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Friday, April 9, 2010

Garage Sale Shopping Tips


I was driving along the other day heading out to do errands and all of a sudden my oldest daughter says, "hey mom, there's a garage sale down that street!"  I must say, after a very long winter here in the Midwest, it was all I could do not to slam on the brakes and turn around!  But, errands called..

Garage sale season has begun!  I don't know about you, but we've been shopping garage sales, yard sales, and estate sales for going on 15 years now.  We've outfitted our girls from day one with beautiful clothing for so very little money.  We've found books, great movies, home decor, games, organizational items, furniture, toys, and so much more over the years.  I must admit that some years it was almost an obsession for me to get out every Thursday morning by 8 a.m. and start shopping.  We are really blessed to have so many sales in our area.



I thought since garage sale season has arrived yet again, I'd share a few tips that have made my garage sale days a bit easier and a little more organized (and FUN!).

Garage Sale Shopping Tips
  • Map out your route before you leave the house.  Laminated maps are really great for marking out garage sale routes each week.  Using a dry erase marker, I would circle the street to which I was going and put a number beside it so I knew which one was next on the list.  As I visited that sale, I erased the mark.
  • Always take the newspaper or printout from the computer with you that lists the garage sale addresses and the blurb about what they're selling so you can remember why you wanted to go there in the first place.  This is especially handy toward the end of the morning or afternoon when everyone is hot and cranky and ready to go home.  Was there something at that last sale you truly had to have?  
  • If you're shopping with little ones, always take snacks and plenty of water along.  A small cooler is perfect for traveling around to garage sales and keeps everything fresh.  Toss in a few toys, books, and music tapes to keep everyone happy.  If you think you'll be out during the lunch hour, pack lunch too.
  • Older children can be a big help when shopping too.  Put them on the lookout for items you want and perhaps they can help you find them before someone else grabs them up.  
  • Don't be afraid to haggle on prices!  There are two types of garage sales - ones where people are looking only to make money and don't mind pulling everything back into the garage at the end of the day if it doesn't sell.  The other type is the one where the folks would like to make some money, but their primary goal is to get rid of the clutter and stuff and not take it back into the house.  These are the sales where offering a bit less than the tagged price could save you a bit of $$ but still give the seller a fair price for the item.
  • Be courteous, always.  You're being invited onto someone else's personal property when you visit a garage sale.  A smile and a greeting goes a long way.  Keeping your children with you and under control (everyone does that, right?) goes a very long way as well.  Many sales we've been to will post signs that say, "you break it, you buy it".  It's very much like visiting a store.  When we leave, even if we purchased nothing, we thank the seller and tell them to have a good day. 
  • YES!  You can walk away from a sale buying absolutely nothing.  It's ok!  If this is especially difficult for you, keep in mind that if you spend a few dollars here and there on things that you buy simply out of guilt, you may not have enough on you when you finally see "the thing" you've had on your wish list forever!  Just keep walking...
  • Get out and take a look, no matter how small or sad the sale may appear from the street.  I've learned my lesson on this many times over.  I'll pull up, see the sale and think, "seriously, that's all there is and your ad said "HUGE sale!"?  Granted, sometimes you'll hit a real stinker of a sale and find absolutely nothing.  However, sometimes you'll find gems that are completely unexpected and you'll walk away thinking that you are so glad you stopped.
  • Look under the tables!  I shop garage sales and I've hosted garage sales over the years.  Toward the end of the time you're putting things out and discover there is just no more room, the logical place to put items is under the table (to keep walkways clear).  Look under the tables.  Root through boxes.  There could be real treasures awaiting you...
  • Try to bring small bills and change.  So many times people zoom through the ATM and head to the sales only to find that the seller hadn't prepared enough change and there's no way to buy that small item because there's no change to be had.  Believe me, the seller will be so thankful to see smaller bills earlier in the morning.  This may not be an issue later in the day however, so if you've gone through your cash stash in the a.m. and have to make a run through the cash machine, go ahead!
  • If you see a larger ticket item and don't have all the cash on you right then, approach the seller and ask them if they'll accept a deposit to hold the item for 30 minutes.  I've done this many times and usually people are agreeable to do so.  However, if the item is in great demand and they have several potential buyers, the seller may politely decline your request. 
  • Keep sanitizer in the car and use it every time you get back in after visiting a sale.  
  • Most of all, have fun
Do you have garage sale shopping tips that you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear them!  

All my best to you today.  Happy garage sale shopping!

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