I was so geeked as garage sale season began- rather early I might add. There is nothing like a crisp spring/summer morning with a stroller, cash, and water bottle. I love finding good deals (like the 80 piece wooden train set for $4!).
I'm noticing a great change in garage sales which I believe is attributed a lot to the current economic conditions (but don't get me on that soap box!) People who have never been garage saling are now shopping and don't know traffic, pricing, and shopping etiquette. People who have never been garage saling are also now trying to sell there stuff at their own sale. This has caused for a domino effect of problems. I wish I could solve them.
But, I can, and I will offer some tidbits, helpful hints, and suggestions to the newbie, wannabe, never really understood it garage salers out there. This may come in a few part series as nap time is slipping away and, well I haven't had my nap yet!
So, for part 1: How to be a Successful, Courteous Garage Sale Shopper
- Plan, Plan, Plan: Look in the papers (small local ones you get free on your doorstep are great sources), Craigslist, and even on subdivision websites to see when each sale is. Map it out if you have to.
- Lower your expectations. You never know what you are going to find. Other peoples treasure can be your junk, other people's junk can be your treasure. Don't think you are going to always find the best selection, the most up to date, the most modern looking things out there. Sometimes you will :) Sometimes you find a house that has been cleared of all bathroom decor circa 1975.
- Bring Cash- in small bills. Unless you buy a huge ticket item ($50+), most sellers will not (and should not) accept checks. Bring small bills as many sellers may not have correct change. Having exact amount in small bills may help you negotiations (don't talk down a price from $15 to $10 to only pull out a $20, its kinda rude).
- Bring Snacks. You'll get hungry and want to splurge on the 50 cent cookie the little toddlers are selling (which isn't always bad) or get thirsty and be forced to buy a water bottle off of a smart business woman at $2.
- Bring a map or GPS of a subdivision. Its amazing how dizzying cauldesacs can be- its easy to get lost.
- Do not block driveways, trash cans, mailboxes, or fire hydrants when parking.
- Do not actually park in the driveway of the garage sale, unless that is the only option, park along side the road.
- Drive SLOWLY!!! Especially when in subdivision sales. Moms, toddlers, kids on bikes, teens on roller blades are everywhere. Just take it slow, and don't stare at the sales, focus on driving and park to look.
- Don't feel as though you have to stop at every sale. It's ok to not go in each garage. Use your time wisely!
- Park on the correct side of the road and use common courtesy. Often in subdivision sales, the road that used to be a tight two lane road now has cars parked on both sides and is barely a one way street. Take turns. Use the "holes" around driveways to scootch in to allow other people to pass, but don't park there.
- Barter, within reason. A good seller will allow you to make a reasonable offer, especially if you buy more items. This is not some Mexican flea market, so don't drop the price in half, we're talking a few bucks here and there. Remember that even though they are selling this stuff, the sellers have more 'value' in their items than you do, don't offend them by skimping their prices. A good rule of thumb? Furniture- $5-10 less than asking, children's toys- $1 less than asking, clothing- when buying in bulk take the total amount and then subtract $2-5 off. I usually shoot for a nice round number. Say my total bill amounted to 12.75. I see if they will take $10. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't. You have to be prepared with how high you are willing to go to buy the item to make a quick decision.
- Know your sizes. Know your products. Know your brands. There is no trying clothes on- so its a risk, but it can be worth it! Sometimes people try to sell products with missing components. Know the product enough to know if something is missing (puzzle pieces, blocks, hinges, etc.) Brand names can be important. I will usually play slightly more for a good brand name than I will otherwise. In kids clothes I will pay more for Gap, Gymboree, Children's Place than I will for Circo (target brand) or Kiks (meijer brand). You should have an general idea of what items go for in store: retail and clearance price. Do not pay more than what the item would have been on a clearance rack. (example: A dress from Children's place may have retailed for $20-25, then eventually clearanced to $5-10. I would pay no more than $5 for the dress in great condition, less than that if there are signs of wear.
- If shopping with kids- be prepared. Bring a snack or two. Allow them to pick 1 treat early on (a 25 cent book or something). This will keep them entertained and not begging for each and every toy they see. Or, with older kids, give them a limit of spending money- say $5. They have the freedom to choose what they buy and when. Once its gone, its gone. Keep toddlers in a stroller. It keeps them safe and away from playing with all of the toys for sale. You don't let your child ride a bike around meijer just because its there- use the same etiquette at garage sales. Unless you are thinking of buying, do not let them ride in or on toys.
- Be hands free! Put your cash in your pockets, lock the purse in the car. Clip on the cell phone. You'll be hands free to sort through the piles and bins.
- Set a limit. You could spend a lot of money very quickly because in small portions, its hard to keep track of how much you have spent. Set a limit for how much you spend and only bring that amount with you.
I'll work on more posts for my Garage Sale Bible. Feel free to add your own suggestions for Garage Sale Shoppers! (stick to the shopping side, I'll do a buyer's side next)