How to Buy Christmas Gifts at Garage Sales

Eastlake Garage Sales This weekend, weather permitting, I’ll be up at the crack of dawn searching for bargains at garage sales. Over the years and thanks in part to my mother-in-law I’ve learned that garage sales are a great place to find inexpensive gifts for birthdays and Christmas.

A few years ago when we were getting out of debt I purchased almost all our Christmas gifts at garage sales. I dedicated one month to shopping every weekend and was able to find gifts for all my children and some of our extended family.

Because I had a plan and a list I was able to stay way under budget, find lots of new items, and my kids were thrilled with their gifts.

In order for your gift giving to be successful there are a few things to remember before you shop.

Make a List

It is possible to overbuy at garage sales so make a list of gift ideas. Even if you only spend a few dollars it might seem weird if one person receives ten items if everyone else receives one. If you can’t be that specific at least make a list of people that you will be giving gifts to this year.

Set a Budget

If you only have $5 to spend on each person that’s fine, but you still need to budget the amount you have available. A great deal isn’t a great deal if you can’t afford it.

Look for New Items

I’m always surprised to see so many items that are new in box at garage sales. Nonetheless, take advantage of this situation as you can often find great gifts for pennies on the dollar. Several years ago I went to one garage sale and they had the entire driveway filled with toys that were still sealed in their boxes. It looked like Toys R Us! They were all gifts that their children had received over the years that they never wanted to play with. I did almost all my Christmas shopping at that sale and spent less than $30.

Common garage sale items that are still in the box are small kitchen appliances, decorative items, toys, and candles.

Check Items Closely For Damage

I don’t mind buying something for myself that needs a little work, remember my bookcase find from a few weeks ago? But if I’m giving something as a gift I would like it to be perfect or close to it! Giving an item a wipe down after you purchase it is one thing, but giving a gift with missing buttons or a missing handle is kind of tacky.

Do Your Research

I’ve been to garage sales where people price items like they work at Target. If you know your prices you can negotiate for the best deal and walk away instead of spending too much. This is why having a list is so important.

If you know you want to purchase a coffee maker for your uncle and a new coffee maker costs $35, you probably shouldn’t pay $30 for one at a garage sale. Remember that stores will price items really low on Black Friday and throughout December so you can find great deals in retail. An item needs to be a really great deal for it to be worth purchasing at a garage sale.

Remember It’s the Thought That Counts

If you have a relative who would be highly offended at the notion of receiving a gift purchased at a yard sale then don’t do it.

In my family we like gifts no matter where they were purchased, but not everyone feels the same way. It isn’t worth hurting your relationship with someone over a few dollars.

Shop Like a Professional

Do you need a quick how to garage sale lesson? I’ve been shopping garage sales since I was a kid and there is definitely an art to getting the best deals. If you would like more helpful ideas for shopping at garage sales read my article on garage sale shopping tips.

What do you think? Do you purchase gifts at garage sales or would your family be offended?

Photo credit: Eastlaketimes

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  1. I recently bought gifts for my kiddo’s at a consignment sale. We got some really great stuff at a really great deal!!!! When i told a friend she looked at me like i was nuts! But with 4 kids and only one income i will do most anything to save a little bit. I still consider myself “newer” mom (my oldest is only 6) and i thought “maybe buying used stuff for my kids isnt normal” (although they have never noticed the difference) I was sooooo glad to see this article this morning! It made me know i wasn’t the only one who would buy used stuff for her kiddo’s as gifts! Thank you so much for sharing your tips and ideals!

  2. Somebody's Mimi says:

    Hope I’m on your list! BTW, I’d take an old table or bookcase… if YOU re-did it for me! You can find some great one of kind things, out of the ordinary stuff, and antiques at garage sales that make terrific gifts. I bought an old silver (not silver plate) box (the length of a dollar bill. I put $2 bills in it and gave it as a gift…. my friend loved it.

  3. I was also surprised to see how much “new still in pkg” stuff was at the yard sale I went to on Saturday. I guess people buy things with good intentions and never get around to using it! I got a new in pkg full size blanket still in the bag for $3.00.

  4. that is a super cool present…my mom would love that!

  5. I have been starting to do this as well. Sometimes you can find NIP @ Goodwill for a great deal as well. Thanks for the awesome tips 🙂

  6. I have found nice stuff at garage sales before. I also get books that are in “like new” condition to give as gifts.

  7. Not only is it normal, but they need you to set the example for them on how to be frugal. My daughter is waiting for me to take her clothes shopping with some birthday money. After going online and putting together her “dream outfits” at Lands’ End, she decided she wanted to hit Goodwill first. She saw the prices and knew she wanted to try to strech her money. I just got a very nice, tailored red linen Ralph Lauren business dress at Goodwill for $6! It was in PERFECT condition and even a petite size, cut just for me! 🙂

  8. I once bought a used Wieder home gym for my boys for Christmas and somehow managed to get it home and put together the basement without them seeing it. I only paid about 10% of what it would have cost new and the boys wouldnt have known the difference if I hadnt told them. My favorite garage sale gift idea though, has got to be collectibles. A piece of pink depression glass filled with homemade fudge (given by my mother) is always a favorite at the family Christmas gift exchange!

  9. Although I do not go out and try tobuy for everyone at garage sales, I have in the past bought most presents at them. One year, Santa did most of his shopping at Freecycle, which was just as good 🙂 Most of my family will accept any present, as long as they get one. I have the reputation of giving weird presents, though. Many of them the people don’t appreciate until well after Christmas, but that’s ok with me!

  10. Where I live, Target donates items to the Goodwill, brand new with tags!

  11. When My kids were little, I got most all their stuff second hand. I always tried to check their gifts. A few times, they would show me a book, and say, look Mama, someone colored this! I remember saying: “AH! That must have been Rudolph!” For years after that, they would say that, if there was a blemish on their gift: Rudolph must have played with it!

  12. The new trend in my area is Facebook group garage sales. There’s one set up for my county and several surrounding ones. We just post pics and descriptions of what we’re selling and message each other when we want to buy something. There are almost 4500 people in the group! With an audience like that, you can always find a deal or sell what you have. In the past month, I’ve been cleaning out our house and storage building, and I’ve sold $1000 worth of just small items – I would never make close to that at an ordinary garage sale!

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