Garage Sales

by Olivia Fox

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My Story: Garage Sale Hunts

10 Garage Sale Shortcuts

It takes four seconds for true yard sale veterans to scan displays from their car and decide to pull over. Yard sales done right are a combination of thrill of the chase, frugal living, and mini classroom. I've been on both sides of the table. These tidbits help even newbies zero in on the winners.

Grab your newspaper and read the ads, looking for words like "multi-family," "moving," "everything must go," "neighborhood," "huge" or "estate." Determine what you're after. If the blurb highlights size 2x women's clothing and elliptical weights, don't go there if you need a floor lamp. Consider location. Developments yield kid's and newer stuff. In older neighborhoods, you'll find older, quirky stuff. In better neighborhoods, there will be better stuff, but be prepared for higher prices.

Get your map. Cluster addresses and make an efficient route. Prioritize sales by their offerings. Go to the most promising descriptions early if possible. If all look equally good, hit the one farthest from home first. Side step remote places, listing things of little interest.

Avoid perpetual garage sales like the plague. The guy is in it for the money and won't drop prices or dicker. Why should he? His ladders are permanently embedded in his front lawn. He can wait it out.

Set an overall budget and determine what you'll spend on specific items. Ten cents on the dollar is fairly standard pricing. A quarter on the dollar is okay if something is extraordinary, like size six boy's pants with intact knees. Books are an exception. Paperbacks usually run between 25 to 50 cents and hardcovers from 50 cents on up.

Depending on what you're after, bring a measuring tape, your kid's measurements, color samples, etc. For longer excursions, carry snacks and a water bottle. Keep a stash of small bills and change in your fanny pack. That saves everybody time. Put a box in your trunk with newspapers to wrap fragile items. Bring bungee cords to hold down bulky items. Dress for comfort.

When you arrive, greet the seller. Engage your mind. If you see men's suits, and are making a crazy quilt from neckties, ask if they have them. If there are plants or things that interest you, talk to the seller. They have expertise you could learn from. Enjoy people. Making their day pleasant is part of the experience.

If you're not sure you want something, carry it with you as you scope out the sale. Double check items before you actually purchase them. There are no double your money back guarantees.

Remember etiquette. Don't argue. Don't demean the merchandise. Don't leave the place a mess, but tidy as you go. If you feel something is overpriced, or if your budget is tight, make an offer. If the seller says no, that's okay. Thank them and move on. If they counter offer, consider it. If the price is still too high and you wouldn't mind coming back, give them your number and say, "If it doesn't sell, and you're interested in what I can offer, get in touch."

Have fun! Garage sales are an adventure.

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