Ms. Cheap yard sales

Ms. Cheap says yard sales can be handy for acquiring items we need at a fraction of the original cost, as well as a veritable treasure hunt for bargain hunters.

Some people go to yard sales with a list of things they are looking for. And some go with an open mind, just enjoying the thrill of the hunt.

I do both, and that way I am able to get things that I need and, sometimes, things I had no idea that I needed.

For example, at a recent sale, I bought a stack of envelopes and a chair-in-a bag (both of which I needed) and then some wind chimes, a few freshly dug perennial black-eyed Susans and hearty begonias for my garden, a brand-new box of colored pencils for the grandchildren and a lovely African-made mobile featuring hand-carved birds (that I did not need but fell in love with).

And my total expense, after some minor negotiating, was $8.

Yes, yard sales can be handy for acquiring items we need at a fraction of the original cost, as well as a veritable treasure hunt for bargain hunters like me.

There is definitely some entertainment value in this kind of shopping. Plus, I like to see what other people are buying.

Tips for being a good yard sale shopper

• Have a plan. Before you head out on your shopping trip, check the ads and online notices of sales (in newspapers, on Craigslist, Facebook and neighborhood list serves) and plan your route based on location and what time they open. Some sales open earlier than others, and you don’t want to waste your shopping time waiting to get started.

• Go early for the best selection or late for the best prices.

• If there are certain things you are looking for, like blinds or a piece of furniture or clothing for others, take the required measurements or sizes with you. And be sure to bring a tape measure along so you can check out sizes.

• Negotiate — but in a nice way. Most yard sale organizers expect a little negotiation. If you have a pile of goodies that add up to $23, just ask if they would take $20, and usually the answer is yes. And usually the more you buy, the better deal you can get.

• If there is something you really want but the price is too steep, leave your contact information and the amount you would be willing to pay. By the end of the day, if the item has not sold, they may be ready to take your offer.

• Take cash or have the Venmo app. Many sales frown on checks.

• If you are looking for something in particular, say record albums or picture frames, ask the sellers if they have that. Sometimes you may have overlooked it, or they may have whatever it is inside the house and could be willing to sell it.

• Have a plan for getting what you buy home. One of my yard sale pals bought a wheelbarrow at a recent sale, and while it was great for hauling our finds to the car, we had a devil of a time getting that wheelbarrow safely tucked into her car.

• Last but not least, have fun and enjoy some bragging rights on the goodies you snagged on your shopping trip.

And you can also enjoy the fact that you got some great deals and didn’t even have to pay sales tax!

Next week’s column will offer tips on how to organize a successful garage sale, so stay tuned.

Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears on Thursdays on “Talk of the Town” on NewsChannel 5. Reach her at and follow her on Facebook at