Yard Sale Rules

Here are some of the rules that I use for shopping at yard sales.  These are my rules that I use for myself.  Some may work for you and some may not.  Feel free to leave a comment telling me what rules you have when shopping at yard sales.

The Olive Rules, where to go:

  1. Pray before  starting.  I pray for specific needs or wants that we may have and I pray that I would make wise use of our family’s resources.
  2. Don’t buy a paper, check sale ads or research the route.  I don’t have time to do this.   I’ve found that sometimes the best “sounding” sales are  not really the best and you can end up wasting valuable time and gas.  (Remember, these are my rules 🙂  I know I may miss some great sales, but God has always provided what we needed.)
  3. Have a regular or semi-regular route.  I always drive the same loop and just follow signs.  This allows you to learn the area and more easily find sales that are not signed well.  If you are regular you will also get to know several people who have regular sales.  Remember my Pottery Barn connection?
  4. Leave early but not too early.  I know from hosting yard sales that people will show up WAY TOO EARLY.
  5. Set a time limit before beginning.  This allows my family to know when to expect me home and I am not tempted to stop at “just one more sale”.  My normal schedule is 7-9 on a Saturday morning.  During the late fall or early spring I move that to 8-10.
  6. Stop at every yard sale, even the ones that don’t look appealing.  This is the hardest rule to follow and deserves some explanation.  I have found some of the best bargains at yard sales that I would not have chosen to stopped at.   I still regularly have to force myself to obey this rule, but I have found that the payoff when I find something is worth the small amount of time wasted at sales that truly have nothing to offer.
  7. This rule is related to #5, look at every part of each yard sale.  Again, sometimes the item that you are looking for will be in the oddest place, so look over everything that they have out.

The Olive Guidelines, what to buy/what not to buy:

  1. Keep a list of sizes and needs for clothing.
  2. Keep a list of decorating ideas or areas that need work.  (Remember the empty walls in the boys room? That is an area that has been on my list.) Have measurements, color samples, etc available.
  3. Have a list of items that sell well on EBay.  I have bought several things that I have turned around and sold on EBay for a large profit thus allowing me to yard sale for free.  (I only do this if my profit margin is going to be large.  i.e. I’ve bought several things for $5 or less that I have sold for more than $40)
  4. Purchase inexpensive books in nice condition to resell to your local used book store.  I know that if I can purchase nice books for a quarter or less, I will be able to make money on the resale.  I generally earn at least $30 each time I head to our local used book store.
  5. Look for inexpensive items that are brand new or still in the packaging to use for hostess or thank you gifts.
  6. Purchase paper plates, napkins, etc. that are still in the packaging to include with meals that you make for those who are sick, just had a baby or are moving.
  7. Remember to think about ways to re-purpose an item, but ONLY if you will really do it.  If you have anything at home that you purchased to re-purpose and have not done it yet, then skip it.
  8. Remember that wood furniture can be painted.
  9. Remember that you don’t have to keep an item forever.  I purchased beach chairs and a boogie board, just before our trip to the beach.  It was worth the $1.50 to have the use of those items for the week while we were at the beach.
  10. USE YOUR NOSE.  Trust me.

The Olive Plan, how we budget:

  1. We have money set aside for spending at yard sales.
  2. If I make money by selling something that I bought at a yard sale, that goes back into our yard sale budget. (That is called motivation.)
  3. If I buy a birthday gift, that comes out of our gift budget, not the yard sale budget.
  4. If I buy needed clothing, that is on our clothing list, that comes out of our clothing budget.
  5. Furniture  may come out of our household budget.  For example, currently our couch in the family room has a large and thanks to the children, getting larger rip in it.  We are currently saving to buy a new couch.  So, if I find a couch at a yard sale, I don’t need to have all of that money in my yard sale fund. 🙂

Now what are YOUR rules for efficient and profitable yard sale shopping?

Read more about yard sale-ing here in the grove.

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16 Responses to Yard Sale Rules
  1. Cardamoms Pod
    July 31, 2009 | 8:02 am

    Thanks for these tips, Kimberly! I laughed when you said you don’t research a route or buy a paper – we get the paper, and I was going to check it, along with craigslist!! Except for right here in town (and those yard sales aren’t that great) I have to drive anywhere from 15-25 minutes just to get TO an area with yard sales. Honestly – this freed me up to just GO and see what the Lord brings our way. We are blessed with a lot of thrift stores in our area, but those prices are higher.


  2. Coccinelle
    July 31, 2009 | 8:23 am

    Love your post!!!

    But I am a ebay newbie, and I don’t know what sell well there, so I am looking forward to your answer!

    Thanks a lot!



  3. JenT
    July 31, 2009 | 11:02 am

    Thanks for these tips. I use some of them already myself. I’m bad about not setting a time limit though. Oooh – another sale. We’ll stop just one more time. 🙂

    One rule I’ve made for myself. If I don’t find anything I need, I don’t buy. At first I felt bad about stopping and not buying something and I would ALWAYS buy something at EVERY yard sale. I would find something small and cheap just to make the people feel better. I finally stopped doing that. What a waste of time and money. They’ll probably never remember that I didn’t buy something and I have the money for another yard sale. Now to just pass that on to my kids. They always want something at every yard sale. Well, the older ones are getting better because they are spending their own money. Hey another tip. The kids have to spend their own money for toys or games or things they want and don’t necessarily need.


  4. Morgan
    July 31, 2009 | 1:19 pm

    Great tips Kimberly! Thanks for sharing! Now, can I come shopping with you?


  5. Aimie
    July 31, 2009 | 1:20 pm

    I love finding great deals at yard sales too! I can only shop them in the summer and winter when the munchkins are not involved in early morning soccer games though. I swear you are right about prayer before you go. We had been looking for a desk that would suit my oldest daughters needs. We found one last month for next to nothing that just needs some paint! It came with a hutch for her to keep her school books on even!


    Raising Olives Reply:

    I’m really not very knowledgeable about what sells on EBay either. I just have a few items that I know will do well. Baby Bjorn baby carriers, certain Tupperware things, etc. If I was more in touch with the EBay scene, I could probably make a LOT of money. As it is, I just make nice chunks here and there.

    Yes, don’t buy something at every sale is a good rule. Our children are only allowed to shop with their own money AND their purchases must fit into their personal storage space at home. The only things that they buy at yard sales are usually b-day gifts for their siblings.

    I’d love to go shopping with you. Saturday morning 7 am, my house. 🙂

    I love it when God provides something for us like that. Wonderful.

    Of course!

    McKay’s. Which consignment store do you take clothes to? I often pass up really beautiful clothes because we don’t need them or they are the wrong size or gender.

    Great tip. I know that if I had more time I could make a lot of money on EBay, I just don’t know my clothes like you obviously do. For example, we were given a lovely white velvet smocked, Strausburg dress that was too small for our girls. I nearly priced it for $1 and put it in a consignment sale! I’m not good with clothes. Maybe you could give Coccinelle some tips. 🙂


  6. Kim
    July 31, 2009 | 3:25 pm

    Very cool to start with prayer!!! Is it ok to link to your blog on one of my posts? I wanted to share your marvelous ideas about the chalkboard wall, magnetic wall and rain gutter bookshelves. I actually already did it but I’ll take it down if it’s not ok with you. Thanks!


  7. Rachel
    July 31, 2009 | 8:14 pm


    I am curious what book store you take your books to? I’ve done a similar thing with clothes. There is a consignment store that will give store credit for name brand clothes in good condition.



  8. Joy
    July 31, 2009 | 9:01 pm

    Another tip- GO TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD SALES! Sometimes entire cities will have a city-wide yard sale where anyone can participate. You park your car and just walk up and down streets picking through treasure. LOVE IT!


  9. Following Jack
    July 31, 2009 | 9:43 pm

    I totally agree with the ebay tip…not only do I sell my kids’ clothes that they have outgrown on ebay but I also look for good deals at Goodwill and yard sales that I can sell on ebay. Example: I went to a yard sale a few weeks ago and found some good books for my kids at $.10/each but I also found these four adorable dresses for $1/each. I brought them home, washed them, ironed them and put them on ebay. Each one sold for at least $10. That money stays on a paypal debit card that I use to buy more things to sell at Goodwill or buy clothes that my kids do need.


  10. Rachel
    July 31, 2009 | 10:24 pm

    These rules are great! I will definitely be using them on my next yard sale adventure!


  11. Coccinelle
    August 1, 2009 | 12:03 pm

    Thank you for your answer!

    Last week I saw a vintage Pyrex and I thought that it was too heavy to sell at ebay, I mean who want to pay 20$ for shipping?


  12. Following Jack
    August 1, 2009 | 1:03 pm

    Coccinelle, the best things that sell on ebay are kids clothes. They need to be a namebrand because that is what is searched for most often when moms like me are looking to supplement their kids’ waredrobes. Gap, Old Navy, Gymboree, Limited Too all do very well. For instance, I found a pair of Gap girls jeans a few months back at Goodwill. My Goodwill prices all the kids clothes at $2/piece. These jeans still had the tags attached. I put them on ebay last week and they sold for $18 plus shipping. My best Goodwill find were these two dresses that must have been from twins. I could tell by the quality of the dress that they had been very expensive when purchased new but I didn’t recognize the brand name. I went out on a limb and shelled out the $4 for both dresses. When I got home, I did a google search and found the company. Those dresses retail for $225/each. I put them on ebay starting at $19.99 and they sold for $75/each. A bargain for the person buying them and money for me to put clothes on my four kids. Win win! You can send me an email at followingjack at gmail dot com if you have specific questions or want to know more. Same for you Kimberly!


  13. Rachel K Taylor
    August 2, 2009 | 10:57 pm


    It is a place called Katie’s Kloset here in Maryville. I guess it is really not a consignment store. She’ll give you store credit most of the time and sometimes pay cash if it is an item that sells really well for her. I do it to trade the clothes that I find at yard sales and sometimes Habitat that I can’t use for ones that I can. I’ve really only taken one thing to her recently. I’ll have to try McKay’s.


  14. Shannon
    June 26, 2010 | 2:03 pm

    Oh wow, these are fantastic. I am bookmarking this. The thing that is sad though is I live in a suburb of a big city and the majority of the neighborhoods are subdivisions that only allow sales once a year, which is a big bummer. I am going to have to try and find a better way to figure out when there are sales. I didn’t realize Goodwill had such good sales. I will check them out too.


  15. Sarah
    February 6, 2012 | 4:20 am

    These are some great yard sale tips! As a large family, yard sales have always been great fun for us. We take these as adventures on which we find great deals! One of our tips for yard sale shopping is to go out and look for stuff early to make sure you don’t miss out on anything super great. But, in the event that we come across something we think we might kind of want, but certainly don’t need and don’t really want to pay the asking price for, we leave without buying it. We’ll come back by the yard sale at the end of the day and if it’s still there, then we feel we were meant to have it and we purchase it at that point (usually at a discounted price). If the item is not there, we brush it off as something we simply weren’t meant to own. My blog on being a member of a large family can be found at http://www.lifeinalargefamily.wordpress.com. My e-mail address is sjcordonier@gmail.com.


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