12 Tips for Successful Garage Sale-ing

One of life's simple pleasures is waking up early and rested on a Saturday morning, enjoying a cup of coffee with my husband, and preparing for the day's garage sale adventure. We cruise around together looking at the latest blooms, listening to tunes, and laughing at our dumb jokes. Slowing down, our only care finding neon garage sale signs and following them to the booty, is as fun for me as any date I've ever had with him. And then we get out of the car, walk up someone's driveway, and LET THE GARAGE SALE-ING GAMES BEGIN.

If you're new to the game and aren't sure how to get out there, check out these 12 tips for successful garage sale-ing. (Romance tips not included.)

1. Figure out where you're going: There are many different ways to plan your route for the day. Prior to leaving the house, you can check Craigslist for garage and estate sale listings in your area, OR as you drive throughout the week you can take mental/written notes of the physical signs being posted and go back to those locations on sale days, OR you can 'freestyle' and just start driving on Saturday morning (hitting major intersections) looking for the signs. I've had equal luck using all of these methods and found success has less to do with preparedness and more to do with the neighborhoods you visit. I try to stay in nicer areas with older home owners. They tend to have lots of interesting old pieces, things that stood the test of time, things that aren't plastic - 'rusty gold', if you will.

2. Start early: The good stuff is first to go. Being at a sale when it opens give you the advantage of a fully stocked drive way - wait too long and all the cherries are gone. Plus, you have the additional benefit of missing the broiling heat of the day if you start an finish before noon. I usually get to my first sale no later than 9am.

3. Make eye contact and smile: The first thing I do when I arrive at a sale is make eye contact with the seller and greet them with a smile and a 'howdy' - hell, I try to make friends with them. Aside from it just being good manners, I find people are more likely to give a 'friend' a deal, than they are to a 'stranger'.

4. Know what you're looking for... Having a list of needs (good tools, pieces of furniture, hardware, etc.) and wants (things you collect, 'pretties', novelties, etc.) fresh in your mind will help you stay focused. If I know I need chairs, gardening equipment, and childrens' clothing, I can scan the premise and zero in on those things right away. After determining if they have anything to satisfy my needs, I move on to my wants.

5. ...But be flexible and keep an open mind: If you come across something that isn't on your list do you have a need for it? Could the item be repurposed? Is there a different use for the item not intended by its design?

6. Grab it! If you see something you like - claim it! - even if you aren't sure about it. Carry it around with your for a few minutes. Giving yourself a little bit of time to reflect will usually tell you if you need itwant it, or have no use for it.

7. Check it! There are no refunds or warranties when garage saleing - buyer beware! Give it a good once over. Are all the pieces there? Does it work? Can you test it? Do you need to ask the owner any specific questions before committing to the purchase? 

8. Don't be afraid to haggle. I operate under the assumption all prices at a garage sale are NEGOTIABLE! Sometimes people won't tag their items and it'll be up to you to make an offer, or field theirs. Once you know you're interested ask yourself how much you're willing to pay for it and start your negotiation with a number well below. Make a deal that's mutually equitable - both parties should walk away feeling like they got a bargain. Don't expect to to get things for free - but remember most people hold garage sales not with the intention of getting rich, but to clear clutter.

9. Don't be afraid to 'bundle'. If you're interesting in buying a bunch of things, ask what they'd take for all of it - usually they'll knock a few bucks off. Additionally, 'bundling' can be a great way to even the scale if the seller won't come down in price on a bigger piece. Suppose you're interested in a table they're asking a lot for. Find some other smaller things you can use and ask if they'll throw them in for free if you pay their asking price on the table. 

10. Don't be afraid to walk away. If you've made a fair offer but they want to drive a hard bargain, you're next negotiation tool is to walk away. It's kind of like playing 'chicken'. Chances are they want to get rid of the item and pocket some money more than you want the piece. Nine times out of ten, that item will come home with you after they see they're loosing the sale.

11. Go easy on the newbies. Not everyone bargains and deal hunts for sport. If you're the more experienced participant don't rip them off if they don't know the value of their items - make them a decent offer.

12. Be nice. Suppose you get to the sale and can't find a single thing you need or want. Maybe it's overpriced. Maybe your tastes differ drastically. Maybe it's crap. So walk away. Politely. You aren't beholden to buy when you enter a garage sale, but you should be courteous and pleasant. Wish them a nice day, wish them luck, geez, compliment something if you can! What goes around comes around - you'll be reaping that Karma at the next sale.

THINGS TO BRING:

  • Tape Measure
  • Snacks, coffee, water, although I've seen more than a few child-operated lemonade stands at garage sales - I always buy a glass from the kids on my way in.
  • Cash in small bills: Nothing is more schmuck-y than trying to pay with a twenty for an item you just haggled down to a dollar.
  • The BIG car for hauling it home.
  • Plastic bags (or canvas totes), boxes, wrapping paper: All very useful for getting your treasures home unscathed.

Keep your eyes peeled for those brightly colored garage-sale signs and find yourself some bargains this summer! I've been out (more than) a few times already - here are a few things I've found:

   Not only did I score an old camera to screw around with, I also found this woven strap which has already replaced my old one!

Not only did I score an old camera to screw around with, I also found this woven strap which has already replaced my old one!

   NEED!!! We found these wooden kitchen chairs for $5 a piece. They definitely need some love - but when have I ever turned down a project?

NEED!!! We found these wooden kitchen chairs for $5 a piece. They definitely need some love - but when have I ever turned down a project?

   Illuminating 3D Stars - Though rusty (which I like), the electric cords still work. Summer garden decoration, Winter Christmas decoration - TWOFOR!

Illuminating 3D Stars - Though rusty (which I like), the electric cords still work. Summer garden decoration, Winter Christmas decoration - TWOFOR!

   These clay pots fit perfectly on a bathroom shelf and keep my lipsticks, makeup, and brushes organized and at arms reach.

These clay pots fit perfectly on a bathroom shelf and keep my lipsticks, makeup, and brushes organized and at arms reach.

   Not your typical use for this aging oil can, but it's the perfect soap dispenser in my rustic bathroom. It's inspired me to repurpose other rusty tools for the bath.

Not your typical use for this aging oil can, but it's the perfect soap dispenser in my rustic bathroom. It's inspired me to repurpose other rusty tools for the bath.

   I love old Americana - This beat-up Coca-Cola crate is perfect for holding 'stuff and things' atop furniture and could be a great serving tray for patio drinks.

I love old Americana - This beat-up Coca-Cola crate is perfect for holding 'stuff and things' atop furniture and could be a great serving tray for patio drinks.

Found anything you want to share? Link back to your finds in my comments section!