The Great Frugal Battle: Yard Sales Versus Thrift Shops

In the great battle of “where to get a good deal,” most frugal suburbanites know about the great deals that can be found at yard sales and at thrift shops. But which one is better?

Of course, the answer likely depends on where you live, what your neighborhood is like, and what kind of city you live in. It also depends on how much time you would like to invest in the search. Yard sales are seasonal and often only take place on the weekends, while thrift shops are open during most business hours.

yard sale sign post

Image via Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr

Let’s let the facts speak for themselves:

Yard Sales

Since yard sales are seasonal, you can sometimes luck into a great deal. Hard to find old editions of books for pennies on the dollar, and off-season equipment like hockey equipment and snow shovels can be found for a steal. However, sometimes the owner is a little too attached and can keep the prices far too high.

Looking for something in particular? Here is a list of items that are most often best purchased at yard sales:

  • Children’s clothing

  • Children’s toys

  • Books

  • Exercise gear

  • Very large pieces of furniture

Thrift Shops

You can’t mention thrift shops anymore without referencing DJ Mackelmore’s famous “Thrift Shop” video. Do you agree with him? Can you not beat the deals there? While thrift shops can often have more variety than the average yard sale, you’re also stuck with more conventional pricing methods and not as much wiggle room when it comes to finding a bargain.

However, thrift shops really win when it comes to variety and selection because they have established sections that are always stocked — probably because the last stop of someone hosting a yard sale is donating all of the leftovers to a thrift shop.

Here’s a list of the best deals to seek out at a thrift shop:

  • Home decor

  • Linens

  • Dishes

  • Cookware

  • Silverware and kitchen utensils

Regardless of which type of shopping you prefer, purchasing goods at yard sales and thrift shops will both save you tons of money over retail stores — sometimes even over discount or outlet stores!

Do you prefer yard sales or thrift shops? Which do you think carries better deals? 

12 thoughts on “The Great Frugal Battle: Yard Sales Versus Thrift Shops

  1. I prefer thrift stores. With yard sales, you need cash, so you are stuck asking them to hold the item while you run to the bank, or grabbing cash first, which can lead to overspending as you decide that you still have $10 in your wallet, so you can get that saw table that you don’t actually need.

  2. I think I lean more toward thrift stores, but it’s probably because it’s less of a hassle. Our yard sales in my area are often full of junk and/or overpriced. Not that some of our thrift stores aren’t over priced, but at least they do the work of sorting through the crap and only selling the decent stuff.

    • Yes! What is it with over priced yardsales? When the owners are still attached to their stuff, they can keep the prices too high to be worth it. I wonder if eBay & the like make people think their stuff is worth more nowadays?

  3. I think whichever one you can score the best deal will win 🙂 Probably depends on luck, being at the right place at the right time, and increasing your chances by actually shopping. Either way, if you know what you’re looking for and what the ‘right price’ is, you can win either way.

  4. I like thrift stores better mainly because there is zero chance of me getting up at 6 am to go to a yard sale to get the good stuff lol. I do think however you can get better deals on stuff at yard sales because usually the main point is to de-clutter vs actually make a ton of money, where as thrift stores are in the business of making money so generally their prices are higher, especially on collectibles as they are more heavily researched before the price them.

  5. I prefer thrift stores simply because of the selection. I also struggle to plan garage sale trips on the weekends. I think it’s all about timing. If you get to a thrift store at the right time, you have good selection of items just put up for sale. Same for garage sales… Early bird usually gets the worm!

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