Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ID Mommy Tips: Finding the Best Garage Sales

Okay, okay, I know, you're tired of listening to me drone on and on about how much I love garage sale-ing.  But, I figured it's not fair for me to brag about my sweet deals without sharing my tips on how I find them with you! I'm often asked how I find such good stuff at garage sales, by friends who claim that they "never find anything good."  So, here's what I do to find the great deals!  And contrary to what you might think, the sales are not all over after Labor Day.  Watch out for one more wave of great sales, now that the kids have gone back to school!

When you have one or more small kids with you, you want to make sure you are not wasting your time at sales that don't have the kind of things you're looking for.  I make a list of the best sounding sales, and resist the urge to veer off route to follow another sign.  I may end up missing out on some good ones not on the list, but I know I'm not going to waste time driving and getting the kids into the stroller to look at stuff I'm not interested in.  After I hit all the ones on my list, if I still have time, then I'll follow signs that I see on the road.  Here are some places I find good sales:

- CraigsList - I love to find sales on CraigsList because people can really describe their sales well with descriptions and photos without the worry of their ad costing too much.  Now I use an iPhone app called "iGarageSale," (see next bullet).  Before that came along, I would browse through the garage sale section the night before I planned to go garage sailing.  When I found one that sounded good (ie. "lots of kid and baby stuff, boys 0-4T" or whatever), I'd copy the text with the date, time and address, and paste it into a word processing program, or an email, or my "stickies" program, so I could print out the list and then Mapquest each location to plan my route.

- iGarageSale - if you have an iPhone, this app will pull the garage sale ads off of Craig's List and pin them all on a map for you.  You can simply touch the pin on the map, read the ad, and then mark it with a star if you want to go to it.  You can also browse by date.  This app has saved me TONS of time searching and then Mapquesting and has saved all of the paper printing maps!

- Local Papers - Don't forget to check your local paper.  You can find a lot of good ones there, and it's also a great place to find larger neighborhood sales.  Many local papers have online versions of their classifieds so you can check many papers every week.

- First Day Only! - I don't bother going to a sale that started yesterday...they really do get picked over fast by the serious shoppers.  I start as early as I can on the day they start, which for most sales is Thursday.  I have found that more and more have even started on Wednesdays this year.

- Route Planner - I used to use some other website but now Mapquest finally offers a multiple-stop route planner.  You can take the addresses from your list, plug them all in, and let Mapquest figure out the shortest route to hit all of your spots.

- GPS - I use my GPS every time I garage sale.  Now that I use iGarageSale, I type in each address.  However, before that I could go to Mapquest, type in the addresses to the sales I wanted to hit, and then send them to my "favorites" to my GPS.  I think Garmin is the only one that works with Mapquest like that, but you can manually plug them in too.  Then when you look at your favorites, you will see them already organized by distance, so just touch the one you want to go to next.  I always get turned around when Garage saling, so GPS makes it all a lot more fun and less work.

- Neighborhood Sales - Watch for large neighborhood sales.  They can be a really great way to hit many sales in a row with minimum time spent getting in and out of the car.  These transition times can really slow you down, especially if you have more than one kid.

With the exception of some way overpriced sales, garage sale prices are already a great deal. However, you don't have to stop there...here are some tactics I use to get an even better deal.

- Just ASK! - It never hurts to just ask if they will take less for something! Most of the time people are having a sale to try to get rid of stuff, not to make a huge profit.

- Bring small bills - Don't ask if you can get a $20 item for $15, and then hand them a $20 bill.  That's just not cool.  Plus if you look like you only have exactly $15 left, you're more convincing that you can only pay $15.  ;-) 

- Buy-one-get-one - Many times if I'm buying a "larger" item, for example $10, and then I find one other small thing for Sammy that's $1, I'll ask, "will you take $10 for both of these?"  Basically you get one thing free, and they are happy to have gotten rid of more stuff.

- Shop Ahead! I get all of my kids' clothes at garage sales and most of them look like new.  During a summer I will shop in the size range that will work for the next year, including winter clothes.  I'll collect enough to get through the fall, winter, and spring until the next garage sale season, and organize clothes in bins by size in their closets.  It's so fun to pull out a new bin full of cute clothes in the dead of winter that I already bought the summer before!

- Teach your kids about money.  Garage sales are a great place to do this.  Try giving your child four quarters or a handful of pocket change that they can spend.  You'd be surprised how much you can get with pocket change, and they can learn about spending money without spending a fortune.  Don't forget to check out free boxes too!

- Stash away toys for later!  If I can manage to buy things without Sammy seeing, many times I'll stash them away for the future.  They come in handy for road trip entertainment, or just a rainy or cold snowy day when you need something new and interesting to help pass the time!

- Clean it up! I wash everything the day I buy it so it's ready when I want to use it.  Clothes go right in the dryer, along with plush toys and pretty much anything fabric or soft.  Legos I dump into a big bowl of soapy, hot water.  Check out my previous post full of tips to get old toys looking new again!

Okay, now that I've shared my tips and tricks, here are a few more great finds I've made over the past few weeks...
This little water "table" was only $2!  Sammy LOVES it, and I love that it's not a huge, bulky one.  It can easily be tucked away in the garage when not in use.

I got a nice wood box with handles and a lid, FULL of all these wood train tracks and accessories.  They all look like brand new, and these things are EXPENSIVE new, which was why I was willing to pay $30.  This was from a thrift store, but I've seen people asking a lot more for this stuff at garage sales! This is being stashed away for later.

I got this cute wood music table for $3!

This Bob the Builder "Ready Bed" was $6.  Here we are pumping it up in a hotel a few weeks ago.  It's like a sleeping bag with an air mattress inside, and it rolls up and fits nicely into a little bag.  We'll be taking this on our trips away from home now for Sammy. He loved it!

This "digger tractor" as Sammy cost it was something he bought with a quarter I gave him.  It was in a big box of sand toys, marked $0.25 each.  We were on our way to the beach at the time, and it was a blast to play with in the sand!

This little pop-up tent fits into a small, flat bag and springs open when you pull it out.  It cost a whopping $4.  Worked great on the beach for us this summer and both boys could even lay in it to get out of the sun!

YOU can find these great deals too!  If you try any of these tips and get a great find, leave a comment and let us know!  Or, if you have some of your own tips, please do share! :-)

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