Monday, April 4, 2011

Yard Sales

When it comes to yard sales, it seems like people either love them or can't stand them. I definitely fall into the love category, and have found some great stuff this way. Saturday was my son's birthday and of course it was celebrated with a small mountain of presents, but wouldn't you know his favorite toy was the one I found for 25 cents at a yard sale on our way home from the zoo! My "loot" from Saturday included 4 toys/board games, 2 adorable girls aprons, a cute lamp for my daughter's room, 7-8 books and a lined curtain that completely blocks the sun-all for $3, what a way to start the season!

There are some great tips and articles out there for shopping yard sales if you've never done it, here are the top 10 things I've learned from experience and do (or will do this year):

1. GO EARLY! The really great items like tools and furniture are usually gone in the first hour. But don't show up before the sale is scheduled to start, nothing is more annoying as an owner than people who show up early while you're still setting up.

2. Clean out your car. You never know when you'll find that beautiful vintage dresser or road bike, so make sure you have the space to pick it up. Bring rope in case it's too big-or you will be like me the time I found a bike trailer and ended up strapping it to the roof of my car with jumper cables...true story.

3. Don't haggle with good prices. Actually I don't negotiate at all. There have been a few times I've really wanted something and thought they were asking way too much so I made an offer, but as a general rule I don't negotiate. It seems people either really over-value their stuff and I won't even bother, or they have great prices and it would be distasteful to haggle. Also, if I'm paying less than I think the items are worth, than I'm happy paying more for something I think would normally be "overpriced" since it all evens out.

4. Take a list. You never know what you'll find at a yard sale and if something is a great deal and you'll use it you should get it even if it isn't on your list. But having a list will help you know what to look for and keep you moving through the sales and getting in-and-out quickly.

5. Recruit others. If you have a big neighborhood sale where there will be more houses than you can reasonably hit alone (ahem, Lake Carolina this Saturday anyone?) then enlist the help of 3-4 other people. Each of you can put together a list of the top five items you are looking for and an estimate of what you'd like to spend (include a description if you are looking for a certain brand or model). Share the lists and have each person start in a different section of the neighborhood, then call each other if you find a possible winner. Meet up at the end and exchange items and $. This will save time as well as net you some goods that would have been taken in the early hours.

6. Don't feel guilty. When I first started yard saling, and sometimes I still do this, I would often come upon a sale that was at first sight either full of junk or just items that were not applicable to me. I wouldn't want to hurt the owner's feelings so I would linger and pretend to be interested or buy something I really didn't want. If it's hard for you to glance and walk away because you feel like it's rude, just say something like you're looking for baby clothes or tools or something else they obviously don't have-it's the wimpy way out but it's easier for me.

7. Bring lots of cash in small bills. Some people just aren't prepared with a lot of change, so it helps to have exact change on you or at least bills that are easy to break. Since you never know if you'll find one great item or fifty, it helps to carry a good amount. Nothing is worse than not bringing enough and having to run to an ATM, which I'm too lazy to do and would just skip it.

8. This tip was from my friend Vivien and I thought it was a great idea. If you know of a family or organization in need of items and you find a good deal, load up and donate them. If you mention to the owner that you will be donating the items they will probably offer you an even better deal.

9. Make a round two stop. This is a great tip from my sister-in-law, although I've always been too tired or burned out to try it. If you see some sales with lots of great items you would like, check back at the end of the sale and ask if they'll give you a discount on a bulk purchase. Most people donate whatever is left, so it's very likely they'll give you a great deal-I've even heard of people getting everything left for free since it would save the owners from having to drive it to the thrift store.

10. Pack a lunch. OK not really a lunch, but do bring a drink and snacks so you don't have to head home early because your tummy is rumbling. You will usually see kids selling snacks and drinks (and if you do please buy from at least one of them, it will be your kids one day) but in case you don't it's nice to have a back up.

Have any tips I've missed? Please share in the comments below!

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