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52 Ways to Save at Least $100 Per Year: Get the Best Bang for Your Buck at Yard Sales {Week 16}

Every Monday in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.
This post by MaryEllen from last year was so good and helpful that I wanted to re-air it this week as yard sale season is starting to gear up again…

Guest post by MaryEllen at The Deal Scoop

The reader tip on stockpiling clothes is something our family has already been using to save an incredible amount of money each year. As I read through the comments on the post, I noticed some readers’ concerns.

There were some readers who don’t think they could find good enough deals at yard sales to make stockpiling clothing worth their while. Some felt that all they can find at yard sales is junk and that they would rather buy clearance items at the stores. Then there were those who admitted that they aren’t organized enough to know what they need and don’t need.

Here are a few tips on how to get the best prices at yard sales and how our family has been able to make stockpiling clothing work for us:

On Friday night, check your local paper or ads for Saturday’s yard sales.

(Or if you live an area with a lot of Friday sales, check on Thursday night. Go whenever is best for the area in which you live.) Most people will list some specific items that they will be selling. Mark the ones that specifically have kids’ clothing listing and skip the rest. In my family’s experience, you will barely have time to make it to just those yard sales, and there is no sense wasting time and gas going to yard sales that don’t have what you’re looking for.

Plan your route ahead of time.

If you need directions to certain places, be sure you have them all printed out the night before so you can go from place to place quickly and use gas efficiently. The more gas you use, the more those yard sale clothes will cost you!

Go as early as possible in the morning.

Many people think there is only junk to be found at yard sales, but a lot of times that’s because there are high-quality items to be had for nearly pennies. The first ones at the yard sales find all the best stuff before it’s gone!

Set a target price and don’t be afraid to make deals in order to hit it.

This is probably the most crucial part to the whole game of stockpiling clothing, and I’ll be the first to admit that my husband is more skilled at it than I am. Our family’s personal target is $0.25 per clothing item, $1 for a pair of shoes and up to $1 for nice dresses for our daughter. That may seem like quite an ambitious goal, but my husband has proven to me that it is quite doable. Here’s what I’ve learned by watching him:

::If a seller has high quality items and is asking 50 cents each, pick out three things and ask if they will take $1 for all three. Nine times out of ten, they will. Although that is $0.33 per item and not the target $0.25, you can average it out later.

::Ask the seller if they will consider a bag special. If there are a good number of items in which you are interested, ask the seller if they will allow you to fill a shopping bag for a certain price. If they will sell you a bag of clothing for $3 to $5, you should be able to hit your target price. (This is especially true when you’re buying smaller sizes because you can fit more pieces into the bag.)

If they charge $5, you’ll need to fit at least 20 pieces into the bag in order to hit $0.25 an item. (It’s amazing how many pieces will go in when they’re folded neatly!) If they charge $3, you need to fit at least 12 pieces in the bag in order to hit your target.

Then, there are always the sellers who surprise you by saying, “Sure, fill a bag for $1!” It happens, and those are the times that help you bring your average back down to the target price when you’ve paid a little more for something you really like.

::If a seller is asking $1 for a pair of shoes, ask if they’ll take $0.50. The worst they can say is “no”, and if they say “yes”, you’ve just brought your average price per item down. If they’re asking $2, ask if they’ll take $1. Then you can get the shoes at your target price.

Skip the junk.

Don’t buy something just because it happens to be your target price. If you don’t like it or it’s worn out, skip it. You’ll find something else later.

Buy only classic styles and colors.

Remember, by the time your children wear the clothes you find, it may be a couple years down the road. Trendy things go out of style very quickly and you’ll end up not using them and wasting your money.

Keep a detailed list of what you have and what you need.

I don’t think it makes sense to buy another pair of pants, even if they are only $0.25, if our son already has enough pairs in that size. On the other hand, if the end of yard sale season is approaching and we see that he still needs pants for the upcoming winter, we can up our target price for that item. I’d rather pay $0.50 or $0.75 for the pants instead of waiting until we get out the winter clothes only to find out we have to run to Walmart and buy a couple pairs at full price.

Spreadsheet Tip:

Our family uses two spreadsheets, one for boy clothes and one for girl clothes. Each spreadsheet includes every size from birth through several sizes beyond what our children currently wear.

There are categories for every different item, such as play shirts, shorts, dress pants, dress shirts, etc. We also include every size of shoes.

Every time we come home from yard sales we immediately wash everything and add it to the spreadsheet. The next time we find something at our target price we can check to see if we already have enough of that item in that particular size. We keep a copy of our spreadsheets on the computer, and carry a printed copy with us to the yard sales.

Properly organize all the clothes you have stockpiled.

It’s no fun to know you have clothes available when your child has a growth spurt, but you can’t find them anywhere! I like to keep everything in airtight tubs that are labeled by size and gender. I haven’t figured out a better way to do shoes, so everything just gets thrown into either a “boy’s shoes bin” or a “girl’s shoes bin”.

When one of our kids outgrows their shoes, I just look on the spreadsheet to make sure we have the next size for them. Then I can rummage through the bin to get their next size shoe. I love being able to make a trip to the attic when our kids have a growth spurt instead of making an emergency trip to the store!

We Save Over $140 Per Year By Stockpiling Clothing and Shopping at Yard Sales

If you’re still not convinced that stockpiling clothing from yard sales would be worth it to you, here are a couple rough figures of how much money we save this way. Let’s say my little girl needs a minimum of five tops, five bottoms, three Sunday dresses and three pairs of shoes for each season. If we buy the five tops and five bottoms at $0.25, the three Sunday dresses for $1 each, and the three pairs of shoes for $1 each, we end up spending $8.50 for an entire season’s worth of clothing.

If we found some really great sales at Target or Walmart and bought the same amount of clothing for $5 a piece, we would spend $80. So we save at very minimum $71.50 per season, or $143 a year per child.

The more children you have, the more your savings will multiply. Plus, though I have nothing against clothes from Target or Walmart, our children are wearing Children’s Place, OshKosh, Gymboree, and Carter’s clothing instead. Many times the clothes and shoes we find are brand-new with the tags still on.

I do understand that this method of saving on children’s clothing is not going to work for 100% of you due to lack of storage space or because you may live in a rural area with very few yard sales. However, I do hope that those of you who have the means to do so will give some of these tips a try. You may be surprised at how well you can do!

MaryEllen Bream is a stay-at-home mom who is always looking for more ways to stretch her family’s budget. When she’s not playing with her kids or shopping yard sales for their clothes, she can be found sharing deals and money-saving tips on her blog.

photo credit

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  • Jessicamay says:

    Thanks so much for this article! I live in a town that is HUGE on yard sales and I try to hunt deals all spring and summer but never thought of what implementing a little organizations could do. I will definitely be trying this out!

    I just wrote about the flip side of this process:

  • This reminds me of Amy Dacyzyn! 🙂

  • Charli says:

    I use yard sales to stockpile my three growing boys clothing as well. Most of their clothes are better brands as well – Nike, Under Armour, Gap – I’ve even scored new New Balance shoes on a couple of occasions. It’s a huge money saver. I never thought of using a spread sheet before though – what a great idea! Thanks for the tip.

  • Marie says:

    I definitely believe in garage sales but in order for it to work and be the most beneficial you need to be organized. I typically will make a list of what I am looking for. I also don’t make special trips for garage sales. Their are two neighborhoods by me that have garage sales. You need to get their before the garage sales start or you can’t even move through the streets! It’s a little insane but it’s very high quality items for peanuts!
    When my kids were smaller I bought more kids clothes at garage sales but since have found a better way to find their clothes. It cost just slightly more but I save a lot more too considering time and gas. And for our budget we are okay with that.
    Garage sales are also great for home items. I needed folding chairs so I put it on a list. I found one house that had a set of 4 for $15. I made a note but didn’t get them because it was more then I wanted to spend. But I made a note of the house number and street in case I didn’t find any. Luckily, I did! I found a set of 4 brand new ones with cushioned seats for $10!!
    Know how much you’re willing to spend and be willing to look around.

    • Brandi says:

      I garage sale for my teaching apparel. The other teachers are always asking where I got them and I say, well, I spent a dollar at a garage sale for it, but I think the tag says J Jill. Went to the mall with my sister (she loves her brands) and couldn’t believe how much she pays for her clothing. She kept asking if I wanted to try anything on and I kept saying, I would never spend that much. I don’t spend more than $5 for a high quality dress shirt that I will wear several years. She was flabbergasted.

  • Debbie says:

    The only thing I would really hate to do is the asking them to take a lower price…after all, people have yard sales usually because they too need extra money, and so when visitors are constantly asking for discounts on things you already are selling for way less than you paid, that keeps them from making the money they may need too….good article..:)

    • Erin says:

      Agreed! The early bird bargain seekers drive me nuts. In principle, I won’t do deals first thing in the morning. I mean, things are already inexpensive, and you’re going to try and talk me down a quarter? I don’t sweat not selling my kids clothes so I don’t do discounts. I donate to Goodwill at the end of the day. The writeoffs are better than the pocket change made by selling them.

    • Emily says:

      Not necessarily. My husband and I participate in our neighborhood yearly yard sale to get rid of stuff, not because we need extra money. We don’t put prices on our stuff. We ask the buyers to just make us an offer. We usually accept an offer, unless it is a ridiculous one. Whatever we don’t sell, we put out at our curb for free. WHatever is still there the next day, we take to goodwill.

    • Heather says:

      I totally agree with you. I’m all for finding a bargain, but asking to reduce a shirt to a quarter when it is marked 50 cents seems a little harsh to me, especially when the owner probably originally spent $15 or more on it. NONE of my neighbors will have rummages…NONE (I know because I was trying to get a neighborhood rummage together). I asked them why and the all cited how insulted they felt by the low-ballers. They just give their items to Goodwill (where the items get priced at $1.99 – $4.99 in our area, by the way) and take the tax write-off. Just sayin…

    • Jessica Valentino says:

      There are two types of people having a garage sale, those who are hoping to make money and those who just want to get rid of stuff. I can usually tell which type I am at right away. I would say it is at least 50/50. I usually just glance around the kind where the owners are not looking to bargain. I wonder if those who price things lower end up making more in the long run.

  • Heather says:

    This is what we do! And it works so well. Also by having the list and the totes when the kids are gifted clothes that are too big or we get a bag of hand me downs I can go through add what we need and pass the rest on. I’ve got a stack of totes (1 per size for 3,6,9 and 12 months and then divided by gender for 2T, 3T, 4T, etc) and they are where I go shopping! In fact with the rain today, but a 70s day FINALLY in the forecast for this week today is our clothing switchover day. I’m pulling out summer stuff and putting away the smaller winter things.

    It is a blessing to be able to pull from 2T-4T for our tall, but skinny 2 year old and have things that fit her from all the sizes. I don’t have to drag her to stores to try things on or buy and then return. We shop through the totes and what fits gets warn and what doesn’t stays in until the next go around when it will!

  • karen b says:

    I love all these tips, but was wondering how old your children were? Our children are older & we have found especially w/ the oldest one that there is no way you can find jeans that fits an over 6 foot child thats thin as can be:) We just noticed in our area the older they have gotten( youngest is 12) that it just gets harder & harder to find clothes that we will allow our children to wear & no way do you find decent dresses or skirts(our daughter only wears dresses or skirts) so Goodwill is our next favorite palce to shop. I will say here that we are very careful what our children wear & that makes a difference on what you can find the older they are. We also live in the country so have to consider alot of factors. I would also like to say that w/ a child the size our oldest is we prettty much have to buy brand new jeans, & yes that can get expenscive.

    • h says:

      We have this problem with shoes. My child has a wide foot and the only thing that fits well is Stride Rite. I actually prefer the children’s consignment sales (twice yearly) to garage sales. Get what I need in much less ttime.

  • Lana says:

    I am not trying to be ugly here but the reason I no longer have yard sales and I have heard the same from most of my friends is that people show up early and expect to get all of the good stuff for nothing. I never priced clothing at more than 50 cents and I think that is a giveaway price considering that thrift stores are charging a minimum of $1.50 for an item in my area.

    • elizabeth says:

      I agree. For me I prefer to just pass around hand me downs to ppl I know, and also receive from them for free. Then the stuff we can’t use gets donated. I was very disappointed with my one garage sale, when ppl wanted to buy stuff with tags for a nickel. I would hate todo thatto someone else. I think this really depends on the area you live in!:)

    • Hanneke says:

      I refuse to shop yard sales, such a HUGE amount of time to invest. Surely you can’t be frugal in all areas can you? I mean groceries, toiletries and clothes? I do buy clearance and get good deals but do you really need a ‘new’ wardrobe for each season? ie spring, autum, winter, summer? So where then do people shop for underwear and socks, hard to find that at yard sales or the thrift store?

      • Erin says:

        I only hit the town wide sales so in less time you hit a lot of sales. I almost always find it worth it. I got my daughter 6 pair of brand name shorts, 5 shirts, and 2 bathing suits for a dollar a piece this past weekend. Right there was worth the 3 hours spent (we also got my boys some clothes, me some clothes, and a few household items I needed) I would have spent that amount of time shopping clearance racks and would have spent more money. I buy socks and underwear on sales at regular stores. I wont buy those used.

    • April says:

      You can always say no nicely.

    • Erin says:

      So true! I don’t love having yard sales for this reason, either, but it’s nice to purge my house and get a little something for my trouble. The “professional yard salers” are the worst, showing up hours before start times, looking to talk you down at 7 am in order to resell. We get the kids consignment people first thing, too. When they ask for a deal at that hour, I usually jokingly up the price instead. They usually buy stuff and come back later for the rest, lol. I rarely make deals on kids clothes, but if I suspect they are reselling, I definitely won’t! I don’t usually recommend Once Upon a Child, but if you have new stuff with tags, don’t sell for fifty cents at a yard sale! Mark it reasonably (as well as any other name brand clothes: Gymboree, Nike, Gap, etc. I use my local Once Upon a Child as a guide for pricing used clothing. For new stuff, I just use my judgment and mark up a few dollars.) If it doesn’t sell at your price, take it to Once Upon a Child. If it is new, you’ll definitely get more than a quarter apiece; usually a couple bucks. Better yet, if you have the time, sell your items on Craigslist or eBay. It is usually more than worth the effort! There is a HUGE market for some brands of children’s clothes on eBay. I know people who dress their kids for free by buying Gymboree clothing using sales and rewards and reselling on eBay when outgrown. In most cases, you’ll do better donating outgrown clothing than selling them at yard sales.

  • Jessica says:

    I love this and completely agree-wanted to add if you have a smart phone there is a free app called Garage Sale Rover which maps out all Craigslist listed sales and is sooo easy to use-I highly recommend it!!!!

  • Blaire says:

    I have been doing the spreadsheets for years, and it is a lifesaver! There’s no way I could keep all that info in my brain with 3 kids and one on the way. It’s also good to use if you let people borrow clothes in a certain size. I just type my friend’s name next to the items borrowed, and that helps me know where to find them if I need them again. My target price is a little higher for most clothes. I try to pay $1. A lot of sales in my area have higher prices for the better quality items, ranging from $2-5.

  • Shauna says:

    What a great post. I want to start going to yard sales and estate sales to look for vintage items. Saving money on needed items is a great idea.

  • April says:

    I buy ahead and put the clothes in the extra large ziplock bags according to size and season. It is so nice to just go and open the next bag and not have to worry about it. We’ve found a lot of cute kids clothes this way.

  • Mandy says:

    I love that others do this too! I just hit the greatest yard sale ever this past Saturday! I bought a whole summer and fall wardrobe for my six year old son for $50. 10 t-shirts, 3 polo shirts, 7 long sleeved shirts, 6 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of swim trunks, 2 pairs of tennis shoes, one pair of dress pants, one pair of khakis, 4 pairs of jeans, and one pair of new sandals. All of these were great brands and in wonderful condition. As a single mother I would be lost without yard sales. I cannot imagine how much all this would have cost brand new!!!!

    • Caroline says:

      One suggestion for those of us slightly uncomfortable bargaining/asking less at a yard sale is to have the amount of money you are hoping to pay in your hand or at least have the correct change. There’s nothing worse than a seller agreeing to a lower price and the buyer then handing over a large bill!

  • Jamie says:

    I love to go to garage sales. I guess part of it is the bargain hunter in me…it is just fun to look for great buys! I actually do buy a lot of my children’s clothing at garage sales and a lot at local consignment sales. One thing that I have done the past few years is buy nice children’s clothing at garage sales and resell it at consignment sales. I have made hundreds of dollars each year doing this. You have to find the right garage sales for this to work…but I have been able to find those sales each summer. I will go to a sale that has all their kids clothing priced at 50 cents each….if the items are good brands and in good condition…I know that these things will sell for $3 and up at a consignment sale… I was at a sale this past summer…it was VERY hot out and I stopped by on a Sat. around noon…I could tell this gal was ready to just close up and she still had TONS of kids clothing in tubs. I looked through and saw that it was all good quality. I offered her a flat amount to take 5 rubbermaid tubs off her hands…she was thrilled and gave me the tubs also! I ended up paying her $75 and made over $400 from the consignment sales!

  • Jennifer says:

    I am expecting my first child this July. I am planning on hitting a handful of city wide garage sales (because that is where I have found the best luck) and stocking up on clothes.

    • Tasha says:

      If it’s your first child and you’ll be having a baby shower, I wouldn’t get any clothes. You get so much at the showers–it would probably be a better idea to save for the big ticket items you really need.

      • Jennifer says:

        Thank you for your advice but through the generosity of my sister handing down so much already I only need a car seat. My shower is this weekend. So I will know exactly what we need for him after Saturday. I also have already been given so many clothes we need nothing until 3-6 months and very little in that size. I plan on doing a very basic wardrobe for him, 10 short sleeve shirts or onesies, 10 pants, 3-5 jackets, 5 pjs, 3 shorts, and 3 long sleeve shirts. Keeping up to twice those numbers if given. For sizes up to 24months. If he hasn’t reached that size by next summer I may add to it. I will be putting clothes on his Christmas list so he can have something new as well and my grandmother loves buying baby clothes. However my niece was wearing 18month stuff snugly at her 1st birthday and there is no room in my budget to go to walmart and just get him the next size if I do not plan ahead. But thank you for your advice. Sorry this is a slightly touchy subject with my child’s father and myself and if I am coming across as snappy or what not I am not meaning to be.

  • Christine says:

    couldn’t agree more with these tips! i would add to look at yard sales in upscale neighborhoods. I’ve gotten incredible deals on classic v. trendy high quality/high end clothes for pennies.

    Also think ahead to next season. Right now folks are disposing of winter clothing, in the fall will be selling summer cast offs. Buy “play clothes” at yard sales for messy or outdoor play. This will keep the good stuff available for stockpiling and increase chance you can sell at consignment if needed.

    lastly don’t forget the less fortunate when creating your buy list for yarding. check with your senior center, local shelter, etc to see if they have any needs (i.e., pots&pans, towels, bedding, etc.) that you could pick up inexpensively and donate.

    this weekend is our town wide yard sale & bike sale – woot woot! another tip – watch other yarders to see what’s hot this year for resale. For a small investment you may be able to resell or recycle for money (copper items, video games).

  • Stephi says:

    I agree 100%! I thrift shop and garage sale everything I possibly can, especially for the kids because they outgrow so fast. We also get a bunch of hand me downs for my daughter and anything she doesn’t like or doesn’t fit(too small) I sell on CL for cheap to share the wealth and recoup what little I do spend.

    You are right on, America needs more thrifty spenders!

  • Katie A. says:

    I love yard sales! I bought my first house a year and half ago and I’ve been able to find a lot of great stuff for it at yard sales. You never know what treasures you’ll find!

  • Marie says:

    There are also two other ways to help search garage sales in the area and map it out
    Yard Sale Treasure Map and

  • Sara says:

    I found this post to be very helpful! I have four kids, oldest is a girl, so she tends to get pampered by the grandparents, as does my oldest son. Then the two youngest boys usually get the hand me downs. But the spreadsheet idea is awesome.

    Can any fellow readers comment on how many clothes their kids have. I have two tubs of 2t clothes and they barely fit in the dressers. For instance do you only have enough for two weeks, one week. I know there are at least 20 shorts in that tub and it just seems excessive to me. Most were given to me so I have just held onto them. It seems like I am always doing heaps and heaps of laundry and I think k the less my kids had the less I would have to do since half the time I was it but I don’t think they even wore them. Thanks!

    • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

      For the longest time I was really blessed. My oldest was given many of her clothes by family and friends. I hardly ever had to buy her anything. Then when we moved to GA my sister had a friend that had twin girls a year older than my oldest and born in January also. She handed me down, basically a double wardrobe every season. Summer is the first time I have had to buy anything for my oldest daughter. I bought 9 pairs of shorts and 12 tshirts that mix and match. I bought them at Old Navy last weekend. They were having a massive sale and I had a coupon. I chose the number of items based on a week and having to keep 2 changes of clothes at school. We wash laundry 2 times a week so that seems to be plenty.

      The toughtest part of this is that my youngest dd is dead set against any type of pant, except leggings. To the point where she cries hysterically if I put her in pants. I don’t mean just for a couple of minutes…one time I just had to have her in pants because it was very cold and she cried for 2 hours. She said they hurt. This makes it difficult bc she won’t wear alot of what I have to pass down from her sister (a total tomboy!). I have a lot of summer dresses that my oldest never wore last year from the hand me downs, but next year I’m in trouble!

    • Erin says:

      For “stockpiling” purposes, I’ve found about two weeks’ worth of everyday clothes for each summer and winter works for us. Usually that’s around ten pairs of long pants (mostly denim plus a few khaki) plus a pair or two of athletic pants. Short-sleeve shirts can be worn almost year round, so I’m fine with 15 to 20 (though we seem to have much, much more because my son has a range of sizes in his drawer that all fit!), some tees, some polos, maybe a button-down or two for pics, and a couple athletic tees. I like to have around ten long-sleeve shirts, many of which are plain and can be worn under short sleeves, but this also includes one or two fleece and thermal styles. Also a sweater or two and zip-up sweatshirts, and seven to ten pairs of shorts (denim and khaki). Girls are much harder since there are so many more variables in their wardrobe.

  • Vanessa says:

    This might not work for everyone, but my goal this year is to clothe myself & DS for free. I don’t shop yard sales or thrift stores for clothes. Our Salvation Army has gotten way too expensive. I’ve always shopped end of season clearance sales & get brand new items for way less than I can at the thrift store. I’ve always stockpiled clothes & I use gift cards (earned through mypoints etc) to pay for it. I resell all our outgrown shoes & clothes (the name brand ones) and then use that money for future purchases. We also don’t do back to school shopping, because we stockpile everything. I already have a decent amount of clothes for DS for next fall/winter.

  • Kalyn Brooke says:

    I love that you have a spreadsheet for your clothes! It seems I use a spreadsheet for everything I can – it’s the nerdy side of me. 🙂

    Are there any tips on buying adult clothes? Usually there is an over abundance of children’s clothes at yard sales because they grow out of them so fast. I rarely have any luck with adult sizes.

  • I totally outfit my children in clothes from garage sales and I can’t imagine it any other way! I got my son’s entire 2T wardrobe from a garage sale, and spent about $40. The ENTIRE wardrobe was from Gymboree. I could probably buy one new Gymboree shirt for that price! I recently had my second child (a girl) and have already bought clothes for her through 2T. I recently found an outfit from Janie and Jack – a dress, shoes, tights, and a hat that match and are ADORABLE and it was $10 at a yard sale. I had to think hard about it, and then I smacked myself at the realization that it would probably be about $80 new (and I looooved it!)

  • Keren says:

    I love shopping at yard sales! For one, you never know what you will find (though I try to temper this with minimalism and simplicity), and two, if you go to enough, you can find almost everything you are looking for, though obviously with clothes, you might not find exact specifics.

    My favorite find from last year was a gas grill in beautiful condition for $20.

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