Finance LIFESTYLE  >  Yard Sales: Hit ’em Hard And Save Money

Yard Sales: Hit ’em Hard And Save Money

Yard Sales: Hit ’em Hard And Save Money
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My grandmother often spoke in time-honored maxims like, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” or “Waste not, want not.” It wasn’t until I was a grandmother myself that I realized the reason such sayings had lived long in our lexicon is because they were often the truth. One such folksy adage –“The early bird catches the worm” points to a perfect way to save money in these troubled times:  Get out of bed at dawn and hit yard sales. You’ll catch more than worms ― you’ll catch discounts that will help you feather your nest for pennies on the dollar.

Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your yard sale visits:

Set A Course: Look in your neighborhood paper for classified ads about upcoming yard sales. Smaller publications like Patch and Pennysavers is where most sellers place their ads as the rates are cheaper. Online, check out Craig’sList and Yard Sale Search (a national service that shows sales in your area.) Map the times and locations of each sale and figure which to hit and when. Go to the best neighborhood first (better quality items and they can afford to discount prices) and multi-family sales (more things for sale.)

Dress for Success: Wear comfortable shoes (heels sink into the grass) and a hat on sunny days. Carry bottled water, a tape measure (and the measurements/shoe sizes of anyone you plan to shop for), a large hand mirror, a GPS unit (or a phone with one), the ads from all the sales you want to visit, bubble wrap or newspapers to wrap fragile items, some shopping bags and/or boxes to transport your treasures and a pen/paper or note app to write down the seller’s contact information (in case you have questions later) and to track what you have purchased (and for whom.)

Flag The Sales You Like: After you visit once, mark down if the sale is worth visiting again. Ask the sellers when the sale closes (some are held over several days) and come back to negotiate an even lower price. No one wants to put their yard sale items back in the house/attic/garage.

Make A Shopping List: Unless you are just out to buy whatever takes your fancy (in which case, have a budget and don’t exceed it―good advice for trolling yard sales and gambling in Vegas), have a list of things you are looking for and do some research on those items. Know how much a new version of the item costs and what will be a good price for a used version. Bring your smartphone along to check prices on the spot on that unexpected thing you’ve been looking for forever, but never thought you’d find.

Kick The Tires: Try anything with moving parts to see that it actually works. Bring batteries of all sizes with you to insert into that baby swing or camping lantern. Ask for items that need electricity to be plugged in so you can see that they work. Remember that in the yard sale world, all purchases are final. It’s “Buyer Beware” so be aware―not all bargains are bargains. Some things really are junk.

Stuff Not To Buy: Infant/toddler car seats or cribs (the kind with the slide down sides aren’t even made any more because of safety issues), pacifiers, mattresses (you don’t need bed bugs), hair/toothbrushes, cosmetics, underwear, hairdryers made before 1991 (they lack immersion safety), and propane heaters (some brands can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.) Check the US Consumer Product Safety Commission site for recalled products before you buy anything questionable.

Haggle, Haggle, Haggle: There is no harm in asking if the seller will take a lower price. Sometimes they just want to get rid of all their stuff and any money they make is just a bonus. Aim low in price and expect to haggle upwards, meeting somewhere in the middle. Point out any defects in the item, but be respectful. This is where Gram’s advice, “You catch more flies with honey” comes into play. Negotiation is a give-and-take process (pay attention, Congress) and both sides should come out with a little of what they each want.

Cash Is King: Some yard sales take local checks but rarely is anyone set up to take credit cards. Cash-in-hand also acts as a great negotiation tool (the seller sees you can pay immediately), but don’t go waving a big wad around (or, just like in the Istanbul market, the price won’t drop during the haggling or worse, the cost of unmarked products may actually go up! )

I would tell you not to buy anything you don’t need, but that is useless advice (I didn’t need the dozen cut glass celery-and-olive plates, but at 25 cents each, I couldn’t pass them up), so I’ll just say, try to remember you are not auditioning for the TV show “Hoarders” and “Happy Hunting.”


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