Whether you’re a seller who’s looking to declutter your home or you’re a buyer seeking bargains on things you need, a yard sale can be just the answer. Everyone can benefit from well-run yard sales, which often include items like clothing, cookware, books, toys, tools and furniture.

Not all yard sales are equal, however, as those that generate more foot traffic and sales are usually ones that are carefully organized and offer a wide variety of items. Here are some tips for making the most out of a yard sale or garage sale, whether you’re the one hosting the event or you’re just stopping by to shop for good deals.

Tips for hosting a successful yard sale

Yard sales can be a great way to generate funds for future goals, such as helping your kids pay for college or taking your dream vacation. What’s more, the money you make can earn some interest by being placed in a high-yield savings account.

Plan the sale well in advance

Giving yourself weeks or months to plan your yard sale means you’ll have ample time to decide what to sell and whether to make it a multi-house event.

  • Gather everything in one place. For instance, as you find things around the house you wish to sell, you might initially put everything into one corner of your basement. From there, you can sort everything further by grouping similar items together, as well as separating out clothing articles by size.
  • Consider a multi-house sale. When multiple homes in an area are hosting yard sales at the same time, it’ll often generate much more shopping interest than a single-home event. If you intend to host a yard sale in the spring, get in touch with your neighbors during the winter to gauge their interest and begin planning together.

Advertise your yard sale

  • Facebook Marketplace: Places like this on social media are often a good way to spread the word about your sale and generate foot traffic. Include your address, dates and times of the sale, what types of items you’re selling and photos of the ones you believe will generate the most interest.
  • Yard sale apps: Various mobile apps are designed to assist yard sale buyers and sellers. An example is Yard Sale Treasure Map, which shoppers can use to find sales near them and to plan a route when visiting multiple sales in a day.
  • Signs around the neighborhood: If you live in a subdivision, place a sign at each entrance. Large signs on neon poster boards will attract the attention of anyone driving by. To keep it simple, use a thick black marker to write “Yard sale” and draw an arrow. Then, help guide the way by placing additional signs with arrows at adjacent intersections.

Organize your yard sale

  • Display items thoughtfully. For instance, clothing hung on a sturdy rack can make it easy for shoppers to browse. Clothes can also be organized in bins according to size.
  • Label everything clearly. Decide what you want to charge for each item and place a clear label on it before the sale begins. Shoppers prefer this over having to keep asking you how much things cost.
  • Keep valuable items near you. If you plan to sit in one particular spot during the sale, place things near you that are worth more money to help prevent someone from walking off with them without paying.
  • Keep the money on you. Rather than keeping the money you’ve earned in a cash box on a table, keep the money on you by wearing a crossbody bag or fanny pack. This way, the cash won’t end up lost or stolen.

Yard sale pricing and payment

  • Price things to sell. Bargain hunters generally don’t expect to pay eBay or Poshmark prices at a yard sale. If you intend to sell a particular item for more money, consider selling it on such an online marketplace instead. What’s more, if you price everything too high, you’ll still be left with much of it at the end of the sale.
  • Accept electronic payments. You’ll likely generate considerably more sales if you allow people to send you money electronically through apps like Venmo or PayPal. Providing this option could really prove useful, for instance, if someone stops by without much cash on hand and notices you’re selling a bike or deck furniture they’d like to buy.

Yard sale shopping tips

There are also various ways to get the most out of a yard sale when you’re the one doing the shopping. With some advanced planning — and maybe a little negotiating — you can walk away from a yard sale with some useful items that are in good condition, for a fraction of what you’d pay at a store.

Plan before yard sale shopping

  • Make a shopping list: Before a day of yard sale shopping, identify some things you’d really like to find. Perhaps you’re a recent graduate looking for kitchenware for your new apartment, or you’re a parent in search of secondhand clothing for a rapidly growing child.
  • Find yard sales near you. Check Facebook Marketplace, apps like Yard Sale Treasure Map or websites such as Garage Sale Finder. If you intend to make a day out of it, these resources can help you find multiple sales near you and map them out.
  • Bring bags with you. While some sellers may provide bags for your purchases, there might be others who don’t. It can pay to bring your own plastic or canvas bags — or even a small foldable shopping cart if you anticipate buying many things.
  • Bring cash with you. Many sellers only accept cash, so it’s wise not to assume ahead of time that they accept any form of electronic payment — unless it’s stated in a yard sale’s ad.

Negotiating prices at a yard sale

  • Listen for other negotiations taking place. Notice whether other shoppers are trying to negotiate with the seller for lower prices, and if they have any success. This may help you decide whether it’s worth it for you to do so.
  • State your preferred price. If you wish to offer a lower amount than what’s on an item’s label (and you think your offer is reasonable) simply ask the seller. They may refuse, or they may provide a counter-offer, in turn.
  • When you visit a yard sale is key. If you visit early on the first day of a yard sale, chances are you won’t get too far with heavy negotiating. Later into the sale’s duration — such as on the final day — you may have considerably better luck since many sellers are motivated to unload as many items as possible.

What to buy at a yard sale

The sky’s the limit, as long as an item you’re interested in appears usable and undamaged.

Items commonly sold at yard sales include:

  • Children’s clothing
  • Accessories: purses, costume jewelry
  • Kitchenware: Plates, bowls, cups, utensils
  • Gardening tools
  • Small appliances: vacuum cleaners, mini-refrigerators
  • Bikes
  • Books
  • Video games
  • Toys

What not to buy at yard sales

  • Used cribs or car seats, since older ones might not meet current safety standards
  • Upholstered furniture or mattresses, since they may contain pests like bed bugs
  • Clothing or other fabric with stains that might not come out in the wash
  • Electronics, when no electric outlet is available to test whether they work

Bottom line

Hosting a yard sale can help you earn some extra money for building up your emergency fund, paying down debt or reaching other financial goals. Strategies such as advertising in advance, organizing items neatly, and offering digital payment options, can greatly help increase your success as a seller.

As a buyer, you can make the most out of yard sale shopping by creating a shopping list, mapping out yard sales near you that take place on the same day, and negotiating prices, when possible. In all, shopping at yard sales can effectively save you a bundle on items you need that are in good condition.