13 Tips On How To Afford Your Hobbies Using Garage Sales

13 Tips On How To Afford Your Hobbies Using Garage Sales

Photo Compliments of John Beagle

Photo Compliments of John Beagle

I found that buying garden tools, tools in general, garden pots, and material for art supplies that supported my hobbies could put significant holes in my budget. When I started shopping garage and yard sales carefully I found high-end items that purchased at retail would cost $15 to $125 dollars would be just $2 to $25 at garage sales.

The Rules I Use To Squeeze More Out Of My Budget At Garage Sales

1.  Lists, Just Like The Grocery Store, I’m Careful To Not Impulse Buy

I do not impulse buy, I keep a list. I am currently looking for a potting bench, pots that are 5 to 10 gallons, and a park bench for the back patio. I would like to find metal art work that I can use for a garden gate and weathered wood for the same gate. I use craigslist and select sites on Thursday that are close by and have the items on my list.

2.  Map Route

I identify 2 or 3 garage sales that are close to my home, and then I use Mapquest to select the shortest route.  This has turned out to be a real gas saver.

3.  Prioritize Group Sales

I prioritize group sales such as neighborhood, church, multi-family, and highway yard sales.

4.  I Try To Be Selective

Attend yard sales in neighborhoods most likely to have the items on your list. If you’re looking for baby clothes and kid’s toys, shop newer suburbs full of young families. If you’re looking for antique and vintage goods, attend yard sales in older neighborhoods, especially those with original residents.

5.  Cash Is The Currency In This Realm

Carry cash, including lots of one dollar bills. It is unusual for sellers to take checks, and you don’t want to pull out a twenty if you’ve just told the seller you can only spend ten dollars; credit cards are of little help in this world.

6.  Prices…I Do My Homework In Advance

There are some items that I have a pretty good idea what is a good deal and what is not. If I am concerned I will use the internet to research an item before leaving the house (I have been looking for a chop saw that can vary significantly depending on brand and features). Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay can be useful for comparison prices.  I like to talk to the seller to build a relationship, and I have no fear of offering to buy two or three items offering to buy them all at a set price, or offering to pay the cash amount I have in my pocket.  I find prices become more fluid later in the day, and on the second day. If it is an item that I really want I show up early and I have the right amount of cash. The one Golden Rule is to always be respectful.

7.  Do Not Be Afraid To Bid

If there is a large item like furniture that is overpriced I will leave my name and number with a price that I would pay the second day.  Estate sales will drop prices by 50 percent, sometimes more, on the second, or third day.  If you ask they will tell you their policy on this.

8.  Plan Ahead

I pack and carry a yard sale tool kit, which includes my room measurements, a tape measure, and paint and fabric swatches for appropriate items. If I’m shopping for clothes I take a list of sizes of the members of my immediate family.  I have a large mesh bag I have in the car trunk, or I will bring a cart with wheels if the items are larger. You’ll really appreciate the wheeled cart if you’re walking a neighborhood sale.

9.  Always Be Comfortable

I wear comfortable cloths and I dress for the temperature, or if it is raining I wear the appropriate rain gear.  I have shopping bags and an empty box in the car trunk to keep items dry. I also have the car empty so there is room for that real treasure that may be larger. If I’m shopping for furniture I take someone with me who can help lift and move that that awkward piece, or item.

10.  Always, Always, Thoroughly Inspect An Item Before Purchase

I always take the time to thoroughly check what I buy. If it is clothing I am certain to look for stains, missing buttons, or zippers that don’t work.  If it is clothing I try it on before I pay for an item. Furniture gets that same kind of scrutiny.

11.  Popular Items

Appliances like mixers, grinders, blenders, toasters, or even microwaves can be had at very cheap prices. There are almost always CD’s and DVD’s. Furniture will usually be listed in their ad as will tools if that is part of the offering. Bikes are usually offered at greatly reduced prices as well as glassware, books, clothing, and toys. If the item runs on electricity I always plug it in and turn it on to test it.

12.  Items I Avoid

Old TVs are terrible buys at garage sales, no matter how cheap.  They prove quite costly if they need fixing, can’t can’t put a TV in the trash.

13.  I Ask If I Don’t See An Item

I always ask about items on my list, even if I don’t see them on display. There are times when someone has an item they either forgot to bring out, or didn’t show for various reasons.  I can’t imagine lugging a piano out to the yard, or other piece of furniture.

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  1. Very good article and video. I wasn’t much for garage sales or thrift stores before the Great Recession but having been adversely affected by that recession, I now shop very differently.

    • I like to think my goals are totally altruistic, but yes I to have been impacted by the recession. I now rarely buy new, especially for garden supplies and hobby items. Even for clothes Nordstroms has been replaced by thrift stores and quite honestly I can’t tell you I have noticed a difference.

      • Well Charlie, I like to think that corporate america is getting what’s coming to them. We have adjusted our shopping habits to match corporations’ change in business ethics — sending jobs overseas, cutting benefits, offering cheap Chinese products — how did they EXPECT the middle class to go on buying like nothing happened? Off my soapbox…
        Linda Jones recently posted..Jax Locals – Clothing for a BuckMy Profile

  2. What a fun outlook you have! I haven’t been to many garage sales, but your tips are great. And bringing a cart with you to neighborhood sales seems like a really smart idea, like it’s a big adventure, and one my kids might like, as well!

    “The one rule I try not to break is to always be respectful.” I’m glad this is your number one rule; makes for a better day for all. Happy hunting!
    Melissa recently posted..What the Heck am I Writing?My Profile

    • Indeed, life is all too short and the one unbreakable rule is to have fun.

      I stopped to look at your blog and now I need to find the time to come back and read your books. The best thing about raising children is they have such great books, and of course animal crackers…Good luck on your journey.

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