Score big at garage sales
You can find great deals on things you might've never considered buying out of somebody's driveway.
Personal-finance blogger "J. Money" recently wrote about how to optimize your trips to garage sales.
I've got a few suggestions of my own. A couple of quibbles, too.
First we'll look at J.'s tips, which I've grouped together for easier reading:
- The plan. Have a good meal before you go and use a bathroom (you might not find a public restroom in suburban or rural areas). Bring your own bags. Carry small bills and change. Use a garage-sale app.
- The attack. Start early. Hit multifamily and church sales first. Be friendly. Always ask for a better deal.
I'd like to address two of J.'s points:
- Not everyone has a smartphone. Those who don't should check garage-sale ads via Craigslist and the local newspaper.
- Regarding the "always ask for a better deal" tip: If an item has a 25-cent price tag, I'm not going to ask for less. It's already just a quarter! If it were a bigger-ticket item, I might ask the famous question, "Is that your best price?" (Post continues after video.)
Just because you've seen bookcases for $5 at other yard sales doesn't mean that the owner isn't justified in asking $10. You're probably paying less at a garage sale than at a thrift store, and you're definitely paying less than retail.
Groceries at the garage sale
Sometimes simple hesitation can bring a discount. Once I was examining some boxes marked "canning supplies." The owner saw me looking and asked for $10. Figuring that was a good deal, I accepted.
At home I discovered just how good the deal was: The boxes held 147 jars, 37 lid centers and 78 bands. Now you understand why I keep going to garage sales.
But I don't rule out estate sales either. I'm not in the market for large items, but I always check the kitchen. Estate sales mean that everything goes, including the contents of the cupboards.
Among the items I've bought are bleach, birthday candles, muffin-pan liners, aluminum foil, wax paper, cake mixes and lots of canned goods, at prices ranging from 25 to 50 cents.
Maybe the idea of somebody's "old" food is off-putting. Think of two cans of soup with March 2013 expiration dates. What's the difference whether you buy the soup from an estate sale or a grocery store?
If you're still skeeved out, ignore the food items and stock up on stuff like aluminum foil and laundry soap. Have you priced these items lately?
A few more tips
These sales are a good way to stock your RV or your summer place. Recent grads can find items for their first apartments; using garage-sale bookcases and cookware is (or should be) a rite of passage.
Look for still-shrink-wrapped items or things like apparently unread books, for frugal Christmas gifts.
Give linens the sniff test; if they smell musty, ask for a lower price and use homemade mildew remedies later on.
Swing back by on your way home, in case prices have dropped. Again: Don't be a jerk. A former co-worker's sister had a yard sale that included a pile of old (but still nice) doilies for $5. One shopper declared loudly that she'd pay $1, tops.
When the organizer declined, the visitor said she'd be back later. "These will still be here. You'll take my dollar then!"
Sure enough, they were. "Are you ready to take my dollar now?" the woman sneered.
Whereupon the owner doused the doilies with Blazo fuel, struck a match and replied, "Take 'em -- they're yours."
That's not how I would have handled it. But I sure would like to have witnessed it.
Readers: What are your best garage sale finds?
More on MSN Money:
Love garage/yard sales...my best purchase of all time my 16 inch gas powered Craftsman chainsaw. Seller wanted $25 but the unit BUT it had "issues"...I got it for $2. Fixed it and it works like a champ! I have cut a lot of firewood with that saw...and if it catches fire tommorrow...I'm only out $2!
As for the guy with the flammable liquid...not a fan. Will tell ya...IMHO garage sales are the place to buy things ....not sell things. Clothing especially goes real cheap in this neck pof the woods....
Great article Donna even if parts of it were second hand from J.Money. Haha I made a second hand joke. Ok it wasn't that good to begin with.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
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Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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