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How to navigate the garage sale scene

Repurpose, refurbish and recycle! Today, more and more people are transforming old furniture and décor rather than buying these items brand-new. And where’s one of the best places to snag an inexpensive fixer-upper? A garage sale!

Family at garage sale

Here are some garage sale tips to help you find sales in and around your neighborhood, scout out great deals and negotiate bargain prices.

1Rise and shine

To ensure that you get a chance to check out everything a particular garage sale has to offer, try to arrive as soon as it begins. According to Mariana Cervantes, an expert at Denver’s Mile High Marketplace, you should head out around 7 a.m. to scope the best selection.

2Be on the lookout

Garage sale enthusiasts often turn to Craigslist and their local newspaper to uncover upcoming sales, but keep in mind that if you rely on these resources alone you may miss out on other sales that have not been advertised. “The sales that are advertised tend to be picked over early — often by dealers looking to grab the goods before you get there. Instead of scouting out the ads, just drive around suburban neighborhoods and stop at the yard sales that look promising,” explains Cheryl Gorn, author of The Secondhand Wardrobe: Have Fun Finding Stylish, Earth-Friendly Used Clothing Deals.

She also encourages you to visit the sales that have the worst-looking promotional signs. “The worse the signs are, the less traffic there will be and the more likely it is that the bargains will still be there, waiting for you to pick them up for a song.”

3Negotiate for a better deal

Even if you think the price of an item is an outstanding deal, don’t be afraid to try and lower it even more. “You won’t get any reduction in price if you don’t ask, so it’s never a bad idea to try to negotiate,” says Gorn.

She adds that you may have more bargaining leverage if you buy several items at once or request a discount when the garage sale is about to end. “The sellers might prefer to let you have an item for less instead of hauling it off to Goodwill,” she explains.

4Bring cash—particularly one dollar bills

“Wear clothes with lots of pockets and have like $3, $7 and $17 in various pockets. If the yard sale person is asking for $5, pull out $3 and ask if he or she will take $3. Always carry cash. No garage sale person likes to worry about checks,” explains Pablo Solomon, an artist and designer.

5Know your seller

To gain an edge in negotiations, Seth Ginsberg suggests getting to know a little about whoever is hosting the sale. “Almost always there’s one person who wants to sell everything, and the spouse who wants to hoard everything. Determine who the seller is because his or her price will always be cheaper,” he notes.

6Move quickly

Whether you’re checking out a single garage sale or have several to visit, time is of the essence. “Get in and get out,” says Melissa Carlisle, a deal blogger at “Garage sales can be treasure troves and they can be trash. Quickly make a circle through the sale and see if there is anything that interests you. Don’t waste time picking things up and carrying them around if you don’t love them or think they’re a great deal.”

6Keep your opinions to yourself

Think the seller has drastically overpriced their goods? Don’t mention it. According to Solomon, “It is not your job to tell the person holding the sale that they are overpriced for the crap they are selling. Just leave. It is also not your job to tell the person that they underpriced something valuable. Just buy the item and smile when you get home,” he explains.

Armed with these garage sale tips, you’re sure to score fabulous deals on furniture, décor and more!

What has been your best garage sale, thrift store, or flea market find? Share with us in the comments section below!

More garage sale tips and tricks

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10 Tips for a successful day of yard sale shopping
How to have a successful garage sale

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