With the coming of spring, and the task of spring cleaning on many people’s minds, garage sales should start popping up all around your town or city in no time. If you want to be a garage sale pro and score the best bargains, you’ll need to check out some of these tips from Money Under 30 first:
- Know the “Avoid” List: there are certain things you’ll want to avoid at garage sales no matter what the number is on the price tag. Old TVs and older printers (with hard-to-find drivers and ink cartridges), for example, should be on your “avoid” list.
- Make a Shopping List: to avoid impulse buys and things you don’t need, take stock of what items you could use around your house. Take this list with you and see if you find anything on that list in your garage sale travels.
- Remember the “Wiggle Room” Question: most people aren’t holding garage sales to make millions. They’re trying to make a little extra off of stuff they want to get rid of anyway.
Even if you feel giddy after spotting a $300 leather jacket for $30. play it cool: “Hmmmm. So how much wiggle room is there on the price?” Or ask, “What price can you give me on this?” (Avoid “How low can you go?”, which makes sellers defensive, or “Can you give me a break?”, a question that only has a yes or no answer.) Haggling is easier when buying multiple items. Three times out of four, you’ll snag discounts without the discomfort of driving a hard bargain.
- Keep a Look Out for Collectibles to Resell: even if you don’t have use for something you find at a garage sale, you may be able to sell your finds to make more money. If you’ve got an eye for things like rare baseball cards or fine art, for example, keep a look out.
I’m most envious of the fellow who once bought a Fender Telecaster at a garage sale for about $50, and later learned it was a near-flawless specimen from the first batch of Fenders ever made. Its value at the time was, oh, $100,000 or so.
- If You Don’t See an Item on Your List, Ask: just because you can’t find something at a garage sale doesn’t mean it’s not there. Always ask the vendor if they’re got items on your list if you don’t see them. They may have just forgotten to bring something out, so it’s worth checking.
- Come Back to Cool Sales Later in the Day: if you see something you love at a garage sales, but the price is a little too much for you and you can’t haggle it down, try going back later in the day when the sale is either wrapping up or over. You may be thrilled with what you find:
At one sale I attended, the proprietor wanted a lot of money for a Pottery Barn dresser – too much, I thought. I returned later, and found the same dresser out in the alley for trash pickup. My wife and I hauled it off, repainted it, and it now sits in our daughter’s room.
Find more tips over at Money Under 30’s Garage Sale Tips: How to Buy Like a Pro.