With summer in full swing, there’s no doubt you’ve seen the signs around town forweekend yard sales. If you’re not a regular yard-saler, you may want to give it a try. High-ticket items that can hurt a multiples family’s budget (like sports equipment, outdoor toys, and seasonal clothing/gear) are great items to buy used. Here are some tips for shopping yard sales:

1. Shop with a list. I treat yard sales the same way I treat the grocery store or Target/Walmart. I shop with a list and stick to it. Otherwise, I’m just as susceptible to impulse buying and overspending, even at bargain prices. This summer, my list includes: snow pants and boots for next winter, a small wooden desk for my son’s room (I can repaint anything for the right price), jigsaw puzzles with 50-100 pieces, and sports equipment like basketballs, soccer balls, etc.

2. Plan ahead. Usually on Friday, I get some small bills and quarters together (it’s tough on the sellers when you only have a $20 bill for a $1 item) and I look at the Craigslist garage sale listings for my area. I look for neighborhood/HOA sales or large community sales held at churches; that way, I can visit several sales at once without having to drive around too much. I try not to waste gas, I just focus on a general area and follow signs once I’m there.

I paid $20 for this dining room buffet, spent $8 on replacement knobs, and ended up with a lovely piece with great storage!

3. Know your limitations. Over the years, I’ve had a habit of picking up yard sale furniture with the intention of painting it/fixing it up, and then it doesn’t get done, so it ends up getting sold at one of our own yard sales. You, too? If you really have the time/space/inclination to refinish furniture, you can do amazing things with yard sale finds, but if you don’t, save yourself the stress and money by not buying those things in the first place. No need to add someone else’s clutter to your house!

Shopping yard sales for good-quality used items can be a big help to your family budget, as long as you’re careful. Pick up some “new to you” board games, puzzles, and toys to get your kids through the rainy days this summer, then you can pass them along at your next consignment sale or share them with another family.

What deals have you found at yard sales this season?