Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Preparing for garage sale season

With the season now officially labeled as spring and my seedlings breaking soil and presenting cotyledons to the currently meager sunlight, this signals more than green things. It also heralds garage sale season. While I love my local charity thrift shop and the others I stop by occasionally, I really enjoy the variety of items available at garage sales and seeing different areas of my small city. There is one house I have gone to two years in a row and found clothing that I liked and fit me. One purchase in 2008 was a purple chenille sweater I got for only $2. Other items with fond memories: my 5 cent jelly jar, my 25 cent reusable bag with zipper closure and the lovely lotions I picked up for 50 cents a piece. I use all these items regularly and am glad I stopped at each of those three sales.

Garage sales are also my main source of gifts for my nieces and nephews. I have nine to shop for and need all the help I can get buying items for the lot of them. My gift spending account is ready for heavy usage and I am looking forward to finding the next treasures. However, I prefer not go into garage sale season blind. Here are a few ways I get the most of my warm weather weekend entertainment:

Make a list of desired items.
There are things I am interested in finding used before seeking new options. I have already compiled a list of items that want to find. This includes handkerchiefs, kitchen towels, a hoe and a cutting board. I have some specific jelly jars I prefer over others so I will also keep an eye out for these. I will add to this list over the summer season, depending on life circumstances and interests. For the children, I keep an eye out for books in good condition and age appropriate. In fact, I still see toys I purchased at garage sales still being used by the kids and that makes me feel good.

Map out the sales to visit on Saturday.
Even though garage sales are held Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I work during the week so I am limited to garage sales on the weekend only. I prefer to shop on Saturday morning around 8AM and typically visit between 3 and 5 sales, usually for no more than a hour's worth of time. The paper is delivered on Wednesday and I examine the garage sales that are of interest and are held on Saturday. I circle the ones that interest me and give higher priority to the ones that start on Saturday rather than earlier in the week. I then use Google Maps to figure out where the sales are being held and try to create the most sensible route through my city so I am not backtracking. With newspaper ads and maps in hand, I am ready for the road.

Have a variety of bills in my purse.
Having several $1s, a few $5s and some $10s gives me maximum flexibility. I do not need to ask for my $20 to be broken, robbing the seller of his or her change, and I am armed for bargaining. The first point is only polite, but the second gives me an opportunity to save even more. If an item is selling for $5, I can ask if the person will sell it for $4 because I have at least four $1 bills in my wallet. Why would someone agree to $4 and then make change for a $5 bill? Last year, I bargained with a lady to purchase $15 worth of items for $12 because I offered $10 for them and she settled on $12. I agreed because I could pay her in exact bills. I found my collection of smaller bills would disappear quickly during garage sale season so for months, I have been stashing the smaller bills and willingly breaking a $20 just for the change.

Bring my own bags.
As I have written previously, I prefer not to bring home any plastic bags and even refuse bags if I can carry the item in my hands. I keep to this philosophy for garage sales and it benefits both parties. The seller has one less bag he or she has to stash for people who purchase from them and I have fewer stray bits of plastic in my home. Most sellers have been quite happy to put my purchases in the bag I give them and I like the fact that I can carry the bag over my shoulder. In this fashion, I can pick up multiple items without having to juggle them in my hands.

What are your plans for garage sale season?

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