- There are two kinds of garage sales – the ones where people want to make money and the ones where people want to get rid of stuff. The object is to find the ones where people want to get rid of stuff.
- Get a map and newspaper and map out your route. Photocopying a map from a phone book or printing one from the web works great. Using this method, you can easily visit 25 sales an hour. If you’re a beginner you might hit neighborhoods you are familiar with first.
- If at all possible leave the kids at home. If you must take them use a baby backpack or an umbrella stroller to make it easier. Give older children 25 or 50 cents and let them see what good deals they can get. Kids love picking out gifts for grandparents, siblings, parents and other family and bargain hunting helps them learn about money. Bring snacks (animal crackers, cereals, crackers in plastic bag works well) and cold water for everyone and plan ahead for potty breaks. If you have children with you, it’s best only to plan on hitting about five sales until you see how they do.
- Wear cool, comfortable clothes. Bring lots of change and one dollar bills. Put your money in your pockets so you don’t have to worry about carrying your purse. Also bring a tote bag in which to carry your finds as you walk.
- When you find something you’re not sure you want, pick it up and carry it around while you continue looking. Otherwise someone else may take it while you’re trying to decide.
- Always ask politely if they will come down on the price. Most of the time they will. Every once in a while some things are so reasonable that I do not feel right asking for less. Finding women’s sweater’s at $1.00 each isn’t bad, but I still ask if they will take 50 or 75 cents. If I find a name brand sweater in perfect shape for 25 cents, I don’t ask for less.
- If there is something you really want, but the seller is asking more than you want to pay, offer them a lower price. If they say no, leave your name and number and ask them to consider selling it to you at your price if they still have it at the end of the day.
- Always check items well for hard to see tears, stains, or breakage. Remember it is a garage sale so everything won’t be perfect.
- It is best to go early, but don’t panic if you can’t. Sometimes you get the best buys after lunch when sellers are tired and don’t want to have to drag everything back into the house. It’s great to go on the last day of a sale because most sellers will almost pay you to take things so they don’t have to keep them.
- If you don’t have success in one part of town, try somewhere else the next time. Sometimes the best garage sale neighborhoods are the ones you don’t expect.
Don’t be embarrassed about buying at garage sales. Some of the wealthiest women in the world love garage sales – Martha Stewart and Oprah are among them! When you’re done, go home, put up your feet and have a nice glass of ice cold lemonade. Grab the phone and call someone who will share the excitement and appreciate your good buys. Garage sales are like old fishing stories. Die-hards always brag about the one that got away!
Additional Hints From a Reader:
Thanks for the article, Tawra and Jill.
I wanted to share with you that it also pays to carry along a box (or boxes) with paper for wrapping if you like to buy glassware or delicate items.
We did estate sale purchasing (and some garage sale shopping) for vintage items for our country store. Taking the time to wrap the delicate items and put them into boxes, well paid for the time (as we quickly learned when some things didn’t make it home unbroken!).
By going shopping together one could drive on to the next sale while the other wrapped those special items! It was great team work.
And speaking of children going, our oldest daughter does Ebay selling and all of the 6 children are trained into what to look for for value and they each scout out possibilities in different areas while Mom looks also! The children also take some of their finds and have made very good money selling them on Ebay–sometimes $50-$100 profit!
The grandkids run from 4 to 16. The 4 year old is pretty much an expert into Pooh and Bob the Builder though! If the sale has any of those products, he isn’t much help with the other items! :-) The family of 8 is able to stay completely wardrobed from garage sales (and a few thrift stores) solely–from church clothes to farm clothes!
Thanks for the articles you both write.
Great Garage Sale Tip!
Lisa in TN sent this and I thought it was a wonderful idea! I am going to use it this summer with the my kids. TJ
We go to garage sales regularly and the kids almost always go with us. They’re actually an asset because people who are trying to get rid of things will usually just give each child something. In fact, I have to limit the amount of things they get for free or we’d come home with all kinds of trash.
Here is a suggestion I have for taking kids along (I had to learn the hard way): I have taught mine that sometimes people’s prices are too high and you can tell right off the bat if they’re willing to come down. If one of them asks me if they can purchase an item and I don’t agree with the price, I have a key phrase that I tell them. It’s something like, "I don’t think we need to get that today." Then they know NOT to ask and beg over and over. They just put the item back and we go on to the next place. Every time this has happened they always have found a better and cheaper item at another sale.
Yard-saleing (as we call it) is a form of entertainment for us. We always pack snacks and water (as you suggested), the kids have their own money, and we drive around for a few hours and see what we can find. People give away the most amazing things. We spend much less than our peers and we have all the modern necessities!
Also, thanks for what you said in the other article about pricing your items low enough when having your own sale. I have been to some places that try to get way too much out of their things! It’s quite irksome. Also, some of the best finds for us have been at the yucky looking places that look like they just have a bunch of old junk. Often we find a buried treasure at these places!
Keep up the good work, Lisa in TN
If you want to learn how to have a garage sale, read "How to Have A Garage Sale."