Hooray for Yard Sale Season! ~ Top 10 Treasure Hunting Tips


My favorite signs of spring are yellow.


yard sale signI spotted that big yellow arrow in my neighborhood the other day. Garage Sales. Yard Sales. Junking. Whatever you call it, let’s all pump our fists in the air and shout, “Woo hoo! Treasure Hunting Season has begun!”

* * *

Here are 10 tips for a successful treasure hunt:

(plus a super-secret BONUS TIP at the end)

1. Bring cash. Lots of it. In small bills.

Stuffed in your pockets.

Will you look a little sketchy with wads of $1 bills shoved in your pocket? Yes, you will. But so what? Don’t even bother with a purse. You need both hands to check tables and chairs for sturdiness, open and close dresser drawers, and closely examine china for chips. Also when you negotiate a cool bargain, it is so much easier to just pull exact change out of your pocket instead of rooting around your purse for your wallet then whipping out a $20 and asking for change.

Asking for change is a sure sign of an amateur.

I’m totally violating Rule #1 here. If your pants don’t have good pockets and you must bring your purse, keep those small bills in an easy to reach compartment and sling it over your neck to keep your hands free. Please note my sensible footwear fully complies with Rule #2. 🙂

2. Do NOT wear flip-flops. Ever.

I’m serious about this one. Your pedicure looks really cute, but please please cover up your toes. I move a lot of furniture and always end up dropping something heavy on my foot. Plus you could be parking on rough terrain, walking up hills and across uneven ground. For the love of your feet, please wear comfy close-toed walking shoes.

3. Slow down on the coffee, Turbo.

The Early Bird gets first pick of all the good stuff so it is important to rise and shine. However, sometimes the Early Bird needs a white chocolate mocha or two to shine so early on a Saturday morning. I’m not a morning person AT ALL so I understand, but I will warn you to go easy on the coffee. Nobody likes going junking with an Early Bird who needs to stop every five minutes and find a bathroom.

Just saying…

4. Drive carefully. Bring a spotter.

You don’t want to be that car slamming on the brakes and crossing over two lanes of traffic because you were paying more attention to the yard sale signs than to your driving. Bringing a friend is way more fun than going alone—and an extra set of eyes. My mom should be nicknamed “Eagle Eyes” because she can spot a cardboard sign stapled to a light pole from a mile away. We also like to cruise a sale first to see if there is anything interesting-looking enough for us to stop and get out. If it is just a bunch of tables piled high with clothes, we keep driving. This is also where your spotter comes in handy because she can check out the goods while the driver has to watch for all the other crazy yard sale drivers out there.


Eagle Eyes

5. Plan ahead, but remain flexible.

Craig’s List is my go-to source for Saturday morning yard sales. I start checking around Thursday or Friday and I make a list of neighborhoods that seem to be having a lot of sales that weekend. Another quick check early Saturday morning and I map out a route. However, some of the best sales are ones we just stumble upon while driving around so it is good to have a plan, but keep your eyes open to signage as well.

6. Buy a good, old-fashioned ADC map book.

Online maps are great and my cell phone GPS gets us where we need to go 99% of the time, but…

adc mapThere was this one time when I thought for sure I knew where we were going so I didn’t bother looking it up first. We got there and it was totally the wrong place!

This wrong place had LOUSY signal and I could not for the life of me get my GPS working. A simple glance at an old-school map book would have showed we were only a few blocks off from our destination. We were sooooo close, but had no idea.

I now keep an ADC map in my car at all times. I also like that it gives me a bigger picture of the area than you get on your cell phone screen, which helps when you are navigating unfamiliar neighborhoods.

7. Skip anything that advertises kids clothing or toys.

(Unless you are in the market for kids clothing or toys, of course! In that case, totally ignore this one.) I’m in the market for anything I can paint or upcycle into something else so I like to hit up older neighborhoods because their residents tend to have older, cooler stuff to get rid of.

Checking out the merchandise

8. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

This part used to make me really nervous, but it is all part of the fun. Again, it pays to have a plan. I decide in my head how much I am willing to pay for an item before I ever ask the price. It is really nice when a seller labels items with price tags. Then you can look at a $2 item and ask politely if they are willing to take $1 for it. If they say yes…SCORE! If they say no… No worries. You can either pay the $2 or say “have a nice day.” Easy peasy.


If you don’t see a label, just ask how much is it. If the price is way, way above what I was willing to pay, I say thank you and walk away. There’s no point in insulting someone with a super-low price if it appears they place a much higher value on the item than you do.

However, if the price is in the ballpark I was thinking about, I will negotiate. The first time I did this, I was really  nervous. I found a nice mirror labeled $7. I was totally willing to pay $7 for it, but I bravely asked the seller if she would take $5. She said yes. She didn’t even flinch. It was like she was EXPECTING someone to offer $5 for her $7 mirror.

That was an A-Ha moment for me.


9. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

Just because you ask for a lower price, doesn’t mean the seller has to agree to it. You win some, you lose some. If you really love an item, it might be worth it to pay the full asking price. If it isn’t a great deal, it is OK to walk away.  You don’t owe anybody a sale just because you asked about an item. This also used to make me nervous. I felt so rude! But it isn’t about being rude, it is about spending your money wisely. If the deal doesn’t feel right to you, then you have every right to walk away.

Trust your gut feeling.

10. Don’t be discouraged.


Some Saturdays you will come home with an awesome treasure and feel like the Indiana Jones of Yard Sales. Some Saturdays you will come home empty-handed. It’s OK. There’s always next week …

And isn’t that all part of the fun?

*  *  *


Most yard sales start wrapping up by early afternoon. That’s the time to go bold on your offers because sellers are usually more willing to accept a much lower price towards the end of the day. Early afternoon is also a great time to check the free section of Craig’s List for “yard sale leftovers”. Some people just don’t want to bother hauling everything back into their house or to Goodwill so they put it to the curb and advertise it on Craig’s List for free.

These are the leftovers everyone has passed over all morning, but you never know. If you are up for more adventure, it could end up being the best find of the day.

*  *  *

Do you have any great yard sale tips to share? What is your greatest yard sale find ever? Please let us know in the comments section. We would love to hear from you.
Happy Treasure Hunting!


P.S.—When you are out Treasure Hunting, keep your eyes open for awesome small pieces of furniture like side tables, chairs, small bookshelves. These are PERFECT for our Paint Your Own Piece Furniture Workshops at All Things New Again in Leesburg, Virginia! You bring in your diamond in the rough and we’ll teach you how to make it sparkle. Here’s the link with details.

4 responses to “Hooray for Yard Sale Season! ~ Top 10 Treasure Hunting Tips

  1. You are like me I love love yd sales, thrift stores, my fun and therapy !!
    Hi to your mom and dad !!

  2. I love this! You are so wise when it comes to bargains and yard sales.. I should take a tip from the expert and come along with you and Eagle Eyes because you seem to really find the good stuff out here! Great post 🙂

  3. Pingback: Trash to Treasure: A Checklist for Choosing Great Furniture to Redo | All Things New Again·

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