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Saturday, August 21, 2010

14 Tips to Help You Find Great Deals at Garage Sales

For the most part, this can be a fun Saturday activity that can save you tons of money, and become addictive. Warning: Remember not to brake too fast for garage sales; you don’t want to get rear-ended!

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I personally believe garage sales are the best thing since triple coupons for the *cost effective spender.* Others might call us tightwads, penny pinchers, cheapskates, frugal....but I just think we are making smart choices with the money we have to spend!

Here are some tips for making "garage saling" fun and worthwhile:

1. Keep a list of things you are looking for that you *know* you need or want. Often I’m looking for certain garden equipment, kitchen utensils, tools, etc. that I can live without until I find a good deal.

2. Find a good route, in a fairly affluent area, and follow the route and signs along the way. I don’t mean for this to sound snobbish, but I have often found the best quality items in more affluent areas. Generally speaking, clothes, toys, and other items are in great condition because they have a faster turnover as they replace their inventory more often. You’ll save gas by following a particular route once you’ve found an area you like rather than driving in all directions.

3. Get to know your prices, just as you do with your regular shopping. For example, I would never pay over $.25 for a paperback book. Since we like to make copies of movies, we look for video tapes at garage sales. We have often found them at 4/$1.00. We won’t go much higher than that. Some people are clueless about what to charge because they haven’t been to garage sales. You can find wonderful deals, or you can find things way overpriced. If I stumble on one where the items are really high, I usually walk away pretty quickly, unless they have something I’m extremely interested in purchasing.

4. Polish your negotiation skills! This is the best place in the world to practice negotiating. It is also a great learning opportunity for your children. We used to make this a weekly family affair. One of our sons loved to negotiate at garage sales. Now he is in Sales Management and does very well in his profession. There are different ways to negotiate, and sometimes you can get a *feel* for how flexible the people are with their prices by listening to others making offers. I use one of two approaches. I will either say, "Are your prices negotiable? If so, what is the lowest you would go on this item?" The other approach I will use is to simply offer a certain amount based on what I am willing to pay for an item. This is particularly true of items I find often, or something I could walk away from and not be sorry if I didn’t get. Always show respect to the seller when negotiating. You will get much further by being friendly and not trying to use an intimidating lowball approach.

5. In addition to items on your list, look for things that will make nice gifts. Keep a list of those people you need to buy gifts for and any particular interests they might have. You can find wonderful jewelry at low prices. I’ve often found board games in *like new* condition, or still packaged in the original shrink wrap. If the game has been opened, take the time to make sure all pieces are there and things look new. I also have found books in new condition for gifts. Garage sales are great for finding *specialty* gifts that might fit a particular person’s hobby or tastes.

6. You can sometimes find great deals on clothes. It was much easier to shop for my children at garage sales when they were younger and had not developed any particular sense of style! Many times I have found clothes and shoes that I like for myself. I’m one of those who likes to tell everybody about my great finds. I remember an occasion where I was at a business luncheon and an executive at my table complimented the antique scarf pin I was wearing. I knew him very well and felt comfortable, so I told him it was an earring I had found at a garage sale and had paid 10 cents for the pair! He laughed and said I should come up with a better story the next time I received a compliment. I guess we shouldn’t feel compelled to tell all of our secrets.

7. If you have an expensive car, use a different one for garage sales. If you drive up in an expensive car, or wearing flashy jewelry and fine furs (yeah, right!) there goes any leverage for negotiating.

8. Look for block sales. These are great because you can park your car and walk to several at once. Many areas hold annual yard sales and we track those.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask for something you might be looking for but don’t see. My husband always asks sellers if they might have any video tapes they want to offload. Many people say "just a minute," disappear into the house, and shortly we are walking away with a box of tapes we just bought for a song.

10. If you enjoy doing crafts and making gifts, garage sales are fantastic for finding craft supplies. I have found countless items such as yarn, embroidery thread, cross stitch material, stitchery kits that have never been opened, scrap material, silk flowers, lace, shadow boxes, frames, etc. I have also found many supplies for my painting hobby which makes it much more cost effective.

11. Tools, camping equipment, outdoor and indoor furniture are always available at yard sales. This can be a cost effective way to pick up what you need at prices you can afford. I would personally tend to stay away from electronic items since I don’t know much about them. If we find something that either my husband or I are pretty sure we can repair, we might take a chance if we can get a real bargain.

12. We always look for items we can resell to make a profit. We used to resell things at garage sales or through want ads. Now we have Ebay! We have made a lot of extra money over the years doing this.

13. To avoid filling up your own house with more clutter and items you won’t use, always ask yourself if you will be able to use the item you are purchasing, give it as a gift, or resell it for a profit. In my earlier days, I accumulated too much stuff just because I couldn’t resist great bargains. I have become much more picky with all purchases, including my yard sale finds.

14. Budget a certain amount per month for garage sales. Keep the money in an envelope so you will have cash for your purchases. If you buy items to give as gifts, then you might add some to your garage sale funds from your gift fund. There’s always a way to do some creative financing here.

Have fun with this. Expect to go to many garage sales where you won’t find good bargains. My husband and I have a slogan: "We have to kiss a lot of frogs sometimes before we find the prince." Expect to run across a few people who are rude. Probably, they woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning because they had to get up so early to set up for a garage sale so you could get some good deals! For the most part, this can be a fun Saturday activity that can become addictive. Warning: Remember not to brake too fast for garage sales; you don’t want to get rear-ended!

Copyright 2001 by Karen Kuebler

Better Budgeting

Fabulous Finds
Garage Sale America


An Unsheltered Life said...

Great tips.

I like finding books at garage/yard sales because some people will happily accept a reasonable offer for an entire box. Even when I get some books that I don't want, I can trade them to the gentleman at the flea market who has a permanent stall devoted to book sales. (He gives me one book for every two that I bring him - not bad.)

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