I don’t know about you, but I LOVE garage sales! There’s such a great feeling about snatching a fabulous deal for a mere fraction of the original cost. Truthfully, for those moms who are “stay at home” moms, its a great way to stretch your household income.
Even if you’re don’t have to pinch those pennies so much, consider going garage sale shopping and investing those dollars that you saved into missions at your church. Missionaries ALWAYS need your help…they depend on us while they’re on the field spreading the gospel – and they don’t get the privilege to run to Walmart for the little things that we often take for granted.
Anyway…back to garage sale tips!
Decisions, decisions: To Buy or Not to Buy – the Great Garage Sale Question
The downside of picking up so much stuff from garage sales is that you can wind up with too much junk in your house….and then you have to turn around and give some of it away or sell the stuff yourself. Also, some items can be unsafe. To help avoid these scenarios and others like them, here’s a brief guide as to what to buy and not to buy at garage sales.
What to Buy
You can really get a bargain on books at garage sales, and you can even turn around and sell them online for a bit of profit.
2. Clothes and accessories
The prices on clothing at garage sales can be excellent, and handbags, watches, and jewelry can also be good purchases. No one has to know that your Vera Bradley purse only cost $2! Baby and child clothes are usually fine, and it’s a good bargain since you’re trying to clothe a rapidly-growing child.
Cups, mugs, plates, and so forth can be great deals at garage sales. They are washable and useful, and you can even hand paint them and give them as gifts.
Bistro sets, chairs, and other wooden and metal furniture can be great buys at garage sales.
What Not to Buy
1. Safety equipment
Items like motorcycle helmets, horseback riding helmets, and other safety gear is not a great idea to purchase at a garage sale. They might be old and not up to current regulations, or damaged in such a way that you can’t see but that would compromise its effectiveness.
2. Car baby/child seats
Safety regulations are always being updated for car baby/child seats. One that was manufactured a year ago might have been declared unsafe. Also, there might be missing components or damage to the seat that could make it unsafe.
Like car baby seats, cribs are always being re-evaluated for safety. An old crib that met safety regulations 10 years ago might be declared hazardous now. Unless you’re planning to display dolls in the crib or you want the wood for other projects, stay away from cribs at garage sales.
Make-up that’s been opened has been exposed to air and bacteria. It’s a good way to get an eye infection in the case of eye make-up, or skin problems if it’s base or concealer.
Unless the seller is providing fresh snacks for shoppers, then don’t buy food at a garage sale. People have been known to sell ancient fruitcakes and old tins of cookies – these and items like them can certainly make your family sick.
6. Old-fashioned canning jars
Unless you’re going to use them for something other than canning, old-fashioned canning jars are not safe for canning foods. Unless they are jars with the 2-piece lids that seal, they may be unsafe for canning.
7. Plush furniture
Items like mattresses, couches, and upholstered chairs are probably best left alone at a garage sale. You don’t know what’s lurking in all that stuffing, and getting furniture like that cleaned and reupholstered can cost a pretty penny.
1. Be Friendly and Courteous
One of the fun things about yard sales is getting to know the seller(s) a bit. For most of them, this is their house and their stuff (and their garage!), and they may be your near neighbors. Don’t, for instance, speak negatively of any of the items (“That’s so ugly!” or “That’s so dirty – it needs a good cleaning.”). Instead, compliment the seller on his/her house, yard, and so forth. Striking up a conversation and being friendly may make the seller more inclined to give you an extra-good deal.
2. Use Small Bills
This is not just to facilitate making change. Using small bills helps prevent you from looking like a rich person trying to get a deal. If you haggle with the seller to get an item down to, say, $1, and you hand the seller a $50 bill, it just doesn’t look good (plus, that’s a lot of change the seller has to muster!).
3. Pile It Up
As you find items you like, ask the seller if you can set them in a certain area or place them in an empty box (you could also bring your own cardboard box). This can be a boon of a bargain – the seller may let the whole lot go for a great deal less than if you’d bought and priced each item individually.
4. Early Versus Late
Many people will tell you that going early always scores the best deals. While it’s true that there may be more choice items early on, there may be super-good deals later when the sale is closing up. You’re likely to get good deals either way. Ideally, you could hit the same garage sales early and late. It’s perfectly acceptable to make two trips if you have the time!
5. Have a Plan
Just popping in your car on a Saturday morning and driving around looking for garage sales can be fun, but it isn’t the most efficient way to find good deals. Instead, look for signs that people put up toward the end of the week, look online, and look in the newspaper. Make a rough plan of where you’ll hit first. Pack a lunch if you like; that keeps you from having to shell out money at a restaurant, which would offset all your great savings.
6. Make an Offer
Don’t be bashful about making a reasonable offer (make sure it’s not insulting, like proposing $2 for a $35 item). This may come in particularly handy when the sale is about to end. Even if prices are set, it never hurts to ask. The worst the seller can say is “no”.
I’d love to hear from you…so be sure to share your comment below or on our Facebook page.
UPDATE: You can now find Part 2 here: “Garage Sale Junkie – Selling Stuff at Your Own Garage Sale“