Yard Sales and Children’s Clothing: The Method To My Madness

Yard sale season is in full swing now that the weather is finally warm around  here. If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know I’m in to saving money. Yeah, I’m a cheapskate. What can I say?  I get a thrill out of finding a bargain!

Because I’m a stay-at-home mom, I don’t directly contribute a paycheck to our family. Instead, my husband earns the money and I try to make it stretch. One of the big ways I do that is that I buy almost all of my kid’s clothes at yard sales. In the last year or two, I’ve only bought one pair of dress shoes, a clearance-priced jacket and a pair of jeans at real stores. Seriously. That’s it.

I get a lot of questions from friends about how I do it. So today I’m sharing all my secrets!

Let’s start by put the savings into perspective. I’d say that the average price for a child’s shirt is $5-10 and pants are $10-20 at a normal retail store. I normally pay between 50 cents and $1 per item, and sometimes more for something really nice (like $2-$3 for jackets, dresses, shoes, etc.). That’s a HUGE price difference when you think of how many clothes kids go through in a year. There is a lot of potential to save money here!

So here’s the system I’ve honed over the last five years of shopping almost exclusively at yard sales…

1. Start with a clothing inventory. You have to know what you have and what you need. My inventory lists look like this:

I have a separate list for each child. When I get home from yard sales, I immediately get out my inventories and add every single piece of clothing I bought that day to the list.

Before I go to yard sales, I look at my inventories and write a quick sticky note with the specific items I’m looking for. That way I know what size shoes I need. And I don’t end up with 14 pairs of pants in one size with no shirts to go with them. I can’t stress how critical this is to being able to do a year’s worth of shopping in just the summer yard sale months. You’ve got to have a plan!

2. Go to a lot of yard sales. I go out every Saturday morning all summer. People often say to me, “How come you always seem to find the good stuff and when I go to yard sales, there’s nothing?” Believe me, I’ve been to hundreds of crappy yard sales. I’ve even had entire Saturdays where I didn’t buy a single thing. But the more yard sales you consistently attend, the better odds you have of scoring cool things…and not just clothes. I spend about two hours every Saturday morning six to eight weeks in a row driving around to yard sales. That’s how I find the good deals. Crazy? Maybe…but I look at it as a hobby. It’s something I enjoy and it saves my family a ton of money. So there you go. You want a solid wood armoire for $5? (True story…picture HERE.) You have to go to a lot of yard sales before something like that comes along!

3. Buy ahead. If my kids need shorts NOW, I am willing to pay more for them than for clothes they will wear next year. But if something is nice and a good price, I’ll buy it far in advance. I already have some size 7 and 8 stuff for my four year old! It’s tucked away in the storage room and it’s on an inventory list so I don’t forget about it by the time he gets around to fitting into it.

One concern people have is whether their kids will be dressed cute. You would be shocked at what you can find at yard sales. I’ve bought fancy dresses, three piece suits, name brand jeans, mint-condition shoes… cute, cute stuff! There is a lot of quality, trendy, good clothing just waiting to come home with you. In fact, I found that my kids are dressed better now that I shop at yard sales because I can get nicer brands than I would be able to afford if I were left to scavenge the clearance racks of WalMart.

So what do you think? Questions? Any good tips to share? I’d love to see your best yard sale finds!


  1. I don't have any 'real' kiddos, (6 furbabies), but I'm a yard sale junkie too. If I have to pass by one without stopping it hurts! I like how you look at it, as a hobby. I see it as a treasure hunt, & find it a fun & relaxing way to spend the day. Also, it's a good way to learn your way around a new area.

  2. Awesome information! I still can't help but wish you would come with me and hold my hand through the process. 🙂 But I love your inventory list, I am totally doing that! Thanks!

  3. I have finally seen light as far as buying clothes ahead of time at thrift stores/garage sales, but I have it all shoved into a big bin downstairs. So I feel like I'm constantly going through the bin to see what I have. Yes, I should have thought of this ages ago. Thank you! Going down right now to do an inventory…
    p.s. I especially like finding jackets and snowpants at the thrift store. Last year I found a carhart brand kid-sized jacket for $5. It was the super warm kind. I was so happy!


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