Adirondack Girl’s Garage Saling Guide

I have been garage saling for a lot of years. During my childhood, neighbors held an annual street-wide sale that I just loved.

In grad school, my friend Zenna introduced me to the garage sale scene in the Albany area, and I’ve never stopped attending them!

Garage Saling Guide

So today I’m pretending that garage sale season is just around the corner (haha, it’s about three months away), and I’m offering a Garage Saling Guide, which I hope will help you to get the most out of your garage sale experiences.

(Spell check does not like saling, but I think sale-ing looks stupid, not that spell check likes that either. Anyway, I’m going with saling. Hope there are no objections?) Okay, onto the guide.

garage sale in front of big red barn

1. Be Prepared

Make a list. 

Take some of time the night before you plan to garage sale to check both your local newspaper, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist for the sales you’d like to attend in the morning.

I list the address and times on a piece of paper by general location. My town (Colonie) has lots of hamlets, so my list goes something like this: Latham, Loudonville, Colonie, and maybe Menands.

After making my list, I look up the addresses I don’t know and jot down a few instructions on how to get there. This saves loads of time. Of course you can just use your GPS, but punching those little numbers and letters onto that little screen is not my favorite way to spend time! I want to get to the sales.

Select your first stop.

Peruse your list and pick out which sale you want to attend first. You might pick the best looking one and start there, or you might think that a particular group of sales in another area will yeild better results.

Sometimes my choices are driven by geography, sometimes by gut. However you decide, decide ahead of time, so you don’t waste precious minutes in the morning reviewing your list.

Bring cash. 

There’s nothing worse that walking up to the seller at your first sale with a 50Β’ item and only a $20 bill to pay for it.

Bring ones, fives, and tens, along with a pocket full of quarters. You’ll be glad you did.

Other items to bring along: a banana box, some grocery bags, and a tape measure–all pretty self-explanatory. The box and bags will keep you organized, the tape measure will be handy and save you time waiting for the seller to find his/hers.

Tuck a bag in your back pocket, then you won’t have to wait for the seller to poke around and find you a bag.

Related Article: Preparing to Shop at Garage Sales + Free Printables (when you subscribe to my newsletter)


garage sale

 2. Be Early

Whatever time my first sale starts (usually 8 am on a good day), I will plan to arrive 15 minutes early. I don’t want to be rude and pushy, just a few minutes early.

If the seller is still at work, but there are items to be looked at, I’ll just politely ask if s/he minds if I look around while they’re still working. When I ask nicely and smile, I invariably get a “Yes.”

Being the first one at the sale means if there are any bargains to be had, I’m going to be the one to get them! If the early sale is followed by an 8:30 or 9 am sale, I’ll do the same thing–try to be 10 or 15 minutes early, and so on.

Garage Sale

3. Be Intentional

It’s important to stay focused while you’re out garage saling, particularly if you run an antique business. You could spend all day at one sale, picking up each item, thinking about it, putting it down, picking it up, chatting with the seller, etc.

Or you can focus, make your choices, and get on to ten or fifteen other sales.

My strategy is to take a few minutes to browse the entire sale and quickly pick up items as I go without thinking about them too much. Once I’ve cased the joint, I go back through again, looking for things I may have missed.

Then I’ll look at what I’m holding (or what I’ve piled up near the seller) and put back anything I don’t really want or need.

The bottom line is to keep moving–you want to get to the next sale as soon as possible.

garage sale

 4. Be Brave

Don’t be afraid to dicker.

You may find it difficult to make an offer on an item or to ask, “What’s your best price?” But most sellers expect a little dickering, so you have nothing to lose.

You’ll find that the more you do it, the easier it gets, especially if you’re polite about it (see #5 below).

If I have an item priced at $5 in my hand, that I only want to pay $3 for, I might approach the seller with a smile and three $1 bills in my hand. I’ll ask, “Do you think you could take $3 for this whatsit?”

About eight times out of ten they’ll say yes. The other two times they’ll say “How about $4?” and I’ll usually say yes to that.

Related article: How to Haggle Like a Rock Star 

Don’t worry about making “mistakes.”

Don’t agonize over items priced at $2 or less. Just buy it. Once you’re home, if you’re displeased, consider selling it for what you paid, giving it away, or donating it to a thrift store. Don’t hang onto “mistakes” any longer than necessary.

My girlfriend, Robin, who got me into the antiques business years ago, told me you can’t lose in this business, because you always learn from your so-called mistakes and because invariably, you can at least make your money back, if not make a tiny profit.

garage sale

5. Be Polite

Avoid the stereotypical antique dealer personality. The way most people say the word “dealer” or makes the term sound like a swear word. And really it’s no wonder.

I’ve been at sales where dealers approach busy sellers with pushy or rude questions, or where their offer has been rejected and they proceed to lecture the seller about the item’s “real” worth. I sometimes wonder if some dealers grow so object-focused that they’ve forgotten how to be kind?

Anyhow, stepping down from my soapbox…it’s important to be polite! Even friendly. Why not be polite and friendly. Even compassionate. Why not?

I know this conflicts with my previous “keep things moving” mantra, but a couple of minutes here and there is allowed. I’ve been to several sales run by sweet elderly women who viewed the sale as an opportunity for a little companionship.

I’m embarrassed to say that on many occasions I’ve rushed through the sale and bulldozed right through the payment, only to realize later that I missed the opportunity to be kind. Ouch. 


There you have it, my famous Garage Saling Guide, well not famous yet, but a girl can dream! I hope I’ve given an idea or two on how to approach the fine art of the garage sale. And here’s my last tip: HAVE FUN!

What’s your favorite garage saling tip?

I’d love to hear it!

Thanks for stopping by–

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Adirondack Girl's Garage Saling Guide







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  1. I feel like I wrote this myself! I completely agree with everything you've pointed out! Be Polite is my number one rule. I'd be in garage sale heaven if I drove up to a barn that looked like that. Love the mannequin legs sticking out of the pile, lol.

  2. Yes, those mannequin legs are something! visiting from Home&History party. thanks for the great tips!

    1. Funny thing is, I didn't even notice them until I blew the picture up! Thanks for stoppiig by πŸ™‚

  3. LOVE your tips, the chart is wonderful! I am delighted that you shared with Home and Garden Thursday,

  4. I found your site from the My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia link party. I love your tips! And I CAN'T WAIT for garage sale season to start! The night before my first garage sale of the year is like Christmas Eve for me. πŸ™‚ ~Courtney

    PS–My husband grew up in Latham. Small world!

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Courtney! I feel the same way; I'm getting itchy. Very small world–are you still in NY?

  5. Great tips, Diana. I'm featuring this on my Link Party Features Pinterest Board this week. Thank you for sharing this at History & Home this week, take care. Dawn @ We Call It

  6. These tips are spot on! I agree with getting there early, having lots of one dollar bills and asking for deals. I think everyone expects that shoppers will try to dicker, so you might as well try. I have gotten some great deals on things this way. People like to change out their dΓ©cor every once in awhile and the resellers (of which I am one) can benefit by this practice. The items are often sold at great prices “just to get rid of them” and their boredom can be to our advantage. I try to triple my money when reselling if possible, so thinking about whether or not I can sell the item at that price will often be the determining factor in making the purchase.

    Thanks for the great tips and happy garage, rummage, tag sale-ing season to one and all!

    1. I’m so glad you liked the post πŸ™‚ Garage/rummage/tag saling is my favorite way to shop!! Sounds like you’re on board with that idea. I hear so many “dealers” talk about doubling my money and I say, No!! You’ve got to get more than that in order to really make a profit. Good for you for shooting higher.

  7. Very good tips. I might add though, sometimes that little old lady who has the sale just to find a chance to interact is worth more than the next sale or all the sales you planned to attend. I’ve been known to forget about everything else and just sit and listen to the stories an aging person is hoping to share. I’m not exactly young so I understand how people older than myself get lonely and would love to have a friendly conversation. Sometimes God led you to that garage sale, not for the good buys, but for the goodbyes.

  8. Diana, I agree with every single thing you said! I endeavor to be nice too. And after I finally got up the courage to dicker, I haven’t looked back. Like you, I get prepared the night before with my list, & I write down all the turns to take even though we have GPS too. Takes too long to put it in, just like you said. In my “be prepared” list, I usually take a small flashlight….better for estate sales than garage sales. Sometimes I go in a dim house or basement. So handy to have a light. Great tips!

  9. You have certainly made some excellent points here. I remember the old days when I used to cruise around with a cooler, a suburbs map, and three newspapers. My, how it has changed here. Craig’s List and local thrift shops have become easier, not cheaper, but then i’m really not buying too much to sell. Anyway, love the, “Be Prepared” list. Grins, thanks, Sandi

  10. In your #4 picture, I thought the man was a mannequin head!!! I was just searching for some eyelashes for mine (some ninny pealed mine off in my booth) so I took longer than usual look at yours! LOL..

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