RW Learning Center – Finding Bargains at Garage Sales

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Finding Bargains at Garage Sales

If you’ve never been to a garage or estate sale, you are definitely missing out on some incredible bargains. Imagine finding baskets for fifty cents or old dressers for twenty dollars. Super-bargains can be yours with a little guidance and preparation.

How to find a sale:

Look in the newspaper’s classifieds section (and of course online at Rummage!)the day of the sale or the day before. Usually the sales take place Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Some sales take place only on one day. Check the starting times and avoid getting there early (the sellers hate early-birds). Make a map and plan to see several sales within the same area. You can make a map at There are several links in the reference section below to help you find more sales in your local area.

What to expect and different types of sales (for first-time shoppers):

A garage sale or a yard sale is usually held at someone’s house (in the garage or out on the lawn). The person will have tables set up covered with all kinds of various items. Sometimes there will be a laundry line or clothes rack filled with clothes and linens. They might be selling old furniture and antiques. The seller is usually willing to part with their items for a little less than the sales tag, but are not desperate to sell their items.

An estate or moving sale, however, usually involves a desperate seller. This person is trying to unload as much stuff and get as much money as they can before hauling everything to charity. Arrive at these sales as late as you can since the prices will be rock-bottom or come early to get the best stuff.

Sampler sales and rummage sales usually involve brand-new items that are deeply discounted. Sometimes shops that have gone bankrupt or have been closed down will sell their items at these sales. Check the newspaper ad for details and call ahead if you’re not sure about the selection.

How to get a bargain:

Read the ad carefully. If there is something you want listed in the ad, arrive early to get it. Usually these items are in the ad to entice bargain-hunters to come shopping. Don’t expect to get a rock-bottom price on anything advertised. However, the prices on these advertised items may be discounted at the end of the day if they are not yet sold.

Have a game plan. Plan which sales you definitely want to stop at and what exactly you are looking for. Perhaps you need new furniture or a birthday present for a friend. Make a list of any special sizes or needs. Take a ruler with you. Also take a canvas tote with you to carry your new-found goodies. Bring cash if you can. Most sellers will only accept cash.

If you find something you need but don’t like the color or fabric, talk the seller into a lower price just for that reason. Having an item repainted, repaired or re-covered can be far less expensive than buying a new piece. Check every item you want before buying, since you can’t return it once you buy it. Do the drawers stick? Does the table wobble? Is it rusted? Does it leak? Does it work? Some items are beyond repair and some just aren’t worth the effort of fixing. Know your limitations.

Of course, most buyers come back to a good sale at the very end of the sale (like Sunday afternoon) hoping for rock-bottom prices. However, they usually find all the good stuff gone.

If you have your eye on something, ask the seller if they can lower the price. Sometimes a seller will give you a good deal if you buy more than one item. If you are lucky, the seller will give you a ³buy one, get one free² deal.   If you think an item is overpriced and the seller refuses to back down on the price, check back later. A seller will always be more flexible Sunday afternoon just before the sale ends.

For apartment-type items, check the ads for any apartment renter having a moving sale. Usually you can get good furniture deals from these sales. Also check your local campuses for dorm room sales. What could be better than super-low prices on almost-new furniture?

What not to buy:

Avoid buying used pots and pans that look rusted or unusable (no matter how cheap they are). Avoid certain baby items like cribs, car seats (these might have been recalled), things that go in a baby’s mouth like bottles, bedding, etc. Be sure to check the links below for tips on bargain hunting and things to avoid.

Author: Wendy Waid Published on: May 6, 2001

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