Ask Kara-Tips from a garage sale queen

I am often asked about how I score such amazing finds/deals at garage sales. I buy a large majority of our stuff second hand, and I thought that I would share some tips for buying and selling at garage sales.

Tips for buying:

  1. I usually look on Craigslist and at the Gazette Times online to check out where the sales are each week.
  2. How an ad is written can sometimes determine which garage sales I go to. Often times people will write specific items that they will be selling, and I have often found things that way. For example, I got our wooden dollhouse and dolls at a sale that specifically mentioned that they would be selling a wooden dollhouse and lots of other wooden toys. Also, I realize that this may sound bad, but if an ad has really poor grammar and a ton of typos, I usually won’t go to the sale. On the other hand, if the ad is really witty/funny or has a lot of detail about the sale, I will probably want to check it out.
  3. Don’t assume that the fanciest neighborhoods have the best garage sales. Of course there can be great sales in fancy neighborhoods, but I’ve also sometimes found that the fanciest houses price their items too high. I went to a garage sale where the lady was asking $8 for vhs. Don’t people know that they should pretty much just give those away for free now?  I have found great sales all over town in many different neighborhoods. Often times the sales within biking distance to campus are good, because I may find the sale of a professor with 1 or 2 kids who likes to buy nice quality things.
  4. When you go to a really good garage sale, ask them if they do a sale yearly. There are many families who have sales every single year on the same weekend. There is one garage sale I have gone to for the last 3 years where I literally buy 75% of Sofia’s wardrobe in the next size (and many of the clothes are like new or have tags on them still). Score! I have to admit that I sometimes feel a little embarrassed showing my face to a garage sale years in a row, but hey, I have actually made friends that way :). I even helped a mom decide on a name for her baby at a garage sale this summer. She came up to me at the sale later and told me that she really felt good about the name that I gave her (it was Elijah in case you were wondering).   Leave your pride and coolness at home (if you unlike me were super cool to begin with).
  5. Think twice about trying to solicit lower prices too much. If I am buying a more expensive item, I may ask the seller if they would be willing to drop the price a little. The only other time that I ask for the price to be lowered is if I am buying a large amount of things. Unless something is seriously overpriced (which happens sometimes), I usually just pay whatever is being asked.  I mean.. there is being a garage sale lady and then there is being “that weird” garage sale lady. I once saw a lady trying to talk down the price of 0.25 items… I mean really… just pay the quarter and move on lady.
  6. I usually have to bring my kids with me when I garage sale, so I have to be very selective about where I go. I feel bad, but I often do drive-bys where I slowly drive by and “window shop” without getting me or my kids out of the car. I do not want to drag all of my kids out of the car if I can tell that there is nothing that I need.

Tips for Throwing a Garage Sale:

  1. Make sure to advertise your garage sale! Like I said above, be as specific as you can in the ad of what your sale will be like.  Also, make sure and take your signs down when you are finished. It is really annoying when someone keeps their signs up a week after the sale is over.
  2. If I were going to do a garage sale, I wouldn’t run it any later than 1:00. People who are serious about garage sales go  in the morning, not at 3:00 in the afternoon.
  3. It is always good to try to go in with other families. Multi-Family garage sales are bigger and can be more appealing.
  4. Really think about your pricing. I know that we can all get attached to our stuff, but do you want to price your things to sell, or do you want to haul it all to Goodwill afterward? Price things at garage sale prices and not Craigslist prices (unless it is hot ticket item that you know will be popular). If I want to charge Craigslist prices, then take the time to post your stuff on that site.
  5. Do  not make your customers feel uncomfortable by following them around telling them how much you paid for things new or go on and on about how much your baby loved that baby bouncer (that is now in crappy condition). Just let them do their thing and answer any questions that they might have.

And just for fun, here are a few of my scores from garages sales this summer:


I got Gabe a Giant bike that retails for almost $150 for $8. It is stored away in the attic for his October birthday.

I bought a Kitchen Aid Food Processor for $5. This retails for over $150. It is a missing a piece that I will probably pay $15 for online, but it is still an amazing deal.


This Swedish high chair retails for around $250, and I got it for $30. It is compact, and you can turn it into an adult chair when you are done with it.

I bought these $50 toddler Uggs for $1.

I bought some like new Danskos a little different than these ones for $5 (my neighbor said they had only been worn a couple of times). Most Danskos retail for over $100.


My kids are all each completely set for clothes in the next size, and I have found lots of other treasures as well. Have you all been having good garage sale luck this summer? Do you have any extra tips to share that I didn’t mention?

Wendy M. - August 11, 2011 - 9:06 am

Oh, Kara- I just want you to be my garage sale personal-shopper. :-) I’m always impressed with your success in finding great items! I haven’t had any luck with the few sales I’ve visited this year (although I do feel pretty good about the items I’ve found at the Furniture Share benefit sales- you *have* to go with me next time!)

EmmaJ - August 12, 2011 - 4:06 am

I wish I lived near you so we could go to yard sales together and I could learn from your wisdom. I don’t go to yard sales, I have just never had good luck so I stopped going. I have had great luck at the REI Attic sale though.

kara - August 12, 2011 - 1:31 pm

Give me a list!! I really do want to make it with you to the furniture sale. Keep asking me, and eventually I will be able to go :)
My sister just scored for us at the REI attic sale. She got each of my kids brand new looking keens in the next size for $8!!

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