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Wednesday Welcome: Hitting the Yard Sale Circuit? Here’s How to Score a Deal

This week I’m excited to welcome J. Money, the semi-anonymous writer behind one of my favorite blogs, Budgets Are Sexy. He makes money fun, interesting and, well…sexy. And as a seasoned yard sale shopper, he’s here to tell us how to score a good deal.

j_money_profileIt’s yard sale season again, baby! Every weekend equals a new chance to find gold for pennies on the dollar. And even more so if you’re expecting new life changes such as a baby or house move. There are tons of deals out there just waiting for you to take them, so prep yourself right and follow these favorite tips of mine so you’ll be ready to take advantage! My top yard sale tips and tricks:

  1. Make sure your belly is full, and your bladder empty!  This is rule #1 because the last thing you want to do is be cranky in the middle of a hot run of sales, and screw up your game plan. Stuff your face and hit the loo before jumping into that car, and then stay right there on the pursuit in front of you. If you need snacks or coffee to keep you alert (I always do!), just bring ‘em along with you. That’s allowed.
  2. Go as early as possible to get the first look at deals. This is the most obvious rule of thumb, but the hardest to do because it means waking up even earlier on the weekend. But if you’re serious about getting the best deals out there – before anyone else even sees them – this is your best course of action. Start out at 6 or 7 am while all the slackers are still waking up, and then snag all the goodies ASAP! Just be sure to respect any sellers’ wishes that “early birds” stay away (they usually note it on their signs or in their advertisements), because the last thing you want to do is piss off the people you’re trying to woo. (See Rule #6 below.)
  3. Use an app!  I’m sure there are a ton more out there by now, but the one I’ve always used throughout the past 2+ years is Garage Sale Tracker for the iPhone. It pulls all the sales off of Craigslist and plops them down into a single map where I can easily just touch and re-route. It’s brilliant. And it saves me a good 30-40 minutes trying to scour the web or the paper looking for the best hot spots out there. What I do: Bring up the map when I first wake up to see where all the hot spots are, and then plan my trip to go straight there while maybe hitting one or two on the way.  The best part of it all is that the app is free — even though I’d gladly pay for it. Don’t tell them!
  4. Hit the community and church yard sales first.  You’ll get 10 to 20 times more families hosting their own sales, and the best part is that they’re all in the same spot!  One community sale can replace 20 others that you’d have picked off one by one, it’s crazy talk.  And even if they’re not all great ones (they usually aren’t the best-best out there), it’s still the most efficient use of your time and money.  Not to mention all the gas and anxiety you’ll save by not going from one sale to another.  I get so excited I’d probably hyperventilate if I didn’t focus myself.
  5. ALWAYS bargain!  No matter what it is, always ALWAYS always ask for less than what the sellers asking.  It doesn’t matter if it’s $1.00 or $1,000 – they expect to be bargained down!  So give your “perfect scenario” offer first, and then gauge their response to figure out your odds of lowering the price even more. 1 out of 10 times they’ll say no, but you can count on at least 10-25% off the rest of the time — maybe even 50% (but you’ll never know if you don’t ask!).
  6. Be friendly, smile a lot, and make chit-chat with the sellers.  Everyone’s there to have a good time and make a deal, and just like with everything in sales, connecting with people is key. The more the seller likes you, the better your odds of getting a good deal.
  7. Always carry change and small bills. The last thing you want to do is miss out on awesome goodies just because you can’t break a $20 or all you have is a credit card. Scour your place for quarters and dollar bills (or start saving them up a week or two before if you’re planning to hit the sales), and then just bring it all in a small plastic container so it’s super easy to go around with. You can also hit up a grocery store to break a $20.

About J. Money: J. Money started Budgets Are Sexy five years ago, after tracking his spending for three months and creating a budget. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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