Before I had Tiny One, I didn’t garage sale very much. I never found items I wanted, and it felt like a waste of time. Once T1 was born, my mom (an avid garage-saler) told me I should reconsider. She saved thousands of dollars each year buying clothes and toys for my five siblings and me when we were young, and she told me it would be worth giving garage sales a try. She taught me all of her tricks, and over the last two years I have learned to LOVE going to garage sales.
I see other parents purchase clothes for $10 each at Wal-Mart to save money, but I get Baby Gap and Gymboree clothes for $1 each at garage sales. A better deal AND better quality…win-win! I now buy 95% of T1’s clothes this way, and almost all of our toys too. I have good (aka “expensive”) taste in clothes and toys and love name brand items, so it’s fun to find Pottery Barn toys/furniture, and even some exclusive items that can only be purchased overseas…all for great deals.
Not only do garage sales save you money, they are also good for the environment because you can recycle gently used items instead of buying new. Plus it’s fun to find awesome deals on things you will really use!
Weather you are a pro at finding sales, or are just getting started, here are some tips that may be helpful (most of them came from my Mom and have worked wonders for me).
I’d love to hear YOUR tips below!
1) Make a list
It’s important to know what you are looking for before you start shopping. Without a list, I sometimes buy stuff I won’t ever need, or I can’t find anything that will work for me.
For example, I had a hard time finding items for a toddler dress up box until I itemized what I was looking for: fun hats, capes, purses, etc. Once I had a list, I found what I needed right away.
2) Know your price-point
Garage sales can have a wide variety of price points. Some people list almost everything for $1 or less, while others price items at only 50% off whatever they paid for it brand new (yikes!).
Based on where you are, the prices may vary slightly, but here are price point guidelines:
o $1 for most clothes
o $.50 or less for accessories (onesies, bibs, etc.)
o $2 on average for shoes (I’ll pay more for some name brands if they’re in perfect condition)
o $2-5 for nice coats or really nice clothing
o Up to $1 for hardback and $.50 for paperback.
Toys, furniture, and everything else:
o My mom’s rule of thumb is to pay up to 10% of the original price. So if a piece of furniture is $300 new, she will pay up to $30 for it at a garage sale if it’s in good/great condition.
o I sometimes will pay a higher percentage if it’s a specific item/name brand I was looking for, and especially if it’s still available in stores. I’ll also pay more if it’s a harder item to find (solid wooden toys, Pottery Barn items, etc.). My max is usually no more than 20% of the original price though… and that’s only if it’s in great condition.
3) Plan where to go
I use the “Yard Sale Treasure Map” website and iphone app. It pulls sale ads from craigslist and maps them out for you. You can star the garage sales you like, and it will plan a route. Easy! I’m also part of a facebook page in my area where people list items for sale and advertise their garage sales, which is super helpful when I’m planning my routes.
If individual sales advertise specific things I’m looking for, I plan to hit those first. Neighborhood-wide sales are also a priority since there are lots of opportunities to find things I want.
Keep in mind that garage sales farther back in the neighborhood are often missed by traffic and stand-alone sales in remote locations also may lose traffic, so they are usually more willing to negotiate prices with you!
4) Plan when to go
The first day of a sale (right when they open) will guarantee the most “hot ticket” buys. The last day, mid-morning, will guarantee the best deals on what’s left because people just want to get rid of everything.
If you want popular toys/electronics, go the first day. If you want clothes, go the last day.
5) Negotiate prices & group items
Most people running garage sales just want items gone, so they are willing to negotiate. If something is priced higher than I usually pay, I’ll offer a lower price. This is easier to do by choosing several things I want, adding up the total price and offering a lower price for the group of items.
For example, if the total is $20, I’ll ask if they will take $16. If the total is $10, I’ll ask if they will take $8. Most sellers are willing to negotiate this way- it’s a pile of stuff they don’t have to bring back inside!
Sellers are MUCH more willing to negotiate if you are friendly, and maybe even if you mention what you plan to do with the items. I went to one sale last week and I heard the sellers saying “no” when others asked for a lower price. I talked with them for a few moments, and let them know they had great educational material I could use to teach my daughter preschool. I made a pile of what I wanted and asked if they would take less. They took the overall price down by 25%. Very nice!
Note: If I find sales where the asking prices are more than fair, I won’t negotiate as I don’t want to take advantage of anyone (some sales only ask $.25 per book and $.50 for clothes, so I’ll take it!). 🙂
6) Walk away, if necessary
If someone won’t negotiate, I walk away. Sometimes there are 1 or 2 items that I really do want (and probably won’t find again), so I decide if the asking price is worth it. If so, I will put everything else back and just get the item(s) I really want.
7) Don’t give up
There may be a few weeks when I don’t find much… but I regularly have days when I shop for 1 hour and come back with a whole car load of high-quality items. Sometimes I find things I was planning to buy full-price soon, so it’s always a rush to realize how much I’ve saved!
8) Continue the process
During garage sale season, I start getting rid of my stuff as I bring new stuff in. I don’t like my house to feel cluttered, and I use whatever money I get from items I sell to buy new items I need.
9) Have fun!
Garage sales can provide your family with quality items that are needed/useful at a HUGE savings. Once you get started, it’s exciting to realize what you are providing for your family for a fraction of what it would have cost! You’ll be able to get things you never could have afforded and/or feel good about recycling things that are in almost-new condition!
Garage sales can also be a fun time to meet up with friends – you can visit and help each other find what you’re looking for. Win/win!
Hopefully this is a helpful list. I warn you – garage sales can be addictive once you get started! 🙂 If you have any helpful tips, I’d love to hear them below!