I am obsessive in my garage sale shopping. I view saving money as a true part of my occupation as wife/mom. That and I like it. If I didn’t like it I would make excuses for not doing it. Like exercise. I am good at excuses. Just ask my thighs.
So I have some rules to follow when garage saling…sale-ing?….not sailing…..oh whatever – when shopping at garage sales.
#1 Begin preparing on Thursday. Look up all the sales on Craigslist and write on scratch paper all the good ones.
a. City Wide sales are best. A lot of sales close together means less gas and time wasted driving from one to another, I often park at one end of the street and walk all the way down and back before moving my van.
b. Nicer trailer parks are a great place to buy kids clothes. Think about it – they have NO storage. They have to clean out on a regular basis.
c. Sometimes the ‘better’ neighborhoods are a good place to get a deal and other times they price things WAY too high. You just have to check them out one by one. They are a good place to get furniture and larger items.
#2 Clean out your vehicle, wash the gravel road dust off the windows, and fuel up the day before shopping. Stopping on the way to the sale means donuts. We don’t need no stinkin’ donuts.
#3 Print out a street map from Google. You’ll want one. Keep a collection of them in your glove compartment with last year’s telephone book. Also, when you find a good sale with good prices make a star on your map. You’ll know to go there first next year.
#4 Wear comfortable clothes in layers. The temperature changes greatly from 5:30am to noon. You need to be adjustable.
#5 Bring a basket that is comfortable to carry on your arm. A beach bag also works. You need both hands free for perusing the items so you’ll put things to buy in the basket and still have your hands free. This also helps when buying in quantity. If you walk up to the seller with a basket that is heaped over with little boy t shirts and socks and ask if she’ll sell it all for $6 she just might say yes so she doesn’t have to count 10 cents 600 times.
#6 Bring two drinks and a couple of granola bars or something. We don’t need no MickyD’s.
#7 Take measurements BEFORE leaving home. Looking for a dresser? Measure the place you are going to put it and slip the tape measure in your basket to take with you. It’s only a bargain if it really is what you want.
#8 Kid’s clothes marked $2 and up better be pretty special. We’re talking church clothes and Christmas pictures good. I will pay $1 for jeans that are in good shape.
#9 If you find a place selling t shirts, shorts, sweaters for 10 cents, get a lot. You can always make something out of it if you won’t wear it. Stay tuned – I have patterns for making t shirts into shopping bags and sweatshirts into mittens. You’ll want to be ready to play along with the class.
#10 If you’re crabby, stay home. Don’t ruin everyone else’s day. I’m talking to YOU, lady with the orange mushroom pasta pot!
#11 On a notecard write down one kid’s name at the top. Make note of shoe size, pant size, shirt size. I also note if there are tennis shoes, church shoes, and snow boots in their current size and next size. That way you don’t buy doubles. Do this for each child you are shopping for. I also recommend two winter coats for each child. One on the kid and one in the wash. Trust me.
#12 Make a ‘wish list’ and tuck it in your purse. Things like a new rake, 9 x 13 casserole pans, and an orange fur vest that you hope to find. Make a copy of this and share it with any friend who likes to shop garage sales and take a copy of hers. Two heads are better than one principle. If you are sharing it with someone list how good of shape it needs to be in and what you are willing to pay. If I want a rake to complete my fall decorating out in the yard I don’t want to pay $8 for it, but if I need to clean up after 7 trees in my yard quality is better.
#13 If you find a toy at a garage sale that looks like it has never been played with – DON’T buy it. It has never been played with because it isn’t fun to kids. I have had my own daycare for 8 years and this has been true of every toy I have purchased. If it looked new when I bought it – it still looked new when I threw it away a year later.
#14 Make the seller prove that it works. Plug in a radio to hear it, put water in it to see if something leaks. Check it out – why don’t they want it anymore? Not everyone is dishonest – they might not even know it is broken.
#15 Watch where you park. During city wide garage sales the parking laws are usually pretty relaxed but don’t count on it. If you must park in an odd spot ask the seller if the cops will bother you. If they say yes – park down the block and walk. Ahem….just learn from me, please.
#16 Don’t get carried away. Know what things cost new. I once bought a cast iron skillet for $11. It was a little rusty but I figured I could recondition it. After a few hours of scouring, greasing, baking, repeating I had a great skillet. A few days later I thought I would check to see what a bargain I had gotten. Come to find out the identical skillet, brand new, pre-seasoned was $10.97. Oops
You can find other awesome frugal ideas over at Learning the Frugal Life.