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Coach Mom Newsletter - MAR 2010

Yard Sales:
Selling & Shopping Strategies

One day when running a neighborhood yard sale with my neighbors in Phoenix, a woman walked up and rushed toward a woven basket, then asked me how much it was. She handed me two quarters, turned the basket upside down and put it on her head, then shopped for twenty more minutes. We managed to contain ourselves for a time, then fell on the ground rolling in laughter after she got into her car and drove away sporting her new “hat”.

Spring time often begets Spring cleaning which often begets yard sales. If you would like to make a few bucks off of your extra stuff by having a yard sale, I have a few suggestions for you. And if you are shopping yard sales, I have a few ideas for you, too.

Top 7 tips for having a yard sale:

  • Signs! Signs! Signs! (People often put so much effort into preparing for a sale that signage becomes an afterthought. You must not underestimate the power of getting people there. Don’t forget to post it for free on Craigslist.org.)
  • Don’t overprice items, especially clothes. Remember, you want to move it out. (Lowest price for anything: 25 cents. If it’s worth less, either bag it with other small items to reach 25 cent value or put in a “free” bin. This helps simplify check-outs.)
  • If lack of preparation time might discourage you from having a sale, only price the larger items. Put other items, such as clothes, small toys, etc. in bins or on tables with signs that say something like “all t-shirts 50 cents” or “baggies of small toys 75 cents.” When people ask you how much the unmarked items are, tell them to make you an offer. They will have to think if/what they are willing to pay.  If it is of use to them, their offer is often more than what you (a “don’t want-er”) would have marked it.
  • Keep the money bag attached to you, in something like a fanny pack or small purse. (People can’t carry it off, and you’ll always have change ready when you need it.)
  • Run the sale with a spouse or friend when possible, to help each other and take breaks (Plus, it’s more fun!)
  • Have a plan for breakfast on the day of sale. The morning will come fast and furious.
  • Before closing up shop, end your day allowing people to buy things to load up bags for $1 each. You’ve blessed some people and you have less to carry to the donation center.

Top 7 tips for shopping a yard sale:

  • Be there early, with cash in hand – plenty of ones, fives, and quarters (preferably in a small purse that is easy to carry with you as you go in and out of sales.).
  • As you walk up, scan items. Zero in on your most desired items first.
  • If you see something you want, pick it up. If it is too large to carry, tell the seller you want it and set it aside.
  • Negotiate. It’s totally acceptable to ask the sellers what their lowest price would be.
  • Beware of clutter. Don’t buy things for your home just because they are a good deal. An item might even be “free”, but it will cost you time and space.
  • If bringing small children along, be prepared with plenty for them to eat and drink. If you go with a spouse or friend, you can take turns scoping out sales before getting everyone out of their carseats.
  • Make sure the trunk is empty in case you find a deal on something big!

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Seeing Furniture in a New Way

As you clean out your home, it’s often a struggle to decide what to do with a piece of furniture or item you are not currently using, but you are having a hard time parting with. Consider a different use for it.

Take a step back from it and pretend you are seeing it for the first time at a sale, marked at a giveaway price. Ask yourself, “How could I use this piece in my house?” If that doesn’t get the ideas flowing, ask a creative friend to take a look at it and help you with some suggestions.

Could you paint it?

Could you use it in a nontraditional way?


  • Turn a door sideways and use it as a headboard
  • Take the picture out of a frame and use the frame to outline a small wreath or cross.
  • Use an old dresser in a closet to organize gift-wrapping supplies.
  • Use a wagon on the front porch to hold seasonal decorations such as pumpkins or a small Christmas tree.

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Ask Coach Mom

Dear Brenna,

I know you suggest negotiating with sellers at yard sales when shopping, but it makes me nervous. I don’t want to offend people by asking them to accept less for an item, but I would like to take advantage of some great deals. The whole process just stresses me out.


Dear Katy,

Yard sales can be a blast. You never know what treasure you might find at your next stop.

If you would be interested in an item if it were a lower price, it is OK to ask, “What is the lowest you would take for this item?’ Or make an offer. Sometimes people have marked things a fair price, but it is not a price that you would pay because your need isn’t great enough. It never hurts to say, “I know this is a nice item. I don’t need it enough to pay the marked price, but I am willing to pay [$x] for it if you are interested.” If they want to just get it out of their house, they might accept your offer.

Being up-front with people is much better than what I’ve seen some do -- nit-pick the item to get the seller to lower the price, when in actuality, it was already marked a fair price for its condition.

Most people I’ve met at yard sales through the years have been friendly people. You might even make a new friend in the transaction.


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Brenna's Yard Sale Treasures


Paid $65 for furniture piece, $3 for stool (cleaned cobwebs and dirt off and reupholstered it with on-hand fabric piece),  $3 for small tiffany lamp, 50 cents for small Brighton clock, $1 for silver cup filled with white silk roses.

Paid $10 for old front door. Mounted sideways on wooden legs (see the peep hole?) and attached to king size bed frame.

Paid 25 cents for old framed photos. Threw the photos away cleaned the frames, and hung small wreaths (bought for 25 cents each on clearance at Michael’s) with ribbon that I had on-hand. Total cost for grouping: $1

Paid $10 for old antique door and 50 cents for the flower holder. Cleaned it, painted a chalkboard on the lower center part, and decorated it with flea market finds wreath and cross.

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