Garage sale tips for the first timer

I have been going to garage sales for as long as I can remember. I remember picking up toys and newborn clothes for my dolls when I would stop at garage sales with my mom, and now I am picking up clothes and toys for my own kids! Every weekend from May-September {I like to refer to it as garage sale season}, you can find me shopping the sales. One of my favorite things to do is to introduce people to garage sales for the first time.  If you have never been to a garage sale before but are tired of hearing about all the great deals that your garage sale friends find, then stick with me, I will share my best tips for the newbie garage saler!  You will be a pro in no time!

Plan your route

I know when all of the good neighborhood sales are in our area by searching on the home owners websites for that neighborhood. I mark those dates early on my calendar.  Neighborhood sales are the best for the first timers.  There are lots of sales to pick from and not as much driving around on a wild goose chase following signs.  On the weeks that there aren't big neighborhood sales going on, I will drive "the loop" in my area and am always bound to find something. Once you start opening your eyes to see the signs, you will spot them everywhere!  You can also find sales listed in your local Craigslist ads.

Shop early

The best deals are always found first thing in the morning.  It's true what they say, the early bird catches the worm.  At least at the garage sale they do! If a sale says that it starts at 8, be there at least 15 minutes early.  Some garage sales are adamant about not letting early birds shop, others don't mind if you help them unpack.  I've made some of my best scores by helping people set up their sale. Just ask.  The seller will let you know.

Bring lots of cash

I rarely carry cash in the off season, but man when garage sale season rolls around I have more one's than a stripper! I've seen a lot of things but a garage sale that takes credit cards is not one of them. Many sellers are leery of check writers.  I rarely ask to write a check unless I am spending a lot of money, and even then, sometimes the seller feels more comfortable holding the items until I can return from the ATM.  It's just better to come prepared with small bills.

Keep your hands free

I wish with all my heart that fanny packs were in style.  It's hard to look around and dig if your hands are full.  I always wear pants with lots of pockets for my keys and my cash. I keep small bills in my front pockets and large bills in my back pockets.  No one needs to know how much cash I have on hand, especially if I'm trying to negotiate! I carry a reusable bag for my purchases, especially if I'm going to a neighborhood sale.  That way I can walk from sale to sale without constantly having to go back to my car.  

Don't be afraid to negotiate

The best part about garage sales is the wiggle room that you have in the pricing. As a rule of thumb garage sale prices are about 90% of the retail price. Usually people holding a garage sale are anxious to get rid of their items and are always willing to negotiate, especially if you buy more items. Bundle and save doesn't just work for your cable bill!  You can see this post for my negotiating tips. The first time negotiating can be a bit intimidating, but I always tell first timers, what's the worst thing they can say? If they say no, you can still buy the item at the marked price, or feel free to walk away. 

Check the boxes

Make sure you know what you are buying. Don't be afraid to open up the box and look inside.  Feel free to ask the seller if you can plug an item in or inquire if the item works.  Usually, the seller will be honest with you. If you are buying a game, make sure it has all of it's parts.  Sometimes when people upgrade their items, they use the box for the old item. Make sure you look inside and know what you are getting.There is nothing worse then purchasing something that you can't use because it doesn't have all of it's parts.

Be Impulsive 

You have to act fast at garage sales.  There aren't multiple items, the shirts often don't come in different sizes, you get what you get. And usually what you get is priced pretty cheap.  Just grab it if you think you can use it.  If you end up buying something you can't use, you probably didn't spend that much money on it.  Just pass it on to someone who can use it or put it in your Goodwill pile.

Don't give up

I have people tell me they have tried going to garage sales but they just never find anything.  The more you go, the more you will find. I can go to at least ten garage sales in a day and only purchase one thing.  I could also go and purchase a whole car full. One mans trash is another mans treasure but only when that man has the same taste as you! If you are looking for something specific you may not find it.  Garage sales aren't your local Target. I usually start the season off with a list of items I would like to find.  During the summer, I try to find those items.  If I'm shopping with friends, we share our lists so that we can have more eyes out there looking.  It's hard to see everything! Sometimes I find things I didn't even know I needed.  That's the joy of garage sales!

Hopefully these tips will help you feel more comfortable stepping out into garage sale season.  If you are still apprehensive, ask a friend that you know is a garage sale pro.  They will usually be happy to have you along to show you the ropes. 
You can score all kinds of great finds at garage sales, you just need to get out there and shop! Start early and have fun!  Oh, and don't forget to check back every Friday from June-September to see what I've been finding!

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