. Do I search for one on Craig’s List? Or do I simply try to find a new one on sale? What would YOU do, Miss Thrifty?

    • kyleandclara said,

      April 29, 2009 at 4:44 pm

      I personally hardly ever use my blender even with homemade yogurt (recipe to come) and fresh fruit. If you think you’ll use it regularly, go ahead and get a nice one (with one of those 20% off Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons… they NEVER expire). The one we have is not great at blending ice, for example. If that’s okay with you, then you will probably enjoy the Target special of the week or one from a thrift store. Note about thrift stores: most have a place to plug it in and “test” to see if it works. Obviously, it would be a bummer to get home with something that doesn’t work. Garage Sales and Estate Sales are probably your best bet. There’s a nice ES in Bellevue this weekend. http://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/gms/1143594176.html

  4. Rebekah said,

    April 27, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Clara – Obviously, I’m over-eager about this blog. Hence, three comments. But Michael just made me chuckle. I have to share. He thinks you should have named your blog, “Let Me Clara-fy Some Things.” Good one, right? 🙂

    • kyleandclara said,

      April 27, 2009 at 10:38 pm

      Actually, when I was doing mission trips and stuff, I had a newsletter. I called it Clara-fi-ca-tion. True story.

  5. kyleandclara said,

    May 1, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Today I found a flower arranging frog for $2 at a garage sale. Then I found an outdoor umbrella with stand for $15 and ZipLoc Baggies, Christmas Napkins, and Cupcake papers all for $1 at an estate sale.

    A garage sale $2, estate sale $16, deals you can brag about… priceless!!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: