I never attended a garage sale until I began my secondary career as a thrift diva. But once I got started, I realized that they are one of the best ways to find bargain pricing on just about anything you need – as long as you aren’t in a hurry to find it!
That’s right. No other source, not even Goodwill, the Salvation Army or your favorite flea market sells stuff as cheap as people who are purging, cleaning out closets, moving or settling an estate. Which is why garage sales are always on my “hot list.”
Granted, if you’re shopping for a specific item, you may not find it on any given day no matter how many garage sales you hit. But, then again, even if you don’t find what you came for, chances are you’ll find something else you can use at a price that’s negligible – sometimes even free!
Beyond that, garage sales are a blessing for those with babies and small children. Why? You can stop the constant “baby needs it” cash outflow by letting other people’s kids be a steady supply of new-to-your kids toys and clothing.
Here are eight of my best tips and tricks for garage sale success:
1. Timing Matters.
- Most garage sales occur on the weekend starting on Friday, as early as 8:00 a.m., and run through Saturday or Sunday. (Although not as many are held on Sundays.)
- Early birds have been known to show up an hour and a half early (yes, at 6:30) so if your heart is set on an advertised item, plan to arrive early. However, be courteous. If the sale is not open, wait in your car. Don’t knock on the door at 6:00 in the morning. (The sellers may have been up until 3:00 a.m.)
- When shopping garage sales go on the first day. The good things will go first and prices can still be suprisingly low.
- Estate sales are often houses full of items. Since the merchandise is usually better quality, it will also be more expensive. You will find better bargains if you wait until the end of the last day.
2. Shop late and bargain to save money.
- Most of the time, the better deals are found at the end of the sale when sellers are faced with the prospect of hauling their stuff back inside or to the thrift store drop-off center.
- Bargain harder at the end of the day when there is less opportunity for the seller to get asking price.
- Basically prices are always negotiable at garage sales. You may not get it, but it never hurts to ask.
- Buy multiple items to get a “bulk” rate.
- Early in my thrifting “career” I snagged a sterling silver butter dish for $5. Strangely enough, many sellers do not price items, seem indifferent to how much money they make, and will essentially let you name your price even early on in the sale — so aim low.
3. Plan your route to save time and gasoline.
- Pick one promising sale to visit first, and plan the rest of your stops to flow out from your first stop.
- Shop at Subdivision Sales. Homeowners band together to offer house-to-house sales all on the same day. What a boon!
- Look up sales online in advance, but be aware that many people only advertise garage sales via signs posted around the neighborhood and on major streets the morning of the sale. So anticipate that whatever the route you’ve planned – you’ll likely end up with a lot of small detours.
- In the height of the garage sale season, plan to visit only one general area each week. Driving ten miles out of your way for one sale that may or may not be any good isn’t a productive use of your time or gas money.
4. Choose your neighborhoods wisely.
- For the discerning shopper, patronize the upscale neighborhoods. Yes, they might be a little pricy, but that is where the nicer things are found.
- A good rule of thumb is to haunt the middle class neighborhoods. They typically offer the best ratio of good stuff to good prices.
5. Choose your sales wisely.
- Moving Sales are the best places to get deals because people are limited by time deadline and how much they can move.
- Estate sales are best for higher end items, but you’ll pay higher prices as well.
- Ordinary garage sales are a crapshoot.
- Cruise the Internet and pick out the best ones by reading the ads on Craigslist, although I’ve found that you never know until you get there and take a look.
- To save time, simply cruise by uninteresting looking sales. You might miss some good things hidden in boxes, but at the height of the season, there are so many sales and limited time.
- If you’re looking for a specific item, like an antique dresser, you can try emailing and calling all the people who have actually posted ads in advance and seeing if anyone is selling that item. If so, they might be willing to set it aside for you until a certain time (say, 8:30 for a garage sale that starts at 8:00).
- Set a budget before you head out the door.
- Avoid buying things just because they are a great deal.
- Be honest with your time and talents. For example, unless you love to refinish furniture, you’re unlikely to suddenly take up the hobby and that shabby chic chair will be collecting dust in your garage for quite a while.
- For sales with unpriced items, make sure to ask about prices before you let yourself get attached to things.
7. Shop with a friend.
- Be careful not to compete with them for every thing you find . . . you just may loose a friend. Rather, consider someone with strengths you lack.
- If you aren’t good at bartering . . . bring someone who is.
- Bring someone who knows more about an area (furniture, glassware, jewelry) than you do.
- If you drive a small car, enlist a friend that drives a pickup truck!
8. Loose the great expectations mentality
- There will be days when you don’t find anything you like or can afford.
- You are under no obligation to stay any length of time at a sale. There are too many out there to waste time at a sale that has nothing to offer you.
And now, let the garage sale fun begin!!