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Yard Sale Tips & Etiquette


On a limited budget? Need to stretch that paycheck further? Have a garage sale! Or you can save a lot of money by shopping at garage and yard sales. Churches and organizations often hold white elephant sales or manage thrift stores, too. Whether you want to make a little cash or spend little cash, the following tips are useful to know for yard sale buyers and sellers.


For Sellers


  • Check to see if your community or neighborhood has any ordinances concerning garage or yard sales. My town limits households to two yard sales per year.

  • Saturday is the best day for yard sales. Some have two-day sales starting on Friday, but often the second day is a waste of time unless you're having a half-price sale to move the picked-over items. I have attended second day estate sales and found some good buys at the reduced prices. Having a garage sale is hard work, and if your time is valuable, ask yourself if it’s worth all the time preparing for it and putting it on.

  • Advertise online for free in places like Craig's List and social media, including community Facebook pages. Posting photos of some of your items can also bring people by. 

  • Make sure you have an ample collection of usable items for sale. Cars will often drive on by if they see only a table of knick-knacks and clothes. Furniture is always a draw; decorative and household items such as linens and dishes are popular. Toys that are clean and working tend to sell well. Working tools are also picked up quickly at yard sales.

  • If you don't have much to sell, consider teaming up with family or neighbors.

  • As for clothes, infants and children's clothes tend to sell much better than adults' because they're easier to fit. I'll buy clothes at a garage sale if the prices are low enough to risk them not fitting. My best clothing buy: an expensive leather jacket for $5.00.

  • Start pricing items well before the day of your yard sale. Some sellers are content to not price anything and have buyers make offers, but most buyers would rather see a price tag and not have to negotiate every item. A fast way to price is to use different colored stickers that represent a small range of prices. Bigger items can be priced individually.

  • Price your items to move! Remember you want people to pay you to haul away your unwanted stuff. Make it worth their while to do so. I've seen too many people invest a tremendous amount of time and effort setting up a yard sale only to sell very little because their items were priced too high.

  • Initial or color-code the price tags per individuals or households. When an item is purchased, use something like a spiral notebook to post the sale using separate pages for each participant. Or for quicker record-keeping, pull the price tags off the sold items and stick them to the respective person's page of sales.

  • Make sure your items are clean and organized. It's best if you have tables to display smaller items, but if you don't, place items on tarps or blankets in the yard. If you don't want people stepping on the blankets, fold them in narrow widths where people can easily reach items.

  • If there is a chance of rain, you can still have your sale in a covered area like a porch or garage. My best buy on a rainy day: a nice, working toaster for 25 cents.

  • If your sale is in your garage, cover items not for sale with tarps or sheets. If you are selling larger items out of your house, allow buyers into a very limited area in your house and have someone working inside the entire time to protect your valuables.  Our biggest loss from a moving sale: a family rifle was stolen from a bedroom closet when we allowed buyers to roam throughout the house to see furniture we were selling. 

  • If you are selling jewelry, display them by your cashier. We learned the hard way that some people will steal at yard sales, even with rock-bottom prices. 

  • Have plenty of change on hand. One person using a twenty-dollar bill to buy a fifty-cent item can eat up your change fast. It's good to price things that are easy to add up. Don't price anything less than a quarter so you only deal with quarters and bills when making change. If an item isn't worth a quarter, group or bag it with something else. Best free item: an IKEA loft bed someone was giving away if we would haul it off.

  • Check to see if it's okay in your neighborhood to post signs directing traffic from busier streets to your yard sales. Some communities prohibit signs on public property, but it may be okay to post them in private yards with their permission. My most embarrassing garage sale moment: I walked up to a house where the driveway was filled with stuff, but learned they were just cleaning out their garage. The actual garage sale was down the street.

  • When making signs, keep them simple & brief, the letters large and easy to read. "Yard Sale" and an arrow are adequate. Neon colors are easy to spot, but weighted boxes will also work as signs. Some signs include street addresses, but buyers may not be familiar with street names and locations, so the arrows work best at directing traffic to your sale.

  • If you have neighbors close by, give them a heads up about your sale so they'll be prepared for the extra traffic and parking on the street.

  • We set up four tables (2 were borrowed) in the garage the day before and filled them with smaller garage sale items so it would be so easy to open the garage door and carry them out to the driveway the next morning. We set larger items underneath and around them and were ready to go.

The Day of:

  • Put the direction signs out right before your garage sale starts; otherwise, early birds will start rummaging through your yard before you get out of bed. 

  • It's easier and probably safer to have more than one person helping, but if you are putting on a yard sale by yourself, keep your money in a tummy pack or apron on your person. Do not leave a cash box unattended.

  • If someone needs to come back in another vehicle to pick up a larger item, make sure they come back in a timely manner so you won't be tied down for hours after your yard sale is over.

  • You can be as strict or as lenient as you choose when it comes to early birds. Some people refuse to follow your schedule and will show up at the crack of dawn and start shopping whether you are ready or not. If you want to discourage early birds from shopping before you are set up, you can put on your online listing and even post a big sign before you set up that early birds will be charged double. Another clever couple stretched crime scene tape around their carport and posted a sign that said "Early birds will be shot." Just remember to take those signs down once your garage sale begins. : )

  • Most of your sales will take place the first two hours, so our garage sales ended at 12 noon. We advertise an 8 to 12 noon yard sale so we're not tied down all day for only a few more sales. 


  • DON'T FORGET to pick up your posted signs immediately after the yard sale is over! Leaving them is littering, and that's probably the biggest reason many HOAs and ordinance patrols like to prohibit yard sales. It costs them time and effort to pick up abandoned signs. And it's very frustrating for buyers to follow out-of-date yard sale signs that lead to no sale in sight. 

  • If you've partnered with other family or friends with your yard sale, remember to subtract the money for the change you started with before settling up. If the money ends up high or low from what your records show, divide the profit or loss evenly among the participants.

  • Donate any unsold items to area thrift stores, etc. if one of your goals was to de-clutter your house. I know some people who box up unsold items for their next yard sale, but for most, doing that defeats the purpose. If an item didn't sell the first time around, it probably won't sell the second time either unless you drop the price.

For Buyers 

Tips & Etiquette

  • On Thursday or Friday, check your community’s Facebook page and Craig's List online for garage/yard or estate sales in your area. Make a list of any that sound promising along with the instructions to find them. Also note the times they start.

  • If you regularly go  to garage/yard sales, keep a list of what you are looking for. Don't buy things you don't need, or in no time at all your house will begin to look like the next contender for "Hoarders: Buried Alive." Make sure you have a place and a purpose for the things you buy. Otherwise, your clutter can get out of control fast.

  • Get an early start and hit the earliest sales first, working your way around to the ones that start later. Most sellers don't appreciate you showing up before they are ready for you to be there.

  • Take plenty of quarters and dollar bills for buying smaller items so you won't eat up the seller's change with larger bills. If you are looking for more expensive items like furniture, take plenty of cash with you.

  • If you think something is priced too high, see if they'll negotiate to bring the price down. Ofttimes they will, but if something is a good price, pay them and move on. You don't have to haggle over the price of every item. 

  • Do not park in or block the entrance to a neighbor's driveway. 

  • Be polite. I've seen some of the worst behavior at yard sales-- people driving too fast during neighborhood garage sales trying to beat other people to the next sale, or people arguing over something. At one garage sale I asked the price of a trundle bed, and as soon as the lady told me, a woman behind me hollered, "I'll take it!" before I could open my mouth. It was a good buy, but it wasn't worth arguing with someone over it. If it had been my garage sale, though, I would've given the first person that asked me the price first dibs on the item before I'd sell it to the one who so rudely interrupted

Try not let your "garage sale" buying habit get out of hand, or you've defeated your purpose of saving money. It's not a good deal when you've bought yet another item you don't need or don't have room for.


Enjoy yourself! Yard sales are great ways to meet new people and share information. It's also a fun way to entertain your children or grandchildren inexpensively, and you can teach them the value of money at the same time. Don't keep beating yourself up for missing some great deal. Be patient. You'll get another opportunity at another yard sale. And if you come home empty-handed, pat yourself on the back for saving money.

Donna Van Cleve

November 2020

House, Past-times/Hobbies 

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