Friday, May 1, 2009
Let's Make a Deal: Garage Sale Shopping
So about 2 weeks ago, I gave you guidelines to running a successful garage sale. Tomorrow, being a Saturday and a perfect day to test your skills, I am giving you some ideas for shopping at garage (or yard or tag) sales. There are whole sites out in the "blogosphere" devoted to just this so look for other advice too (and please post your own suggestions here)!
Here is a list of some of the things I've picked up on over the years:
* Plan where you will be going to garage sales - I don't always remember to check the local paper for pending sales; rather I generally pick a middle to upper middle class neighborhood (yeah, harder to define that these days!)and look for garage sale signs. These are areas where they will have clothing, furniture, etc. that is what I might select myself at a store so my finds are already more likely to be a good deal for me.
* If you are looking for a specific item, i.e. a dresser, go out early - be at the sales at 7AM which is when most of them will be set up and open. (In these cases, it is also good to check the ads to see who is going to be selling those items.) I am not one of those garage sale junkies that is waiting on your driveway when you stumble out in a robe and pre-coffee to set up! But being there at the published opening time is fair game!
* When just cruising around looking for good sales, I am a sucker for the really good signs...those that are bright and with clear directions toward the sale (good arrows, not necessarily a map :) These people have taken it seriously and probably spent time setting up the sale...a piece of paper tacked to a tree - nope, maybe I will check it out but AFTER I check out the ones with the "real" signs!
* Don't be shy about negotiating on prices. First, those that DO know how to price items are smart enough to price higher than what they really expect to sell them for. Those that DON'T know how to price the items are generally happy to take whatever someone suggests (as long as it is reasonable). A few notes: (a) On large-ticket items -- furniture, gym equipment, artwork -- offer about 25% - 33% less than what they are asking. Be willing to go up a bit if they go down a bit. If you don't want to pay their "final" offer, be willing to walk away; often they will give in at that point! (b) Don't be stingy - if books are priced at 50 cents, don't push it...save the effort for the big stuff. But if you are buying a LOT of the small stuff, it isn't tacky to ask for a bulk discount - i.e. if you are buying 20 books, ask if they will give you a little off the total. (c) Remember that these are items you have managed to live without and that are second-hand; if you don't get the price you are willing to pay, then go to the next sale and don't look back! This is supposed to be a fun way to get a great deal. When it stops being fun or inexpensive, it's not worth it!
* Be careful when buying electronics at garage sales. You can't just ask "does it work?" because it may work, but may be missing the remote. Or it may work "most of the time." Always ask to test these items while at the sale. This is also true for battery-operated items; if the seller says they work, but "just need batteries," then ask him/her to show you with their own batteries. If they can't do this, unless the deal is amazing and worth taking a chance on, continue shopping (elsewhere)!
* Before you get too excited over the perfect dining set you find, be aware that you most likely will have to transport it home. Do you have a way to get this from the sale to your home? If not, think again! You potentially can pay in advance (or at least a deposit) for them to hold it for you while you go get your best friend (the one with the big truck!) out of bed at 7:30AM to lug the thing home. But if you don't know the seller, don't know if you will be able to get it home for sure, etc...reconsider your need for the item.
* Clothing purchases at a garage sale can be a deal, but a few recommendations: (a) know the sizes you are looking for - you can't try them on and even if you can, you don't really want to go in a stranger's house to try on clothes! (b) always wash or dryclean the items before you use them (same with quilts, draperies, etc.) (c) check them carefully for rips, holes, broken zippers, missing buttons, stains, etc...it's not like there is a return policy on used clothing!
* Cash is the best way to make purchases at garage sales. Carry it in smaller bills and change and take one $20 along to place as a deposit on a large item (you can always go to an ATM to get the rest quickly). Most sellers are reluctant to take checks, and honestly, I don't like them having any of my personal information off of my checks!
Any great suggestions of your own? Go get 'em!