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Make the Most of this Yard Sale Season
by Linda Spiciarich

Editor's Note: In spite of all our clutter and confusion, Linda does an excellent job keeping Good Advice Press running smoothly, and she's the best garage saler Marc and I know. Linda gets to more than 100 of them each year, where she regularly ferrets out great bargains and treasures that are on the "want lists" of about a dozen of her nearest and dearest. Fortunately, that includes us! At last, we got her to cough up her pearls on the subject.

The yard sale season is about to move into full swing here -- finally! Prime time to get me some bargains. In hopes of getting you the best deals, here are my favorite tactics:

Timing is everything. Most sales start at 9:00 AM. As you might expect,there's usually a better selection the earlier you get there. Antique dealers and collectors show up first -- usually long before the official starting time -- hoping to find treasures at bargain prices for resale or for their mantlepieces. Get there early if you want to beat them to the best values! On the other hand ...

Later is usually cheaper. If you shop late in the day, the prices are often lower, and haggling may be more welcome. People don't want to lug all their unsold stuff back into the house, so they're often more willing to let something go for a song -- maybe even for free!

Speaking of free, many people put out a carton or two of free stuff. Nine times out of ten, it's junk, but I've often found some great items there, so don't forget to check it out! As the saying goes, "One person's trash ... ."

Have a wish/gift list with you. It'll help you hone in on items you (or your grateful friends and family) could really use. Otherwise, you'll remember something you needed or that would have made a great gift -- after you leave the sale. Around here, you're seen as a real hero if you find something that's on someone else's list.

Be on the lookout for moving sales. They're where you can often find higher quality items at really great prices -- because people are selling much more than worn out junk and white elephants from up in their attic. If you're in the market for bigger ticket items, like furniture, televisions, and refrigerators, these are the sales to focus on. Just be sure you have a plan for how you'll lug your oversized treasures home. Look! Here's one now ...

Travel with rope and a blanket. A while back, I found a great buy on a Papasan chair (the kind that looks like a big salad bowl with a huge cushion you sort of sink into). I happened to be with Marc and Nancy that day (we were on our way to a mushroom foray). There was no way my chair would have fit in their car. What to do?!

Luckily, Marc and Nancy were prepared. We tied the chair to the roof, with some of their rope, having first put the cushion underneath the chair to protect their car (although their blanket or a piece of cardboard would have worked too).

Expect to bargain. People will usually come down, unless there's a sign saying "prices are firm." But please don't be insulting. If an item costs a quarter, don't ask the seller to take a dime. You'll give us bargain hunters a bad name. If two bits isn't fair, you don't really need or want it.

When you do dicker, do it in a friendly way. You're more likely to get it at a cheaper price. For example, when Nancy finds items that she wants to buy, she loves to say, "Wanna play `Let's Make a Deal?!'" The sellers laugh ... and then they usually cave.

Don't buy the item just because it's a great price. Ask yourself if you really need or want it. Otherwise, you'll soon need to have a yard sale yourself to get rid of all the stuff youpurchased! (Let me know when it's scheduled.)

Don't just check the newspapers for sales. A lot of people won't spring for the bucks to advertise -- and the ones that do, often list every item they have for sale. So if nothing interests you in the ad, you can probably skip the sale (not that I ever would). Check local supermarket bulletin boards and drive through various neighborhoods as you run errands on Saturdays. You're bound to see signs.

Sales are no longer on Saturday and Sunday only. Some people have them on Friday as well, when the pickings can be especially good. Fortunately for me, one of the fringe benefits of working at Good Advice Press is that anyone who wants to come in late or leave early to go garage saling is welcome to do so. Hope there's similar flex where you work!

Be sure you check the items you're interested in very carefully. Check clothing for stains, missing buttons, or broken zippers. Some people may be willing to let you try things on in their house if you're not sure of the fit. Ask.

Check furniture for stains, holes, or broken pieces. Ask to plug in appliances or electronics to see if they actually work, and ask the owners what (if anything) is wrong with the gizmo. I find that most people are truthful about the toasters, vacuums, clocks, etc. that they're selling.

By the way, on the way back from our mushroom adventure, Marc purchased a nifty little knapsack for a quarter. It was a great price, but it was his to have and to hold by the time he noticed it was ripped near the zipper. Had he seen that tear, he might have passed on the purchase ... fortunately there's duct tape.

Visit your local recycling center. It's often as good as going to yard sales -- or even better. Some people just want to find good homes for the stuff they no longer want, and we're more than happy to oblige.We've made friends with the workers at the recycling center, and they often put great items aside for us. We get clothes, appliances, computer parts, you name it -- for free! And we keep the garbage dump from overflowing. Everyone wins!

Be ecumenical when it comes to rummage. No matter what church or temple is sponsoring a thrift store or sale, I'm happy to drop by and search for a treasure or two.

Start early in the season. Here, sales start in April. The weather is still cool (it's not as much fun when it's hot and humid), and at least in these here parts, we've been deprived of going to sales for 6 or 7 months. Planning on having a sale? This is a good time. By July and August, people may be garage saled out, and won't attend yours -- except us diehards, of course.

The Pocket Change Investor
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