Have you ever spent a spontaneous summer day visiting local yard, garage, or estate sales? If so, you know it’s easy to come home with your car full of items you didn’t need but got a great deal on! If spring has sprung in your neck of the woods and those garage and yard sale signs have begun to multiply all over town, have no fear. We’re going to show you how, with proper planning, those local estate and yard sales can be a prepper’s best friend and actually help save your budget instead of blowing it.
Garage and yard sales can be the answer to a prayer for new preppers looking for inexpensive ways to stock that first bug out bag or newly designated bug out location (BOL). But experienced preppers looking to downsize no longer used items to make room for an ever growing stockpile can also get in on the yard and garage sale action by having a sale of their own.
Create your Shopping Supply List
If you’re fairly new to prepping, you should carefully create a comprehensive survival supply and equipment list before you head out looking bargains. You will need to plan for emergency needs in the major categories.
Create a checklist of the items currently in your possession. Make sure you inventory forgotten storage places such as the attic, basement or crawl space, and the garage or shed for possible forgotten items. By this time, you likely have a long list of items that you still need to have in order to feel ready for SHTF.
Prioritize that list according to “must have” and “would be nice to have”. The final result will be your “shopping list” for the coming garage and yard sale season. If it feels overwhelming, you can further rank your must have and would be nice to have columns using a scale, say 1=urgent, 2=crucial but not urgent, 3=necessary but not crucial or urgent. Make sure you store the final checklist on your phone or printed out in your car so that you can check it whenever you are out and about.
Items to Look for at any Sale
The first way that yard sales can be a prepper’s best friend is when you are looking for supplies and equipment to stock your bug out bag or bug out location. It doesn’t make sense to take utensils and other items from your current home to put in your bug out bag or bug out bag location, especially if they are items you use regularly. And there’s no reason to pay full price for new duplicate items that you are going to store when you can find them used at really low prices.
Kitchen and cooking supplies
Stocking your bug out location in advance of a SHTF event is going to be crucial. You won’t have enough time to pack up everything in your home when things get chaotic and you likely won’t have space in your vehicle either. Saturday morning yard sales can be a great resource, with better prices than a thrift store!
- Can opener
- Hand mixers
- Metal spatulas and utensils for open fire cooking
- Stainless steel canteens and cups
- Cast iron pots and pans
- Old flour sifters
- Food dehydrators (non-electric)
- Meat grinders
- Dutch Oven
- Grain mills
- Cheese graters
- Vegetable peeler
- Canning supplies (jars, lid and jar lifters)
- Pressure canners and water bath canners
- Coffee grinder
- Coffee and tea pots (metal or enamel)
Hunting and Fishing Gear
- Camouflage gear
- Tackle boxes and contents including fishing line, nets, lures, bobbers, and hooks
- Fishing poles
- Trapping supplies
- Firearms and ammo (depending on gun laws in your state)
Tools and Gardening Equipment
- Hammers and nails
- Wood planers
- Drills and bits (battery operated)
- Axes and machetes
- Hand Plow
- Pry bar
Reference Books and Homeschooling Supplies
When SHTF and people are desperately trying to reconstruct their lives and feed their families, in all likelihood there will be a significant period of time with no power. This means Google will be gone and those old reference books that detail how to cook from scratch and make things by hand will once again be very useful. Most people naively think that now that Google has arrived, they no longer need printed books. This means you can often find printed books on topics such as:
- First aid and medical
- Plant Identification
- Cooking, Canning, and Recipes
- Dressing and preparing small game
If you’re planning to keep up with your child’s education even when the grid is down and public services are being rebuilt, then you may also want to stock up on homeschooling supplies such as pencils, notebooks, paper, dictionaries, and a thesaurus.
When SHTF and you have to leave the comfort of your home to travel to your predesignated bug out location or into the woods, you’re going to have a need for extra clothing. Even if you are in a location where you intend to bug in, you may need to perform a lot of repairs and other chores that you weren’t doing when everything was right with the world. Since laundry may be more a chore without electricity, having extra “disposable” clothes you can wear for those dirty or rough chores might be worthwhile.
Look for used clothing and winter accessories such as:
- Shoes and boots
- Gloves, scarves, and wool hats
- Old flannel shirts
- Old Jeans or shorts
- Wool socks
- Blankets and Sheets
Many times you can find used or even new medical supplies at yard sales or especially estate sales. Often when an elder family member passes away who has suffered from medical problems for quite some time, families have lots of medical supplies left over that they are happy to sell pretty cheap. Many times you can find supplies that were ordered in bulk amounts and are still new in the package. Look for supplies such as:
- ace bandages
- sterile gloves
- face masks
- surgical scissors
- alcohol wipes
- oxygen tanks
- portable toilet chairs
Whether you are preparing for an emergency situation such as a natural disaster or power outage or working toward becoming more self-reliant for a long-term SHTF scenario, remember that “two is one and one is none” when it comes to supplies. Garage sales are a great place to pick up extra emergency supplies such as:
- Cook stoves
- Sleeping bags
- Battery operated or solar powered radios
- Portable battery operated fans
- …and many more
One man’s trash is another one’s treasure and that is so true when it comes to yard sales, garage sales, and estate sales. As long as you stick to your “shopping list” that you created in the beginning, you can spend the summer adding to your stockpile, even if you’re on a shoestring budget. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to bug out to the wilderness if needed or hunker down and weather the chaos in the comfort of your bug out location.
Here are some miscellaneous items that you may also find:
Hold Your Own Yard or Garage Sale
If you don’t have the funds to shop yard or garage sales or if you’re an experienced prepper who has yet to downsize all those unneeded items around the house, you may want to consider holding your own yard or garage sale. Having your own garage or yard sale is a great way to get rid of things you no longer need, make room in your house for your ever growing stockpile of supplies, and make some extra money that you can then use to buy more prepper supplies.
Steps for an Effective Yard or Garage Sale:
- Purchase storage bins or get boxes and have them ready so that anything you identify as a yard sale item can be priced and go into the bin.
- Start saving your plastic grocery bags from the store so you can offer shoppers bags to put their items into during your sale.
- Purchase pre-printed price stickers or make your own on your computer and print them out. It’s very important to price items as they go into the bins.
- Go through each room of your house over a period of several months or weeks. Pull out anything that hasn’t been used by someone in the past six months to one year. Those items should get priced.
- Encourage your kids to go through their toys and items too. If more than one person will be selling their items, make sure your price tags include initials.
- Check with your city or township to see if you need a permit to have a yard or garage sale. In most cases permits are free, you just have to register your address and dates of your sale. Make sure that you understand the regulations regarding sales in your local area and abide by them.
- Place an ad in the paper at least one week prior to your sale date. You’ll also want the ad to run in the days before and during your sale. Include a description of the items you have that people might look for such as furniture, golf clubs, roller skates, kids clothing, toys, etc.
- Advertise online. Post short ads on Facebook in your local area yard sale and garage sell groups. Include a description of what kinds of items you have and photos of individual items or the entire sale once its setup if possible.
- Rent or borrow enough tables to set everything out where people can browse through it easily. The more organized your items are, the more people will shop. Separate your items into sections on different tables, household things, toys, books on one table, etc.
- Make sure furniture and other “big ticket” items are viewable from the road if possible.
- Make your signs using large pieces of poster board. Political candidate signs, (if you can snag them from a previous election period), make great yard sale signs. You can just fold your poster board over the political candidate sign and tape it with packing tape. Write on both sides of the sign. Use big black arrows to indicate which direction drivers should go to get to your sale. Include your address and the dates the sale will be held.
- Put your signs up late in the evening the night before your sale starts or in the very early morning hours. Place them strategically at intersections so people can follow the arrows to your sale.
- Have a box with a lid to keep cash in during the sale. Start the cash box out with about $20 in small bills and change.
- Use a notebook and make a column for anyone who is selling items in the sale. This is how you will track sales to know how much money each person has earned. When you sell an item, look at the initials on the price tag and mark the amount in the proper column. You must be diligent about this so that monies can be divided fairly at the end of your sale.
- It’s a good idea to have a canopy or other covered area for your “checkout” area. Have chairs so you can sit in between customers. Make sure you greet customers as they arrive and thank them and wish them a good day when they leave even if they don’t buy anything.
- In the evening after your sale ends for the day, you will need to at least cover your items with plastic or some other covering in case it rains. Any electronic items that could be damaged should go back inside and be brought back out in the morning.
- At the end of your sale period, count up your cash, subtract the $20 or however much you started with for change. Total the sales for each person by adding up the amounts in their column.
- Make sure you go around and collect all your signs after your sale to re-use for the next sale. Call Salvation Army, Goodwill, or another non-profit charity and make arrangements to either drop off any leftover items or have them picked up.