Mar 5, 2022 - Things to Do

Shop on a budget at garage sales and auctions near Des Moines

Photo illustration of a sale tag

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

My first full-time job in journalism paid $10 an hour. Cash was tight, but garage sales saved me.

What happened: I furnished my first apartment, and then my first home, for just a few hundred dollars.

  • I learned where to find the very best sales in the metro and — even after I got a few promotions — I've continued to bargain hunt.
  • Like my shirt? It's probably yours.

My advice: Shop in areas you want to emulate in your life. If you've got kids, for example, focus on sales near schools.

  • Here are some of my favorite neighborhoods for garage sale shopping:


  • It's my Goldilocks of garage sales. I've found some treasured items, like original artwork, for great bargains.

South of Grand

  • Loads of great stuff but not always the best for deals. These folks know when they're selling a Picasso.


  • Great for housewares linked with newlywed sales — merging households that don't need two crock pots. Score.
A photo of a painting.
Jason paid $5 for this original painting at a garage sale in Beaverdale circa 2000. It still hangs in his living room. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Plus: Auctions are another great way to snag some of the best deals, especially if you're willing to do a little research and be patient.

A few tips: Don't show too much emotion. Bidders feed on energy and will take a second look at an item if they sense excitement.

  • Set your limits. Estate auctions, especially, can be emotional and result in out-of-control bidding.
  • Research. Many auctions publish photos online. You can set calendar reminders and alerts for specific treasures on sites like AuctionZip.
A photo of a china cabinet.
Jason bought this china cabinet for $225 at an auction in rural Guthrie County. The complete set of china was $2 at an auction in Story County. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

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