Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Insiders Tips on Getting Great Deals at Garage sales and Estate Sales

Update: With all of the election stuff and back to school issues on my mind, I've decided to hold off on the rest of this series. I'll re-publish this post next spring.

It’s finally here! Part I of my series on how to get great deals at garage sales and estate sales. Part I is all about the basics. I'm going to focus on what you should do before you even shop. Planning is second only to being in the right place at the right time (a.k.a luck).

I feel obligated to add a note about sensitivity before I begin. I hope everyone remembers that most estate sales are being held because an individual has passed away. Individuals leave many loved ones, friends, and family, who may or may not be at the sale. These people are not only mourning; they are having to watch strangers dig through the private lives of their loved ones. Strangers can unconsciously be insensitive by talking loudly about the ugliness of items or throwing items around as if they were trash. I have been guilty of this myself. I mentioned how ugly a handmade item was without realizing that a friend of the dearly departed was standing behind me. He began to cry. I apologized profusely and felt like a real bitch for the rest of the day. My point is watch what you say.

Fuel Prices
There are a gazillion cool sales in Ft. worth and Arlington, but I live in Dallas. I could go to these sales. I could compile a list, map out a plan, and be on my way. During my trip, I would easily put 200 miles on my car. At $4 a gallon, in an F-150, my trip would become a very costly treasure hunt. Even if I drove my Honda, which I wouldn't because it's too small to carry the deal-of-the-decade purchases, I would pay $25 in gas. Plus, I would be 200 miles closer to a $40 oil change. Furthermore, around noon I would get hungry, and I would spend another $5 on food. My trip would cost me around $40 dollars, and there would be no guarantee I would find anything I'd want to buy. The whole point of shopping these types of sales is to save money. Decide how much gas you want to burn, convert that into mileage, and map out an area that is three dollars less than the amount you want to spend. The three dollars gives you leverage to go back to sales that will be having afternoon discounts.

Your Beautiful Children
Many estate sale companies no longer admit small children into their sales. This is a case of rude parent vs. respectful parent. I can't count how many times I've seen little kids left alone to break things, throw things, destroy antique toys, play dress up in expensive mink coats while eating lollipops, or play with the crystal. I can't blame the kids who are doing what kids do. I also can't blame the estate sale companies who are financially responsible for the items the kids are breaking. Please know, that if you have kids in tow, some companies will turn you away at the door. I recommend that you at least ask if you can bring the kids in and promise to be responsible for your children. I've seen many companies let parents bring in kids on the condition that the parent holds the child. If you are turned away, take it in stride. It's not personal.

Finding the Sales
1- Check your local newspaper daily. Those who live in big cities should also check for estate sales that have been hidden in the garage sale section. Many papers charge higher fees for listing an ad in the Estate Sale section. Hidden estate sale ads will frequently contain these things: two/three day sales, cash only, everything must go, or contents of an entire house for sale. Many companies who advertise this way have secret codes for their customers. For example, a local Dallas company uses a pattern of stars. As you visit sales, ask people where they advertise. They will tell you if they use a code.

2- Craigslist is a wonderful place. I usually begin checking the garage sale section on Sunday evening. Estate sales are posted in this section as well. Not only do I start compiling a list of sales I want to visit, I look up the directions, too, so I won’t be overwhelmed the night before I go on my bargain hunt.

3- Many companies list their estate sales at This is a national site which I check daily.

4- Dallas/Ft. Worth residents must check out Fred and Terry, the awesome people who run this site, take pictures of their clients’ sales and post them on the site. They also have several membership programs that, for a small chunk of change, will save you a lot of time.

5- Google "estate sale companies." These searches will lead you to local company websites.

6- When you’re at a sale, ask the cashier if they have a website and an email list. Get your name on the email list before you leave.

7- Map it out. I always try to have some kind of plan before I head out in the morning. Usually I begin with a sale that I most want to visit, then I go to the sale closest to that sale, and so on. This saves me time and gas. In all honesty, I don't create a map. I just put the directions together in the order I plan to visit each sale. Try and stay flexible. I stop at almost every unadvertised garage sale I see along the way.

8- Know what you need before you go.I keep a list with me of things I am looking for. Here are some of the items you would find on my list:
1- Clothing and shoe sizes for the kids
2- Window measurements
3- Door measurements
4- The square footage of a room I want to re-floor
5- Gift list
6- Cleaning supply list
7- Teachers' wish lists
8- Picture frames
9- Vintage fabric and buttons

Choosing the Sales
When it rains it pours sales. Here are some ways you can weed through sales when creating your list:

1- Try and preview a sale. Many companies post pictures on their websites, and on 24-7 posts pictures of their client's sales. Individuals will often post pictures on Craigslist. If nothing interests you in these pictures, don't go to the sale unless you have time. Make it the last stop on your list.

2- Look for family-run sales because you will often get better pricing. You will find these sales by carefully reading advertisements. Look for the ones that don’t sound as if they’ve been written by a P.R.agent – these are possibly family run sales.
Part II

Part two of this series will focus on getting great deals at garage sales and estate sales. Wanna learn to haggle? Stay tuned...

If your blog has an article that applies to this post, leave me a comment, and I'll ad a link to your article.

1 comment:

Unique Gowns said...

Hello Julie
thank you for your entry into the christening bib draw. Good luck :) Dana