The Art of Garage Sale Bargain Shopping

I have always been a bargain shopper.  I have also always loved going to garage sales and now thrift stores too.  I like walking through a mall as much as the next girl, don’t get me wrong.  But I really love to find bargains and treasures.  I recently realized though that not everyone was raised to appreciate the art of dumpster diving as some may think of it.  In fact when sharing my love of garage sales with a fellow believer she mentioned that some people even turn their nose up at garage sale shopping.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Some people find it beneath themselves to dig through others discarded belongings, not me though.  And I really think they just don’t know how to garage sale and thrift store shop.  So here’s my list of garage sale how to’s.

1.  Get up early

2.  Have plenty of cash on hand, at least $100 in case you find some furniture or something big.

3.  Look up garage sales on craigslist or I suppose you could use the newspaper.  I always find enough on craigslist, plus you can search for specialty items like canning jars.

4.  Have a good map or navigation system or both.

5.  Write down a few more sales than you will think you have time for.  Once you get going you may not want to stop.  At least you will be prepared.  If the ad writes directions, jot them down, they are trying to tell you their house is hard to find.

6.  Map out a somewhat logical path so you can save gas.

7.  Don’t just go to the one closest to your house first.   I always go to the one that has what I am looking for first.  And then I start my loop there.

8.  Arrive at the starting time, don’t be rude, but don’t let the good stuff get away.  Serious collectors are out there before you even think about getting up.  If they see a listing that has items they want they will show up 1 hour before it opens to get first pick.

9.  Never pass up a deal.

10.  This is not the grocery store so don’t go with a list and don’t feel you have to stick to a list.

11.  Let the seller name the price first.If you offer first you could be offering 10x what they would have said.  I am always surprised when I would have paid $3 for something and they say 25 cent.

12.  Only offer less if you are serious about the item and don’t be rude.  Some people never offer less than the asking price, especially among small items.  Big ticket items are another story.

13.  If you are even somewhat interested in an item always ask how much they want for something, it will help you build a price catalog in your head.  And you never know they could be asking so little that you have to buy it.

14.  If the price is too high for you, then never feel obligated to buy even though you showed interest by asking the price.  Just walk away.

15.  Don’t pay more than half or what you could buy the item for new.  In fact most items should be much, much less than half of their original price.

16.  Heading to a sale at the end of their day can also be an advantage.  At that point people are willing to just give you stuff so they don’t have to take it to the thrift stores.

17.  Finish up at a local thrift store and collect more bargains.  The prices will be much higher but there are still deals to be found.

18.  Always keep in mind that you can resell the item on craigslist or Ebay.  I made a business out of this in grad school.  Sometimes I come across items that I don’t really need but are too good to pass up.  Evaluate if you can make a decent profit for your time and then go for it.  For example:  I came across an older model Bernina Sewing Machine for $75 at a sale recently.  These can easily fetch $800 on ebay.  That would have been a perfect resell item, but someone else beat me to it.  There is a risk that it might be broken or a unwanted model so be careful.

This sounds like it takes all day but really only a couple of early Saturday morning hours.  We are early birds and like getting up and out of the house before the town wakes up.  Give it a try and if you have fun, hey you have a new hobby.  If not then we understand it’s not for everyone, plus that leaves more canning jars for me to discover.

By the way when Robert and I met he had never been to a garage sale.  I think he thought they were icky.  He would just stand there and watch me dig through boxes and find arm fulls of treasures.  It wasn’t until I bought a bunch of Polly Pocket toys for 25 cents each and sold them on ebay for $40 a piece that he got the bug.  Now he’s an old pro.  He favors the bundle approach.  I often overhear him saying “How about all this for $10?”  He makes me so proud.

Thanks,  Courtney

One response to “The Art of Garage Sale Bargain Shopping

  1. these tips are really great! oh and the bundle idea is genius. thanks for sharing, and don’t worry i won’t take your canning jars…well, unless you keep inviting me to your canning parties. 😉

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