by Christina Heiska
Read the classified ads in your local newspaper to find where the yard sales will be. Get a detailed map of your area and plan your route so you don't waste a lot of time and gasoline getting lost etc.
What I normally do is circle the ads for the yard sales I plan to go to, but always end up with scraps of paper all over the car (I get several different newspapers). To avoid having to cut out all the little ads in the newspaper, or wasting time copying them to a sheet of paper, here's a better idea. Take a piece of transparent tape and place it over the ad, use your fingernail and press down on the ad, then carefully lift the tape and place the tape on a piece of paper. All the information will be transferred to the tape. You may want to do a "practice" one first.
Where I live, prices are generally better at church or other type fund-raising yard sales rather than yard sales at people's houses. But because fund-raising yard sales mostly have donated items only, the quality may not be as good as yard sales at individual houses. I go to both.
I like to arrive early at yard sales. But I don't believe in being an "early bird." An early bird is someone who shows up an hour or more before an advertised yard sale is supposed to begin. I've found that most people giving yard sales are not organized well enough to handle early birds. Other people believe that arriving late at a yard sale is good too, because the seller may be willing to give better deals just to get rid of the leftover items.
This is probably common sense, but the yard sales that are held in better neighborhoods normally have the nicer stuff. Generally, if you are looking for baby clothes and toys, you probably won't have much luck yard saling in a retirement community. And if you are looking for antiques, newer communities with swingsets in every backyard probably isn't the wisest choice to start your search. But I am not picky, I try and go to them ALL! That's what makes yard-saling so great, you never know what you will find and where.
Clothes are generally a great deal at yard sales because they are generally poor sellers so they are priced cheap. When buying used clothing for kids, don't rely only on the size listed on the tag, keep it mind its been washed many times and may have shrunk. Bring one of your kid's shirts or pants to use as a guide to hold up next to a potential purchase.
When asking the price of an item, it's ALWAYS to your benefit to get the seller to name the price of an item, rather than answer to their question of "what do you want to pay for it?" Same thing, but reverse when you are selling something....try to get the customer to name their price for an item -if it's too low, you can refuse - and if they name a really high price, you lucked out.
Some people turn their nose up at the thought of buying "used" clothing for themselves. I guess that would mean that these kinds of people must bring their own towels, sheets and pillows when they stay at hotels. I mean, how could they possibly use towels and sheets that hundreds of others have dried their naked bodies on and done "you know what on" the sheets.
If you see an item that you may or may not want, pick it up anyhow and carry it around a bit, then decide. Because if you don't, by the time you decide that you want it, someone else will have snatched it up and you'll be kicking yourself the rest of the day. And if you are yard saling with small kids, try and hold their purchases too. I've seen situations where a kid will put down a toy for a split second and another kid will grab it.
It's good to bring a lot of small bills and change especially if you plan on making small purchases. Don't be afraid to haggle a price down if you feel it is too high. The worst that the seller can say is no. I think it's in very bad taste to haggle a price down from $1.00 to .50 only to whip out a $20 bill to pay for it. Believe me, it happens. If I think the price of an item is fair, I don't bother haggling. Also, I would not drive up in a Lexus expecting to haggle. Drive the junker instead.
When I am going "major" yard-saling, I wear a fanny pack and don't carry a purse. It saves time when I jump out of my car and rush over to a great find. It also keeps your hands free to look over an item. One bad thing about wearing a fanny pack is other yard-salers may confuse you with the person holding the yard sale and will come up to you offering money. (Oh, did I say that was a bad thing???)
Necessities for the hard-core yard-saler: hat/sunglasses to keep sun out of eyes, suntan lotion (to prevent skin cancer on hot summer days), a small cooler with beverages in the car to prevent dehydration.
When making a purchase, carefully look over an item before you buy it. Most items are sold "as is." If you get home and your purchase doesn't work or is missing a piece, you are probably out of luck. If it's an electrical appliance, ask to plug it in to test it.
Be creative when you browse yard sales, when you look at an item, not only look at it for its primary use, but look at it for its POTENTIAL use. I know a woman who buys all kinds of old broken down leather boots and uses them as outdoor planters. I saw a picture in a magazine where someone took an old toy dump truck and planted flowers in it. I bought a nice wire shower caddy thing (.25) which I am using to put my bird suet in. (I converted it to a window feeder by attaching a suction cup to it.)
Be wary of items that may have been recalled by the manufacturer. It's kind of tricky because it seems that everything imaginable has been recalled for some reason or another. If you are unsure about an item you've purchased, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 or visit their web-site. For a general idea on what things to avoid, click here.
Be careful when digging through a box of used kitchen utensils - so you don't get cut by an old rusty knife. (I often rummage through boxes like this, looking for old Campbell soup spoons etc.)
Don't be afraid of NOT buying something at a yard sale. I know some people who feel a weird obligation to buy something at a every yard sale whether they need it or not. I just say, "sorry I don't see anything I need", and then I'm off to the next one. Otherwise you'll end up with so much stuff you'll have to have your own yard sale.
Lastly, if you see an item you would like (but is priced too high and the seller won't negotiate), give the seller your name and telephone number and tell them you are interested if it doesn't sell by the end of the day and they are willing to come down on the price. One reader's suggestion: carry your extra business cards for this purpose, who knows, YOU may end up selling THEM something!
This article was reprinted with permission of the author.
Visit her website, Cheap Thrills: Garage Sale, Yard Sale Tips and Freebies
Copyright © 1999 The F.U.N. Place. All rights reserved