Looking for good deals on used stuff? Don’t forget about the old fashioned garage sale. Here’s a guide to garage sales: part 1.

Learn how to find garage sales in your area, what to bring, how to create a route to multiple garage sales, and how to best prepare so you can save the most amount of money.

The Art of Preparation

1. The hunt

Many garage sales are announced ahead of time on Craigslist and/or other classified websites. Set up an RSS feed to keep tabs on upcoming sales. This will help you keep tabs on upcoming sales in your area.

Craigslist has a “garage sales” category under “for sale.” If you scroll to the bottom of search pages at Craigslist, you can see an RSS feed button. You can also refine this feed by particular search terms and by regional and neighborhood/city areas.

Here is a sample RSS feed for garage sales in Alameda, Calif., which is part of the San Francisco Bay Area. For estate sales, this website offers a nice roundup of upcoming sales by area: estatesales.net.

2. The plan

Copy and paste notes about upcoming sales you plan to visit, including addresses, dates and times. If you are particularly interested in specific items at the upcoming sales, reach out ahead of time and ask if you can make an offer on something before the sale. The point of garage sales, after all, is to sell stuff!

A spreadsheet file — in Excel or Google Docs or your program of choice — is a good way to quickly log sale details. If there are multiple sales you want to check out on the same day that open around the same time, prioritize the order in which you plan to visit them.

If you are a smartphone person, you may want to set reminders/appointments on your smartphone to alert you when it’s time to move on to the next sale.

Some sellers are OK with “early birds” — the folks who like to check sales out even before the official start time — and some are annoyed by them. A simple question: “You ready for me yet?” or “Still setting up?” or “Am I too early?” can help you determine the stress/readiness level of the seller, and whether it’s best to go grab some coffee and come back a bit later.

Early birds are more prone to be experienced shoppers and/or collectors, and to be looking for specific items. “Are you selling (insert desired item here)?” is a common question. (Read more about garage sale etiquette/manners in Part 2.)

3. The map

If you are planning to visit several sales on the same morning, day, then plan to plug in those addresses into your GPS of choice.

4. What to bring

No brainer: if you’re shopping for furniture and/or large items, bring your largest vehicle. You may also want to bring your own shopping bags — it saves the sellers time (and bags). Bagging your planned purchases before a sale can also play into your price negotiations.

Also, cash is king. Make sure you’ve got plenty of cash for your purchases. Sellers typically appreciate small bills, too: especially $1 bills. So stock up on those.

If you can help it, don’t come overdressed. Dressing down in casual wear may actually help your cause. Someone driving up in a Ferrari, wearing a tailored Italian suit, may not get the best deal of the day. Go figure.

Check out: Garage Sales – The Art of Preparation and Negotiation: Part 2.

This is a guest post from the 98bottles blog. 

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