I have a summertime confession – I love yard sales. Love them.
I'm usually the person who slows down the vehicle, craning their neck in an attempt to see what's available when passing by a roadside sale.
There's nothing like scoring a find for a pittance. I relish the hunt and get excited when I find something unexpected. And I always find something unexpected.
Some of my surprise finds over the years include a set of “Hardy Boys” mystery books, a rolling bedroom dresser that I transformed into a dining room buffet, a canoe (sadly, I had to pass on that deal because I had nowhere to store it) and a skirt that I got for 25 cents and still wear today, getting compliments every time.
Now that yard sale season is in full swing, I offer some tips I have learned over the years that will help you score your own great finds.
Have a budget. Know how much you want to spend before you go. Too often you can get caught up in the great deals and end up spending much more than you should have.
Know what you want. There's nothing wrong with just going to yard sales to see what you find. After all, sometimes that's the best part. But it would be helpful to have an idea of what you are looking for so you can plan where you will go. Often, I will go out looking for specific items. One year I needed dog cages, I found two metal cages – one for a small dog and another for a large dog for $20. If you haven't had to buy dog cages in a while, I can tell you that was a great deal. Cha-ching!
Map locations. Look in the newspaper for locations of upcoming garage sales. Most garage sales start as early as Thursdays. Look at the descriptions of things for sale and see if anything appeals to you. Obviously, there are some neighborhoods that may yield better finds than others. Do your research.
Pick a time. Go early for the good stuff; go late for the good deals. Good yard sale items go quick, especially furniture, antiques and brand-name clothes. But if you are looking for better deals, late shopping may be your game as people are more willing to bargain after a long day of selling.
Name your price. It's OK to haggle. If you are interested in an item, ask the seller if he or she will come down on the price. The worse that can happen is they say no and you walk away, or if you really want it, you pay the price. Chances are good that they will deal as they are eager to get rid of their items. Also, it's helpful if you know what items cost regularly in the store. You don't want to get stuck buying something used for close to the same price you would pay for it new.
Check your items before buying. Inspect items for stains, broken pieces (springs on beds or chairs) or other problems. Ask why they are selling it. That can sometimes be an indication of whether it's worth buying. Of course, if you are a creative person, and you don't mind missing parts or scratches, the imperfections won't matter because you can always transform the item into something else.
Test the electronics. If you are buying a TV or other appliance, ask the person to turn it on for you so you can see if it works. The same goes for battery-operated items. If they can't do that, you may be taking a risk in buying the item. A good yard sale will be willing and prepared to show you that the items work.
Have the right ride. If you are planning on buying a lot of or bigger items, bring a vehicle that can hold all your stuff. Riding your bike to yard sales may be quaint, but you can't carry your stuff on the handle bars.
Come prepared. It would be nice if every yard sale had bags or change, but sometimes they don't. Bring your own bag to carry items, which is especially helpful if you are walking to several yard sales at once, as well as change and smaller bills.
Don't wait. If you see something you really like, get it. It might not be there later and you will regret not getting it.