Garage Sale Gift Shopping

Last week you read about our adventures in green birthday party planning–but that’s only half the story. Our quest for quality gifts started long before the birthday festivities when I declared that we could buy all Roscoe’s birthday presents used.

My husband was a bit skeptical, especially because we had a very specific birthday list for our son.  It was short, but we knew he’d enjoy his presents and they wouldn’t crowd our small house:

  • A tricycle
  • A collapsible play tent
  • A wooden city bus (He’s obsessed with public transport)
  • A book

After weeks of searching online for a used trike, my husband started pricing new tricycles at around $50-$100 each.  My tightwad soul couldn’t bear spending that much on one gift.  So with a purse full of small bills, I hit the garage sale circuit to see if we could find everything we needed. 

I went to just two sales, but ended up scoring a tricycle, a Radio Flyer wagon, a train play tent, and another tricycle for friends (brand new in the box) for just $16 total. 

Honestly, I am still recovering from the high.  

The tricycle and wagon needed a little work, but at $5 apiece we were happy to do it.  (I’ll be posting a blog on the rusty wagon makeover next week.) The materials cost about $12, which brought our total birthday bill to $28.  

Since it would be tough to find a used wooden city bus at garage sales, we managed to find one that’s made here in town for $25.  Oregon Wooden Toys has a whole line of handcrafted vehicles that are great quality and very reasonable. 

To complete our list, my husband found a hardcover Thomas the Train board book for just $6 at our favorite used book store.

So, we could have bought this tricycle for $59 dollars, but instead we spent $59 and ended up with everything in the picture to the right–without the environmental or economic expense!  The total price of all the items we bought new would have been $233.96 and come with at least four cardboard boxes and/or plastic bags!  

After sharing my yard sale bliss with my siblings and my mom, we’re considering a family holiday of used gifts this year.  We’ll be able to pick out nice quality toys for the kids without having cellophane and cardboard strewn all over the living room floor when the gifts are opened.  Since those toys will all go in reusable gift bags, cleanup will be easy.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be searching out sales that can provide holiday presents for Roscoe, his cousins, and maybe even my resale-resistant hubby. I can’t yet say that he flings off the covers on Saturday mornings and bolts out the door to go yard sale shopping, but with deals like these, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll get hooked on my thrifty, green addiction.

If you have a simple idea that can save money and the planet, please join our Thrifty Green Thursday blog carnival.  For directions on where to start, just click here.   (Please make sure to follow the directions or we may have to delete your link!)  Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my garage sale ecstasy!


  1. Very Cool! I can’t wait to see the before and after pics of the wagon. I guess I’m kind of resale resistant too. But maybe this fall I’ll put my thrifty green hat on and see if I can find some garage sale holiday treasures – thanks. Also I made my first carnival post!

  2. Wow, great finds! I really should shop second-hand more often.

  3. Good for you for buying used gifts! I’ve done it a couple times, but then feel guilty b/c special occasions call for new gifts. But really, that silly, b/c you can find so many great things used. I think people–myself, included–get off on the high of opening the gift instead of enjoying the gift itself. But I’m getting over that b/c I’m getting tired of all the packaging waste, too. So I think I’ll get more used gifts, too.

  4. Nice haul!!

    I wasn’t fond of buying used stuff to give as gifts until my husband gave me a pair of fun kitschy 50’s rinestone sunglasses for my birthday. I totally love them and complimented him on finding a gift that was so “me”. Then he tells me that I actually picked out my own gift. Apparently we were in a vinetage shop a week before and I commented on liking the glasses (I don’t remember saying this but whatever) and he went back and bought them. So I guess I’m reformed at the second-hand stuff as gifts thing. 🙂

  5. Awesome haul! I have a rusty wagon that needs a makeover! I can’t wait to see the tutorial!

  6. What a great idea! I often find that used gifts require much more thought and are ultimately more personal, reflecting the person intended for. We love to search out items from people’s pasts. Something they mentioned once in conversation, like a comic book they loved as a kid, etc. They are floored when receiving it. How did you know?! Just listen and you will pick up little cues.

  7. Cathy: Good for you for even considering getting used gifts. My sister, who’s an amazing thrift store shopper, once gave me a few boxes of clothes for the holidays. She bought them in the goodwill “bins”–which means they were sold by the pound and ultra-cheap. I ended up with several quality pieces of name brand clothing that I loved–and the gift cost my sister a little over $7.00. I’m sure it took plenty of time though!

    Condo Blues: I just might have to share the rhinestone glasses story with my hubby as a subtle hint for holiday gifts.

    Greeen Sheeep: What a great idea about delving into people’s childhood favorites to come up with thoughtful ideas for vintage gifts. I would be so excited to get an antique Wonder Woman comic book. (More hints for my husband!)

    Thanks for your input and for commenting on our contributing blogs this week. It’s an honor to be working with such creative, frugal bloggers!

  8. Wow! What a great deal. I scored our first tricycle on craigslist recently. It’s in great shape just a little rust on the bell. I’m interested to see what you do and maybe we’ll follow suit.

  9. What a great idea for a holiday with only “used” (or “pre-owned”?) gifts!

  10. What a terrific find! I have started to look at used items for the kids. I have learned from the older two, that Ethan does not need brand new baby toys as they outgrow them so fast. Thanks for sharing your tip!

  11. That’s awesome. I can’t believe you got all that loot! I love the idea of buying “recently loved” items for Christmas. Especially children’s toys – might have to make that suggestion to our family.

  12. I’d love to get into the garage sale circuit, but its so hard much work: finding them, mapquesting them, getting up early on the weekend. I wish there were community flee-markets to check out around here but i haven’t found any yet.

  13. Jillian: I feel the same way about garage sales when I think of going to several. During Roscoe’s birthday present garage sale haul, I looked up two sales in Craigslist that had lots of kids stuff and were in the same up-scale neighborhood. This seems to be the best way to score lots of stuff in a short period of time without a lot of effort. It is a bit of work beforehand, but it’s much easier than driving from sale to sale all morning and pulling kids in and out of carseats.

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