Six Things I Look For At Yard Sales – And How I Get Them Even Cheaper

Let’s face it: most items at yard sales are junk. The stuff is out there because it’s stuff that the family conducting the sale wants to get rid of – they often look at it as trash that they might be able to make $100 off of on a good weekend.

With that in mind, I do often visit yard sales, looking for specific items of various kinds. Here are the six things I usually look for at yard sales.

Old towels Don’t think of them as towels, think of them as heavy-duty rags for various purposes. I keep a tub of these out in the basement and, for a lot of things, they’re better if they’re well worn. If I get them heavily oil stained, so what? I just get them as clean as I possibly can (with bleach) and keep using them until they fall apart.

Junky t-shirts for the whole family T-shirts to wear when you’re mowing, cleaning, and so on. We actually keep these in a tub in the garage and sometimes use these for rags as well.

Children’s books Almost constantly, I see piles of children’s books that look as though they were scarcely read and I can pick up a pile of them for a dollar or two. I look for ones for all ages, putting into storage the ones that are just too advanced for my children at this stage.

Collectibles that I’m knowledgeable about This includes things like baseball cards and vintage video games. I usually have a really good idea what something is worth, and it’s paid off for me many times.

Plastic food containers Tupperware and the like are what I’m looking for. If the lid attaches tightly but easily, I’ll pretty much always take it, as I’m always looking for more containers for the pantry (for different kinds of pasta, flour, etc.).

Children’s clothes This is something many yard-salers look for, but surprisingly many people just buy one item or two. I tend to like to shop for these late and offer a very lowball price for everything in specific sizes.

Having said that, here are the tactics that I use to get even better deals:

Negotiate Realize that most of the items are ones that the people there are viewing as one step away from Goodwill or the dumpster and negotiate with them.

Buy large groupings of stuff Make an offer for everything in a certain set of items, like all of the old video games or all of the towels. I usually offer about 40% of the total value of all of the items if it’s early in the sale. If it’s near the end…

Offer very low amounts of money near the end of a sale If you’re there late on Sunday afternoon, you can often clean up. Make absurdly low offers for stuff and you’ll often find those offers are taken. I have been known to make offers for bundles of stuff at about 15% of what they’re listed for, even at yard sale prices.

Remember, you’re not going to yard sales to find items to display in places of pride. Look for big bargains on stuff with utility – and don’t buy stuff you’re not going to actually use or need.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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