Thursday, June 14, 2012

Weekend Treasure Hunt

It's Thursday, and I am beginning to prepare for my weekly Saturday morning treasure hunt with my husband.  After a long work week, Saturday morning is our opportunity to spend a few hours together alone, browsing movinggarage, and estate sales.  Sometimes, the kids make special guest appearances (especially after allowance day), but it's usually just the two of us venturing out.

Over the years, we've not only met some really nice folks, we've also collected many treasures for our home, found inspiration for DIY projects, and picked up raw materials for renovations and home repairs.  Read through my blog posts - they are full of examples of how we use and transform garage sale finds throughout our home.  Below are the treasures we found last weekend - already put to good use in their new homes:
We spent just $17.00 for all three items.
We have developed some habits that make our outings streamlined as well as fun. I'll share some of them with you below:

Finding the Sales
Old-School Resources:  In our area, local papers begin advertising garage sales at least a week ahead of time, and signs begin to pop up on Wednesday or Thursday.  If I remember to glance at the paper, I will check for the garage sale listings.  And, if I am out and about, I will be aware of the signs.    

No Plan:  Some weekends, we 'freestyle,' which involves driving around town looking for sale signs, leaving things completely to chance. There is something to be said for just 'trusting your gut' when rooting out bargains - usually, we come across one or two gems.  For the most part, though, freestyle outings are more likely to result in thrift store shopping and  running errands rather than treasure hunting.  And that is perfectly fine with me.  As the saying goes, "It's the journey, not the destination."  

Online Resources:  The Internet is, by far, the most effective way to determine what sales to attend. Read below to learn about some of my favorite online resources:
  • Garage/yard sales:  A very useful web site is @Garage Sale, which aggregates several online classifieds listings in one location.  If a seller included photos as part of the online ad, I simply click on it (at the top of the page) to view the corresponding sale listing.  Otherwise, all sales listings include date, location, zip code and details.
    Note:  The information is only as good as the seller provides.  When addresses are not provided, you have to call to find out where the sale is.  I typically skip over those requiring phone or email inquiry.
  • Estate Sales:  I love scanning Estate Sales.Net (The Estate Sales Network). This website lists estates sales, liquidations, and auctions for a specific city or zip code.  Pictures of most sale items are posted 3-5 days ahead of the sale, which I LOVE.
    Note:  Estate sales are fabulous for collectors, antiques lovers, and those in the market for larger furniture pieces.  If you are confident in your knowledge of an item's value, these are great sales.  And, remember, everything is negotiable (within reason).
  • Seasonal Children's Consignment Sales:  Got kids?  I do.  When they were babies and toddlers, I relied on The Bargain Watcher for seasonal children's consignment sale listings in the Atlanta area.  These sales are held in the spring and fall, and are packed with gently used and new (often still with tags) children's/maternity clothes, baby equipment/gear, toys, books, etc.
    Note:   The site links to other, non-Atlanta, sales and consignment shops.  And is really so much more.   Over the years, the site has expanded to include information on anything and everything consignment - tutorials on how to price/sell items, printable sizing charts, stain removal tips, safety/recall information.  It is really an invaluable resource for parents of babies and toddlers.  
The Bargain Watcher
  • "There's An App for That?" One Saturday morning, we were discussing how the online garage sale listings should offer  GPS navigation, not just a link to MapQuest.   Sure enough, when I looked for one, I found Garage Sale Rover.  This app is available for most mobile devices, lists sales in your area, filters by day of the week, and offers GPS navigation directly from the listing.  
    Note:  After using it a few times, we do notice the listings are slightly less comprehensive than other online resources.  But, it's a free app, so we who's complaining?  
Garage Sale Rover 
Preparing To Shop 
Garage Sale Kit:  While I do not maintain a formal kit, I do try to remember the following items when we venture out:
  • Cash - small bills and change.  It's a bit awkward handing a seller a twenty dollar bill when I've haggled to get an item's price down to five.
  • Tape measure  
  • Light bulbs/batteries (to test out items before purchasing)
  • Bags, blankets, and/or boxes (for packing smaller, fragile items, or to separate dirty items)
  • Bungee cords or rope (for securing larger items)
  • Paper and pen
  • GPS, map or mobile device (for directions to unfamiliar neighborhoods)
  • Snacks and beverages - (for me, coffee - lots and lots of coffee)
Watch List:  There are certain items we are always watching out for at garage sales.  The list includes items for which we hate to pay full retail price because we know we'll find them at a garage sale for "deep, deep discount."  Our watch list also includes home decor/furniture items that, should the perfect thing catch our eye, we would buy.  We keep a list of these watch list items (in our head) and discuss it before we head into a sale. 
Note:  If specific measurements are important, be sure to keep them on hand!   

Tips for Closing the Deal 
Greetings and Farewells: Saying "good morning" when you arrive and "Thank you" when you leave are small gestures that have big impacts.  
Negotiating a Price:  Even if an item has a price tag, do not assume the price is firm.  Sellers expect to negotiate.  The trick is to know your price - the highest you are willing to pay for an item.  Ask the seller "What's your best price?" if no tag exists.  If an item is priced, ask them, "Is this your best price?"  If the price is firm, and is more than your price, be willing to walk away.  More often than not, the seller will offer a lower price.
Bundling Items:  When buying smaller, low-priced items, try to bundling.  For example, collect a number of unrelated items and offer one price for whole pile.  Or, negotiate a price for a larger-ticket item and ask the seller to throw in one or two small items.  Click this link for more tips on bundling.
Know Retail and Resale Values:  Research ahead of time, or check your mobile device onsite to make sure you are really getting a good deal.  Some sellers have an over-inflated sense of an item's value, and some have no idea that their 'trash' is really a 'treasure.'
Beware Recalls:  Do your research ahead of time.  Carry a mobile device and check onsite before you purchase.  And, most importantly, trust your gut.
Note:  Most consignment sales/shops screen items before a sale based on Consumer Product Safety Commission  recommendations.  Most garage sales do not.
See the Potential:  Can you repair what's broken?  Can you use an item for parts?  Can it be transformed into something else?  Sellers often sell at deep discounts when they feel an item is worthless.  A little elbow grease can go a long way!

I cannot wait to see what we find this weekend!  

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