It’s been almost ten years since I introduced my Brazilian husband to garage sales. I remember how impressed he was after those first sales when we left with a coffee grinder, an iron board, a brand new model engine (the kind you assemble with glue) and some like-new clothing. On our way back to the car he asked me, “if you buy such nice stuff so cheap at a garage sale, why do people even shop at Target?”
Since then, going to garage sales has become one of our recreational summertime activities. As we head out shopping this summer here are a few things I do to make the most of my time and effort.
Garage Sale Finders
Smartphone apps. If you have a smartphone, then check out the free versions of iGarageSale and Garage Sale Rover. These apps take all the garage sale listings from Craigs List and put them on a map. Combine that map with your phone’s GPS and you’ll easily be led from sale-to-sale.
- iGarageSale for iPhone/iPad [this is a referral link] or Android
- Garage Sale Rover for iPhone/iPad [this is a referral link] or Android
Local garage sale calendar. A journalist in my hometown of Minneapolis puts together an annual garage sale calendar of neighborhood and church-sponsored sales. It helps if you want to plan ahead and just hit the biggest sales around. Do some google searching to see if you can find a similar calendar for your area. If you live in Minneapolis/St. Paul, then check out the Twin Cities Garage Sales Calendar.
Keep clothing and shoe sizes handy. Since you can’t return items you buy at a garage sale, you need to know you are getting the correct sizes. To help with that, I jot down my kids next-season clothing and shoe sizes, plus my husband’s sizes, on the back of business card. I carry the card in my wallet as a quick reference when I’m out shopping.
Make a seasonal to-buy list. For even the most self-controlled shopper, garage sales can be a permission slip for impulse buys on things you don’t really need. We manage that by taking a few minutes each spring to brainstorm a list of things we need for our home, garden, garage, kids and ourselves. I don’t carry the list in my wallet, but I review it every couple weeks. It reminds me what I’m supposed to keep an eye out for.
Making Your Purchase
Negotiate. Yes, you know that you can (and probably should) negotiate prices at a garage sale, but it can be uncomfortable. Next time you want to offer a lower price use this simple phrase. “I’ll give you xxx for this.” It’s direct. It’s simple. No explanation, apology or justification required. The worst they can do is say no, but I think you’ll be surprised at how often the seller agrees.
Bring small bills. Speaking of negotiating, I think you’re more likely to negotiate if your wallet contains smaller bills. If you are going to pay with a $20, and know that, then you may talk yourself out of offering $3 instead of the $5 ticketed price. But, if you’ve got five $1 bills, then you may prefer to only part with three of them.
Now it’s your turn to share the things you do to make the most of your time and effort as you shop garage sales. Please leave a comment below with your ideas.