Make us your home page

Here's the Deal: Buying? Selling? Get the most out of yard, garage sales

Please don't call me cheap. I prefer thrifty.

Any given Saturday I prowl neighborhood streets for yard sales, cruise driveways laden with strangers' junk and make their trash my treasure. How devoted? Sometimes I carry a flashlight on a cord for sellers who don't mind early birds sifting through boxes while they're still setting up. I can drive by and assess in seconds whether it's worth the stop.

And could there be a better time for bargains?

Scoff if you like, but then check out my like-new mission style Pottery Barn coffee table ($20), the flawless Lenox vase ($2), my still-in-the-box-with-price tags-attached leather Fossil wristlet ($2). Check out a $3 ladder, a beautifully weathered $50 set of teak lawn furniture and my perpetually changing stack of books — hardbacks $1, paperbacks 50 cents.

True story: My nephew was 6 when he spent a dollar on a silver bracelet for me at a garage sale. (I had him in training.) Stamped inside: Tiffany & Co.

Which is not to say you don't have to dig through a lot of holey Jimmy Buffett T-shirts and bent silverware to get to the good stuff. But hey, that's half the fun.

Having a sale yourself purges cupboards and closets and makes you some coin. Cruising them saves bucks, and it's a pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning with like-minded scavengers.

So, some basics:

Hints for having a great sale

1. Signage, signage, signage. Big, clear, easy to read. Post signs the night before or very early on nearby major roads and at logical turns, like bread crumbs to your house. Extra points for big arrows. Addresses larger than numbers on a dime: priceless.

2. Be brutally objective and realistic in pricing your items. What to you may be a precious memory of Nana and her famous peanut butter snickerdoodles is to everyone else a battered, blackened cookie sheet. Remember that people did not come to your yard for Macy's or Target prices. Think: Seriously, what would I pay for this at a yard sale? If you still need help, check out

And for the love of sanity, invest in price stickers and spend a half-hour beforehand filling them out.

3. Launder the launderable, wipe down the wipable. Clean sells. Organize your stuff so people can walk around it easily.

4. Allow for dickering, embrace haggling, and be prepared to counter the inevitable savvy lowballers. It's fun, particularly when you meet at a price and everyone's happy.

5. Have plenty of change. Keep quarters, singles, fives and tens in an apron pocket or cigar box monitored by one responsible adult. Three customers in a row with twenties can take down a badly planned sale.

6. Kids selling canned drinks and waters from an icy cooler are always a plus. And don't forget the diet drinks.

7. Start early. Seven to 9 a.m. is prime time. After that, it's dregs.

8. Be prepared to haul those dregs to a church thrift store or Goodwill when it's over (by 11 a.m.). Wasn't purging the point?

Tips for rummaging

1. Do your homework. Find neighborhoods known for sales. Check the classifieds. Start scouting signs on Fridays.

2. Grab a go-cup and get out early. I once arrived at a 7 a.m. sale at 7:15 to see the couch of my dreams riding away on the back of a pickup. I think of it still …

3. Bring singles and change. And bigger bucks if you're looking for furniture and higher-end items.

4. If the price is high, make an offer. Don't be shy. Most times, the seller will work with you.

5. Park so it's convenient to exit. A few doors down if need be. A busy sale can set you back valuable prime time when there's a mini traffic jam or a single rude parker.

6. On Saturday, avoid sales that started Friday. Can you say picked over?

7. Ask to plug in appliances. No refunds in yard sale world.

8. Buy soda or lemonade from enterprising kids. Even if it's undrinkable. It encourages entrepreneurship, and hey, it's good garage sale karma.

Best buys

1. Tools, hoses, ladders

2. DVDs and books

3. Jewelry

4. Furniture, indoor and out

5. Kids' clothes and toys, particularly the hard plastic kind that drool and other substances have not permeated

6. A million unimaginable finds: a monkey lamp, vintage Barbies, a trike for a granddaughter, beading supplies, a lawn mower, a Three Stooges garbage can, a minifridge … It's out there, somewhere.

Here's the deal: Send us your ideas

What tips do you have for saving money in this awful economy? Share your secrets for publication in an upcoming feature. Send us an e-mail at, check us out on Facebook at Here's the Deal Tampa Bay; or follow us on Twitter at @HeresTheDealFL

Here's the Deal: Buying? Selling? Get the most out of yard, garage sales 10/09/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 10, 2011 9:35am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Justice Department says civil rights law does not protect gay people

    Working Life

    The Department of Justice has filed court papers arguing that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation in a case now being considered by a New York appeals court.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday. Sessions is traveling to El Salvador to meet with local leaders and discuss their efforts to fight gangs like MS-13. [Pablo Martinez Monsivais | Associated Press]
  2. Duke Energy quietly builds a $1.5 billion plant in Citrus County


    CRYSTAL RIVER — Sequestered in a remote part of Citrus County is the most expensive development project you likely haven't heard of.

    Robby Armstrong, Sr., construction specialist at Duke Energy, leads a tour through construction on the combined cycle natural gas plant at the Crystal River Energy Complex. The $1.5 billion project is the largest Duke Energy combined cycle project. Construction is about midway through and expected to be completed in 2018.
[MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  3. Sign up for the daily News at Noon email newsletter


    The Tampa Bay Times has launched a daily newsletter called News at Noon. It'll be the perfect way to catch up with the latest breaking news and our top stories right in your inbox each weekday.

  4. Jeff Bezos tops Bill Gates as world's richest person — for now


    A surge in Inc. shares Thursday morning in advance of the online retailer's earnings report has propelled founder Jeff Bezos past Bill Gates as the world's richest person, according to a Bloomberg report.

    Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, discusses his Blue Origin reusable rocket project in Colorado Springs in April. A bump in the price of Amazon shares in July of 2017 was enough to move  Bezos above Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, who has topped Forbes' billionaires list 18 out of the last 23 years. 
(Nick Cote | The New York Times]
  5. Verizon is back: Unlimited data is boosting subscriptions


    After posting surprising losses among cellphone subscribers earlier this year, Verizon is back. The wireless carrier said Thursday that it has added 358,000 phone subscribers over the past several months, blowing analyst expectations out of the water and showing that its unlimited data plans are helping to keep …

    Verizon said Thursday that it has added 358,000 phone subscribers over the past several months, blowing analyst expectations out of the water and showing that its unlimited data plans are helping to keep customers loyal.
(Associated Press]