Is there anything better than a bright Saturday morning, a wad of bills and a yard sale? Nope. Well, maybe bragging later about the awesome thing you scored for a buck. In fact, one of my favorite LBDs of all time was a whole dollar at a church rummage sale. Garage sale-ing is a pretty cheap and harmless diversion, especially considering how much adrenalin you can generate when you find the perfect score. Here’s how to shop a tag sale like a total pro:
Where to Find Yard Sales:
- Community Facebook pages (a church’s or neighborhood association’s, for example)
- Tooling around nice neighborhoods early on a Saturday, looking for signs. Those dudes from American Pickers would call that “freestyling,” which sounds way better than “stalking.”
- Craigslist and local newspapers
- The website gsalr.com, which has a zip code finder, listings, maps, newsletters and printable directions. Yard Sale Search is a little more bare bones but has a mobile component.
- Tip: Group sales, like a church rummage sale or multiple-family yard sale, are by far the best ones to find.
Plan Your Attack:
Wear a cross-body bag so your hands will be free to rummage, a sun hat and comfy shoes. Pack your bag with lots of small bills, a tape measure, a foldable shopping tote and a bottled water. If you’ll be trying on clothes, wear a tank top and a skirt so you can easily slip stuff on, sans dressing room. And hand sanitizer. Because how long has that coffee table been in the basement, Mrs. Hanta Virus?
Prep your car with a cardboard box to stow purchases in, a rope to secure large items, and newspaper to wrap fragile things.
- Look inside battery compartments to ensure they are not corroded.
- People may be unwittingly selling items that have been recalled or now deemed dangerous, so shop wisely. For example, kids’ clothing with drawstrings, drop-side cribs and used car seats can be found but are all considered no-nos.
- Hard furniture–a shelf, a table–is fine but skip the soft furniture, like stuffed chairs or couches. Hello, bedbugs!
- Plug electronics in to make sure they work and don’t fry any circuits. When the power blows in the neighborhood, point accusingly at the waffle maker.
- When you get home and want to give a toy to Junior, always check it first. Make sure it hasn’t been recalled and that the box doesn’t have any hidden surprises, such as extra pieces from a different toy or game that could be choking hazards. Or that it’s booby-trapped. Kidding. Jeez.
Savvy Shopping Moves:
Don’t set it down. If you see something you like, hold onto it while you decide if you want it, because otherwise, someone else may scoop it up.
Feel free to haggle. On bigger items, try to get the seller down by least 15 percent of the price. But don’t bother haggling over small-ticket items, because that can get a little insulting to a seller. 50 Cent is a rapper, not a negotiation. You can bundle a bunch of items together, though, and suggest a flat rate, like “How about $20 for this pile?”
According to the Journal of Consumer Research, people assign a greater value to things if they are feeling insecure or emotional. So a sentimental item may be priced way higher than it should be. “That lamp was Gee-Gaws!” If you want to haggle over that lamp, start by complimenting the item, and affirming the seller’s beliefs, before getting into money.
If you see something you love, but can’t afford, you can always try coming back to the sale close to its end, and see if they’ll lower the price. Or, give the seller your number and say how much you’d love to make an offer if they don’t find another buyer.
Mark your territory. “If you have to come back later in the day to pick up the item, take a small piece of it with you before you leave the first time, like a cushion or drawer,” suggests The Yard Sale Queen. “It will prevent other zealous customers offering the seller more money than you paid for it. You don’t want to go back to the house and have the seller saying, ‘sorry, here’s your money back, someone else offered me a higher price.’ Most sellers are reputable, but…”
Happy hunting! If you’ve made a great score at a tag sale, share it in the comments section.