Smart Yard Sale Shopping for Frugal Moms

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Yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales, tag sales – whatever you choose to call them – are a great way to save money on almost anything you need. Some people shy away from such sales because of the stigma associated with buying someone else’s used stuff. But if you can change your mindset and see yard sales as a way to get what you want for less, you’ll be amazed at what you can find.

If you’re a total newbie to the yard sale frenzy, there are some things to keep in mind. In no particular order, here are some tips to help make your yard sale experience a huge success from the first day out.

Beware… yard sales are addictive! After finding a few great deals, you may discover you need one of those bumper stickers that say, “WARNING: This car stops at all garage sales!”

• Yard sales are everywhere, so keep your eyes open. Check your local paper, Craigslist and other sites that offer free yard sale ads. If you plan to spend the entire day “yard saling,” map out a rough route so you know which direction you’re going. Be on the lookout for unadvertised sales, too! A lot of people will simply set out some items and throw a sign up on the corner rather than spend the money on advertising.

• The most common days for sales are Friday and Saturday, but you can find some sales on other days of the week. Get in the habit of stopping at every sale you see if you have time. A quick stop may uncover an expected bargain or two for just a couple minutes of your time.

• As you become experienced in locating sales, you’ll develop a feel for what areas to avoid, but give yourself time before you eliminate neighborhoods. Just because an area is filled with expensive homes and nice cars, never assume they have good yard sales. Often, the sales in those neighborhoods are much more expensive than sales in average middle-class communities. Often people who don’t frequent yard sales have no clue as to how to hold one, or how to price their merchandise.

• Always be safe. Never leave your car running when you stop at a sale, and never leave a child in the car unattended. Keep your purse or wallet with you. Never set your belongings down if there is anyone standing nearby. Be aware of your surroundings and never stop at a sale where you feel uncomfortable. For the most part, yard saling is a safe hobby, but it’s best to use common sense to safeguard yourself and your property.

• Plan your day well. Rather than spend money on food, pack a cooler with some water and soft drinks, a snack and a couple of sandwiches. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, take cash for your purchases, and don’t forget the sunscreen. You can have a lot of fun at yard sales and save a lot of money in the process.

• While many “experts” will say you should expect to pay about one-third of the retail price for an item. that generally applies only to very large items such as appliances or furniture. Smaller items such as books, clothing, household gadgets, home decor items, etc. can be found much cheaper. Depending on the area in which you live, you can find many nice items at yard sales for 25¢ to 50¢ and sometimes less.

• If you see something you really like but aren’t sure you want to buy it, pick it up and carry it with you as you browse. Planning to “think about it” with the intention of going back for an item before you leave could cost you a bargain you’ll regret losing.

• Inspect everything you’re considering before you buy. If it’s made of fabric such as clothing, linens, etc., look for rips, stains, flaws and other irregularities. If it’s made of glass, check for cracks or chips. Examine every item very closely so you know exactly what you’d be paying for.

• Don’t disregard an item simply because it’s damaged. For example, if you find a great designer outfit that you know would fit you well and in a color you absolutely love, but it has a small stain no the fabric, consider your options. Can you remove the stain? Cover it with lace or another kind of trim? Wear a jacket or vest to hide the flaw? Consider all possibilities if it’s something you really like. If you don’t think you could repair it, or don’t believe it’s worth your time and effort, then put it back. But look at the potential in yard sale finds – especially if you know they’re a really good deal.

• On the other side of that coin, don’t buy something only because it’s a good deal. You’ll find a lot of really great bargains on some really great items at yard sales. Learn to discipline your yard sale spending just as you would if you were shopping at the mall. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with a house full of great deals you don’t want, and no money to spend on what you need.

• .If you’re looking for something specific, go early. Many times the “good stuff” will go quickly. Most sales start by 8:00 a.m. and end by 1:00 or 2:00 in most areas. Don’t go too early, however. Common courtesy says to follow the hours advertised and not arrive before the sale opens.

• Many people fear they must haggle for prices if they go to yard sales, but that’s entirely up to you. If you feel comfortable asking for a reasonably lower price on something, do so. If you don’t feel comfortable, and you’re not willing to pay the price on the tag, pass the item by. Let your own personality guide you. You’ll discover as you become more comfortable going to sales that even the most introverted shopper will ask for a reduced price at times.

• Take along a friend but leave the kids at home, if possible. Any mom knows what it’s like to take children shopping. Multiply that by 25 when you’re going to yard sales. It’s much less stressful, quicker and cheaper to ask someone to watch the kids if you plan to spend the day at sales.

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