Planning is Key
- Plan what you want to buy - Have an idea of the items that you want or need so that you don’t wander around aimlessly. Sarah at Clover Lane talks about how she keeps an index card in her purse with the items and specific measurements for which she is looking. By doing so, she was able to furnish her whole house for a great price. When buying clothes for children, it might be a good idea to bring the child or one of his outfits along with you to make sure they will fit. Second, know a few name brands before you go. For example, I’m not going to buy second hand Walmart (Faded Glory) clothes even for 50 cents, but I would buy an Ann Taylor sweater for $2. Last, remember that some items should NEVER be purchased second hand, such as breast pumps and car seats. Yard Sale Queen has a great list of items not to buy. Remember that safety regulations are always changing and that many companies recall toys, appliances, etc. that have been proven to be unsafe. Be sure to check the safety and quality of each item before you purchase it.
- Plan what you want to spend - A good budget is important to saving money. You may have only spent $20 on a car load of stuff from yard sales, but if that means you can’t buy groceries later that week, then you did yourself and your family a disservice. If you are searching yard sales for a couch, make sure you have decided beforehand what you are willing/able to pay for one, but try to be fair. It is unlikely that you are going to find a seller willing to let a couch in good condition go for only $10. Make sure that you have enough cash on hand to pay for the item, as most sellers are not willing to accept any other form of payment. Be sure to give yourself a little wiggle room in case you find a deal that can’t be passed up, even if it isn’t on your list.
- Plan when/where are you going to look for it - First, check local papers and the online resources listed below for advertisements. Most sellers will give a quick description of their items in their ad, giving you an idea of which sales you want to be sure to visit. In most cases, neighborhood or church sales are a better option than individual sales. They provide many items in one location, giving you a better selection and saving you time and gas money. Also look for sellers who really want to get rid of stuff, for example moving and estate sales. In planning your arrival time, keep in mind that the best items are available early in the day. Some sellers will even allow buyers to purchase items before they have officially opened for business. However, the best deals are often available later in the day, as the seller is more interested in moving the merchandise. Last, remember that the more you shop the more you will find. Maybe you will make yard sale shopping part of your weekly errand run (during the yard sale season) or maybe you will keep track of your favorite annual sales on your calendar and plan to make a yearly visit. But, even the one stop you make a summer could result in some serious savings. Just go as often as your schedule allows.
But Flexibility Doesn’t Hurt
(The advice here may seem to be the exact opposite of my first point, but every frugal shopper knows that deal seeking requires a delicate balance.)
- Flex on purchases - Just because something is on your list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. You may not be looking for a new tablecloth, but if you find one that you love and it is $1, go for it! Or maybe you stumbled upon a tea cup that will make the perfect gift for a friend, or your next crafting project. Yard sales and their wares are unique, so don’t pass up an opportunity to buy something at an amazing price just because it isn’t on your list. This is similar to the overall principle of Southern Savers. You stock up when the prices hit rock bottom, even if you don’t need the item at the moment. A few words of caution: 1) stay in your overall cash budget, and 2) don’t buy something you will never use just because it is an incredible price. Remember, a clutter free home is priceless! Use your best common sense when making purchases at yard sales.
- Flex on prices - You may have planned to spend $20 on a bookshelf, but find one that is absolutely amazing for $30. Your first option is to barter with the seller. They might meet you in the middle, or they might take your offer. Haggling is acceptable at a yard sale, but remember that you are far more likely to get a good deal if you are cheerful and polite. If the seller will not lower the price, your second option is to try to come back later in the day. You risk someone else buying it, but then again you might find a better one at the next sale. If you seem to hit it off with the seller and feel comfortable leaving your number, you could ask them to call at the end of the day if the item has not sold.
- A word about haggling - It really only applies to higher priced items. It is not considered in good taste to offer a quarter for something that is already marked at 50 cents. (C’mon folks, where else can you take a dollar and actually not spend it all in one place?) However, to work a deal with smaller items, buy several of them. For example, I once went to a yard sale where they had a big bin of matchbox cars for a quarter each. I offered the seller a couple dollars for the whole bin, and she took the offer (it was later in the day), so I got them for my nephew. Another example is lamps. If a seller has two or three identical lamps for $4 each, ask if they will take $10 for all three.
Have Some Fun
Be a serious deal hunter, but don’t make shopping a drag. Just as well planned grocery trip is much smoother than a quick run close to meal time, there are a few things you can do to make treasure hunting more enjoyable. Don’t go when you’re hungry, tired, the weather is bad, or you’re in a rush. Bring some snacks and a water bottle. Leave the kids at home if at all possible. Bring a friend or family member who loves to bargain hunt as much as you do. Do what ever you can to make yourself comfortable and calm so that you can lengthen and enjoy the experience.
Last, as you peruse items spread out over lawns, garages, and church parking lots remember to look past the current state of an object and see its potential. Sometimes an item can be re-purposed for another function, fixed if it is broken, or beautified if it is ugly. A coat of paint can revamp a piece of furniture. A scrap of ribbon or lace can change a boring lampshade into a unique piece. An old galvanized wash tub can become a tub for serving drinks at a cookout (this is an actual deal that I got for $1). There are an infinite number of things that can be turned into unique storage containers. Keep an open mind and be creative!
Thanks Southern Savers