I'm still reeling from this week's news about Rick Norsigian, the lucky, lucky man who, ten years ago, stumbled on a garage sale and bought a set of vintage glass negatives for $45, which are now said to be long lost works by famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams and worth as much as $200 million.
I realize that the odds of finding trash that's super-high-value treasure are slim, but still, if that isn't motivation enough to start combing garage sales, I don't know what is! Here, as we set out onto the weekend (a.k.a. prime sale time), a few simple tips to remember in case your bargain-hunting skills are a little rusty:
There are hundreds of millions of garage sales going on every year. Much of the time, people who are hosting a mega garage sale will have also taken the time to place an ad, so check craigslist and your local paper for listings. Make note of all the sales that sound appealing and group them by neighborhood, and take time to map them to expedite your shopping trip.
If contact info is listed for the sale, and you have something specific in mind that you're looking to score, call ahead to see if they're selling it.
Also, consider driving by the sale the day (or a couple hours) before the official opening, since sometimes sellers open up the sales early to friends and neighbors.
Remember, cash is king. Chances of the sellers accepting credit cards are pretty much zero, so be sure to stop at the bank for as much cash as you're willing to spend (which also helps you stick to a budget!). Change is often a scarce, too, so bringing small bills and coins can really help when you're trying to get in and out quickly. You can also try bringing your checkbook in the event that the seller will accept a check, though make sure to have proper identification.
Get there early-or late. The advantage of being an early bird, of course, is getting first pickings. Late comers though, have much more bargaining power as sellers will be anxious to liquidate.
To get the best bargains, try asking for pricing for items as a group, rather than individually. A seller is much more apt to cut you a deal if you're buying a few pieces.
When haggling, don't be afraid to ask for a deal-but don't insult. Offering five bucks for an item that's marked $50 isn't going to get you anywhere.
Bring your own bag. Most garage sales aren't equipped with shopping totes so it's always best to be prepared with your own. If you're driving, it's helpful to throw in a cardboard box or two in the trunk for containing bulkier items.
Most garage sales aren't actually held in garages, and if you're sale hopping, you're going to want to wear sunblock and a hat to protect yourself from the scorching sun. Comfortable shoes are a must as well.