Garage Sale Tips

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I did some serious garage sale-ing the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  I landed my best find ever and I am once again a dedicated treasure hunter.  I bought an unused irrigation timer for $5.  Value on Amazon–$230.  I had to buy the same timer 2 years ago when an old one quit.  Now I have a spare for the next failure.  LaVille told me not to lead club members into thinking that this is a typical experience.  But I would like at least to suggest that you give garage sale-ing a try if you never have.  Here’s how you get started:

            Step 1:  Google “craigslist Sacramento.”  You will see a huge field of categories.  In the “search craigslist” box type in your city and then “garage sales.”  Here is your list of upcoming sales.  Often there are pictures accompanying the ad.  You will likely also see a listing of estate sales.  Estate sales are also listed on line at  Estate sales are often interesting in that you generally wander through a house a get a glimpse into the lives of the previous occupants.  The garage generally holds the gardening tools and the gardening chemicals like fertilizer you are seeking, but don’t forget to check out the back yard.  Occasionally overlooked items can be found out there.  Often a company is running the sale, and they have to make their profit, so prices are higher than at regular garage sales.  You can expect to buy an item between 10% and 25% of retail at a garage sale.  Estate sale prices tend to hover around 30% to 40%.  Whereas the higher price may turn you off, you may find a unique item that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.  Moving sales are generally good because people often have to get rid of a great number of items and it’s often not just junk common to a lot of sales.  Another source of garage sales is your local paper.  I check out the classified section of the Davis Enterprise and frankly give those ads more credence than craigslist ads because the sale will likely be of a more serious nature since they had to pay for the ad—either that or they are computer illiterate.

            Step 2:  Make judgments about the sales.  You want to go to most promising sales first.  Ideally you would first visit homes in the better part of the city.  You want to deal with people who are more interested in getting rid of good quality stuff instead of just making money off of junk.

            Step 3:  Plan your driving path Friday night.  Pay close attention to the sale starting times.  They can vary tremendously, but most sales start at 8:00 A.M. 

            Step 4:  On Saturday (and sometimes other days) get up early.  Be the “early bird.”  It’s really depressing to see an item that you really wanted in the hands of someone else.  Check for late listings just before you leave the house.  Some sellers put in their ad at the very last minute.  Now estate sales are generally so well attended that you will find a line of 25 people standing at the front door when you arrive.  Sometimes the organizers will have you sign up on a list when you arrive, and they will restrict how many people can enter at one time.  This can use up valuable garage sale-ing time on a Saturday, so visit estate sales on Thursdays or Fridays.  You know, sometimes people get in a squabble.  It’s entertaining if you’re not participating.

            Now a few miscellaneous things:  Carry a wad of 1 dollar bills and a few quarters.  When you approach the sales person with something in your hand to buy, if no price is on the item, your question is, “How much are you asking for this?”.  When they respond, you say, “Would you take so and so?”  Generally they will agree because most people realize that bargaining is a part of the process.  If the item you want has a price tag on it, simply ask if they would take a certain lesser amount.        Occasionally, you will find a child who is selling lemonade and cookies at a sale.  If he or she is asking 50 cents, ask if you can have one for 25 cents.  Kids need to learn early that small business is a tough go, and that 70% of new small businesses fail.  I’m kidding . . . I’m kidding!  I generally buy from kids.  Besides, your generosity might get you a better deal on an item in the garage sale.  Now this bargaining process I’ve described will vary a lot depending on how reasonable the original price is, and also with your relationship with the sales person.  Some people are just so nice, that you don’t feel like quibbling over a couple bucks.  You will often get a better deal on items if you bundle them.  If you approach the seller with several items, you’ll generally get a much lower per item price.  Here is another thing I have found:  Most of the people selling things at garage sales are really nice people, and I find it a really enjoyable experience meeting these folks that I would never otherwise encounter.  Garage sales require a lot of work to put on, the monetary rewards are meager, and afterwards you have to deal with all the unwanted stuff that remains.  I often thank sellers for holding a garage sale when I leave.

There you have it . . . my attempt to interest you in the hobby of garage sale-ing.  I hope you will give it a try.  As per any endeavor, the hardest part is getting started.  Once you make it out of bed, the rest is easy and can be very rewarding.

Stan, The Blog Man