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How to Save Money at Garage Sales and Yard Sales

Updated on March 4, 2013

It's not junk - It's just used


When you bring home a piece of furniture from the store it suddenly becomes used furniture. That's a fact that you have to live with. It's used. Even if you bring home a chair and don't sit on it, it's used furniture as soon as it leaves the store. If you prefer used car salesman terminology, call it previously owned. People love to think they own priceless antiques. You may, of course, and if you think that you have something that may be of great value, get it appraised by an experienced antique appraiser. But some old furniture is just that: old furniture. You may need to wait about 100 years for it to become an antique, and most people don't have that kind of patience.

But this is good news. You have some excellent used furniture; you know you do. You have lovingly kept it and wouldn't want to part with it - because it isn't worth much money. The flip side of this coin is that other people have some excellent used furniture that they may want to sell at a garage sale, yard sale or tag sale. Because these three terms, garage sale, yard sale or tag sale all mean the same thing, I will refer to them in the rest of this article as garage sales, the term most popular in my neighborhood. Perhaps they're downsizing and the stuff no longer works or they're just changing their decor. Maybe they just need to raise a few bucks. The point is that there is a lot of good stuff out there, cheap.

So what is the difference between a brand new and used furniture? The answer is simple: it's who owns it, the store or you.

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The Art of the Hunt

There are people who consider garage sales a form of recreation, almost like sporting events; they just love to shop at them. The thrill of finding something that you didn't know you need is one of life's cheap thrills. Go for it. But like any field of endeavor, garage sale shopping has a few rules that you should follow to get the most out of it.

  • Get there early. Antique dealers and used furniture dealers know this and follow the rule. They can make life miserable for the person holding the garage sale. The signs that are posted in the neighborhood clearly state that the sale starts at 9 AM, but there are the pros bothering the sellers as they're setting up at 7:30. Learn from the pros; get there early. Maybe the seller won't mind it if you're early. Great deals can be had by the one who shows up first.

A Garage Sale Bargain

  • Most people don't know how to price their stuff. We bought the two chairs in the photo to the right about 10 years ago for $75 - for both of them. They're high quality and were made by a well known furniture manufacturer. My bargaining consisted of trying to keep my jaw from dropping. As we were loading the chairs into our car we heard the couple arguing. I don't doubt that the argument was about the cheap price. Here's the bottom line: we got there early and we got lucky. It happens.

Picked up at a bargain 17 years ago

  • Don't overlook antique shops. Few antique shops sell only antiques. It's really a collection of used items. Sometimes the prices can be excellent. Pictured to the right is a wood column that we bought in an antique store in Stroudsburg Pa a few years ago. Like the chairs above, two columns cost us $75.Now they're not antiques, but are very attractive and useful. At Christmas time we put santas on each one.

The only reason to buy new furniture is usually a matter of attitude. If you think it' somehow beneath you to buy something used, you thinking is getting in the way of some great bargains.


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    • profile image

      Benjamin Chege 4 years ago

      You're welcome. Thank you. for following me. I look forward to reading more hubs from you and engaging together.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for your visit and your comments Benjamin. Yes, just because it's used doesn't mean it isn't good. I'm now following you.

    • profile image

      Benjamin Chege 4 years ago

      Hi Russ Moran. Voted up and beautiful. I learned the hard way when I bought an expensive chair, which my friend bought for a quarter of the price at an antique shop. Now I know the rules and it is true the quality of most antiques is very good, yet one can acquire them at a very friendly price. Look forward to reading more hubs from you.