Many of us can’t resist the allure of a garage sale. All those treasures, just waiting for us to spend our money on.
Where to find the sales is the first challenge. Do your research online. Locally, I see many sales advertised on Craigslist, Alaska’s List and even on Facebook.
Once you’ve developed your list of the most likely sales to attend, develop your strategy for shopping. It comes down to two different mindsets and you must determine which one you will adhere to. The early-bird-gets-the-worm shoppers should map out their route to hit sales early in the day. List your sales in descending order of importance and follow that list. Some people believe that the latecomer gets the real bargains. If you show up at a sale later in the day, the offerings may be somewhat diminished, but you might just get a better deal. If you make an offer, it might be accepted since sellers decide if they want to get rid of everything or put it back into their house.
Now that we are talking about making an offer, here is that difficult subject of haggling. I hate the process of going back and forth with a seller to get a better deal. I am far more likely to walk away if I feel something is overpriced than to haggle for a better deal. However, some of you love this bargaining process. Know whether you are comfortable with asking for a better price. Haggling doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable process. Strike up a conversation with the seller and talk to them about their items. They just might offer you a better price or an opportunity to say you’d like the item, but you aren’t prepared to pay the asking price.
That brings up the issue of what are you going to pay for something. Experienced garage sale shoppers say that they will pay from 10 to 50 percent of the original price of an item, depending on the amount of use and the condition. You have to do your homework to know what that price might be. Check online before you go to get an idea of pricing. Or use that smart phone to look up prices as you are browsing at the sale. Always be prepared to walk away if the price doesn’t seem to add up. Don’t overpay and regret it later.
Some of the best items to buy at garage sales are books, kitchen equipment and supplies, tools, home décor and sporting equipment. However, there are a few things you should never buy at garage sales. Don’t buy bike helmets, tires or car seats as the safety can be questionable. Steer away from soft furniture or mattresses as there may be a chance of bed bugs. If you are tempted, learn how to spot the evidence of bed bugs.
My favorite part of going to garage sales is that I often find things that I could never find in the stores. People have wide ranging tastes and vintage items often appear. The novelty of coming upon just the right item for myself or for someone else is what keeps me browsing the garage sales ads.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be emailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)474-7201