Below are some practical tips and pointers for maximizing your garage sale shopping experience.
Attire - Garage sale shopping can be an all day event. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and casual clothing. In sunny or hot environments wear a hat, sunglasses, and dress according to the weather forecast. Also, don't overdress or wear flashy jewelry or the seller may be less likely to bargain.
Creative - Many items have more than one use, put your creative juices to work and look at something for its potential. An old pair of boots can be made into a birdhouse, a rusty cooking pot can become a lovely planter, and suitcases can be stacked for end tables or turned into a picnic basket. Use your imagination and you can come up with all sorts of ideas.
Discount - Some sellers are willing to deal and offer discounts if you ask. If you feel an item is overpriced, you are buying multiple items, or something is damaged, point it out and ask for a discount. The seller may be willing to sell one or more items or the entire lot (box or bag) at a better price. Remember it's your money so don't be shy or afraid to ask, make your shopping experience a fun one.
- Tip: Use care when digging through boxes so you don't get cut by a sharp object.
- Tip: You can fit more clothes into a bag by rolling them, something my husband learned in the service.
Early Bird - Be prepared to shop early for the best selections. Decide which of the sales sound the most appealing to you and plan on being there when they open. Be patient and wait until the sale actually opens.
Enthusiasm - Don't act too excited over an item by continuously eyeing it or picking it up. If the seller suspects you are going to buy, no matter what the price, you've lost your bargaining power. Be suttle, curb your enthusiasm if it is showing.
Impulse Buying - You should never buy something because it is priced low or you think it may be valuable. Purchase an item because you need it, like it, or have a resale outlet for it. A bargain isn't a bargain if you can't use it.
- Tip: You don't have to buy something at every sale.
- Tip: Find the items that interest you, then look at the rest of the stuff.
Inquire - If there is a specific item you are looking for and don't see it, ask the seller directly, he may have it in his attic, basement, garage, or house. Many times people forget they have an item or don't glean well enough during their collection phase. Asking may trigger a positive response and the seller may be willing to sell it for the right price.
Inspect - Check items to ensure they are complete, working, and unbroken. Ask the seller to plug in and turn on any electrical items. Verify game and puzzle pieces are complete. Carefully look over figurines and glass items, feel for any chips and cracks. If you still want a damaged item, point out the flaw and ask for a discount.
- Tip: Before you buy look items over carefully.
- Tip: Carry batteries with you so you can check items to see if they are working.
- Tip: When buying movies, open the case to ensure the correct CD or VCR is in it.
Last Day - Many sales are held for two or more days and items are discounted (even up to 50%) at the end of or on the last day. The seller will be tired and most likely won't want to re-pack, transport, dispose of, or store any leftover items. You may be able to pick up some additional bargains at really great prices.
Large Purchases - Buying larger items can be cumbersome but you can also save a lot of money. If you don't have the correct vehicle you may need to come back later in the day to pick up your purchase. Put some money down on the item to hold it and get a receipt. This way the item won't be re-sold while you are gone.
Measurements - Always carry a list of measurements and sizes with you along with a tape measure (see shoppers kit). Know your window dimensions, number of windows in each room, height under windows, door openings, wall and floor space, bed sizes, clothing and shoe sizes for each family member, etc. You never know what you will find at a garage sale, be prepared by carrying your list.
Money - You may find some sellers who can not make change due to lack of preparation or having received several larger bills early in the day. Carry plenty of small bills ($1's and $5's) and change (quarters and dimes) with you to pay for your purchases. Don't flash a wad of bills or the seller may be less likely to bargain.
- Tip: It looks bad to haggle over price, then pull out a $20.00 to pay for a $1.00 item.
Negotiate - Don't be afraid to haggle over the price. Don't ask "what's your best price? because he may say "the marked price". Instead make a reasonable offer or ask, "would you consider taking less?" If he won't lower the price you can choose to buy it or walk away. You may want to consider returning at the end of the sale to see if there are any discounts. This can be risky though because the item may be gone.
Newspaper - Obtain a local newspaper the day before the sales. Read through the ads carefully, highlighting items that interest you. Plan, map your route, and arrange your schedule, according to item interest and location. Maximize your time by looking for centralized and multiple households sales. If needed, use a map of the area to aid in locating sales. You will be able to save time, gas, and can fit in more stops if you are prepared.
- Tip: For efficiency, organize sales by proximity to each other.
- Tip: If you are not familiar with the area, scout out your route the night before.
Refreshments - Carry snacks and beverages with you. You won't have to stop for breakfast or lunch and can continue shopping. Remember to have fun!
Where to Shop - To get an idea of which sale to go to depends on what you are looking for. Better neighborhoods usually have nicer stuff. If you are just looking for a bargain, try them all.