When I was growing up it was practically tradition that my mom and I would spend two weeks a month going to yard sales in the summer. Maybe it was the way frugality was stressed growing up, but there was always a great emotional rush of finding something you wanted for just a little bit of money. I imagined how much I more I could buy with my allowance. Also, for this 8-year-old kid, it was a treasure hunt.
That feeling had gone away in recent years. My wife and I lived have lived in apartments and condos that were around 1200 square feet. There’s not a lot of room for buying much of anything. In fact, we had been thinking how to sell some of the stuff we have. However, with our recent move, things have changed. We’ve moved into a cavernous 1500-1600 square foot place – complete with two living rooms. One of the living rooms is mine to be designed a sports haven (my wife’s idea). My wife has chosen to make her living room over with a wine-theme to entertain guests (or just relax after a long day of work). This has led us to redesign a room.
My wife has an idea of what pieces she might like, but there’s quite a bit of flexibility. For instance the couch could be accented by pillows of a wine-glass theme or maybe a throw with a grape-based one. Flexibility and the need for a number of things makes for successful yard sale experience. With that in mind and the start of the summer season, I thought it would be appropriate to give these tips to save money with yard sales:
- Focus on the Wealthy Neighborhoods – Why focus on the wealthy? Two reasons: 1) Their “crap” is often a luxury to a person with an average income. 2) Much of the time, they just want to get rid of stuff. When I lived in the Boston suburbs, we’d go to places like Wellesley (which has become the biggest real estate price gainer in the last year according to Forbes). In Silicon Valley, we can almost go anywhere and find people in million dollar homes. My wife and I found two wrought-iron patio lounge chairs for a total of $200… originally $1600 at Pottery Barn. They aren’t brand new, but wrought-iron should last us for a long, long time.
- Get There Early – I’ve never been to a yard sale where the philosophy is to add the good stuff in the middle of the day. The standard practice is for the sellers to set things up the hour before it’s supposed to start. If you can show up ten minutes before the start, you can beat the crowd and get your mitts on some of the best stuff.
- Take a Chance – Sometimes it’s worth buying something that you might not ordinarily want. We found a nice framed mirror on Sunday. We didn’t have a need for a mirror, but I remembered spending around $200 for one of similar quality as a wedding present for a friend. It was $40. When we got home, it looks like it could fit well in the wine room my wife is designing. I figured that in the worst case we could probably turn around and sell it for $50.
- Negotiate – I shouldn’t have to mention this, but nearly everything is negotiable at a yard sale. Often times, you can bundle a few items together and get a low-priced fourth for free.
While we are moving in and adding new stuff, we are still focusing on getting rid of the old. To get a head start, we designated an area of the garage for when we host our own yard sale later this month. To prepare, I’ve bookmarked these yard sale hosting tips from Get Rich Slowly and FrugalDad. After all, our trash is another couple’s treasure, right?
For more tips see: this post on yard sales.
Photo credit: Orlando Rob