By Christina Brown
If you’re looking to save money this summer, look no further than your neighborhood garage sales.
Garage sales are great places to find affordable, quality household items, gently used clothing, books, toys, baby gear, and so much more.
It’s easy to let the thrill of the hunt overtake your budget and add clutter to your home when it comes to garage sale shopping. That’s why it’s so important to have a smart shopping strategy.
Start by taking stock. Go through your closets and take note of what you already have. Pay attention to the sizes, styles, condition, and seasons of all your kids’ clothing. Make sure you know exactly what you have.
Make a list of the items you will need. Once you have an inventory done, you’ll have a clear idea of things to look for at sales. Make sure to plan ahead for the changing seasons. Garage sales are great places to find kids’ winter gear, Halloween costumes, and seasonal decor.
Set a budget. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the good deals at a sale, so set a budget before you leave, and don’t exceed it. If you don’t have the money to shop one particular week, skip the sales. There will always be more bargains later.
Map out your trip. Plot what sales you will visit on a city map so you can make the most efficient use of your time and gas money. Pack some drinks and sandwiches in a cooler and you won’t even have to take a break for lunch.
Try to shop alone. Bringing kids, friends or spouses with you can slow you down and cost you more money than you’ll save. Tagalongs have ways of distracting you from finding the best deals and convincing you to buy things that aren’t on your list.
Know your prices. Sometimes folks are eager to make a buck and charge almost as much as what you’d pay for the item new. Know what things should cost (a good rule of thumb is 10 to 25 percent of what you’d pay retail) and you’ll avoid overpaying. Watch for high quality, name brand items with little or no signs of wear.
Be ready to bargain. Most people are willing to bargain with you. Sometimes the person won’t deal, but most of the time, they just want to get rid of the stuff. It never hurts to ask. Don’t buy things that you know are stained, missing parts or broken. You always say you can fix it or clean it up, but you won’t.
Remember this: The early bird gets the worm and good things come to those who wait. The best selection is always at the beginning of a sale. But the best deals always come at the end when folks are anxious to get rid of the last items and close up shop. Get to know who has the best sales. Many people have high-quality sales on a regular basis. Some even send out e-mails to frequent customers alerting them to their upcoming sales. Pay attention to when city-wide garage sales are held, as this makes hitting a lot of sales in a short time easier.
Think before you buy. Pick up the item and look at it closely. Carry it around while you shop. Look at it again. You may decide you don’t need it. Just remember that whatever you bring home you will have to clean, store and maintain. You should be buying things you need, not bargain-priced clutter.
With a little planning and a little hunting, you’ll find some great bargains for your family without breaking the bank.
Read more frugal living tips and money-saving ideas at http://www.northerncheapskate.com.