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Making the Most of your Money at Garage Sales

Updated on October 30, 2012

One of the best ways to get things that you need for your home without spending a whole lot of money is to start frequenting garage sales in your area. Unfortunately, most of us are impulse buyers and we may find ourselves wasting more money than we save by going to a bunch of different garage sales. It's just really easy to get sucked in to loving someone else's junk on sight only to get home and realize that you bought something that you didn't need and now you're out that much money for no reason. The main thing that you want to make sure to do is to think carefully before making any garage sale purchase.

Here are some tips on how to do that and on other things that you need to know about using garage sales to get a good deal on different items:

  • Start honing your bartering skills. The whole reason that people get a better value at garage sales than at thrift stores and other used item stores is because the price at a garage sale is never fixed. You need to start practicing bartering. Get used to arguing for a lower price in a professional manner. You'll want to set a price in your mind that's the most you'll pay for the item; then offer a price significantly lower than that and barter back and forth until you reach and agreement or your set price. For example, if someone tells you that a chair is $25, you can set a price of $20 in your mind and say that you'll take it for $10. You might get it for $10, you might get a counteroffer of $15 or you might find that the person isn't going to budge on the $25 and you won't take the chair after all.
  • Make a list of all of the items that you're specifically looking for so that you know what the priorities are whenever you visit a garage sale. It's a lot easier to avoid spending money on unnecessary junk if you're there specifically to look for certain items. Sure, things will still catch your eye and it's okay to buy spontaneously now and then but a list will help you reign in your spending so that you really just get what you need.
  • Avoid spending a lot of money on gas to get to and from garage sales. It's not a bargain if you're tooling around and using up all of the gas in your gas tank; gas is just too expensive these days to waste it! You should plan to visit garage sales all in one neighborhood at a time. Park the car and walk from place to place. You'll get some exercise and you'll do the earth some good while you save money on gas. Plus you're going to be less inclined to buy things you don't need if you have to carry them back to the car.
  • Choose your garage sales carefully. Sometimes you can find a gem in your own neighborhood but it's generally better to look at garage sales that are either in much lower-income neighborhoods or much higher-income neighborhoods than your own. The middle class person would usually prefer to keep the junk than give it away at a bargain. Lower-income people just need the money and higher-income folks just want to get rid of things (often things of great quality) so you'll want to look for these.
  • Look over all items before buying them. The biggest mistake that most people make at yard sales which leads to them losing money on a purchase is that they fail to really check the product over. Look for stains and tears on clothing and furniture. Look for damage to appliances. Make sure that everything works and ask if all of the pieces are in the puzzles and board games. There's no point in spending money on something that doesn't work or which will need expensive repairs so save yourself the cost and trouble and take the time to check things out in advance.
  • Be aware of timing. There are really only two good times to go to a yard sale - first thing in the morning or right at the end. During the middle of the day, a lot of people will be there. It's hard to see the items and it's even harder to bargain yourself a better price. Early in the morning, there will be fewer people out and you'll get first pick of everything. Late in the day, the seller is going to just want to get rid of stuff and you'll get the better deals. Be an early bird, skip the mid-day rush to run errands ad get lunch and then continue in the afternoon.
  • Stick to a budget. The best thing that you can do for yourself in terms of saving money at garage sales is to set a budget for yourself. If you go to yard sales every week then this can be a weekly or monthly budget. If you only go now and then, it can just be a budget for the day. Make sure that you take only that amount of cash with you to the garage sale and don't go taking any more than that out of an ATM. This kind of self-restraint will help you limit your spending and it will help you make wiser choices at garage sales.

Getting a good deal at garage sales can be a very hit-or-miss thing. Some days there are going to be tons of sales to go to that are all offering good deals on stuff you happen to need. Other days you can scour sale after sale and come up with nothing. However, the real value of any day is going to be in your own style of shopping. If you can stick to a budget, buy only quality items that you really need and barter down the prices on everything then you can get a good deal at any garage sale that you go to.


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