Mom Living,  Stylish Living

How To Shop At Garage Sales and Find Great Things

A few weeks ago I covered the ins and outs of organizing and holding a garage sale.  You can check out that post here.  This week I’m going to cover how to shop at garage sales and find great things.  Let’s face it, outfitting kids is expensive.  So is getting things for your home, yourself, or hobbies.  Why not save some money and try garage sales to get the items you need at a fraction of the price.

Tips to find great deals at garage sales

How To Shop At Garage Sales

Have you ever tried garage sailing?  Or do you find it yourself spending pointless hours rummaging around only to come up empty-handed?

Luckily there is usually someone else getting rid of their junk.  Junk you’re looking for.  Except it isn’t junk.  Someone else’s trash becomes your treasure.

Know what to shop for

Make a list of what you need.  If I’m shopping for kids clothes I go through what I already have and make a list of what items are missing to complete the wardrobe, like style, seasons, size or colors.

For house hold items I keep a notebook and write down things as I think of them.  Currently my list has a step stool, kayak, decorative baskets and a small wall clock.  I like to see if I can get this type of stuff second-hand before going to a store and they are usually things I don’t need right away.

Go To The Places that are selling what you need

Scope out the neighborhood.  If you’re looking for kids items go to neighborhoods that have kids in them.   If you’re looking for household goods and yard tools go to neighborhoods with retired folks who are down sizing.  As you peruse ads look for keywords like, no more baby sale, downsizing or moving sale.

Only Pay for the Price You Want to pay

Have a price point in mind?  If you don’t want to pay a price for something pass it up.  There will always be another sale selling a similar thing for less.  This especially is true for kids clothes.  Some sales will have jeans for $5.00.  Go across the street and you might find kids jeans for $1.00.

If you really want the item it doesn’t hurt to negotiate the price.  You can name the price you want to pay and see what the seller says.  If you’re not comfortable giving the seller a price asking “what’s the best you can do” is polite way to ask.

Know the Price If It Were Brand New

Personally I think there is nothing worse than seeing a garage sale item priced higher than what a store would price the item brand new.  Do some research and get familiar with what stores charge both on regular prices and markdowns.

Obviously certain brands will be more expensive than others.  Wal-Mart  brands are generally cheaper than Nike or Gap.  Again if you think an item is overpriced and you really want to buy it ask to negotiate.

Check The Condition

Does it still work?  If it’s an electronic ask to plug it in and turn on.  If the seller isn’t able to let you try it out, pass on the item.  One time I wasted $15 on a portable DVD player that supposedly “worked.”  I was assured it was barely used and still in good working order.  I found out the true condition of the DVD player on a family trip when the player wouldn’t play any of our movies.

For clothing and soft goods look for things like holes, missing buttons, smells, and stains.  It’s really not a great deal if you buy something, bring it home and discover it has a funky odor.

Know the Brands and Trends

I keep up on fashion and keep a list of stores I would shop at everyday if I could.  I love Gap, JCrew, H&M, Banana Republic, etc.  I try clothes on at those stores so I know how the sizes fit.  I also look up to see what is trending for the season.  Then I keep my eye out for those things at the garage sale.  I’m thankful for people who sell things like that.  We get the benefits of their disposable wares.

For kids clothes I know what brands are durable and fit them the best.  The obvious brands include Old Navy, Gymboree, Children’s Place, Oshkosh B’Gosh and Granimals.

With household items just look through home decor magazines to see what’s in style.  You never know, you may find those trends at a rummage sale.  Go to stores like Bed Bath and Beyond and look at their higher end and higher quality brands.  Look for those same names at garage sales.

Find Great Things

Here are some things I found after going to a few garage sales.

Current Trend Outfit

I went to a sale that advertised name brand and junior clothing in my size.  The outfit in this picture includes a JCrew tank, Gap cardigan, Forever 21 leggings and Franco Sarto sandals.  I did not negotiate the price because everything was marked $1.  There were no holes, or stains, so I was sold.

Back To School Shoes

My oldest had wanted Addidas High-Tops.  I went to a sale advertising name brand clothes with sizes that would fit my him. We found a gem of a deal with these shoes.  These were brand new because the original owner outgrew them before getting to wear them.  They were meant for my son though, they fit him perfectly and the price was good too.

Entertainment Stand

I had been looking for a new TV stand for our living room after redecorating it.  I went to a downsizing sale.  The lady who owned it did not have any kids or pets so the stand was free from dings and scratches.  It was the perfect style and size for my space.  The seller just wanted to get rid of it, so I got it for free!  I was prepared to pay the $15, I thought that was a bargain to begin with.  She said my kids were cute and gave me a deal.  Maybe that’s another tip, bring your kids.


There are 3 things I love about the warmer months, nicer weather, getting outdoors and garage sales.  It didn’t used to always be that way.  I have memories of being dragged to sales with my grandparents and looking at musty crusty things.  Old people things my juvenile mind used to think.  I guess my grandparents influence rubbed off on me because there is nothing better than finding a great deal.

I hope these tips will help you on your next rummaging adventure so you know how shop at garage sales and find great things for yourself.




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  • Jenny

    This is great! I love a good deal. I got a beautiful old wooden high chair for my daughter (and all three kids have used it) for $8. They were selling it for $10 and I was prepared to pay $15, but the guy thought my daughter was adorable and gave it to me for $8. When I got home, I sanded it down, painted it with a jar of $3 sample paint and aged it. It was perfect during the time when shabby chic/farmhouse was popular. Refurbished ones were going for $80+ online!

    • admin

      That’s great! I love refurbishing items. It’s fun to save money and make it your own. I know people who go to sales by something cheap, give it a make over and sell it at a higher price.

  • Ina @ Crafty For Home

    We always have garage sale parade once a year in our community, it is so much fun, I love to see all people come out to checking out what on sales. I usually just checking out bikes or furniture.

    • admin

      City Wide or neighborhood sales are so much fun. I like to get out for a walk with my toddler and look at everything too!

  • candy

    We use to shop at garage sales all the time when the kids were young. I still do sometimes but not as much now. Don’t over look them and know your prices.

    • admin

      It is so easy to outfit kids when they are little at garage sales. I’m finding that as mine get older it is harder to find things for them.

  • Diane

    Garage sales and estate sales are my latest obsession! These are all great tips!! I recently got a whole dining set and a hutch for next to nothing and it is beautiful!!

  • Melissa

    Some of my favorite childhood memories are of Saturday morning rounds with my mom and grandma hitting the garage sales. I never thought to go at it logically like this. It was simply see a sale, jump out and see what goodies we could find. Of course, we usually ended up with many spontaneous buys we really couldn’t pass up (or use!) but it was so much fun.

    • admin

      I do that too at times, because it’s fun just to go to see what is out there. When I know I want to get a lot of things, like next season clothes for my kids I need to stick to a plan.

  • Kimberly

    Great tips! I am always the person that buys wayyyy too much stuff at a garage sale! Theres always so many things that I find that I don’t really need. Definitely need to keep this in mind next time!

    • admin

      Yeah that’s the hard thing about all the bargains, easy to get hooked and over indulge. Even though it’s cheap it’s easy to overspend.

  • Leslie

    These are great tips! I haven’t been to a garage well since I was small. I would go every weekend with my grandparents, I had so much fun. I visit thrift stores since we live in the trendy part of town the store doesn’t disappoint.

  • Amy

    Scoping out the neighborhood is a great tip! I love yard sales, but don’t get to frequent them often because I dislike dragging my kids to them. They always have a million requests (they want to buy everyone’s junk!) and are done after three minutes.

    • admin

      I hear you on dragging the kids around. I actually bring the tablet and let them play games in the car while I shop. I don’t care if they get screen time everyone is happy. If they insist on coming i reiterate we only buy what we need and not something jusr because it’s cheap.