Family Matters: 8 tips for savvy garage sale shopping

Published on Wednesday, 12 July 2017 12:25 - Written by


I love garage sales. Yard sales. Tag sales. Estate sales. Call them what you may, the chance to rummage through another person’s junk in search of treasure has always been a thrill for me.

As a young wife and mother living on school loans while my husband completed his medical training, it was a matter of necessity. Just as God provided manna in the wilderness for the Israelites, He used such second-hand sales to sustain our growing family throughout those lean years. I was able to clothe our children, furnish the house, build a library-all for cents on the dollar.

Yet many families who would greatly benefit from some savvy second-hand shopping miss out completely, because they’ve never learned the tricks of the trade. Perhaps they’ve stopped at a sale or two in the past, but left empty-handed and quickly abandoned hope of ever doing better. If this describes you, follow these guidelines to discover firsthand the joys of culling through castoffs for something worth keeping.

1.    PRAY BEFORE YOU GO - Ask for God’s blessing before you ever set out: that He will lead you to the right sales, help you find what you need, and provide for your family as economically as possible.

2.    MAKE A LIST - Know how using a grocery list helps you remember to get the things you need and bypass stuff you don’t? The same principle holds true at garage sales. That’s why I keep a detailed “second-hand shopping list” on my phone. I’m amazed at how often God provides exactly what I’ve listed, for a fraction of what it would cost new.

3.    PRE-PLAN YOUR ROUTE - Whether this means combing through newspaper ads and highlighting the sales you want to hit or simply driving a standard loop around your neighborhood, it helps to have a game plan. Some weeks will yield better results than others, but consistency is key.

4.    SHOP EARLY- The selection is better (and weather cooler!) early in the day. When my children were little, I’d shop from 8-10 every Saturday morning and be home by the time the rest of the family was up, dressed, and done with breakfast.

5.    TRY HAGGLING – Don’t be afraid to ask, “Is that price negotiable?” Total your purchase mentally and make a reasonable offer: “That comes to $28.50. Would you take $25 for all of it?”

6.    CARRY CASH - Keep small denominations and plenty of coins on hand. You’ll boost your ability to bargain if you offer exact change.

7.    THINK AHEAD - It’s no bargain if you can’t use it, so figure out where you’re going to put a purchase before you pay for it. (Of course, if you’re scouring sales for stuff to put on EBay, you can happily ignore this rule).

8.    BRING THE KIDS – Use it as a training opportunity. For a better experience all around, I usually gave each of my little ones a fixed amount of money to spend however they liked (no more than a dollar apiece, sometimes only a quarter). It kept them from begging for something at every stop as they sought out the best deal or played with whatever treasure they’d already spent the money on.

Even though Jennifer Flanders no longer goes garage sale shopping on a weekly basis, she continues to buy many things secondhand and has a hard time paying retail prices for anything. To read more of her money-saving tips, visit