Yard Sale Dos and Don’ts

Birds are chirping happily. Fish are jumping. Squirrels are keeling over from the heat. Summer’s here! And that means yard sales. You can save a lot of dough by picking up items at the “lawn mall,” but money forked over for an item that will need to be replaced is just wasted. Here what to lock down at yard sales and what to leave alone.

Snatch it up

  • Anything silver
    If it has “9.25,” “925/1000,” “Sterling,” or “S/S” engraved on it, it’s either genuine silver or someone has put some real effort into faking it. Usually it’s going to be the former, so strongly consider any cheap silver item that seems to be real. Antique silver items in particular are highly collectable, so even if it doesn’t look nice on your mantle it could still bring you some benefit.
  • Quality wooden bookcases, desks, dressers or other furniture
    Household items these days bought at mass retailers are usually made out of very cheap wood with minimal craftsmanship. If you want an item for cheap that is going to last and show off your taste for fine artisanship, consider picking up an older wood unit.
  • Exercise equipment
    There may not be any category of consumer goods that has a greater cost-to-use ratio than exercise equipment. Better to be the one who brings that ratio down than the one who suffers by selling that Bowflex at a 95% loss.|
  • Kid’s clothes
    As fast as young kids grow, paying for new clothes for them can make you want to start crying and throwing a tantrum. Older kids may balk at the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes – at least until they get older and go through their vintage phase -but younger kids are usually much more open to wearing anything that is “pretty” or “cool” no matter its provenance.
  • Toys/games
    Looking for a way to create some family bonding time? Pick up a new board game for dirt cheap. Got a family road trip coming up? Keep the kids occupied with a toy or game just for them. Or, on second thought, maybe several toys or games.

Pass it up

  • Safety devices
    Whether it’s child car seats, bicycle helmets, baby cribs or any other item designed to protect you or your loved ones, you will want to think twice before picking up something whose history you aren’t entirely familiar with. Baby cribs in particular can be a chancy buy at garage sales since they may have been recalled because of a dangerous design flaw.
  • Mattresses/furniture with soft fabric
    With bedbugs causing so many woes across the country you don’t want to take anything home that could be a launching pad for an infestation. Clothes are safer because they can be washed and dried at high temperatures, but for items that can’t easily have the critters cooked out of them, you may be playing Russian roulette.
  • Electronics
    It’s best to think of buying electronics at a yard sale like buying a scratch-off lottery ticket: maybe you get something out of it, maybe you don’t. At the very least, have the seller demonstrate that the item actually works. But even then, without knowing the entire history of how the item was used you are taking a shot in the dark. Adjust your price accordingly if you do want to take a chance.
  • Anything that can go bad
    Even if it is on the right side of the expiration date, food, toiletries or cleaning products could have been stored improperly. You don’t want to find out the hard way that the $0.75 hair exfoliating cream has gone toxic.
  • Tires
    Anything that helps your vehicle stay under control is just not worth taking a chance on. Tires that have been previously used may have structural integrity issues you would have no way of seeing with an eyeball inspection.


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