One Man’s Trash: Making the Most of a Garage Sale

April 16, 2013

Photo by Eastlaketimes, via flickr

As longer, warmer days draw near and the sweet smell of pollen creeps out from beneath the snow, one thing is clear: garage sale season is upon us. Spending a lazy Saturday unearthing buried treasures at your neighbor’s house is a great way to save money on kid gear. I’ve scored everything from hardly-worn shoes to well-loved (but still functional) toys at garages sales. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the next sale.

Know What You Need
We’ve all been there – some amazing name brand item boasts a price tag that’s too good to resist. So you don’t resist it. Just remember: that awesome $5 North Face toddler jacket is a waste of $5 if it isn’t going to fit come winter. Stick to items you know you’ll use.

Break the Rules for Shoes
When it comes to children’s shoes, forget the rule above. Anytime you find good quality, lightly-worn shoes at a garage sale, buy them, even if they’re big. Kid feet grow fast, and most children’s shoes go for around $30 a pop at retail stores. At garage sales, I’ve found the same pairs for $2.

Opt for Name Brands
Well-known brands (think: Fisher-Price, Baby Einstein, Mellissa & Doug) are your best bet when it comes to savings, quality, and safety. Name brands are more expensive at the store, which means gently-used versions offer big savings. Plus, branding has its perks. Most name brand products are going to be durable toys that have been tested for safety. What’s more, if you buy name brand you’re likely to hear if the product is later recalled.

Safety First
Every mom knows the rules and guidelines governing kid gear are constantly changing. The smart phone is your friend; take advantage of the fact that you have technology at your fingertips by doing a quick Google search before investing in a big ticket items like a crib or car seat. Never buy a used breast pump; even if you order new tubing, there’s still a risk of contracting STDs.

Think Big
Don’t skimp over adult clothes. Retro or vintage adult outfits make great dress-up clothes for play and can even be repurposed into Halloween costumes.

Garage sale prices aren’t set in stone, so don’t be afraid to (politely) ask the seller if he or she will accept another offer. If you want to wield more bargaining power, try grouping a few items together and asking for a “buy three get one free” type of deal. Keep in mind that if it’s later in the day, there’s probably more room for negotiation.

To locate sales in your neck of the woods, visit Tag Sell It.

Are you skilled at finding killer deals at garage sales? Leave your tips in the comments section!

This post was written by Jamie Siebrase, a Denver-based freelance writer and JD who specializes in parenting, homes and lifestyles, and local events. She writes a column for the Washington Park Profile, and maintains Spilled Milk: A blog for moms of all ages, stages, and genders.

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