Tips for Shopping Garage Sales Successfully

Spring excites me for the warm temperatures and the return of green everything. I’ll admit that I also get excited at the thought of new garage sales to be explored. So many possibilities…

I’ve shared tips here on having a successful garage sale, and I thought I’d share some of my tips for getting the most out of shopping garage sales. I’m no expert, by any stretch, but I do have a few successes in my past. Here’s a wee sampling of my favorites:

garage sale finds: chair, mixer, purse

As Tippy Toe Diet readers know, the Kitchen Aid Mixer is my favorite. I had one on my “want” list for a while, but I wasn’t about to shell out $250-$300 for one. I found this one at a small (read: car hood) sale and almost cried with joy. I still can’t believe my good fortune in finding it! Oh well, this doesn’t help you with your shopping, does it? Moving on…

Tips for Shopping Garage Sales Successfully

Get your finances in order. Make sure you have smaller bills on hand. For one thing, it’s rude to show up early at a sale and then try to pay for a $1.00 purchase with a $20.00 bill. Another consideration is that if you spread those small bills around various pants or purse pockets, you won’t be advertising that you have more money to spend. I’ve actually had several experiences in which the seller offered me a price lower than I was prepared to pay, just because he or she saw me pull a single bill out of my pocket. They didn’t know I had bills tucked in every pocket, and I didn’t bother correcting them!

Plan your route ahead of time. Whether you use classifieds or Craigslist or both, write down the sales you want to to hit and plan your route the night before. I usually group sales by start time and then map out my route based on where they’re located and what they’re advertising. For me, sales with “lots of baby items and kids’ clothes” go to the bottom of the list. At most, I’ll drive by those that are on my way to more promising sales and stop only if I see something that catches my fancy.

Keep a running list of items you hope to find. I usually scan first for the things on my list, and then for anything else that looks “interesting”. My current hopefuls are pretty plates, small bowls, a small shelf-suitable lamp, storage jars, and a couple of cabinet spice shelves.

Scrutinize and test everything. This one is really a given, but I’ve had people buy plenty of things without asking if they worked or if they could try them out. (I usually have a tag with, “It Works!”, on it, and I guess I must just have a trustworthy face. :) )

Open all boxes. People often keep original packaging and will put a used item back in it to sell. I don’t think they’re trying to pull a fast one; more likely they’re just trying to corral the contents. If you’re at a garage sale, you probably don’t care that it’s used, but you want to make sure the condition and the price match up. (Also, a friend of mine once got home and opened a box to find a wad of cash tucked into a pair of shoes. Fortunately, she remembered where she made the purchase and was able to return the cash to the seller, who gave her back what she’d paid for the shoes and $20 besides.)

Choose your haggles. I’m not one to try to negotiate every single purchase. If a $5 or $10 item seems worth the price, I pay it. The seller makes a little money, I’m saving a little money, and all is in balance. When I do engage in haggling, I usually simply ask, “Are you willing to accept a little less for this?” Quite often, the “little less” they respond with is lower than I would’ve asked for. If they aren’t willing to lower the price, I thank them anyway and leave it at that. Sometimes the seller will change his/her mind and lower the price before I leave. If they don’t, I just chalk it up as not meant to be.

Group items for a discount. This is my more common negotiating technique. If I have a total of $13 in items to purchase, I’ll ask if they’ll accept $10. It almost always works! (That said, I once had 6 or 7 items collected that totaled $11, and the seller wouldn’t accept $10 for all of it. The $11 was more than fair, and I actually needed the items, so I went ahead with the purchase. But I did pay with a $20. :) )

Carry a few business cards or index cards with your contact info. If a seller won’t make a deal with you, leave contact information with them and ask them to call you if they’re unable to sell the item and are willing to lower the price. It helps if you smile and wish them good luck in getting their price for it. :)

Consider “shopping the curb” later in the day. Many times, sellers will simply put unsold items at the curb when the sale is over. This boggles my mind, especially when I see an item that “couldn’t be sold for less than $20″ sitting at the curb four hours later. Personally, I’d rather get something for it rather than just throw it away, but some people don’t see it that way.

Shopping garage sales can be fun, and there are certainly savings to be had. For me, a little organization (but not rigidity) enhances the fun and the savings!

Do you have any favorite garage sale tips or strategies?

2 thoughts on “Tips for Shopping Garage Sales Successfully

  1. I have to forward this to my hubby. He takes our daughter sometimes and they go to them. She tends to get lots of stuff for free. (like we need more stuff!) He already has a good sense of only taking so much money and he’s teaching her well.
    The best time I had was finding the exact thing I had been shopping for on Amazon just that week. I wanted to get some silicon bolds so that Em and I could make bath bombs, etc… but they’re quite expensive. Well just around the corner from our house at a yard sale, there were tons of them! they just wanted to be rid of them and i got 4 or 6 for like 50 cents each. They didn’t need to be food grade anymore…. and they were quite good actually. Yeah, that was fun.

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