Tag Archives: budget tips

Savings Sunday: Yard Sales

Maybe this is just a product of how I grew up, but I love yard sales.

I used to go to yard sales and flea markets with my grandmother very nearly every weekend. My grandparents were of decent means and neither of them had reached retirement age yet, so I always felt like it was just a hobby for her.

When I got to grad school, I was pretty broke (weren’t we all?) and I started going to yard sales partially to cheaply decorate my apartment and partially to curb my deep desire to shop. Cash-only meant I wasn’t running up credit cards, and pretty effectively limited how much I spent- I’d have to run out of money fairly early to be able to convince myself to go to the ATM.

I had also watched my ex’s sister clothe her kids by shopping at yard sales and that’s what brings me to this post:

A lot of career moms are at the beginning of their careers at the same time they become moms ( I was just starting my third year at my job, not quite halfway to trying for tenure), so while you may be making a fair amount of money, it’s still entry-level or “starter” money. Add to that the possible or even likely cost of daycare, and money can get tight.

I don’t have daycare expenses, but we are a single income family, so I still go to yard sales. I’m still decorating the house we’ve had for two years and Baby Girl is always growing. Plus I’m a fairly common size, so occasionally I find cute stuff for me.

Last weekend I spent a little over $18 at yard sales over the course of 3 hours. And as luck would have it, I managed to snag 56 pieces of clothing for my daughter, 4 pairs of shoes for Baby Girl, 4 books for Baby Girl, 5 dresses for me, a picture frame and a set of salt and pepper shakers (they match my kitchen.) 

Now, this was an exceedingly rare event – I ran across two women who were pretty desperate to get their children’s old clothes out of storage. So I filled plastic bags (one for $5, 3 for $1 each) full of clothes for the size Baby Girl is in now, and the next size up. There is some stuff that will probably never be weather appropriate before she would grow out of it, but at the prices I paid, I can have my own yard sale, slap 25 cents or 50 cents on those things, make back my money, AND make some other mom feel like she hit the jackpot herself.

It hasn’t covered everything she needs (18-24 month pajamas remain elusive and I’ve NEVER seen baby socks at a yard sale) but it has covered enough stuff that I can now reserve my money for the really super adorable things without having to worry if the money could be better spent. And don’t think she doesn’t get new clothes, too – I’ve spent a little over $100 on new pajamas, shoes, and other items – on sale, for the most part. Perhaps that will be a topic for a future savings Sunday.

And while it was rare to hit two yard sales that were doing a fill-the-bag sale in one weekend, that is by no means a rare occurrence. I usually find one sale a week that’s willing to do it. I don’t always take advantage though- I have to see a couple of items that justify the price first. 

The other thing I do when going yard sale shopping is I make a map. I check the local paper, Craigslist, and Facebook for sales and then plug the addresses into MapQuest. I started doing this when gas prices were ridiculously high and I had a less than fuel efficient car, but now I do it as much for time efficiency (even my older model hybrid has better gas mileage than a lot of non-hybrid cars still). I have found that an hour of driving time (which tends to be somewhere around 20-25 sales in my town) will equal approximately 4 hours of shopping, when you factor in parking and walking around. Your time may vary if you need to take your kid(s) with you.  I plan to take Baby Girl when she’s a little bit older. Then it’s also fun Mommy-Baby time, and can help teach kids the value of money.