Personal Finance Lessons Learned from Yard Sales

yard sale

It’s that time of year again. Some of us know it as spring; others call it the start of yard sale season. Yard sales (also known as garage sales, tag sales, rummage sales, and stoop sales) attract an interesting and diverse subculture of bargain hunters, environmentalists, and treasure hunters; they are an interesting form of community commerce. Both buyers and sellers at yard sales are likely to have learned some broadly applicable lessons in personal finance. I know I have!

As a seller in an annual neighborhood yard sale, I have learned:

Cars aren’t the only things that depreciate as soon as you buy them. It doesn’t matter how little you have used something; unless


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11 Responses to Personal Finance Lessons Learned from Yard Sales

  1. Will says:

    Great article!

    I, for one, am not too fond of yeard sales. It’s by no means a knock on the concept, but rather a matter of personal preference. Having said that, I always stop when I see a yard sale for just one reason: books!

    In my opinion, yard sale book deals are hard to beat. I picked up many many personal finance books in yard sales, the latest ones being “The Millionaire Next Door”, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, and “Personal Finance for Dummies” which I acquired as a bundle for the princely sum of $5!

    I was smiling from ear to ear on my way back home!

  2. Dave says:

    Personally, I love yard sale-ing. Don’t forget those Friday Shoppers — That’s actually the best day when I do two day sales.

    From a shoppers perspective, I’ve been cutting down on the amount I’m willing to travel, given the price of gas. Make sure you advertise what you’re offering, so people know to come. A simple sign on the corner isn’t necessarily enough. Of course, as ad in the local paper can eat up a sizable chunk of your profits, so consider partnering up with a neighbor, and offer a multi-family or neighborhood sale.

  3. A Marino says:

    This article has alot of good information on garage sales. After having one last year, I have a whole new way of thinking when I shop now. I was amazed at how little my items were worth.

    I also had a freebies box. Another good point is to have items for the men out in the front. Some men go along with their wives but are impatient as their wives are checking out the sales. If you have items in the front, the men are more likely to stop and check it out.

    Also having cold drinks on ice is appreciated by the buyers. I had a large family drive up just to see if we had refreshments to sell. You get all kinds of buyers at your yard sales.

  4. nick says:

    I understand the value part, but I believe that garage sales or really any kind of sale merely perpetuates the consumption mentality that makes people believe they are only happy when they are consuming/purchasing.

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  6. Heidi says:

    Nice article!

    Food is the biggest seller during our annual neighborhood community yardsale event. The first year after moving there we were amazed at how the Greek neighbor across the alleyway from us, could bring in $1,500 selling Greek food, while we had trouble breaking even (with the $15.00 registration fee) by selling our typical yardsale junk. With competition cropping up, the event has become more of a food bazaar than yardsale! (I’m sure all the food entrepreneurs are in violation of some kind of food inspection rules.)

  7. Heather says:

    Great yard sale advice! I like to buy antiques at yard sales & resell them on Ebay. However, the ebay admin fees can be pricey. I am also stuck with antiques that aren’t “good enough” for ebay. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised when I made a profit reselling these antiques at my yard sale. I think some of the buyers were thinking “Ebay” when they bought them. It was a lot less work then posting the items and dealing with shipping. I even stopped selling baked goods because, they weren’t as cost effective as the antiques.
    If you are a very thrifty yardsaler, then you can also earn $s by purchasing the new in the box items or the ones with tags and hold on to them until the late fall season, then post them ebay during the Christmas shopping season.

  8. I love shopping at yard sales, but I sure hate having them! When things aren’t tagged, I put a price on the item for what I’m willing to pay and won’t buy it if it’s higher than I’m willing to pay. Usually I’ve guessed too high. I actually try to stay away from yard sales because I’m tempted to buy things that I think *might* sell on eBay and I am just no good at making those guesses, so I end up with a bunch of stuff that I never wanted in the first place. I found your blog from the 153rd Carnival of Personal Finance. Nice to meet you.

  9. Chelle says:

    These are great! I love garage sales and yard sales and flea markets…I need to have one of my own soon!

  10. Gail says:

    Our community yard sale was last week. My biggest score was 13 almost new T-shirts for hubby for $6! They should last him for about 10 years. Now his old ratty T-shirts have gone into his workshop and are now called rags saving him the cost of buying rags (he is self-employed and does work that requires lots of rags).

    I also was given 2 big boxes of craft magazines–the FREE box! After looking at them, I hope to sell them on ebay.

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