Okay, I admit it: I brake for garage sales. I sometimes follow the signs for blocks or even miles. There’s just something about finding something cool for a quarter that I can’t resist. I especially like to buy books. Most of the time, what you see is what you get. Sometimes, however, you need to take extra steps to protect yourself from buying junk or wasting your money.
I have the hardest time buying electronics. I always think they must be broken or they wouldn’t be selling it. I’ve already made the mistake of bringing something home only to find that it doesn’t work or is missing an essential part. Now I make sure to ask if I can plug it in and test it. They are usually happy to let me, because it means I’m interested enough to check it out. Even if something is in its original box, you might want to double check that it still has all the original pieces. This goes for games and puzzles, too.
Books are pretty straightforward. Contrary to the cliché, you can judge a book by its cover, but for your own sake, you might also want to flip through the inside. Check for missing, torn or damaged pages.
Look for holes and stains on clothes. You should especially check the armpits of white shirts, as they are typically stained. If you’re not embarrassed about it, slip shirts over the one you have on to see if it fits. If you buy something and later discover it doesn’t fit or is damaged, you can still put it to good use. Put old clothes in a box or basket to make a nice bed for your pet or cut up clothes into cleaning rags. If the material is nice, use it for craft projects.
Do you really want it?
If the only reason you’re buying something is because it’s cheap, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you really want it cluttering up your life. If not, put it down and back away slowly. Leave it for someone who will truly enjoy it. A little thing here and there won’t really matter, but if you’re always bringing home stuff you don’t really want, it can bog you down and then you’ll have to try to sell it at your own garage sale in the future.
If you kind of like something, but the price is too high, make an offer. I personally have a hard time doing this, but it could save you some money. You could also give them your number and ask them to call you if it doesn’t sell. They will probably be more willing to lower the price.
Check your change
Considering garage sales are usually run by amateur cashiers, it wouldn’t hurt to double-check. Better yet, give them the exact amount if you can. They sometimes have a hard time making change due to a lack of dollar bills or quarters and will appreciate it. On the other hand, if the garage sale is for a good cause, maybe you could just let them keep the change.
You are allowed to leave empty-handed
Don’t feel guilty leaving without buying anything. Maybe it’s just me, but when people are watching me sort through all their personal belongings, I somehow feel compelled to at least buy something. If I don’t, I’m afraid they will take it personally. I guess it isn’t such a bad thing to be nice and help them out, but you might end up with a lot of unwanted junk if you go to garage sales regularly. I’m giving you this advice and yet I still struggle with it. I almost always leave with something. Please excuse my hypocrisy.
So, if you’re like me and love garage sales (or yard sales, thift stores, auctions, etc.), keep these tips in mind. They might save you the disappointment of bringing home a blender with no blade or reading a mystery novel with no ending. And yes, I realize that by writing this article, I just made myself look pretty cheap. I mean, I’m writing about how to save money at a garage sale, for Pete’s sake. When I win the lottery, I’ll try to work on that. Hmm, maybe I should go buy a ticket. Nah…I’d rather spend that dollar on a good book or two.