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Garage Sale Tips for Finding Hidden Gems

A close friend, Tonia, has been trying to get me interested in garage sales [3] for a couple of years now.  She swears that it is a ton of fun to spend her early Saturday mornings browsing through the sales around town.  I personally don’t want anything enough to wake up at 6am on a weekend to go after it, but her garage sale plans were detailed enough that I knew I should share.  Here are Tonia’s tips for finding exactly what you are looking for at garage sales.

Make a Shopping List

The first step is to make a list of what it is that you actually need.  This is a very important step or you may end up bringing home way more than you will want the next day.  I’ve heard of the few days that my friends have gone treasure hunting without a list and they still complain about some of the stuff they regret purchasing simply because it was a great deal.  I make the same mistake in grocery stores, so I understand how helpful lists can be.

Make a Budget

The next step is to make a budget.  A hundred $1 items is still $100 spent.  Tonia suggests researching the regular prices of the items you are interested in purchasing and then budgeting to spend 50% or less of that total.  For example, if you are on the hunt for a futon, look up the regular prices.  I was able to find a great new one for $200.  Therefore, if I was going to buy one from a garage sale instead, I should budget to spend $100 or less. 

Research the Available Locations

Once you have your list and budget, try finding all of the garage and yard sales that will be happening in your area and then branch out from there.  Craigslist [4] and the local newspaper are great sources for garage sale announcements.  You may need to scroll and scan for 15 to 20 minutes in order to narrow down the options closest to you.  You may also be able to find the exact sales that have the specific items you are looking for which will save you a ton of time.

Plan Your Attack

For the fastest results, you can use the list of nearby locations to plan out your morning attack.  It seems to be agreed upon by all garage sale hunters that the morning is definitely the best time to start your hunt so that you will be able to see everything available.  Now, to get the lowest deal possible, you may have to go back later to make another offer, but you should always check out the merchandise as early as possible.

My Own Take

After thinking about this for the last few days, I’ve also come up with my own step.  When making offers at these sales, try not to be insulting.  There is a difference between making an equitable deal that is great for you and trying to make a deal that is obviously really awful for the seller.  If you are on a tight budget, try communicating your circumstances and maybe you can barter for any large difference in price.  This is just a suggestion from someone who likes it when everybody comes out of a deal smiling.

What other garage sale tips for specific finds would you like to add?

(Photo: eastlaketimes [5])