How Yard Sales Waste Your Money

by Nicki on June 7, 2010

in Saving Money

yard saleI’ve had two yard sales so far this year. I did one on my own and joined in on a multi-family sale too. Having a yard sale really doesn’t appeal to me very much. It’s a LOT of work and I’m just not a good salesperson. However, even though I didn’t like it very much, it was still worth it for me to do. I had things to get rid of – things that people were willing to pay for. So it all works out, right? I get rid of my clutter and someone else gets a good deal. Well … sort of.

I think there’s a right way and a wrong way to shop yard sales. If you shop yard sales every weekend – this could be painful to read. Here are some of the ways that I think yard sales waste your money.

1. The Lure of The Deal

Bargain hunters beware! If you have a hard time passing up a good deal then steer clear of yard sales! When someone is moving or very eager to get rid of things they will price their items at very tempting prices. It’s easy to justify an expense when it’s “such a good deal.” Even if something is a good deal it can still be a waste of your money if you have no use for it.

2. Instant Pressure

When making your usual purchases at stores or online, you usually have time to price compare, shop around and save up money if you need. When you’re at a yard sale – you have to make your decision right then and there. The pressure of passing up a great opportunity (even though you may not have the money for it) might be more than you can take. You may cave and purchase that snowmobile for $300 even though you know you don’t have the money and you could probably live without it.

3. Unknown Worth

Some people are honest – they price their yard sale items according to what they are actually worth. Some people are not. A good salesperson can talk you into an “antique” clock that’s worth at least $500 – assuring you that you’re getting the deal of a lifetime by paying $50. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s not. Unless you’re well-schooled on that particular type of antiques, there’s little chance you’d know.

4. Just In Case

I saw this happen a couple times at my yard sales. The first time, a pregnant girl and her mother were together. I had two infant car seats for sale – one blue and one pink. The pregnant girl was about to find out the sex of her baby in a week. They stood there debating which car seat to purchase for about 10 or 15 minutes. Do you want to know what they did? They bought both. I wanted to tell them that the blue one would be perfectly fine for a boy or a girl, but they loved the pink one and thought they better get it – just in case. I can see it now – she has a boy and the pink one sits in the garage collecting dust.

The second time, a woman came and couldn’t remember whether her pregnant friend had a baby swing yet or not. She decided she better buy it – just in case.

Everyone listen up. There is a baby swing for sale every single weekend at some yard sale in your town all summer long. My baby swing is not the deal of the century. EVERYONE gets rid of baby things at yard sales. Go home and ask your friend and then go yard-saling next weekend.

OK, I know I was a little hard. I’ll redeem myself tomorrow … In the meantime – do you have a yard sale horror story? I’d love to hear it. Share it below!

Why I do what I do ~ Chloe and her cousins were showing me their Lego creations today. They were very proud of the things they made and I said, “They look great! I’m a fan.” They looked at me weird and my older niece said, “Auntie Nicki, you aren’t a fan.” Chloe echoed, “Yeah Mama, you’re not a fan.” Their puzzled faces clued me in – they were thinking I called myself a box fan :) I explained that being a fan of something means you really like it. They all laughed at me like I was trying to fool them. I gave up.

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Friday Links: Arkansas Edition
June 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Money Obedience June 7, 2010 at 9:36 am

My wife organized one garage sale since we have been together. We had some nice stuff for sale that nobody wanted. Instead we sold some things that were not so nice, but priced much lower than the good stuff. This is why I wonder whether my clutter becomes somebody else’s clutter, albeit at a cheaper price than what I paid for it. Maybe garage sales are just a merry-go-round scheme for clutter.
.-= Money Obedience´s last blog ..A Thank You to Our Hosts =-.


2 Nicki June 7, 2010 at 10:35 am

You may very well be right :)


3 Donna June 7, 2010 at 11:33 am

While I see where you were going with this, I have to take exception most of the time. I have gotten very great deals on just an item I needed. This does take DISCIPLINE and a notebook with measurements, colors and sizes. I am committed to buying only what I need or can use, not just in case or maybe I could use it stuff. Successfully saving money by garage sales and yard sale purchasing is as detailed as retail shopping. To save money is to buy something you really need at a great price. Of course, this goes against the American retail therapy idea. I have slipped up on occasion but mostly I have saved enormous amounts of money on clothing and such. Great, thought provoking post. :-)


4 Nicki June 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Donna, stay tuned tomorrow :)


5 June 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm

As Donna said, creating a list of the items you absolutely need is essential.

Also, along the lines of “Unknown Worth,” ask to test out any small appliances you’re thinking of buying. The seller might be annoyed at having to pull out the old extension cord, but making sure the item works is worth the time and effort.

- Shayna from


6 June 7, 2010 at 1:59 pm

A few years ago i had a sale at my house with a few families. There was boatloads of stuff and we sold quite a lot. I didn’t pay attention to every item going out the door but a couple of days later i had a lady knocking on my door. She had 2 boxes of envelopes that she had bought at the sale for .50 each. She said the humidity had caused them all to seal shut and they were useless. She wanted her money back. Okay, well she probably spent more than $1 in gas driving over but whatever, i gave her $1 and she went happily on her way.


7 Nicki June 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Ha! That’s funny :) I’m sure they spent more than the $1 in gas!


8 Elisa | blissfulE June 8, 2010 at 4:59 am

I can’t believe that lady bought *both* car seats!! She should definitely step away from the yard sales. But then again, in trying to find the best places to buy certain things here, I visited a baby store and was overwhelmed both at the astonishing prices ($36 for a tiny metal sippy cup!) and the number of couples that were shopping there. Perhaps buying two car seats at a yard sale is actually the sensible solution?!
.-= Elisa | blissfulE´s last blog ..triplex nursing =-.


9 Kika June 8, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I agree. If the seats were in great shape then buying both was still saving money vs. a new baby seat. True she’ll end up with clutter unless after her babe is born she passes the extra seat to someone else or a charity centre.


10 mother of pearl June 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I just wanted to comment on what you said about yard sales being a lot of work. I think that really depends on how you do things. If you are trying to make some money (I know a family who has a yard sale every year specifically to earn money take a trip to an amusement park), then you will be have more work, pricing items and negotiating sales and whatnot. But if you have the mindset of I want to get rid of some of my things, then it can be a lot less work – set a flat rate (25 cents for every piece of clothing, 50 cents for every kitchen item, etc), take what people offer, and be done and glad to be rid of your things.


11 Kika June 8, 2010 at 7:36 pm

My 10 year old daughter and I really enjoy garage sales – we live in a small town so at most, on a beautiful Saturday, there might be five sales going on at once. I have a list of things to look for: picture frames for children’s art work, sports gear, stonewear or cast iron, classic novels… I detest clutter so have no trouble only bringing home things I’m actually needing (and will save on buying second-hand). My latest buy was two new pillow forms – for my middle daughter who loves to sew/craft. I paid $2 each (so not a ‘steal’) – new would be about $6.99 each at Walmart.


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