Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yard Sales

The lowly yard sale; it goes by many names: tag sale, rummage sale, garage sale, moving sale, flea market, attic sale. What do they all have in common? At the base level, they consist of a group of people selling junk and a group buying junk. The yin and yang of used crap. But, why should you care, you say?

First and foremost, the yard sale is a great opportunity to find bargains. One can find items that are much cheaper than new, sometimes downright free. Most of the stuff you will see is unwanted by the owner...they are motivated to sell and the price should reflect this.

Secondly, these sales are a great way to help short circuit the rampant consumerism that is so pervasive today. By purchasing second-hand goods, you lessen the demand for new items and prevent these same items from an early grave in your nearest landfill. Don't forget the first 2 of the 3 "R's"...reduce and reuse.

So you're now interested, but you have no idea where to begin. When and where can you find these magical and wondrous sales? This may take some research on your part, since every area is unique. In my neighborhood, all one would need to do is drive around on a Saturday morning and look for the home made signs. These signs normally go up on Thursday or Friday, so you can get a feel for the prospects of the upcoming week. This may not work for your particular area, so here are some tips:

1. Newspaper
-Check the Classifieds

2. Internet
- or just google 'how to find yard sales'...there are tons of sites

So you've located a few sales, now it's show time. It is a good idea to have some semblance of a plan to maximize your experience. As a rookie, you might get outmaneuvered by the pros; but keep your head on a swivel and your resolve will do just fine. Here are some tips and observations to help you out:

- It is a great idea to have a short list of items that you are focusing on. A strong focus will help you eliminate wasted time and missed deals. For instance, if you are only looking for kid's stuff and you see an old couple with a small amount of faded memories out front...just keep driving.

- Get up early and move quickly. The best deals will go first, so if you want'll have to sacrifice a bit of sleep.

- Don't have too high expectations. Remember, this is mostly crap that people don't want, and you probably don't either. I have yet to find an iPod touch.

- Certain neighborhoods seem to have different offerings. New vs. old, townhouse vs. single family, etc. It will be up to you to discover the feel of your surroundings.

- While you can always generalize, the truth is that you'll never know what you may find. There is really some random stuff out there.

- Some folks you encounter will be truly 'salt of the earth'. This is not a fashion show, people are here to find deals. I've noticed bathing is optional.

-Some hunters will pull up as close as possible to the driveway, nearly hitting other scavengers; normally double-parking several other people in. They will leave the vehicle running, often with an obese matriarch-lookout riding shotgun. The driver will dismount with the remainder of the family and relay information back to the vehicle. Do not be these people. Thanks.

In summary, yard sales can be a great way to save money and help out the environment. I've found the following items to be the best bets: books, tools, kid's clothing, toys, and sports/workout equipment. In good condition, these things can be great bargains. I steer clear of underwear and toothbrushes.

I would love to hear other tips, or funny anecdotes, so let 'er rip.

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