What to bring to a yard sale {How to shop yard sale series}

yard sale button

Today we are continuing our “How to shop yard sales series”  We have already discussed these topics…

I know you are shopping yard sales to actually find something to buy and bring home, but there are a few things YOU should bring to a yard sale too. 


1. Cash

cash to yard sale

Of course you need money to buy things but let’s get more specific – you need CASH, not checks or a debit card.   And not only do you need cash, you need small bills and change.    I would never take a check from someone at my yard sale – too much risk of it bouncing!

Let’s discuss a few reasons why you need small bills.

#1 reason: if everyone pays with a $20 bill for a $3 item the yard sale host is going to run out of change very fast.  And if you are the 10th person trying to pay with a $20 and she doesn’t have change, you are either going to have to pay with a $20 for a $3 item (NOT a great deal!), or leave and go get to change.  Don’t expect a yard sale owner to break your $100 bill or even a $20 bill on a $1-3 item.  Exception: if you are shopping for larger items such as furniture, etc.  you might want to carry some larger bills in the car or in another pocket so you don’t pay for a $25 dresser with all $1 bills Smile

#2 reason: to be able to barter better!  So you are at a yard sale and see something marked $5.00.  You ask if they will take $3.00 for that item and they say yes.  Then YOU pull a $5 bill out of your pocket and ask them to make change.  I don’t know, that just seems a little rude to me.   They originally wanted $5.00, I talked them down, and now I am expecting them to give me back change when I handed them the amount they originally wanted?  Much better to pull $3.00 in $1 bills out of your pocket and walk away – not leaving them to regret making a deal for a less amount.  Same thing with quarters – don’t ask someone if they will take their $1.00 item for 50¢ and then hand them a $1 bill to make change.  Try to give exact change if possible.

#3 reason: bring a set amount of money with you when out shopping yard sales and when you have spent all your money, you are done shopping!  This not only helps you stay on budget, but can also help you make better deals.  Say you are at your last sale and only have $15 left in your pocket and see a large item you want but they are asking $20 or $25.  You can say, “I only have $15 left, would you be willing to take $15 for that item?”  NOW, I am not saying to use this all of the time, nor am I saying to LIE and say you only have that much left if you have more… (I have had people do this to me at a yard sale I was having before and I felt very cheated.)   BUT it can be effective especially later in the day and when you are almost done shopping too.  AND if you actually only have $15 left.


2. Shopping list

shopping list to yard sale

Nothing worse then being at a sale and you don’t remember what size desk you are looking for, how big your windows are for curtains or blinds, your current kid sizes or measurements.

Keep an updated list of sizes of clothes and shoes that you are looking for and even ideas such as “more winter pants for Susie in size 2T” or “summer clothes for Johnny in size 3T.”

I am currently looking for a desk but I want one that is smaller than our current one so I measured ours and know what size to look for now.  I am also looking for faux wood blinds for my upstairs bedrooms, I see them all the time at thrift store and yard sales!  But I haven’t had my measurements with me so have missed opportunities to buy them for cheap.


3. Measuring tape

tape measure

If you are looking for specific measurements in furniture or even clothes then you are going to need some way to measure items.  I carry this mini measuring tape in my purse at all times.    And I use it ALL the time! Smile  Even this weekend at my yard sale that I had, someone needed to measure something and asked to borrow a tape measure.  But if I was at my parking lot yard sale, the sellers probably won’t have a tape measure so I wouldn’t be able to borrow one.  Goodwill normally won’t have a tape measure either.


4. Paint colors & fabric samples

paint colors and fabric samples

I am currently working on organizing my paint colors/samples and fabric samples.  I have seen and pinned quite a few ideas on Pinterest.

Paint a sample of your paint colors on popsicle sticks to carry in your purse.    Don’t forget to include the paint brand, name, and paint # too.

Picture and idea from Natty By Design

Here’s another similar idea from Martha Stewart – paint your paint colors on a paint stick and add the name too.

Pinned Image

You can do the same sort of idea to organize your fabric samples.  Such pretty fabric swatches from The Shabby Chic Cottage.

Fabric Sample Keeper

Love 320 Sycamore’s Home inspiration notebook!  This was pre-Pinterest days Winking smile but you could still use the basic concept to compile paint colors, fabric samples, even pictures of furniture or rooms so you have them for reference when shopping.

april 2011 054 1

Another home décor notebook idea from Country Living

I Can Find the Time uses a cheap dollar photo album to organize her paint chips/colors and fabric scraps.  Love this idea!Pinned Image


5. Small bag or pouch

small bag to yard sale

Now you need some way to carry all of this stuff.  I really hate bringing my purse which is overflowing with junk to a yard sale.  I just want something that I can have the basics in – cash, change, car keys, phone, list, and tape measure.  (By the way, I carry my phone mainly so I can take pictures of something I see so I can text it to my husband or to someone who is looking for something specific or upload a picture to share with my readers on my facebook page!)  I am looking for some sort of zippered wristlet type bag or maybe even a crossover bag to use.

This weekend many people shopping at my yard sale had a bag like the cosmetic bag above – just some type of zippered pouch that they had cash in.

So that is about it!

Except a smile – especially if you are bartering a lower price – put on a big smile! Smile

Can you think of anything else that YOU need to bring to a yard sale?

What type of purse or bag do you carry to a yard sale?



  1. I ditto all of the above. My bank ladies know me by name now since I’ve gone in a few times asking for rolls of quarters and all $1s and $5s! That is the best way to yard sale! Love all your tips!!!!!
    Molly Swaffer recently posted..Creativity is FunMy Profile

    • Christina says:

      Ha! I usually just keep all my quarters from my yard sales in a jar and use them throughout the year at sales. 🙂 I need to be better about keeping $1 bills on me – been trying to get change at the store and ask for all $1’s 🙂

  2. I leave my money in the car, that way I really have to think about the purchase. It has to be worth the walk back to the car. I totally agree with you on asking the seller to take less on an item and then they hand over a large bill.

    • Christina says:

      I have heard of others doing that. I did that last week, went back to get $1, and that is when I feel off the curb and thought I broke my toe. LOL! so I think I might bring my $ with me from now on 🙂

  3. Good tips to be reminded of – will need to decorate our bonus room on the cheap this summer.
    Btw, I’m sooo toying with having a yard sale. Working on one our 2012 Home Goals (aka; clearing the bonus room for the remodel), I’ve slowly gathered a rather large pile to sell/donate. What to do, what to do. =)
    Heather @ Thrifty Stories recently posted..TestingMy Profile

    • Christina says:

      oh, I think you should do a yard sale! 🙂 do you live in a well-traveled location? our neighborhood is near main roads but we are 3 streets in and almost a mile from the entrance so I am always surprised at how much traffic I get. Try to sell it first, then donate it. And have your girls make cookies or muffins and earn some $ too! then that gives you some “decorating money” too 🙂

  4. I have just discovered your website and I LOVE IT!!! I’m a veteran yard saler, but due to time constraints I generally stick to the area wide sales in and around my hometown. Because there is generally more walking than driving involved, I bring a small wheeled grocery-type cart to put my purchases in until I get back to my car. It folds down and takes up very little space. Even in a crowd, it’s easy to get around .

    • Christina says:

      that sounds like a great idea! I need your little grocery cart thing for my parking lot yard sale 🙂 I actually have been considering getting one of those pull behind crates on wheels things. 😉 I don’t have a ton of time to do it either so I try to stick to BIG sales or areas instead of individual sales.

      • Just found your site and I see some very good advice. Here is a few more I would like to add:
        – as you say I always bring small bills and change for the reasons stated, but I also separate my cash into different pockets in my pants so that I am not pulling out big wads of $1 bills, (usually $10 to $20 in each pocket) this also helps me keep track of what I am spending.
        – I also carry my own reuseable shopping bags that I’ve bought at stores since they are stronger than what people would give you. I put a bunch of used standard supermarket plastic bags in my reusable bag to keep parts together and they can be used as padding between glass items I buy.
        – My last tip is for those larger community or church yard sale/flea markets, I bring along my old rolling suitcase (that is no longer travel worthy) and I pack all my finds in it and just pull it behind me – this works well since your good buys are protected and it is easy to manuveur the suitcase around tables and crowds.

  5. Jacob Meadows says:

    This is a really good list also my family all gets together to go to the Roller Coaster Yard Sales and then when we get to the really large areas with multiple sales we spread out. We always take a few handheld 2-way radios (walkie-talkies) to keep track of each other.


  1. […] my favorite seller’s spot – she sells everything for 25¢ each!  I measured them (because I carry a small measuring tape with me while shopping yard sales just for this reason! and they were perfect size.  I And she said she only wanted 50¢ for […]

  2. […] What to bring to a yard sale {How to shop yard sale series} | The … […]

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