The Best Things to Buy at Yard Sales

As an avid garage sale hound, I've gotten pretty good at picking out fantastic buys. I would much rather buy used than new for a lot of reasons, but saving money and recycling are at the top of my list.

For price, garage/yard sales are the best places to find a bargain. The problem with garage sales is that it's a bargain of opportunity. You never know what you'll find when you go out.

Thrift stores have more inventory, but you generally pay a bit more for their effort.

I must admit I don't have very good luck at thrift stores. Occasionally I'll find a bargain, but the good stuff is usually in someone else's basket. 😧 Or in the back still waiting to be priced.

But yard sales, garage sales, and estate sales have long been gold mines for us. Estate sales are usually a bit pricier, especially on the first or second day, but they are the best places to find excellent bargains on antiques and better quality furniture.

Estate sales generally liquidate an entire estate of an older person who has died or moved into smaller accommodations, so there is a whole house full of furniture, electronics, clothes, kitchenware, and decor. We hit estate sales specifically for antiques and decor.

I guarantee you, people are going to have a field day when it comes time to liquidate our estate.😍

What are the best buys at these various tag sales?

• Garden decor, tools, and pots. Towards the fall and early winter, people are anxious to get rid of gardening paraphernalia, perhaps discovering they have no skill or love for  gardening. I've bought expensive pots and tools for less than 10% of their retail price.

• Books. There aren't as many as there used to be given that most people are reading electronically, but I like to pick up a favorite classic or nonfiction when I see them.

• Clothes. Occasionally, I'll find jeans in my size, but clothing bargains were made for growing children. I always see parents of young families flock to the clothing tables.

• Tools. This one can be iffy. If you know what a good tool looks like, you can find bargains. Unless you hit an estate sale, most tools are too worn out for the price. Buyer beware.

• Furniture. For the higher end stuff, head for estate sales, but if you're a DIYer, you can score some great finds in solid wood furniture and refinish them for a few bucks.

• Christmas. Scads of Christmas decor can be found nearly all year long, though they do go fast closer to the holidays.

• Kitchenware. You can outfit an entire kitchen with what you can find at a yard sale. I still pick up the occasional serving bowl that's just the right size for two people.

• Decor. I prefer estate sales for decor, but every once in a while I find some great buys at a regular garage sale. Most of my house has been furnished with garage sale finds. Recently I picked up this vintage crock (in picture) for a dollar. I'm told it's valuable, but I liked it for its aesthetics.

Although I'd describe my home decor as traditional, I like to put an eclectic spin on where I put them.

• Collectibles. I see a lot of collectibles. My collections are limited to dog-themed art, but if you're into mainstream collectibles like Barbie, Avon, or vintage dishware, you can find them, especially in older neighborhoods.

• Jewelry. I always hear of people scoring real stone jewelry, but I don't have an eye for bling. I don't wear it so I don't know what's valuable. I do know there's a lot of it out there, ripe for the jewelry hunter.

One benefit of hunting garage sales is that we get to visit some very nice neighborhoods. I love seeing how they landscape their homes. I'm always looking for ideas.

Garage sales can be great fun. Go with a friend and spend the day hunting. What's the best buy you've ever scored, either at garage sales or retail?


Many years ago, buying books at garage sales was how I got most of my reading material. Now, I tend to just look for quirky decor type objects.

I always enjoy looking at different neighborhoods and landscaping and outdoor decorations. Not that I ever recreate them or anything, but looking is fun. :)
lynnviehl said…
I'm maxed out on dishes, furniture and books, but I will look for fabric and sewing notions at estate and garage sales. I like old sewing baskets, too, as they're usually stuffed with useful things (and sometimes money. I found $20.00 tucked away in one I bought at a rummage sale.)

I think my thriftiest find was an entire bolt of black broadcloth that was a bit dusty but otherwise looked to be in mint condition. I use black fabric a lot, and from the size I thought it was about eight or ten yards.

The lady selling it only wanted two dollars for the whole bolt because it had been her mother's, and she didn't sew. Turned out to be twenty yards, and washed up perfectly. Broadcloth is $6.99 a yard new, so I saved $137.00. :)
Maria Zannini said…
Madeline: It's always fun to see how people landscape. I've seen some awesome layouts.
Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: I used to look for vintage sewing baskets but they're always so overpriced here. I finally settled for a more functional, but less beautiful partitioned box.

Lucky you finding that $20! You did great on that bolt of fabric too!

For me, the consumables I look for are garden fencing, netting, and planters. I'm still looking for my St Francis statue. I came close last week but it was above my spending limit.
Betty said…
I don't frequent many garage sales these days but earlier like when we still lived in Montana, I would go and buy books and then put them on Amazon and make some money that way. When we had garage sales to liquidate hubby's parents' home, books didn't do very well then, or maybe those particular books didn't, even with the price of 25 cents each. You are right, kitchen items are very popular to buy at garage sales, and of course toys and clothes if it is a young family putting on the sale. I found at least with our clothes that we didn't get too many takers. Tools are great too if they are reasonably priced. Now that we are going to be moving into the cooler weather here, I'm going to start checking out more garage sales to look for kids' clothing and toys :)

Maria Zannini said…
Betty: I sometimes buy kid's stuffed toys for the dogs. So often kids grow so fast, clothes and toys are hardly worn.
The best buy ever was the 7 foot leather couch and it goes to my hubby, we were at a farm sale and I had picked up a oil painting that I love from a Quebec artist and I had moved on to the wagon to pull down boxes to dig though to see what I would get, while they will hold up a few higher prices items most of our farm sales go by the box and its a good idea to take the time to poke though them.

Hubby was still over on the lane that was doing furniture.. not something we were look for at the time.. but I heard his voice, loud and strong.. TWO BUCKS

So moved over and went what did we buy dear? and he says.. well you see.. that big brown seven foot leather couch.. yes?? I said.. they started at 800 and it just kept going down.. 500, three hundred, one hundred, fifty.. finally the guy said.. the first person who offers us two dollars gets it..

So hubby called out TWO bucks.. the paperwork came with it, it was seven years old and have been bought for 3000.. nice couch but huge! Its a funny story because hubby never bids LOL and come on.. a two dollar leather couch.. never going to ever happen again.
Maria Zannini said…
Farmgal: Wow! That is awesome! Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Your hubby knows to open the door when opportunity knocks. :)
Michael Keyton said…
I don't think we have garage sales as such in the UK. We do have 'car boot' sales when a field is hired and people turn up and empty their car boots of stuff they no long want. Problem there is that it's already curated, the good stuff too often kept.
Maria Zannini said…
There's a local charity where I'm forced to donate if I don't want to travel to the big city.
I found out the owner of this charity cherry-picks what comes in and sells the high dollar stuff elsewhere. It might be anecdotal, but the scuttlebutt is she keeps the very best stuff for herself.

It's her business and she can do what she wants, but since all that's left in her store is the low end stuff, there's not much point in shopping there.
LD Masterson said…
Books! I look for authors I know, or at least favorite genres. Most garage sales practically give books away.
Maria Zannini said…
Linda: Books are getting hard to find by me. I guess everyone is switching to digital.