Money & Career

Garage sale tips: How to score the best stuff

Remember this guy who bought a box of unpublished photos of Marilyn Monroe at a garage sale for $2? Or this guy who walked away with what looks like an early Andy Warhol painting at a yard sale for $5?
By Caroline Cakebread
yard sale Getty Images

Remember the guy who bought a box of unpublished photos of Marilyn Monroe at a yard sale for $2? Or the guy who purchased what could possibly be an early Andy Warhol painting that may be worth millions now? Such stories are the stuff of garage sale legends and while most of us don’t go thinking we’re going to find a Picasso, we do tend to get a proud feeling when we find great stuff cheap — like a perfectly good dresser for $10 or a $3 blazer that fits perfectly. My personal favourite is a huge box of vintage Butterick sewing patterns my friend found for 50 cents (some patterns never go out of style!). It’s not hard to hone your own yard sale skills. It just takes a bit of research and discipline. If you’re planning to hit up few yard sales this summer, here are some handy tips:

1. Plan ahead
Gone are the days you needed to watch for paper signs taped to posts. Now, you can scope out garage sales all over your area by searching sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. Some listings even have pictures of what they’ll be selling.

2. Map out a route
Pick the yard sales you want to go to the most and map out the easiest route to get to them. 3. Hit the biggest sales first
Sales held by groups of families or churches are the best to shop at because there’s a lot more for sale at one place. You might find everything you need in one go.

4. Start early
A lot of the best stuff goes early because the professional buyers are often there first thing. Of course, going later means you might get more bargains (by the end of the day the priority is to get rid of everything) but I prefer to get out before all the good stuff is gone.


5. Haggle
You can’t negotiate for a cheaper price on those pants at H&M but you sure can haggle at a garage sale. Just make sure you’re always friendly — it’s not worth getting into an argument over a $2 price difference.

6. Choose your neighbourhood wisely
If you’re shopping for antiques or vintage items, consider areas where there are lots of older homes and, potentially, older people having sales. If you’re looking for kids’ stuff then go for a neighbourhood with lots of young families (our neighbourhood yard sales are always chock full of baby items and toys for example).


7. Shop safe
You need to be careful of before you buy things such as car seats, bike helmets and kitchen appliances. Make sure they are still safe to use. The Government of Canada has lots of tips for second-hand shoppers to help you avoid buying dangerous items.

8. Make a budget
Bring only the amount of cash you plan to spend and nothing more. The good thing about yard sales is you can’t pull out plastic and drive yourself into debt. But you can go overboard and succumb to impulse buys. Control your spending by controlling what’s in your wallet. 


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