8 Simple Tips to Make the Most of Garage Sales

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Garage sales are as much a part of the springtime in Canada as the hockey playoffs and yard work. They can be hit or miss, but if you know what you’re doing a garage sale can be a fantastic source for frugal finds. 

Here’s a brief course on the best garage sale strategies...

1. Make a plan. 

Some people shop yard sales recreationally or professionally. We think the best strategy for saving money is to go with an actual plan. You will still likely find things if you go wandering, but will they be things you actually need? Probably not. Armed with a budget and a clear idea like “Beach Toys”, “Garden Tools” or “TV for the Cottage” you can protect yourself against impulse buying just like in a retail store.

2. Shop the right “Stores”. 

Think of your city as a Mall. 

  • The starter-home young-family neighbourhood is like the Kids store. 
  • The older, more established areas are your sources for vintage or antique stuff. 
Check out the garage sale listings for the weekend and use your regional knowledge to predict what each will offer. If you can find whole neighbourhood sales, that is like a department store!

3. Get there early. 

The “Pros” often arrive before the posted start time and try to negotiate unreasonably great deals on the best stuff with sleepy-eyed sellers looking to get the ball rolling with early sales. We don’t advocate that, but a garage sale fanatic we know said that by 9AM, all the stuff worth having will be gone, so do get an early start.

4. Be Selective. 

There is an as-is policy at garage sales, so check things over, ask to test and be really sure of purchases like appliances or other bigger ticket items. You don’t want to end up on the hook for disposing of someone else’s garbage. And there will be garbage. Expect 90% of the sales to be mediocre-to-poor, but the remaining 10%.... Ahhrr, there be treasures!

5. Know what stuff is worth. 

This connects very closely with having a budget when you head out. Only bring the cash you expect to need to buy what you’re after. This means that before you start haggling, you actually know what a “good price” is. Very few Garage Sale sellers expect to get the posted price on things, but being reasonable in a negotiation is just good manners.

6. Buy in Bulk and Save. 

Taking a whole set of something will often net you a better price than small parts of it. Look for deals on flatware or cutlery for those looking to fill a new apartment or cottage. Movies, books and collections of kids toys can also be had at great bulk buy prices. (A garage sale fanatic friend of ours got a whole Lego collection for the price of one set in a retail store).

7. Close the deal like a Pro. 

If you can’t find a price tag, don’t ask what they want for it. This gives the seller a chance to start too high. Instead, make a reasonable offer of what you’d pay for it. 

And after you negotiate a $20 item down to $15, don’t ask the seller to break a $50 for you. Carry small bills and change and drive a vehicle that can actually carry what you are looking to buy. Some sellers will hold things for you while you run to a bank machine or find a buddy with a mini-van, but don’t expect those kinds of offers. Go ready to buy, but…

8. …Be ready to walk away. 

If it really isn’t a good deal or the seller seems to have unreasonable expectations of the quality and selling price, be OK with moving on to another sale (Remember, most are bad, but every “bad” gets you closer to a “good”).

Have you got hot garage sale tips to share?


  1. Great tips! I'm not much of a garage-saler--as your article points out, it's actually quite a bit of work to make it worth your while. I just don't like to get up and out that early in the morning! :-)


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