Letters to My Kids

The One with the Garage Sale Tips

edited to add: Check out this awesome site: Yard Sale Treasure Map

Garage Sales. 

I’ve always loved them. 
Mom used to take me garage sale shopping with her all the time. 
We hosted a garage sale or two as well.
But those aren’t nearly as fun. 
Seeing how Friday and Saturday are just around the corner I thought today would be the perfect time to post a few tips. 
The garage sale season has been in full swing for a couple weeks now and will likely last through the summer. 
It’s fun to stop in on a few sales here and there.
But most people don’t know the “how to” behind the art that is garage sale shopping. 

They think, “Why would I want to go through other peoples’ junk?”
“I never find anything useful.”


“I don’t know how much to pay for things and I would never bargain with someone.
Well, friends, if you fall into the category of “Anti-Garage-Sale-Shopper-Because-I-Don’t-Get-IT” then I want to help you see the light. 
It isn’t surprising that I–lover of all things cheap–would be a lover of all things re-sale.

I’ve become THAT garage sale girl. 
The one who has the figurative “I Break for Garage Sales” bumper sticker.
Yeah.
Watch out. 
Pull up a chair and jot down some note and hit the road with me tomorrow morning! 
Planning. 
I have just recently discovered the joy that is the route planning
I check out my local newspaper classified ads–online! 
There is a handy section for “merchandise” and a subsection for “garage sales.”
How convenient! 
Also, Craigslist is a fantastic tool for garage sales.  
Check out the Craigslist in your area. 
Under the “For Sale” section in the second column, you will find a “Garage Sale” tab. 
Click.
And enter into a realm that far too few people understand or appreciate. 
Now, once you have found a few (or a million) listings grab a pen and paper. 
Look at the addresses. 
Are there any in your area?  
(I prefer within 10-15 minutes.)
Jot down the listing. 
And take note of the date and time.
Most sales are Friday and Saturday, 9am (ish)-4pm (ish)
Pay special attention to “neighborhood” or “multiple family” or “church” sales–
these will give you a much bigger, more exciting selection!
Once you have all of the possible sales written down, check back with Google Maps. 
Add destinations for all of the sales and plan the best route.
But don’t be afraid to break for another advertised sale along the way.
Stay on the look out for the flashy (or not) street corner signs. 
In the meantime figure out why you want to garage sale.
Is it because it’s a fun way to shop and you might find something sweet?
Or is it because you have a list (mental or literal) of items you hope to find? 
Either way garage sales are for you. 
And don’t forget to have CASH on hand. 
Most sellers won’t accept checks. 
Or credit. 
These past couple weeks I’ve hit the trail around 9 on Friday morning. 
The pros to getting to the sales first thing:
You have the most selection. 
But the cons:
If you wait till Saturday you might find lower or negotiable prices because the sales are closer to being over.
Bartering.
Either way, don’t be afraid to bargain with the seller. 
First, decide how much you would pay for the item. 
The maximum amount you’d fork over. 
Then figure out what you would love to pay for the item.
Ask if they’ll accept such and such (your lowest) price. 
If they say no, give them a counter offer. 
(Yes this is just like house bidding.)
If they say yes, awesome. 
If they say no again it’s your prerogative–either pay what they’re asking or put the item back.
Sometimes if you get ready to leave without the item, they’ll offer it to you for a lower price because they’d rather have it sold. 
1. Don’t act too connected to an item.
(They’ll know how much you want it and that they can get more cashola out of you.) 
2. Don’t be afraid to barter. 
3. Don’t hesitate to leave without an item.
(Assuming it’s not an unique find that would be difficult to come across elsewhere. 
i.e. If they’re selling jeans for a price you’d rather not pay, then pass
But, if they’re selling that set of china you’ve been dreaming of all your life, go for it! 
It’s still cheaper than buying brand new.)
4. And Don’t purchase an item only because it’s a great price!  
Be sure you actually have a purpose in mind for it! 
Re-Sale?
And as far as the “re-sale” aspect goes–
There’s nothing wrong with purchasing used items. 
I know for a fact that NO ONE will know you didn’t buy it brand new. 
Unless, of course, you proudly proclaim the resale price to them as I do! :D 
Seriously, though. 
If the item is in good shape, take it home wash it up, and use the heck out of it! 
Pricing. 
Clothing shouldn’t be priced at more than $2 per item (unless it’s a specialty item). 
I prefer a $1 or less. 
Books should be $1 or less for hardcovers and $0.50 for soft covers.
Most other items depend on the quality and the store price (or estimated value) of that item. 
(Sorry, I’m not too specific here, because it really takes experience to learn this one! 
But feel free to ask my opinion of a specific purchase!)
Garage sales are great for: 
Books
Baby items and clothing
Kids clothes and toys
Household items and decorations 
Dishware
But keep your eyes peeled for those unique items that you’ve had on your wish list. 
You never know when you’ll find:
The perfect dining room table. 
Or the set of free weights. 
Or a box of scrapbooking supplies. 
Or a whole “new” wardrobe (because the lovely seller is your exact size!) 
Etiquette. 
Say a friendly “hello” to the seller when you approach the sale.
(It will get that awkward silence out of the way–especially if you’re the only shopper at the moment.) 
Keep rude or joking comments to yourself. 
(You never know, that elderly gentleman seller may have the hearing of a hawk. 
Does a hawk even have good hearing?) 
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about merchandise. 
And if you don’t find anything to purchase, saying a sincere “Goodbye! Thanks for letting me look around!” 
or “Good luck with your sale!”
It’s just less weird that way. 
Believe me. 
At the end of the morning, head home and enjoy your purchases! 
It’s a wonderful feeling to compare how much you spent with how much it would have cost in the store! 
The savings is incomparable and the experience is just plain enjoyable! 
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2 thoughts on “The One with the Garage Sale Tips

  1. Good tips! I've never been a garage sale person but you make it sound fun! I always liked having them, though. I used to go around when I was little and write down jobs for everyone when we had them haha!

  2. I do not enjoy garage sales – you make them sound fun, but it's not for me…. except when we went shopping and you helped me find a coffee table, and a bread cave, and those dinning room chairs!

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