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7 Yard Sale Buying Tips

Yard sale season is now in full swing. These sales are a great way to find gently-used clothes, toys and household items for pennies on the dollar. Here are seven tips to make your yard sale shopping trip as fun and profitable as possible.

1. Finding sales. If you don’t subscribe to a local newspaper, buy or borrow one the day before visiting the sales. You can also check if your local newspaper lists garage sale ads online, though those might be incomplete because some newspapers charge extra to post ads online. A quick call to the newspaper’s classified advertising department can determine if that’s the case.

2. Plan your route. On your shopping trip, you want to spend your time finding bargains, not driving all over town. Before you leave home, use a map to locate the sales and plan accordingly. You can use an online map program to locate sales and get directions. Try maps.google.com, maps.yahoo.com, or www.mapquest.com .

If a sale runs on both Friday and Saturday, there is usually little left by the time Saturday rolls around. To get the biggest return on your time investment, visit the one-day sales first. Going to sales as soon as they open often gets you the best selection. If you are looking for big-ticket items such as furniture or electronics, you’ll probably have to go early. On the other hand, late in the day sellers sometimes are willing to practically give their stuff away rather than keep it.

3. What to wear. Make sure you and your crew wear weather-appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes. Sunscreen and hats are helpful if you will be out in the sun for long periods. You might want to carry your money and any essentials in a fanny pack or small change purse that you can put in your pocket. That leaves your hands free to inspect merchandise and avoids
worries that your purse could be stolen. Make sure everyone hits the bathroom before you leave the house.

4. Bring food. Take along a small cooler with easy-to-handle snacks and drinks. Of course, you could stop for fast food when stomachs start to growl, that takes time away from bargain-hunting, even if you find nutritionally acceptable fast food.

5. Ignore impressions. You can’t judge a yard sale by your first impressions. You never know what kinds of bargains lurk in the seller’s garage. Sometimes you find the best deals at the sales that are least organized, because the sellers just want to get rid of their stuff.

6. Money for the kids. If your kids shop with you, save hassles by making sure they each have their own money to spend. Give them a pre-determined amount or have them bring their allowance. That way you won’t be the bad guy when the kids ask for things you don’t want to buy

7. Drive a bargain. Negotiating is the name of the game. Most sellers are willing to deal as long as you are fair with them. Asking the seller to take $2 for an item marked $20 is pushing your luck. The seller might be more than willing to sell the item for $15 or even $10, depending how late in the day it is.

Yard sales provide an excellent opportunity to teach children about negotiating. For the young or shy shopper, you might have to help out a bit by saying something like, “My son wondered if you’d take $1 for this game.” Eventually, your child will learn to make these requests on his own.

Be sure to carry lots of change and small bills. It is the seller’s responsibility to have change, but wiping out the seller’s entire change supply is inconsiderate.

If you try to negotiate for a large item but the seller won’t budge, leave your name and phone number with the price you are willing to pay. Tell the seller to give you a call if she decides to accept your offer.

Nancy Twigg is editor of Counting the Cost, a free e-mail newsletter about simple and frugal living.

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