I’m not going to lie to you. I’m terrible at hosting a garage sale. I followed all the tips and did my very best a few years ago only to hardly make any money and have to cart off a van load of goods to Goodwill. However, I am awesome at shopping at Garage Sales. When spring arrives it’s one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning. Hitting up the garage sales means I’m able to find some much needed items for our home at a fraction of the cost. In fact, I hardly buy anything during the winter for the fear I might spend too much. I start a list of “Find At A Garage Sale” items.
Once you find items that cheap, you just cannot go back. Some of my favorite items to find at a garage sale are picture frames, books, toys and even clothing. I also like to find unique antique items. My favorite garage sale find of all time was a play-set for my kids. I paid only $50 for a like new set that sells for close to $500. In celebration of the spring and the fact that the grass is green and my kids are wearing only a jacket outside (Hallelujah!), I’ve come up with this fantastic list of Garage Sale Tips to make you an amazing garage sale-r.
How To Shop A Garage Sale
1. Know Where To Look
Check Craigslist and search for “garage sale” in your local area. What I like about Craigslist is that many people will give you a little summary of the type of items they’ll be listing. This is particularly helpful if you’re on the hunt for something like baby clothes or furniture. I also like to see if it’s a neighborhood sale or just a single house. Which leads me to my next tip…
2. Make A Plan
One I have a list of addresses, I then like to check this website. I think it pulls from Craigslist but I do like the map function as it helps me to find additional garage sales that are close by that I may have breezed past on Craigslist. I usually prioritize my list by going to the garage sale that has quite a few houses close together. I find that I can tackle a few sales within one parking spot early on and get a head start on my list.
3. Make A List
It is SO EASY to overbuy at garage sales. You don’t want to come home with a lot of deals that you just don’t need. It’s called clutter. I make a very specific list of what I’m looking for. For example, this year I’m looking for picture frames, a large antique window frame, preschool activities and patio furniture. Random mix, I know. I have a few others things, but having a list helps me to keep my eyes on the goal and not pick up too many things we just don’t need around the house.
Along with my specific list, I also have a general list of items I’m always on the look out for. For example, I like to pick up organization tools like plastic bins to use for storage. The key is not buying more organization storage bins to house the clutter you purchased that you didn’t need. Right?
4. Bring the Snacks and Water
Since I go, go, go in the morning I typically bring some snacks and water to help me keep go, go, going. I tend to garage sale where there’s no convenience stores within a 15 minute radius, at least. Grabbing something to eat or drink would mean losing valuable time! Of course, there’s always the $0.50 lemonade stands you’ll come across. I always buy at those. I can’t turn down a young entrepreneur!
5. Grab The Cash
I like to use cash when I garage sale because it keeps me on budget. Most places I’ve stopped at do take a check for large items, but it’s up to the garage sale host to make that call. Don’t forget to grab the cash on Friday as you don’t want to be caught up early on Saturday morning with no money to to use. Make sure you grab a lot of small bills, as well. Having $50 bill to pay for a $0.50 item will wipe out the seller’s cash reserves.
6. Obey The Time
Many garage sales in my area, most in fact, have specific times listed as a start time. I never shop before that time. In fact, most places won’t even sell to you before that. To be honest, I like that unwritten rule as most sales start at 7am or 8am. I don’t have to get up too early. In contrast, when I lived in Tennessee we had to be at garage sales by 4am or 5am to get the best deals. I’m thankful to not have to do that! (What time do sales start in your area?)
7. Shop Neighborhood Sales
I’ll be honest, I really like neighborhood sales over sales where there’s only one home. It makes shopping so much faster and I can cover more territory. I say this being one who doesn’t really have a neighborhood to have a neighborhood sale which is probably why my garage sale tries have failed. (In fact, I’m driving to my sister’s house this year to sell my stuff at her house since she lives in a small town that has a designated sale day. Did I mention she lives 90 minutes away?)
8. Bring Reusable Bags And Boxes
To stay organized in your car as you shop, you’ll want to bring boxes. You’ll also want reusable bags you can carry with you to keep your arms open. I’ve had times where I hit a great sale and I didn’t have a bag and asked the owner to hold the items near them at the register area. They’re usually very accommodating. However, if you want to make things easy for yourself and keep any valuable close to you, you’ll want a shopping bag.
9. Wear Good Tennis Shoes
Flip flops and sandals can get muddy when you’re walking through someone’s yard. I always wear tennis shoes not only for their comfort level but also so that my feet don’t get muddy.
10. Don’t Be Afraid To Shop Later In The Day
While I like to go early to catch some great deals, sometimes my best deals are found later in the day. Most people are ready to get rid of their items instead of hauling them to the thrift store at the end of the day. You can find great bargains later in the day! Typically these sales are the ones I hit up on my way home. You’ll find a random sale here and there as you make your way back to the home front.
11. Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate
I hardly pay “full price” at a garage sale. No matter the time of the day, I’ll ask for at least a 30% discount. It doesn’t hurt to ask. I will also bundle sales. For example, I might say “I’ll buy these two if you’ll throw in this item.” I’ll also sometimes bundle identical items. For example, if I find a couple of toys for $3 each, I might say I’ll buy a third toy for $7 total. I’ll save myself a few bucks, and they’ll save themselves from hauling it to the thrift store. Keep in mind most people are more willing to negotiate later in the day, but I always ask because you just never know.
12. Know Your Kids Sizes
I try to buy some kid’s clothing items at garage sales. I keep a list of sizes in my purse. I also trace my kid’s feet on a blank piece of paper. It makes it easy to get an idea if a pair of shoes will fit.
13. Make a Note Of Large Village Sales
We have a couple of communities that have a huge sale each year. I have it on my calendar and go back every year! There are a few that I love because they have more antique items. There’s one community that just has the best kid’s items every single year. You just can’t go wrong and you can walk along the street and hit three or four houses at least within 15 minutes. Love those days!
14. Don’t Be Afraid To Go Out In The Rain
Most people will not go to garage sales when it’s raining. To be honest, I don’t blame them. However, you can find some of the best deals with the least amount of competition on rainy days! Take an umbrella and save yourself some cash!
15. Shop Friday
Many garage sales start on Friday mornings. I find that there is less competition on Friday mornings and since I stay at home with my kids, I can go to these sales. They’re definitely worth it!
16. Have Fun!
I always try to have fun when I garage sale. It’s nice to meet new people and it’s always interesting to see all they have to sell. And even though I have a budget, my kids get to pick out one toy each and every time they go with me. It’s probably only about three times a year that they tag along, but they love picking out a “new toy” to them. (And at $0.50, it’s worth it!)
What are you looking for this year at your area garage sales?