The slow-paced treasure hunt that is “yard sailing” is a fabulous way to spend a morning. Here’s how to get in on the frugal fun:

Get Organized

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  • Find a like-minded friend, empty the trunk, and grab those extra booster seats. Do not forget cash! Kids will love how far their meager allowance will go.
  • The easiest way to find garage sales is to let your phone do the heavy lifting. Download the Yard Sale Treasure Map app, which pulls the current day’s sales from craigslist and places them on an interactive map. I found it easy to wake up, take a peek at the app, and hop in the car.
  • Base your route on a neighborhood you would like to explore, a sale that looks particularly exciting (“multi-family” is usually a safe bet), or stick close to home so you can say hello to your neighbors.
  • Be on time. Most sales start at 8 or 9 am, but a few may start as late at 10 am. If you arrive before the official start time, however, always ask if it is okay to start shopping before you begin browsing. The best items do go early, so expect diminishing returns with each subsequent sale.

Eager to hit the yard sale circuit but reluctant to give up your Saturday morning family time? Go on Friday morning instead if you can. There are plenty of sales on Fridays in Portland, and, as a bonus, smaller crowds.

What to Expect

  • Don’t have an agenda. Unless you are like my neighbor’s daughter who put “lava lamp” on her list and found two, you will be much happier if you let the sales offer what they will. Ditch the list, and be surprised. Where else will you find a pair of binoculars for twenty-five cents? My kids came home with eleven toys and spent less money than I did on our post-shopping bagel lunch. (I know. Eleven seems excessive. I was basking in the glory of being a yes-mom for once, but you can totally set limits or a one-in-one-out rule before you begin.)
  • Don’t buy things you don’t need, but if you do, don’t forget about Buy Nothing as a fun way to pass them on. 
  • Don’t be shy. Sellers are generally happy to answer polite questions about pricing and quality.
  • Considering a purchase? Hold on to it while you decide, and be sure to pass this advice on to your kiddos to avoid any broken hearts.
  • Many garage sales include lemonade or cookie stands, so be prepared for requests for sweet snacks at 9 am.
  • Love an item but think the price is too high? Swing back by at the end of the sale. If it is still there, the seller will be more likely to reduce the price.  

Make Memories

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After almost three hours of shopping, our kids were begging for just one more sale. They were already planning our next trip before the first was even over. Even my skeptical eight-year-old, who initially only participated as a favor to me, is now a total yard sale enthusiast. Yard sale shopping is the kind of frugality that will actually increase your popularity with your children.

Discover new neighborhoods, delight in the thrill of the hunt, and enjoy hours of happy playtime with the day’s spoils. And don’t forget to brag about that $2 fire truck tent you found.

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